Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cheyenne, 8:30 p.m., 4 July 2010

     The air smelled of ozone and gun powder, and carried the sounds of small explosives and retreating thunder.
     I stood in a puddle, smoking a cigarette, as I watched the gullywasher advance east across the plains into Nebraska. The backs of the steel blue storm clouds were blasted by the sun, beating its own retreat toward the west. The skies above me were mostly clear, occasionally punctuated by streamers of smoke from fire crackers.
     Now distant thunder and reflective puddles were not the only immediate reminders of the storm that had rumbled through an hour earlier. I commenced a walkabout of the yard to see what new damage the latest hail had wrought.
     This time I had been home when the storm threatened, so had been able to bring my potted plants under shelter. My aloes, already shredded by a storm three or four weeks prior, were barely hanging on. Another exposure would certainly have killed them.
     As I arrived at my first checkpoint, the front fence along the road, I noted without comment the thin smoke veiling the road north. I imagined this is what the war must have felt like in some rattled place like London, or Berlin. A constant streaming of pops and bangs with the occasional boom from someone with wherewithal to purchase proper celebratory devices.
     And the noise was a constant. Today was no different from last night, although now there were birds singing instead of dogs barking, but I knew that would change when the sun had quitted the day and the city of Cheyenne commenced its more serious sorties.
     It was nearing 8:30 p.m. and I continued on my way. The whole of my inspection took only a few minutes as I surveyed my two trees, an aspen and cottonwood. Both had surrendered what weaknesses they had to earlier storms and looked thoroughly unmalined. Small cottonwoods growing since I had last mowed the lawn were undamaged, as well. The only evidence of the wind that had passed with the storm was a ladder blown down from the side of the house, which I climb from time to time to check the new roof.
     I did not right the ladder. Perhaps I would when I smoked my next cigarette, perhaps not.
     In the near-distance I saw the flare at the refinery up the road was working well as new clouds began to build in the east and move west. The day was failing fast, the new clouds above me turning from white to a pale orange as the sunlight faded.
     Returning to the front fence I looked again up the road north. The shrowd of smoke was heavier now as the amatures increased their efforts. A man was seen, obscured by the gunmetal gray smoke, walking along the road.
     In just the minute or two since I had made my previous observation, the sky had turned a pink hue. The light of an ending day was the best, and the most fleeting. The palate would be reduced to shades of blue and black in minutes. But for a few moments the horizon in each direction heralded something of wonder, the deep blues only the unending reaches of Wyoming big sky could offer, an angry shade of the same color in those storm clouds now another 20 miles distant, the pinks and oranges now turning to purple in the clouds above.
     The fire crackers continued as a pair of rabbits chased one another across the neighbor's lawn, the birds sang before the dogs would growl, the unending fire at the refinery glowing through the thickening smoke at the end of day.