96

Zak
We Called it Emptiness
and watched Andy’s monopoles. Now that he pointed them out, I saw every damn one. They ran beside houses abandoned off the road. The houses had sagging porches and clapboard stained red with dust. I asked Andy who lived out here.
“Mostly the farmin’ and ranchin’ type.” He paused, following my eyes. “Or people that used to farm and ranch.”
“What happened?”
“Shitty luck. The economy, jobs movin’ to the city. The aquifer goin’ dry.”
“Is your farmer gonna have to move to the city too?” I asked. Andy kept a tape recorder in the glove compartment and recorded oral histories for a project he’d started on wind energy development. He’d told me about Bill Neiman, a native seed farmer down in Junction who was upset that the lattice transmission lines were set to run through his land. Andy said it wasn’t a not-in-my-backyard type thing as much as a utilities-shouldn’t-use-towers-that-need-160-feet-of-clear-cut type thing.
“I’m not sure Bill would move to a city. But if the line goes through, he’ll have to move somewhere.”

“That seems rough.”
“Not much else he can do. Those things would cut up his farm. It’s not that new of a story, Laura, just the times we live in.” His eyes softened.
The van dipped through a canyon. The cliffs took our voices, and we both got quiet, watching the sunlight in the mesquites.
“It gets me every time,” Andy said finally. “Those canyons, I never get used to it.”
I waited for him to say more or tap his fingernails or sing us something good. Andy just stared ahead, his eyes somewhere between the power lines and a tractor lumbering on the shoulder. He moved into the oncoming lane to pass the tractor, and I tried to catch the driver’s face to see who lived here, the kind of people that lost their land. He wore a cowboy hat and held the wheel in both hands. An old man, his skin all gold with sun.

*

It began as a road in the morning, two lanes winding north to Adobe Walls. A week later, Andy offered me a job as his assistant. He needed someone to listen and type out the oral histories he’d collected. He had a hundred stories wound in tape. Some were from people in Austin, looking at the wind turbines up north. They lobbied the legislators, won, and together created the competitive renewable energy zones, the CREZ lines, set to bring wind energy to central Texas. The Lower Colorado River Authority—LCRA—won the bid and designed a straight-line route

96
Home
97
Advertisements