open, the unshuttered windows framing
the great bowl of rangeland extending to
“Our greatest asset is in storage,” Je=
told me. He was talking about the books.
“I suppose it would be a great con if Ann
and I didn’t really have the books—if
we built this whole library and then said,
But Je= and Ann do have the books, over
thirty thousand of them, which, until 2012,
they had stored in the basement of their
apartment before they were forced to move.
Friends and volunteers with the Rocky
Mountain Land Library nonprofit helped
move the entire collection to a storage unit
in the city. “If we fell into a pot of money,”
Je= said, “the first priority would be to rent
a space in Denver where we could process
In the meantime, though, Je= and
Ann have been working on an elaborate
renovation with two Colorado-based
architects. Without any large pots of
money on the horizon, they plan to develop
the project bit-by-bit. This summer, a
HistoriCorps volunteer crew replaced the
rotten cedar shingles.
“Everything’s ready,” said Je=. “We just
need the money.”
The readers, writers, and artists are
ready, too. With increasing frequency, peo-
ple are showing up unannounced, looking
for the library.
The two of us returned alone to the
main house with its musty orange carpet,
wood-slatted walls, and dusty doorknobs.
A sign on the toilet warned: DO NOT USE.
Je= didn’t bother flipping any switches. He
gestured to the attic hatch with more joy
than dread. “I bet there are some stories up
there,” he said. A
Alex Carr Johnson is a writer and conservationist living in the North Fork Valley
of western Colorado. His piece “ 8 Meetings
Nobody Scheduled” appeared in the January/
February 2015 issue of Orion.
driving To work this morning I
saw a burly red-tailed hawk sitting on a
light pole right next to three pigeons. I
craned my head to be sure I was seeing
what you would not think you would ever
see, but there they were, a whopping
grim eater of pigeons, and three pigeons
whom you would think would want to be
anywhere else but just exactly there.
But there they were.
I drove on, more slowly. I could see
them in my rearview mirror. Why they
were perched so peaceably together is a
mystery, but whatever you think you will
never see, of course you will.
Perhaps the hawk had just eaten the
three pigeons’ cousin and was not at all
hungry, and the pigeons knew Old Hank
was too stu=ed to growl or budge. Or
perhaps the pigeons were telling the hawk
a story so amazing that the hawk had
promised and sworn and vowed to not
rip up the storyteller. Or maybe the hawk
wanted to rejigger the whole predator/prey
thing and move toward more of a nuts-and-seeds dietary program. Or maybe
the hawk was an illuminated being not
especially interested in blood anymore. Or
a pigeon was alluring and mesmerizing,
and this was only one of many hawks to
change sides in the romantic ramble.
You never know.
Maybe the hawk was apprenticed in
some interesting way, or working o= an
indentured period. Or all four of them
had conspired to goof the human beings
today. Maybe they had gathered on the
pole twelve seconds before I shot past
it, and as soon as I was gone they lost it
laughing and bowed and said, We really
must do this again sometime, compadres,
and o= they went to meetings or laundry
or to their o;ces. You never know.
For all we know we do not know so
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in
Oregon. He is the author, most recently, of the
novel Martin Marten.
On the Web
* Hear an interview with
Ben Goldfarb about the
Yellowstone to Yukon
project. ( p. 14 )
* See a slide show of more
( p. 38 )
* Hear Leath Tonino read
“ 20 Things Ancient Chinese
Poets Taught Me” aloud.
( p. 6 )