Those who have survived the strict demands of her barren sandstone punctuated with well-springs of life will testify of her desperate beauty. And those who have tricked a living from her unwilling grasp are the grittiest of cowboys who still live in this last, great wild west.
The Cowboy: not the hillbilly, beer-gutted simpleton of red-neckdom--but the real Cowboy; he lives by nature's universal laws and a common-sense code hardened by brutal necessity. Tougher than nails, and blessed with a survival instinct born of experience, the Cowboy understands the circle of life and the power behind all of creation. He still exists in this place, but
We rode hard those days. It started at the base of the Mesa after pulling our gear and stock up from the valley floor to a set of corrals at the base of the trail. We had just driven our trucks and stock trailers up an unusually steep, rutted road that barely passes for such, and more fitted for ATV use. It was midnight by the time our animals were saddled and mules packed for a 2,000 foot ascent to the Mesa's pinioned top. By moonlight, we struggled up the ledgy trail, leading our horses and doing our best not to get stepped on as they scrambled over boulders and washouts. The next three days started early. Some 200 head of cattle had to be located and rounded up into the naturally corraled box canyon near the cozy old cabin on the East end.
Sagebrush flats, low meadows and juniper groves interspersed with steep, bouldered pinion stands were our theater of operations--grandstand to the specticle of creation. The cattle could be found in bunches here and there, some--a day's ride from camp. Pushing longhorns through densely forested and steep canyons almost proved impossible, but we got nearly every animal we sought. The risks we faced from the terrain were punctuated by the threat from some of the cattle who would gladly skewer you or your mount with needle sharp horns given the chance. We were also told, "shoot to kill" if we happened upon any of the remaining, ill-tempered wild cattle roaming the deep and hidden hollows like the ghosts of the ancients who lived here centuries ago. Three days of shouting and whistling took my voice, but three days in the saddle lifted my soul.
The cost was high. Two good horses lost their lives by the time it was over. One, my big hearted appaloosa riden by my pard Jay, sustained a fatal leg injury in the back of a truck on the way back down that brutal dirt road to the bottom lands. The other, one of Steve's horses, fell to its death while scrambling off the ledgy trail from the top.