Scattered clouds that reminded me of lace, of lenses, of mackerel backs dodged the sun and swamped the tops of mountains. Scattered patches of ice gave way to spots of snow, then as we ascended into the Owyhee highland country, snow masked the bottoms of sagebrush.
We climbed out of the Snake River Valley and up to Grasmere where a herd of pronghorns galloped west, then east, then stopped and watched us as the sun lit up their shiny white rumps. They looked like bright lights.
On the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Reservation, caballos stopped foraging and watched us as we sped by towards the towns of Owyhee and Mountain City and on into the Owyhee River Canyon. Dark red willows, orange-yellow willows loomed over patches of ice and patches of dark water peopled with mallards and buffleheads.
Halfway between Mountain City and Wild Horse Reservoir a golden eagle sat on top of a pinnacle of rock and fought off a persistent wind. We stopped below but he acted more interested in keeping balance on his perch than on the photography we attempted.
Ice fishermen on snow machines made patterns on the reservoir and sat on their perches as we drove on and turned into the long high plain that drains off into the Humboldt River. The clouds reminded me of cotton swabs cleansing the tops of the mountains between us and Tuscarora and the Spanish Ranch.
In Elko, we checked into the Esquire Inn and then went to dinner. Later we attended a show by the Ronstadt Generation, members of the famous Tucson musical tribe. Two guitars and a cello; one father, two sons. The father can warble. The emphasis this year at Elko and the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering turns on the southwest, so we tapped our feet and kept time with our hands to cowboy tunes, ballads and lullabies sung in Spanish. We heard jazz and blues with Woodie Guthrie tunes thrown in. In a Paul Simon piece with a strong sense of reggae, the cello sounded like the steel drums one would hear on the streets of Jamaica.
I didn’t want to go to the show, but I am glad I did. From “Malagueña” to Muddy Waters, and “Sixteen Tons” with a cello solo. Vavoom!