The One Who Stayed

Far back on a badlands hillside, we came upon a crude corral and, to our surprise, a grave. Man-sized, oriented east-west and probably shallow, because limestone slabs had been laid densely and on edge to prevent coyotes from digging.

The site overlooked a trade and travel route in the valley. We wondered about this death. Illness? Indians? A cowboy, a shepherd, a traveler? Such a lonely place.

The land was bare, long ago grazed to gravel. In raking winter light the hillside was corrugated with grazing trails, here and there a hummock of grama to hint that all had once been grassland.  Limestone bedrock: shoe-eating, hand-ripping, home now of ocotillo and creosote bush, with sparse juniper and piñon growing along washes that were relics of wetter times.

A harsh land. Not many humans ever lived there. But one died there.

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