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for people who care about the West

The harsh truths of Bowden


Charles Bowden is a wonderful, as well as provocative, writer (HCN, 3/1/10). He has a way of serving up the truth so it slaps you in the face. I'm not sure any magazine but High Country News would have the guts to print this story as is.

Maybe you would be willing to reprint something else Bowden wrote, which nobody else seems to be able to do.

Bowden often writes soaring words in praise of the Southwest's natural beauty, but he doesn't mince words when it comes to explaining how the Colorado Plateau was largely emptied of wildlife 160 years ago. As a freelance author of several magazine articles on visiting remote areas in Utah and Arizona, I have tried to include a historic excerpt from his Stone Canyons of the Colorado Plateau in each, only to see it removed each time. It concerns actions supervised by the prominent Mormon John D. Lee, and I'm not talking about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Sometimes truth is ugly:

"In 1848, almost a decade before (Lee's) actions at Mountain Meadows, he supervises a hunt suggested by Brigham Young to rid the area of wolves, wild cats, skunks, minks, bears, mountain lions, coyotes, eagles, crows, ravens, and hawks. Two teams of about one hundred men each set out to slaughter with a point system agreed upon to determine the champion. Between fourteen and fifteen thousand animals are killed with Lee himself accounting for 2,043 'skelps.' "

Looking back, although repulsed, I understand why these settlers behaved as they did. Attempting to stay alive in a harsh landscape, they didn't want to have to deal with any predators. They also wanted to quickly populate and claim their land, so polygamy, large families, and planned settlements were the most efficient ways to do that. Something about Bowden's writing, though, cuts through it all and lets you see it as it is -- same with this article on Mexico.

Crista Worthy
Los Angeles, California