Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
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Long believed to be disappearing and possibly even extinct, the Southwestern bighorn sheep of Utah’s canyonlands have made a surprising comeback. Naturalist Ellen Meloy tracks a band of these majestic creatures through backcountry hikes, downriver floats, and travels across the Southwest. Alone in the wilderness, Meloy chronicles her communion with the bighorns and laments the growing severance of man from nature, a severance that she feels has left us spiritually hungry. Wry, quirky and perceptive, Eating Stone is a brillant and wholly original tribute to the natural world.
of injury to themselves. Sometimes they eat odd meals: a box turtle, a golden eagle. Woody vegetation provides cover for stalking lions. Acutely dependent on eyesight more than on smell or hearing, the victim does not see what is coming and can't get away fast enough. With surprise on its side, a mountain lion can ambush and take down prey two or three times its own body weight. In the southern San Andres Mountains in the late 1990s, mountain lions were the main cause of bighorn sheep
swept, the hunters rode into the mountains on mules. Two Indian men went ahead of them on foot, waiting for the riders on the steepest ascents because the pack stock were too slow for them. The party camped on a high ledge with palm trees and a cascading spring. Of night in camp, Steinbeck wrote, “We have noticed many times how lightly Mexican Indians sleep. Often in the night they awaken to smoke a cigarette and talk softly together for awhile, and then go to sleep again rather like restless
been reduced to two or three animals, some twist of fate kept it from becoming the dead end of a single gender—one last ewe, for instance, or two old geezer rams. Despite the odds, and the funeral dirges for lost populations elsewhere in the Southwest, this native herd began to rebuild itself, driven by thousands of years of resolute procreation. The 1983 sighting of ewe and lamb turned into more glimpses of bighorns along the river. Unofficial reports gave counts of about thirty animals by
rumbling sound of the jet engine reaches us long behind the plane's trajectory. Ken is not worried. I am looking for rocket carcasses amid the saltbush. I am not looking for bighorns. The Coso Range bears thousands of their images but not a single living sheep. We enter the canyon in its upper reaches, a shadowy fissure in the rolling green, buttressed by low cliffs of broken, tumbled boulders and lined with pale ecru sand along the dry streambed. Whereas red dominates the sedimentary sandstone
Satin camisoles are flounced with yawny tedium. Everyone is wearing dangerous shoes. The bartender's bangs are moussed into a stiff crest. She is very athletic-looking in a red kimono the size of a cocktail napkin. It is a cocktail napkin. She figures I am so clueless, so pathetically uncellular, she will, this once, help me out. “Use our phone,” she offers. When she walks over to the end of the bar to pick up a cordless telephone off its cradle, her bangs precede her by three inches. If a man