Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday photo

Devils Tower, Wyoming. December 2004.

I consider this the most perfect photo of Wyoming that I've ever taken. Geology and culture blended seamlessly. Perhaps it would be even more perfect if the grazing animal were a cow rather than a horse, but that's a pretty close call. After all, one could hardly have run cattle without horses. Either way, this is iconic Wyoming.

And Devil's Tower, that magnificent, 867' tall, exposed igneous intrusion. That is, it was a plume of magma that forced its way into the surrounding rock before cooling some 40,000,000 years ago. That seems ancient, but geologically I suppose that counts as recent history. The rock one finds on the surface today is 200,000,000 years old, five times older than the Tower itself. The ground used to be a lot higher than it is today, but that's all gone now, softer sandstone that's been eroded away over the ages, leaving the harder, granite-like plug standing in place, with nothing left to plug but the sky.

When I first visited Devils Tower, perhaps in 1978, Close Encounters of the Third Kind had recently made the site known to the rest of the world and the Visitor Center bookshop was selling Bob Balaban's diary of the filming of the movie (Balaban played Fran├žois Truffaut's interpreter and had the honor of being the only actor in the movie to utter the phrase, "close encounter"). I no longer have the book, but I recall his account of being driven to the location. Like most of us at the time, Balaban had never heard of Devils Tower and had no idea what he was going to see, just that there was some sort of Point of Interest. His account of the drive went something like this:

Balaban: "Is that it?"

Driver. "You'll know it when you see it."

Balaban: "Is that it?"

Driver. "You'll know it when you see it."

Balaban: "Is that it?"

Driver. "You'll know it when you see it."

Finally they drove around a bend in the road ... and he knew it when he saw it.

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