Monday, February 21, 2011


Note: On a trip north back in 2008, I came to Hell’s Canyon of the Snake. It was late in a day when I should have planned with a bit more water, a few more rests, and perhaps, an extra day between where I started and where I had yet to go. I was more tired than safe. I stopped to stretch and view the canyon. Taking off my helmet and letting the cool upslope breeze sweep through my sweaty hair, this little fantasy occurred to me.

(Cue the baleful fiddle solo.)

JACOB AND WIFE AND CHILD AND INFANT stood on the east edge looking west across a five-mile wide abyss. Some six thousand feet below rushed a mute but barely visible Snake River, continuing to carve a project started well before time. One granule after another. And another.

From their vantage point, the immigrants could see no grazeable flats; only scrubby vegetation clinging to life in the crevasses of layered and wind-worn basalt. No place to camp half way down. Not even a trail from anyone who may have come before.

The family had lost a son already. And half their brace of oxen. And nearly every element of their character except perseverance.

Now, at this moment, that, too, disappeared. 

The conversation was short, heated, and ended like this: “Esther, I don’t give a damn in all of tarnation how far back it is…”  

Jacob turned on his well-worn heel and began prodding the surviving oxen back to Illinois.

After a moment, Esther, shaken, but standing at the confluence of utter fatigue and sheer frustration called out: “Jacob, damn you! I told you to stop and ask for directions!”

© 2008
Church of the Open Road Press


  1. Now that my friend is humorous!

  2. Makes me wonder where all the Phillips 66 stations were back then...