The Desert. The Dust. The Drive. The Cowboy
I love to walk. And not just a little. I have ‘steps’ to get in (if you are checking ‘yours’ now, you get it). But my days best lived are when I choose to walkabout. I wake to my early morning pace with my “peeps.” And about every 72 hours, I begin to yearn for a trail to explore. I embrace each and every step of what becomes a journey, taking in what Mother Nature has put out. For that moment, I am free. Thomas Jefferson said, “…Habituate yourself to walk very far.” And so I have; from the historic streets downtown to the surrounding red cliffs and canyons in between. What I glean most from walking is best worded by naturalist and author, John Muir: “I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
Walking is a way of connection for me… to the earth, to my health, to my friends, and to my soul. I use my feet as my form of transportation whenever I can. Not too long ago I headed out from my house to pick up my car from a service center. I walked along some of our city’s busiest streets. I found a sense of empowerment by not being in a car racing to the next red light. Despite all of the traffic noise I oddly felt alone. There was no one else walking in sight. It was just me and a few head of cattle dotting the sporadic parcels of farm land that remain nestled between homes and buildings. The noise level faded as I visualized the streets before pavement, the views before buildings, the hillsides before homes, and the horses before cars. There was an emptiness in thinking about industrial evolution and the many things that a growing community loses in spite of the benefits. The signs that reflected an era when the streets were bustling with people and the cowboys rode in on their horses have been replaced as has the culture from only a century ago.
The invitation to join southern Utah cowboy, Brent Prince and “the crew” for a dutch oven dinner was far too good to resist. It was a chilly spring afternoon atop Little Mountain. Looking down, the green fields surrounded by the stoic lush trees conveyed the country setting that was once similar to the downtown area where I reside. “The crew,” as Brent refers to his friends, consists of a group of industrious horsemen (and a few women) who, by virtue of their passion for sustaining the cowboy way of life, share an undeniable kinetic energy that was just plain easy to fit into. I listened intently as we sat around the campfire. They reveled in the stories of their horseback riding excursions into the wilderness. They recalled some of the cattle drives they’ve been on, helping out their fellow rancher friends. The laughter was grand. The comradery was sincere. The need to roam drives these men back into their saddles. Even I, a hippie of sorts, felt connected to the crew because of our shared need to be free, whether on two feet or four.
No vision of the American West is complete without the cowboy. His Golden Era was short (1866 to 1886) but the culture was indelible. He was hardworking, honest, and a true survivor. Despite Hollywood’s depiction, skilled horsemen were culturally diverse; one cowboy out of every four was black, and one out of every four was said to be Mexican. And then there were the Indian cowboys. These men rode the range together and drove cattle across some of the most barren but beautiful lands of the desert. Etched Magazine takes our Travel Issue on the road to the places where the Native Americans lived and the cowboy barely survived. From the scenic routes to the ‘remotely located’, the pages of Etched reflect the past fused to the present through history, music, art, and the love of a lifestyle.
I continue to ‘get my steps in’ along the busy city streets but now take the time to stop and chat with the cows. I’m cherishing what signs remain left from the settlers of the area. I appreciate the new development and businesses that have allowed so many to partake of life in the southwest. Sometimes I still get a little sad by what has been lost through growth. But I walk. And I think. Then I walk some more. Comedian, Ellen DeGeneres talked about her grandmother who also loves to walk. She says,“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the hell she is.” If only I could live so long and wander so freely! May we all keep moving, in one direction or another, without losing sight of where we’ve come from.
Darci - Editor in Chief