Gas flare at Badwater
Sweetwater County, Wyoming
photo by Pat O'Toole
This month, the book, "Home Land: Ranching and a West That Works" was released by Johnson Books. It is a collection of essays and poems on the "New West," edited by by Laura Pritchett, Richard Knight, and Jeff Lee. Proudly, both Pat and I are represented in this book. Pat is quoted by writer Joan Chevalier ("Wasted on a White Collar Job") and my poem "The Seekers' Trail: The Atlantic Rim," is included.
It is hard to describe the impact that the now and future energy development is having on our landscape, and that of the Rocky Mountain West. It is shocking to me how little awareness there is of the massive scale of this development outside the affected areas.
Flaring a well
photo by Sharon O'Toole
The Seekers' Trail: Atlantic Rim
Earth's creatures tread the ancient trails,
Dusty paths from grass to grass.
From summer's green to winter's sage
On elk-trod road pass deer and cow,
Hooves of sheep, all those who graze,
No gas-fired trucks to speed their way.
But wells which belch this gas have changed
This time-worn path, this trodden trail,
For those who walk and those who graze
Through winter grass, though browse, through dust.
Oil-field roads now cut this land
Of sage and sand. For those who watch,
Who watch from desert heart and sky,
Raptors feed on road-kill feasts,
Grouse crouch low benath the sage,
Coyote sniffs for scent of prey,
Rattler shimmies through the dust. All
Feel the rumble, hear the thrum as
Machinery parts these waves of sage.
Primordial seas laid lodes of gas
That heat our homes. We build these roads
Through hoof prints laid on age-old trails,
Through bones and seeds and trodden dust
Raised by those who move and graze.
They graze along with season's change
Through sky and grass and scent of sage,
Through cold-bit snow and and shining dust
Back-lit by flaring gas-fueled flames.
Trucks now cross a hundred trails
And roar on roads of new construct.
Land first scarred by two-track road,
West-bound wagons whose oxen grazed,
Drew seekers on the homestead trail,
Cross sage and stream, cross nation's heart.
Now gas-field trucks toll on, roll on,
Dusty contrails riding high.
Sky filled with dusty tails that track
Where trucks and roads and people go.
Gas wells squat with painted tanks.
Behind them ranks of antelope graze
Witnessed by the timeless sage,
And those who tread the ancient trails,
Stock and game on hoof-worn path,
Winter's bounty led them here
Joined now by trucks and roads and dust.
We moil for gas, for coal, for oil,
This path laid down by those who search
This sagebrush trail where seekers go.