We are planning a trip. The map has been flattened upon the table. Hunched over it, I speculate on the far north – Wolf Point or Glasgow, Fort Peck or Froid, Dagmar, Dooley, Antelope or Comertown? Or, moving south – to Savage and the Big Sheep Mountains, to Crow Rock, to Angela? Or deeper south to Wyamo or Recluse, Ulm or Ucross, Lost Cabin, Barnum or northwest to the Greybull River and Emblem, Dead Indian Pass or Heart Mountain, a place of sorrow?
I love the names. I want to know the stories.
These are questions I want to ask: Who lives in these towns? What work do they do? How do they survive the winters? How do they live with so much space between them and all of us? How does it change a person to live there? Are they ever overcome by joy, especially when they look up to waves and waves of stars filling the bowl of the sky? Do they ever feel themselves close to madness, especially in late January with the north-wind crying around the windows? Do the young stay? Do families return? What are the high schools like?
Where do the inhabitants dream of going? Could we live there? What other lives are still possible?
Here I live close to Lousetown, Bitchtown, Scrap-Hell Hill, Frogtown, Pension Hollow, Holiday Hill, the Slave Tree, and the Falls of French Creek. Those names once called forth a host of memories from those who lived here. These are lost names, just like the ones where I grew up — Down-the-Lane, Train-Wreck, the Indian Trail, the Road to Nowhere, the Pines, Sledding Hill, and the house of Minnie the Witch.
I never stop thinking about hurling myself, thoughtlessly, into one spot on the vast space of another life.