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By John Hales
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Extra info for Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West
To Jefferson, and others of like mind on the committee of the Continental Congress he chaired, metes and bounds surveys represented abject surrender to the caprice of topographical nature. His plan was to straighten up the dangerous clutter of wilderness by surveying the West into a grid that connected the nascent American empire with the mathematical equations and underlying linearity that defined true, universal, capital-N Nature, while at the same time inscribing an actual grid on the American landscape, a net of intersecting straight lines that would partition the wilderness into orderly square-mile sections.
He’d joined the circle around the bowls of chips and beans and the plate of buttons and had partaken of the food that helped the others get the peyote down their not completely cooperative throats, and he’d tried to stay with his fellow surveyors even as they departed into transcendence. I formed a picture in my mind of Tim walking 26 Shooting Polaris alongside a departing train, waving goodbye as it left the station, understanding that he’d chosen to not buy a ticket but feeling just a little abandoned just the same.
This kind of display wasn’t unusual. The Utah landscape has always been regarded by its colonizers as an insufficiently stretched canvas upon which to paint the outlines of the New Jerusalem, and every mountainside above every Utah town is still marked with an oversized capital letter representing the local high school. S. government for a half century, this was after all the first opportunity for Mormon boys to fight alongside the Feds), who would stop him? The canyon walls were already crowded with pictographs painted and chiseled by citizens of the long-departed Frémont culture, themselves probably not the first inhabitants of our township, markings that, in addition to representing the sun and moon, might well be translated as some kind of Neolithic call to arms, an indigenous version of the stars and stripes, a pre-Columbian statement of nationalistic fervor, perhaps even the prehistoric equivalent of a survey marker.
Shooting Polaris: A Personal Survey in the American West by John Hales