When I was a kid, about twelve, I went on a dig with my stepfather the paleontologist, on the high prairie outside Cheyenne.

I was walking out one day, went down this little dry wash. It was clear there'd been a lot of water through there at some point, the floor was sandy and the walls nearly vertical and freshly cut. Walking down deeper into the wash the walls got taller, over my head. Pale sandy soil, nice layers of old channels stripped bare. Then, there, in a wall of sand like creamy marble, was a group of sheep. They were scrambling, running, frozen in the sandy bank like a Grecian frieze. They were in such tortured motion, and not too long dead; Wool hung in rags over their bare ribs and lips pulled back from bright white teeth. Lambs and ewes and rams, all right there in the moment the flood caught them, poised them. They were so dead and looked, from a short distance, so in motion.

I was all alone in the wash with the sheep, and suddenly the sky felt really far away.

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