November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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High Plains/Russell Streur

Lincoln Highway Memorial

 

High Plains Postcard

Story and Photographs, Russell Streur

Give the landscape in High Plains Drifter its due, but Clint Eastwood filmed that movie in the California Sierras, hundreds of miles from the real place.

With its sorghum roots threatened by the failing Ogallala Aquifer, the High Plains today rise perilously up from Lubbock north through the short grass prairie and rolling hills past Cheyenne till meeting the Black Hills and the holy country of the Sioux above the Platte.

It’s a considerable country, enough to separate the long, flat horizons of the corn and wheat fields of the American heartland from the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains and the cool, blue rivers and the forest pines of the Big Sky.

Old and famous trails cross through here, the Bozeman and the Mormon.  In Guernsey, Wyoming, passers-by can still see the ruts of the Oregon Trail, carved four feet deep in sandstone by the iron wheels of the thousands and thousands of wagons that carried the great migration west.

Newer trails cross here, too, the Lincoln Highway and the Union Pacific. There’s a tall and muscular pedestal with Lincoln’s bust on top just this side of Laramie off Interstate 80 marking a waypoint on the nation’s first coast to coast highway. The 16th President looms over a smaller memorial to Henry Bourne Joy, whose brainchild it was to pave a ribbon of concrete across the continent from New York City to San Francisco.

HIGH PLAINS

Russell Streur, proprietor of The Camel Saloon, an online literary pub, takes to the High Plains of Wyoming.

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High Plains, Bison, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 1, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 2, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 3, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 4, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 5, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 6, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 7, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains 8, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains, Lincoln, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming
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High Plains, Windmill, Russell Streur, 2014, Wyoming

Not far away is a 60-foot granite pyramid celebrating the life of the brothers Oakes and Oliver Ames, Jr. Once known as The Shovel King, Oakes financed the completion of the Union Pacific in the late 1860s on a shaky house of sweetheart deals and flimsy banknotes common to the era.  Fingered as the central villain in the web of fraud and deceit of the ensuing Credit Mobilier scandal, Oakes died after a stroke, censured by Congress and disgraced, in the spring of 1873.   Ousted as president of the Union Pacific by a rival company faction, Oliver somehow escaped most of the heat from the fallout and passed on a few years later.  In the early 1880s, the railroad commissioned the monument to the two men, placing it at the highest elevation reached by the tracks.

Sometime later, the railroad moved its roadbed, and the Ames Monument now stands in a general nowhere, odd and unattended on a windy hill.

Most people along the trails kept on moving. Not six people per square mile live in Wyoming these days, in attendance to the sheep and hay and cottonwood.  The growing season is a short and dry five months in a generous year.

With all the elbow room, it’s a good place to go looking for God.  He’s everywhere out here.  So is She.

And the buffalo.

Remember this – when you meet your destiny pete1, and your teeth go flying one way, and your ass the other, the buffalo wins.

Then, make the word for medicine with the sign language of the tribes:  hold right hand close to forehead, palm out, index and middle finger separated and pointing to sky, thumb and other fingers closed.  Spiral hand upward, in right to left circles, as in the unknown mystery of it all.

The Great Spirit.  Call that, The Stranger.

 

 About the author:

Born in Chicago and currently a resident of Johns Creek, Georgia, Russell Streur’s poetry has been published widely in print, on line and in anthologies in the United States and Europe.  He operates the world’s original on-line poetry bar, The Camel Saloon (http://thecamelsaloon.blogspot.com/), is the author of The Muse of Many Names (Poets Democracy, 2011) and Table of Discontents (Ten Pages Press, 2012).  His photography has been featured in Written River and on line at The Blue Hour, Pacific Poetry and other publications.  His works are regularly seen at Atlanta area galleries.  He is a member of the Atlanta Artists Center, the Georgia Poetry Society, and wilderness and conservation organizations.

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 1. pte … variation of a Lakota word for buffalo, “pte”.