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New American Past



Before the mountains came to Utah, there was only salt. Before the salt there were giant lakes of salt water, called oceans. Before the oceans there was red. Only red. The sky was red. The earth was red. It was hard to do anything, and so nothing was done. Red existed for a very long time, being red and doing red nothings.

One day, a crack opened up in the sky and a sliver of white crept through. It was immediately swallowed up by the red-like quicksand swallows up a cowboys boot that is full of a cowboys foot.

A thousand years passed by and the red forgot about the white. Then one day, another crack opened up in the sky and more white came through. This time, the white was being pulled into the red by a giant winged bird. The red landscape below was suddenly scorched in this pale burning white light. Great fires erupted in the red landscape, burning giant piles of red. The bird was an owl, and as she flew low over the ground and pulled the giant white light behind, the ground was scorched and all that was red became fire. After Utah was covered in fire and all of the red was burned away, the owl flew back to the sky and pulled down a great cloud of rain.   The rain put out all of the fires, but as each fire was quenched, the red turned to salt and melted into the water. Great pools began to form and cover the landscape. After many days of rain, giant salty lakes were formed, and the owl took away the rain, and the landscape began to dry out. Because the red was mostly gone now, and the rain had stopped, the sky was now a bright blue and the sun could be seen, many miles away. The owl wanted the sun to be closer so she dragged it in her beak closer and it dried the land even quicker.  She flapped her great wings and mountains were formed beside the lakes, and then she plucked her feathers and dropped them onto the mountains and they turned into trees.

Ten thousand years later, red-coated soldiers were sailing great ships across the sky. The soldiers were the first to explore the great western landscape in their giant sky ships, and as they sailed across the open plains they came upon Utah. They peered down onto the salty lakes and up into the feathered mountains. They landed their awkward ships on the windy salt flats and began to walk the shores of the great salt lakes, seeing many pale furred animals and birds, who were somewhat camouflaged against the landscape.  They unzipped the furs from these animals and wore them as they searched for food and suitable drinking water. Suddenly they came upon a man, sitting on a stone, holding a staff, upon which was perched a beautiful owl. The soldiers wanted the owl, and they thought they would kill the man and take it. However, this was not to be. The man stood up on long legs, his legs were much taller than they appeared when he was sitting, and he stood five feet taller than the men. He reached down and took off their zippered animal’s skins and gave them back to the white animals. Then he took off their bright red coats, selected his favorite one, put it on his parched skin and ate the other coats. They tasted like red. He remembered red, for he was born when his mother owl brought him into the red then thousand years ago. Then, he was only a sliver of white, but now he had grown legs and a belly, and had a long wooden staff where mother owl perched and whispered the future into his ear.  The men who had come wearing their redcoats, he picked them up and put them back into their sky ship and when mother owl flapped her great wings they disappeared into the past.

Three hundred years later there were more visitors, and they rode in on long silver snakes made of glass and vitamins and they carried with them sounds from the future. Mother owl knew these sounds, but there were many others she had never heard. The visitors carried in their arms mechanical rectangular babies who they would sometimes hold up to their ears and then they would laugh and mimic the babies sounds. Mother owl longed for her own baby, and so her son, the man, grabbed one of the visitors and shook loose the rectangular sand colored baby, and its musical cries crackled and hissed but it continued to vocalize in the strangest tones, various and sundry bits of lyrical prose.  Mother owl thought the sounds were like a metal rose being eaten by the rusted skeleton of a tractor. He held the rectangular baby and listened to its lullabies for 14 days straight and then one day it stopped singing and then he sat and waited with mother owl for one day when the baby might sing again.


See the New American Past collage >>