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Laura Zak
They Called it Emptiness
would stop at the fork and stretch and pray and look at the fields, the light in the weeds.
That was in the summer, before his hands turned blue like the grass. He thought about the long walk home from the pasture and how limitless the cotton fields had seemed. Some days he wanted to follow the dirt road all the way west and see the where the cotton finally found its end.
Now he knew. The cotton fields tapered off below the transmission towers. So much had changed. He was enclosed by a small metal city, and no one after him would know how open it once had been.
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Storms blew in from the west that summer. We’d watch them build in the afternoon a hundred miles away. The clouds rose like white mesas. They moved quickly across the plains, and when they banked the county line it was night. The air held the stillness of a suspended tightrope.
I propped my window open. Rain pricked the patio in shiny circles and the air was thick like cotton. The wind came as a quick intake of breath. One moment calm and the next a yawning exhale. Wind rattled the window, and I wondered if it was trying to wake us up.
Bill Neiman and the farmers down in Junction and in Sweetwater
must feel like that. When he wrote asking the LCRA to consider putting the lines down I-10, he received no white envelope back in the mailbox. The women and men that’d met at Plumey’s Pecans started calling themselves the Clearview Alliance, started hosting presentations about the 160 feet of clear-cut each lattice tower needed, about land fragmentation and how it was the hills, the mesquites, the open skies that held their community together, not transmission lines.
I watched the wind shake the trees, and thought maybe it was something we ought to be upset about, the way these CREZ lines were happening. How the LCRA put the lines only through the backcountry and didn’t take a cup of coffee with the farmers to ask if it was okay. And instead, they called Bill a NIMBY, a “not-in-my-backyard.” They thought he’d never raise his voice if the lattice towers weren’t set to go on the hill overlooking his farm.
I didn’t know if Bill was a NIMBY. I’d heard his voice crack talking about the grasses on his farm, the purple threeawn seeds that spun like helicopters to the ground. But my own throat tightened too. I wasn’t sure who would want a lattice tower next to their house. We all had telephone wires and wooden fences that kept in the sky, but as I leaned on my windowsill, I could still see the old elm tree, the laundry line strung above the grass. The back wasn’t clear-cut or strewn with metal, and nothing shrouded the stars when I bent my neck, looking up.
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