West of Eden

The coulees look just like I remember them, yellow-brown and flowing in the relentless west wind. They dip and curve, cutting through long grasses and juttings of coal-dust dirt, down, down to the slow-flowing Old Man River.

We never got to the river, me and my friend. We got stuck in the time-warp of the coulees’ twists and bends: heroes of the past, warriors of the future, explorers in some far-flung galaxy.

On good days we would start out early. We would get supplies at the local convenience store, stocking up on all the necessary provisions young boys need: licorice, pop rock candy, a cream soda slush. Then the trek to our most treasured place, a deep gorge impossibly furnished with trees and bushes and a trickle of a stream. Epic battles of will were fought there; the fates of entire civilizations rested in our hands. The gorge was our oasis, our Eden, our raison d’être for a glorious afternoon.

I still remember the day we emerged from the coulees toward the river, and looked down on manicured greens colonized by grown men with clubs in their hands, their flags planted as if in conquest, a declaration of a war we knew we could not win.

– MWP 2014

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