Open Range Adventure
About five minutes from our house is a remote, little-known road that runs along the San Pedro River. Its tarred and chipped veneer quickly gives way to scraped dirt, the whirling dust of passing vehicles, and the emerald green fields of surrounding ranches. It’s one of my favorite places.
Naturally, when my mom was visiting from Pennsylvania last week, I took her for a ride along this magical path. Aptly named River Road until it forks, this dusty trail leads you to either 1) civilization* or 2) more desolate, rutted dirt passageways where you’re lucky to see another human being.
Of course, I chose Option 2 for our picnic in the desert (southwestern chicken salad over lettuce, which I prepared that morning. Chicken, corn, black beans, cilantro, red peppers, red onions … ummm).
Along the way, we came across a few road signs that are the true markers of the Wild West.
The signs proved prophetic. On the way home, we saw the flesh version of the black silhouettes painted against reflective yellow. And yes, they were on the road, on the edge of the road, moseying around like they owned it. Come to think of it … they do. Sort of.
Something else caught my eye along the edge of the road: a bit of a makeshift temple with something white perched on top. I didn’t expect to see what I saw …
My mom had a great time with Betty (my new “old” Jeep) and me. Where others might have been bored and seen nothing but dust and wide open space in the wide open range, my mom and I saw adventure, embraced the bumpy ride, gulped in the fresh air, and wondered at the clouds that had graced us in a sky that is generally a sheet of smooth cobalt blue.
* I use this term loosely. The town that the “Y” in the road leads to no longer has a grocery store; its quaint golf course shut down; and the one business that located in the area also chose not to rebuild after fire damage. They do have a Subway, though!
For Readers, Writers: I just finished reading a wonderful novel by Sarah McCoy, The Baker’s Daughter, and was in awe of her ability to parcel out just the right amount of information without broadcasting upcoming plot points or weighing down the reader in unnecessary detail. She allows the reader to make the discoveries herself, to put the pieces together and have those ‘ah ha’ moments. She is the master of inference and implication, unveiling surprises through her characters’ actions. [Check out my review of her book in the top right column under “Melissa’s Bookshelf” or visit my Goodreads page.)
I couldn’t help but draw a parallel to Sarah’s storytelling techniques and the open range of the desert.
The desert reveals details at the right times and in the right doses – the little tortoise, the desert wildflowers tucked behind boulders, the squirrel hopping from tree to tree, the lizard camouflaged in the desert wash. It’s up to us to look, to see more than what appears on the surface, in the open range and between the pages of a book – to put the pieces together and realize what is woven into the surrounding landscape.
Do you enjoy novels that allow you to draw conclusions, or do you like all the details spelled out? What are some of your favorites? If you’re a writer: how do you achieve the balance of the “reveal?” What do you think of the open range?