Target Practice by Steven Wolf

Published on 17 March 2004 in Discovery (Please wait)

I was walking through sagebrush and sand, picking over pinion cones looking for pine nuts. My friend was with me, but he was a long way off. I had a little tiny advantix camera with me which was getting sticky from the sap. I was continually coming across these odd traces of people here before me; last week or last month or last year. This object hanging from a tree was riddled with bullet dents. I don’t know what it was. It looked as if it belonged there though it clearly didn’t. I wonder if the people who placed that target and shot those craters into it knew that they were making something really striking, at least to my eye. I wish now that I had removed it from the tree and taken it with me. Somehow, at the time, that felt like stealing.

Walking away from that spot, I went off to explore some rocky outcropping. I walked around the back side of it and looked down to see a goat which had been killed. It seemed to be partially burned. A rock circle surrounded it. I guessed it was some sort of sacrifice. I also guessed that the people who were responsible had little knowledge of what they were doing. Still, it gave me a sinking feeling and a sense of dread about the place. I left that spot and headed for sunshine instead of shadow, but not before thinking seriously about taking a picture of the goat. Disgust finally won out.

I went in search of my friend. I needed company after being so chilled. As I walked, I saw the bottles and cans strewn all about; some new, some old and rusted red. This place was just a hundred yards or so from the road, with lots of rocks which hid you from sight. A clear picture of the mayhem which happened here frequently began to form in my head. Everything I had seen described in my mind inebriation and gunfire and ignorance run rampant.

I thought of how the land seemed to absorb the human leavings. The cans turn the color of the dirt and the hapless goat is now a peaceful pile of bones. The target in the tree could still be swaying in the breeze as if it had grown there. I hope it is. It is testament to natures ability to carry on in spite of…us.

Steven Wolf (Reno, NV, USA)

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