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  • Travelogue from a Drowned City
  • Ted Lardner (bio)

There's a discarded bread bag blowing towards town. Ringed by 25 miles of reservoir shoreline, Stout, Colorado, climbs from the muck. They are doing a draw-down, they must work on a dam, structural things, when that happens. Sets of foundations. (School, boarding house.) Mounds of debris. Stout.

Satanka Dike plugs the north end of Horsetooth Reservoir. At 5,420 feet above sea level, this impoundment holds 156,735 acre-feet of water. All of it trying to make its way down. Down to its own level. Down to the ocean. Huge piles of rocks, stacked up in the draws between hogbacks, where the creeks used to drain from the last fold of foothills onto the plains, hold back the water behind giant walls above Fort Collins.

It's a fact that, before all these streams were impounded, snowmelt from the Rockies would pour off the slopes down the canyons in muddy roaring blue sky floods that would sweep out onto the flatland east into the rising moon, into the midsummer night; camped in the Platte River valley, wagon trains of settlers would waken in the dark to the ominous sound of water surging forwards. The mules would begin prancing, then they would bolt. Shouts would ring out from the upper reaches of the campsite, then water would be everywhere, bringing with it ungodly payloads, drowned stock, gingham dresses, men's shoes, snakes, snags, cradles, kegs, dogs swimming sideways as they were swept downstream. Buffalo carcasses would roll and bump through the wheels of the wagons, then the wagons would tip over and the ruin would stretch out a mile downstream caught in thickets, hung up in trees, flattened against sand bars, buried in silt.

The reservoir was finished in 1949 by a government agency called the Bureau of Reclamation. The Bureau of Reclamation was created in 1902. On June 17, if you'd like to know. Which is, more or less, the date today. (Let's say that it is.) The full moon this month is called a Strawberry Moon. Most people think it's because of the color. It is not. It's what many of the Algonquin tribes called the full moon that appears in the part of summer when the wild strawberries, which were a prized staple among northeast woodland indigenous people, ripened and were ready to be picked. The strawberry harvest and the Strawberry Moon if I am not mistaken marked for these people the commencement of a new year.

The rarity in this year's (let's say it is this year's) appearance of the Strawberry Moon is that it coincides with the summer solstice. Across Great Britain, throughout much of Europe, in the old tribal way, the call of the body to the body, the mid-summer-night's eve watch fires are kindled, and celebrations of fertility and regeneration are engaged. Across much of Europe, this summer moon is sometimes called the Honey Moon, or the Rose Moon. Again, not because the color. Though it fits. Bonfires blaze on hilltops, specks of brightness that deepen the night. Beaconing us to this world. The honey, rich in the supers. Roses fully in bloom.

The Colorado-Big Thompson Project diverts western-slope water down the eastern side of the Continental Divide. What this means is almost none of the water in Horsetooth Reservoir is "supposed" to [End Page 185] be there. If of course you believe things like that. Long term, of course, forget it: water wins, always. Every drop of water inside you and me has been on this earth since the earth began and it's probable that some of the water inside you was at one time inside the body of numerous other great and fantastical creatures from the deep past, and if you ever go swimming in the summer in Lake Superior near the mouth of the Two-Hearted River you'll feel it, how the water wants to be inside you again, at molecular level; to dissolve means to disappear, disband, disintegrate; from L., to solve, and dis-apart. To solve apart.

Satanka Dike is the name of the...


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