The two most common official road signs on the “lonely” highways of central and southeast Nevada: Open Range and Low Flying Aircraft. Distance, space, and time become relative. Range, it strikes me, is the operative word of assumed possession in our West. As in Range Lands. Riders on the Range. Bombing Range. A place to do as one will, or at least to test one’s will.
Among the tuff boulders and outcrops lies the Mount Irish Archaeological District, now part of the Basin and Range National Monument. The BLM of the Ely District how done a fine job of making public an expansive terrain with many remarkable petroglyphs.
In late October during some soloing days I wandered and wondered among these softened boulders so different from the sharp basalts of Oregon’s northern Great Basin. No one else in this country this season. The dawns crisp and golden, radiant. Afternoons warm and disbursed, curving away. Suddenly a shocking, booming explosion so near at hand to shake alarm. Then, silently, “low-flying,” two fighter jets in tight formation slicing through the air of the nearing valley - faster-than-the-speed-of-sound. Soon the dull claim and roar of the engines followed yearning not to be abandoned. Open Range.
My thoughts turned to Yemen, to Syria. (Yes, here, in the quiet presence of the archaic "Pahranagat Man," stately observer she/he be.) I can only slightly imagine the dread, the trauma, the deathliness of what it must be dwell, to feel the shattering, to perhaps die, with this constant jet sound multiplied, amplified. Also, I thought: gun control is not the issue. Much deeper is the way we weapon our world. Yes, We. Yes, Weapon. Yes, Our World. (Someday when sound is done and gone, in a foreseeable lonely world, when walls collapse quake they will in silent swoon.)
Some Pahranagat figures in this country are associated with atlatls, the dart-thrower, which preceded the soon-to-be-fashionable bow-and-arrow. Essential to both was the tip, the honed stone point, the piercer. Sharply aimed, fast, and low-flying - if to be effective.
ALBUM: Mount Irish Scapes and Images
- BLM guide to Mount Irish Petroglyphs published in partnership with Nevada Rock Art Foundation.
- Basin and Range National Monument Proclamation, July 2017, by President Obama.
- Nellis Air Force Base
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