South Pass

Julia Stuble: For too long in my childhood, I wondered about the place names “Oregon Buttes” and “Pacific Springs” and “Atlantic City” in the Sweetwater country—wondered even as I gleefully played the computer game “Oregon Trail” in school each day. It took too long for me or my teachers to link the dry, textbook chapters of westward European-American expansion across centuries old American Indian trail systems to the geography of my home. When I finally realized the connection between the few short paragraphs in those boring elementary school textbooks and the windswept hills of the Northern Red Desert, it was felt like a grainy black and white film was revamped in technicolor. I haven’t stopped exploring it since. Our histories—and the histories of others—are all around us, living and swirling and mingling with the stories that we tell ourselves and perform on and with our home places. The depth of knowing, the warps and woofs of historical migrations that rich landscapes like South Pass provide are invaluable to the ways we can understand our pasts and live our futures. Each step I take when walking that landscape follows countless steps of those who came before us. I knead a pebble between my fingers and squint west, into the wind, and feel alone and not alone at the same time.


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