Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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p. vii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

Because writing is in part a community activity, I wish to acknowledge those fellow writers, poets, and readers from prison workshops to the University of Arizona Creative Writing programs to my friends in the Rio Nuevo writer's group at Menlo Park. You all have helped me to hone my ideas and to keep my writing honest and clear-any errors that remain ...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xix

In 1986, during the summer of my twenty-eighth year, I abandoned my pregnant wife and two small children for someone half my age. Seven Until that summer I had been a predictable, if oblivious, husband and father. I was a successful teacher, having just been named Teacher of the Year by my school district. When I wasn't teaching, I spent my sum ...

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Desert's Child

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pp. 24-33

From the upper bunk where I write, a narrow window allows me a south ern exposure of the desert beyond this prison. Saguaro cacti, residents here long before this rude concrete pueblo, fill the upper part of my frame. If I could open the window and reach out across the razed ground, sand traps, and shining perimeter fence, I might touch their fluted sides, ...

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Ruins

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pp. 34-45

Red was the color of cold on the Colorado Plateau that March. DeChelly sandstone red. A frigid wind gathered in wavering gusts, sifting plumes of sand, like an atomized powder of blood, in one direction and then another. The hue suffused everything: our clothing, hair, skin. Even my mouth teaching colleague and hiking compadre, said I'd be all right. "Once the ...

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Monsoon

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pp. 46-55

It was 105 and the humidity was approaching saturation. Physical com fort was a memory from the days before our swamp cooler failed. Clothing soured in less than a day. My hair needed cutting. Dust clung to my skin and, mixed with sweat, formed dark blotches on my arms and legs. The foresummer of that June was miserable. How my wife managed ...

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Beneath the Scroll

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pp. 56-63

We parked the car at a cattle guard and unloaded packs, canteens, flash lights, and climbing gear. After scaling a barbed-wire fence, we crossed a cattle-razed field studded with warty conglomerate rocks and prickly pear cactus among a few dead hummocks of grass. Dried cow pats marked a path that disappeared where we descended into a wide valley. Some ...

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Oceanic Rifts

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pp. 64-77

By my last year of teaching in public school in 1986, my classroom had spilled over into an after-school taxidermy workshop, an annual cooking and eating event we called "the Beast Feast," and a science club, which traveled around the state on monthly wilderness expeditions. My wildlife collections, caged and displayed in the classroom, attracted ...

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Fear of Snakes

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pp. 78-85

They live in the desert, which means, undoubtedly, I live with them. Snakes. All kinds: pale, wormlike blind snakes; coral snakes, dressed for Halloween to advertise their poison; six-foot constrictors called bull snakes; and rattlesnakes, lots of rattlesnakes. Of these, we have westerns, western diamondbacks, sidewinders, tigers, blacktails, Mohaves and ...

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Old Hat Gulch

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pp. 86-99

A few miles south of Oracle, Arizona, near the dirt track of the old Mt. Triangle Y Ranch Camp. When we arrived there in 1986, during the fore summer drought of late May, the northern slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains still retained the chlorophylls of spring. Mesquite trees and netleaf hackberry shone with bright leaves. Fierce catclaw mimosa shrubs ...

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Twin Ponds

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pp. 100-109

On one of the hottest, driest, most skin-cracking days in early July 1986, I reluctantly agreed to help Terry Hutchins with stocking his man-made pond. Terry, the camp's nature director, was eternally enthusiastic about his program. Normally taciturn and impenetrable, the sandy-headed junior high science teacher degenerated into a long-haired, unshaven ...

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First Time

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pp. 110-121

You feel so empty you can't even cry. The crack of the judge's gavel resounds in your ears as a punctuation mark on your life while two guards half-carry you through a doorway, remove your shackles, and leave you in a steel-walled holding tank. The vomit and urine smell like guilt, at the same time both bitter and deserved. A small window opens..

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Campo Bonito

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pp. 122-133

A rust-eaten, forest service sign warned us about impending travel conditions: Primitive Road Hazardous to Public Use. What road? I thought, glancing at my wife who'd gone rigid, gripping her seat and reproaching me with her eyes. I proceeded anyway, splashing through an algae curdled streamlet and attempting to straddle a deeply rutted track that ...

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Sleeping with the Enemy

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pp. 134-141

My wife is not the enemy. Let's get that straight from the start. And, although our marriage sometimes bruises and blisters both of us (more her than me, I think), I do manage to curl up beside her most nights, even if the only response I get from her is hair in my mouth. So far, Karen has only suggested-as a warning should I ever offend her again-that I ...

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Neutering the Boys

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pp. 142-145

The voices started warning me after what happened to the boys. Our two male kittens had begun to act strange-staying out all night, wandering over to the neighbors, stinking up the house. It wasn't normal; some thing was different about them. Then I caught Gizmo humping Mittens. Bad kitties, I told them and chased them outside. My wife said we need ...

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Adobe, Hawks, and Shadows

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pp. 146-155

Dawn at Fairbank, a ghost town on the banks of the San Pedro River in southern Arizona. It's sixty-three degrees, cool compared with the mornings I'm used to in a desert that shrugs off these temperatures long before July. I stick my head into a worn adobe building still labeled Post Office, but it's quiet and dark inside. Deserted. Beyond this, several empty, sad ...

Author's Note

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pp. 156-157

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About the Author

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pp. 158-158

When Ken Lamberton published his first creative nonfiction book Wilderness and Razor Wire (Mercury House, 2000), the San Frandsco Chronicle called it, " ... entirely original: an edgy, ferocious, subtly complex collection of essays .... " The book won the 2002 John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. He has published more than a hundred science and nature articles...