William Least Heat Moon is the modern deTocqueville, traveling the country, observing America. The next few posts will be short excerpts from his book BLUE HIGHWAYS, published in 1982, called by some, including me, a masterpiece.
Moon avoids main highways, and tiring of the desert, decides to head into the mountains toward Cedar Breaks, Colorado in his RV, which he has named Ghost Dancing. It’s May, but the weather turns from desert to blizzard and he gets stuck in the snow. “There it was, the striped centerline, glowing through the sleet, disappearing under a seven-foot snowbank. Blocked.”
“At any particular moment in a man’s life, he can say that everything he has done and not done, that has been done and not been done to him, has brought him to that moment. If he’s being installed as a Chieftain or receiving a Nobel Prize, that’s a fulfilling notion. But if he’s in a sleeping bag at ten thousand feet in a snowstorm, parked in the middle of a highway and waiting to freeze to death, the idea can make him feel calamitously stupid.
“A loud racketing of hail fell on the steel box, and the wind seemed to have hands, it shook the Ghost so relentlessly. Lightning tried to outdo thunder in scaring me. So did those things scare me? No. Not THOSE things. It was something else. I was certain of a bear attack. That’s what scared me.”
Moon goes on to quote Black Elk and Walt Whitman, and to give the reader information about lightning that only a curious meteorologist would know. He dreams of the headline: FROZEN MAN FOUND IN AVALANCHE.
And he survives to write the book.