Monumental Memories ...

Jan 23, 2018

One of my favorite things that presidents do, or used to do, is create national monuments.

In 2000 Bill Clinton created the Ironwood Forest National Monument north of Tucson, Arizona. My sister Melanie and her husband Lee run a small store, the Valley Mart, just across the road from this monument. Every winter, if we’re lucky, my family pays a visit over Christmas. My wife Breja and I love to hike this protected landscape.

The ironwood is a desert shrub that can live to be a thousand years old. Then, after it dies, its stump might persist out there on the rock landscape another 1,500 years. Imagine.

Another thing to see, if you’re lucky, is a desert bighorn sheep.

As we hike through the Silverbells, or up Ragged Top, I like to imagine that, when we reach the next rise, we’ll come face to face with a bighorn sheep – which is exactly what happened this Christmas. I even got a few blurry pictures of the gorgeous ram skidding down the mountain.

But there was more to see. Breja pointed out a solitary ewe standing on an outcrop just yards away. Why wasn’t she running? Gazing at her, I saw that she was standing over something small and gray. With binoculars, I saw that it was a lamb, unmoving. We backed away from the ewe and continued up toward Waterman Peak.

An hour later, on our descent, the ewe was still there, guarding her dead lamb.  When we reached the trailhead, I glassed the mountainside a final time and saw that she remained. Next year she might lamb again.

I’m Chris Fink, and that’s my perspective