We Called it Emptiness
Did he smile? Andy turned his head, and I couldn’t tell. He said the towers were too hollow. Too hollow and industrial to be anything other than what they were.
We both got quiet, and the silence that followed was uneasy. The wires droned as we passed them, and I remembered Bill describing the sound like metal cicadas.
I wondered when it would become familiar. When the buzz of the wire would fade into the everyday noises we’d grown used to and be no more remarkable than the wind’s low
whistle, the scrape of cotton.
We drew closer. Andy set the camera bag on the road. He snapped more pictures. We looked at the towers, silent, still.
“They don’t even try,” I said.
“They don’t try to do what?” Andy picked up the camera bag. He looked over his shoulder, down the road.
“Fit the landscape.” I bit my lip. “Andy, they’re so big and bulky. They don’t look anything like the telephone poles.”
He looked at the telephone poles. After a moment, he said, “Those are much smaller. And made of wood.”
“You hardly notice them.”
“You have to notice the lattice towers.”
“No way around it.”
We didn’t say anything then, we just listened to the wires. I wiped
my forehead with the back of my hand. Nothing moved, and I could’ve ridden my bike north toward Adobe Walls, toward Oklahoma and there’d be no wind to pull at my shoulders, push me back.
How many times had I said I hated wind? Hated biking against the wall it made on my way home, the gusts that shook my frame. I’d called it every kind of name.
I wasn’t sure I liked the stillness better. Without wind nothing moved. What was it the old ranchers said? “We called it emptiness only after the lattice towers came.”
Andy said he had enough photographs, and we turned back. “You know,” he said after awhile. “I think it’s arrogant putting the towers up like this.” Andy told me they could have built the lines with different towers, with monopoles that tried to blend into the cotton fields, the mesquite trees, but they didn’t. They could have, but they didn’t.
He talked, and I licked my finger, holding it up as people used to when they wanted to test the wind. Maybe I only imagined it—the air brushing my skin. The cotton fields were so quiet that afternoon.
Bill’s farm would be quiet too. The Clear view Alliance went to the Public Utility Commission and got the CREZ lines re-rerouted down I-10. Bill said the victory was small. The lattice towers were off his hill, yes, but they were still being built along the interstate. Bill said he just laughed now when he heard CREZ mentioned because the LCRA could