By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
We drove west into the sunset on a two-lane highway, past cactus and sagebrush, through hundreds of miles of nothing broken suddenly here and there by odd clusters of houses, towns with no name.
Southwest of the Comanche National Grasslands and east of volcanoes cold since the dawn of mankind, we rolled over hills empty of feature but filled with our continent’s history nonetheless. The stories these places hold are the backbone of the legends of the West. No amount of Hollywood fantasy can surpass what really happened here, or what continues to happen.
Not much was happening that day, though, because it was hot. Not August-in-the-Deep South, air conditioner-straining hot exactly, but August-in-New Mexico, drier-than-dry hot. Like the exhale of an oven browning cornbread, the heat hit with real force and imposed its will on the countryside. The truck’s instrument panel read 99 degrees and the sky was a pale, hazy blue – a perfect day, it seems, for hunting pronghorn.
What is it that makes us think of the things that form the opposite of now? My memory turns to icy weather when summer bears down, thinks well of warmer days in the cold. I don’t know if that’s simply human nature or not, but it’s mine. Standing outside the other night, watching the big moon rise full in a clear sky and leaning into a breeze that rushed down out of Arkansas with the far north’s frozen tundra still on its breath, I thought more of hot days past than of cool ahead.
An interesting thing about those hot days in New Mexico, though, was just how much difference cool water and a little shade could bring.
Sitting beneath a tent as wind whipped through the open sides made watching heat waves stack and dance outside very pleasant, and each night brought nature’s best fireworks out to play. From our campsite we could see forever in every direction, and the thunderstorms that marched across the miles between the horizon and our point of view were beautiful from afar, awesome from a-near, but always an object lesson in the power nature can hide, and it took both hot and cold to make them.
Maybe pondering the opposite of now is just a desire to experience everything nature can provide, rather than a selfish wanting of more. With a cool wind at our back and warm memories in our heart, what more could anyone ask?
Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak in West Point.