Place Where You Live:

Wyoming’s Red Desert

Sunset on the Red Desert

First, the square that is Wyoming, the arbitrary lines that bisect geography. Then, just off center in the southern third of the state, the Red Desert, larger than the country of Wales, and within this high desert covered with sagebrush and grease-wood and scoured by wind and snow and sun, the Great Divide Basin opens. Note the Sweetwater River, a deep and surprising crack in a landscape of little water, too much wind, and dirt two-track roads that finger the ground like hairline fractures.

On the north side of the river, on a cooling September evening, I kneel next to my brother, helping him field dress an antelope, the wind cutting sharp through the layers I wear, dark coming on fast as the sun sinks oxblood coral against the rough-edges of the sandstone and sage stretching away from us. We hurry to beat night and get back to camp and the fire’s orange heat, and I am wrist deep in the buck’s warm chest cavity before I realize that I have forgotten to put on gloves.

My brother and I were born in Rawlins, Wyoming, but we were raised in the Red Desert. These wide horizons, the sweep of sky against earth, are our home. My family has hunted antelope in this country for four-generations, and the meat that we take ties use to the place as surely as the hours spent driving, walking, and studying its draws and valleys. In marrying me, my fiance will also marry the desert, and in the years to come, he will join me in hunting, in dressing game in order to dress our table.

When he drives into camp tonight from his job in town, he will join my brother and I around the fire ring my parents built thirty years ago. Now, I feel with my thumb for my engagement ring, feel the metal encircling my finger. I hold my hand to the light. The three small diamonds and the gold band glint, muted by the richness of blood, the diamonds almost ruby in the failing light.