Rolling Toward Us Like a Wave

From Fire on the Mountain by Edward Abbey:

n331007“Close your jaw and open your eyes and look at that mountain.” He raised an arm and pointed toward the granite of the high peak, now glowing with light from the rising sun.

“Why do they call it Thieves’ Mountain?” I asked, staring up at the transmutation of bare gray rock into gold.

“It belongs to the Government,” Grandfather said.

“Yes, the Government stole it from the cattlemen,” Lee said. “And the cattlemen stole it from the Indians. And the Indians stole it from the — from the eagles? From the lion? And before that — ?”

“– Before that?”

“Look,” Grandfather said proudly, “see how the light comes down the mountain now. Rolling toward us like a wave.”

Old man, proud of his mountain. I looked where he pointed. Swiftly and smoothly the sunlight was spreading downward from the peak to the crests of the lesser mountains north and south, down over the belt of pine to the juniper and pinyon stands of the foothills. Bands of light extended across the green sky, passing above us from the east, expanding from the fiery core that swelled below the rim of the world. Turning in the saddle I looked for the sun and in a moment the first arc of it appeared, then more until the entire fireball rose, dazzling and incredible, more beautiful than thought, above the Guadalupe range eighty miles away.

“Yes,” continued Lee, “like a wave. But whose light? Whose mountain? Whose land? Who owns the land? Answer me that, old horse. The man with title to it? The man who works it? The man who stole it last?”


Author: Chris

Chris La Tray is a writer, a walker, and a photographer. He is an enrolled member of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians and lives in Missoula, MT.

2 thoughts on “Rolling Toward Us Like a Wave”

  1. It’s been a long time since I read this one–Abbey is a favorite author of mine. Desert Solitaire, Monkey Wrench Gang (when will that become a movie?), Black Sun and Fool’s Progress are all favorites. I am currently reading Susan Zakin’s “Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! and the Environmental Movement” which is enlightening as to Abbey’s influence in the 70s and 80s.

    1. I like that Coyotes and Town Dogs book. I actually had dinner with Susan Zakin once, as she was a friend of my wife’s from Tucson. I told her my writing goal was pretty much to earn a membership in the club, as she calls it, “Hairy Chested Western Writers,” which included Abbey, Chuck Bowden, Doug Peacock, etc. Heh.

Leave a Reply