Sound of Mountain Water
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The essays, memoirs, letters, and speeches in this volume were written over a period of twenty-five years, a time in which the West witnessed rapid changes to its cultural and natural heritage, and Wallace Stegner emerged as an important conservationist and novelist. This collection is divided into two sections: the first features eloquent sketches of the West's history and environment, directing our imagination to the sublime beauty of such places as San Juan and Glen Canyon; the concluding section examines the state of Western literature, of the mythical past versus the diminished present, and analyzes the difficulties facing any contemporary Western writer. The Sound of Mountain Water is both a hymn to the Western landscape, an affirmation of the hope embodied therein, and a careful investigation of the West's cultural and natural legacy.
maps spread all over the living-room rug, or with the late-afternoon start down the Santa Clara Valley and over Pacheco Pass into the San Joaquin, where after dark the power stations in the oilfields were jeweled clusters and the derricks were like a blasted forest on the hills. Those first hours of any trip are spent largely on the unprofitable pastime of remembering the things that have been left behind or neglected or forgotten. I shall not waste much space on how we drove until ten and then
Grand Canyon Suite inevitably suggests itself, and we are struck by the quality of the sound produced by hoofs on sandstone. It is in no sense a clashing or clicking sound, but is light, clear, musical, rather brittle, as if the rock were hollow. The packhorse leads us deeper into the rock, going at a long careful stride down hewn rock stairs, snaking along a strip of ledge, squeezing under an overhang. It is an interminable, hot, baking canyon, but there are aromatic smells from weeds and
sign from below, and then the blackness blooms with hundreds of tiny fireflowers as the matches ignite on the rocks below. Out in the middle of the bridge, where they have been filling a truck tire with gasoline, there is a yell and a flash, and the flaming tire shoots off into space. It howls like a fire siren as it falls, and the sound comes up fainter, farther. The tire falls like a comet, trailing flame and dropping, vanishing almost, as if it were falling utterly off the earth. Then there
facts; but there were some facts that he did not yet know, one of them being that it was the West, which he scorned, that he most wanted to say yea to. During the next thirty-five years, the “vigorous years” of his dedication, he would be many things—novelist, professor, editor, historian, pamphleteer, critic, and under a half dozen aliases, hack writer—with such range and in such profusion that no neat classification can hold him. Visible in his God-awful emulsion along with the scissors and
assemble the core of a noble range. By homesteading, buying, or merely appropriating the land along the watercourses and around the sources of water, you could dominate many square miles of dry grazing land. By using the public domain as if it were your own, you could perhaps persuade yourself that you had exclusive rights to it; and by intimidation or dry-gulching you might discourage rivals or sheepmen or nesters, saying in justification that they were trespassers or rustlers. The history of