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The man and the hill

January 1, 1962

He was sitting on a large slab of rock. As he looked at the cloud of dust hanging hazily on the horizon, the piece of antler and the block of flint he held in his hand hung as if they were suspended from their previous rapid motion. The man gazed intently across the swaying grass which rose in wave-like billows across the distant hills. What was that dust - a herd of buffalo, a band of hunters, or were coyotes chasing the antelope again? After watching for a while he started again to chip the flint with a rapid twisting motion of the bone in his right hand. The little chips of flint fell in the grass before him.

It is the same hill but the scene has changed. Seated on the same rock, holding the reins of a saddle horse, a man dressed in buckskin took the fur cap off his head and wiped his brow. He was looking intently across a brown and desolate landscape at a cloud of dust on the far horizon. Was it the hostile tribe of Indians? It could be buffalo. Nervously he kicked at the ground with the deerhide moccasin, pushing the flint chips out of the way. He wiped the dust from his long rifle. What a terrible place - no water, practically no grass, everything bare and brown.

Now at sunset, slanting across the hills green with springtime, a cowman sits on a big rock, pushes his sombrero back on his head, and looks across the valley at a large but quiet herd of stock, moving slowly as each steer walks from one lush patch of grass to another, nibbling. Suddenly he stood up. Far on the horizon some dark objects were moving. Is it the sheepmen? Could it be the stage coach from Baggs to the Sweetwater Crossing?

Same hill - a gray truck was grinding slowly toward the summit. It pulled up near a small fenced enclosure where there were some instruments painted a bright silver color. A man stepped out of the truck and turned to his younger companion, "You've never found an arrowhead? Maybe you have never thought about it correctly. If you want to find where an Indian camped long ago, put yourself in his place. Where would he sit to chip flint? He would take some high hill above a grassy valley where the breeze would cool him and where he could look across the country, watching for game or for enemies. If I were an Indian, that's what I would do. You change the chart of the rain gage and I am going to walk up to the place where I think he might have sat." He walked over to the crest of the hill and, near a large slab of sandstone, started to pick up pieces of flint.

This is an oft-repeated story. A given hill is repeatedly visited, used, loved or hated, protected or marred, by successive generations of men. All these men had characteristics in common. They had a job to do, a livelihood to make; they had their own plans, their own fears, but they were in one way or another connected with the land.

Publication Year 1962
Title The man and the hill
DOI 10.3133/cir460A
Authors Luna Bergere Leopold
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Circular
Series Number 460
Index ID cir460A
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse