Frontier Fellow Report: Shawn Creeden

Week One: “Property and Space” by Shawn William Creeden, Frontier Fellow (Oct/Nov 2012)

It was only a few hours after he had stepped off the California Zephyr, and already he rode the chestnut horse with more confidence than he had ever before felt with such an animal. The fears of being cast off or crushed in a rollover were for the most part out of mind, though he was still over cautious about being kicked dead in the head. The prospect of trotting no longer caused a sickening clenching of the guts. Not too bad for a second try, he thought.

On the trail ride there was much to look at. The Book Cliffs north of town extended some ways in either direction before ending in high and crumbling escarpments and continuing on unseen to the north and the east. Below this ancient archive of sediments and sea beds stretch dried corn fields and what pass for mule pasture and other land for which no one appeared to have much use for at all but which he had been warned against trespassing on such properties nonetheless. Two dried and dusty carcasses which had once been raccoons hung from a fence across the road. A boast to neighbors or perhaps a warning to things which have been warned almost out of existence in this part of the world.

In the scrub on the far side of the train tracks, just to the south of Epicenter he wandered in the sun and seemed to be searching for something and found many things. He quickly came across two distinct treasure troves. One of sand-blasted shards of bottles and jars nearly identical to the discarded trash which back along the coast they affectionately call sea glass. The other a final resting place for decades of tin cans, perhaps dumped from the passing train lines. The cans gathered reddish-brown and decaying at the foot of a crumpled bed frame with an identical patina. The desiccated bones of some animal that looked too large to be taken by a coyote lay in serene configurations beneath low trees beside a shallow wash, dragged there to be picked clean in solemn privacy. Red ant hills and small cacti and strange fractal plants that looked like something precedent to a horror movie dot the brown and crusty hillside.

A few days later he went and met a woman and followed her in a borrowed pickup out to a junkyard in search of scraps of barbed wire and spare fenceposts for his sculptures. “So you grow melons out here,” he asked her in an attempt to make conversation.

“Well, not here,” she croaked from behind a pair of large dark sunglasses, “‘this’ is just Treasure Island.”

The woman was generous, though the impression that she was not willing to part with much of her collection was obvious. There was a broad, deep wash and when he approached the sandy lip a flock of doves took indignantly to the air from the cottonwood on the other side. This was a place he could spend some time, he thought.

Follow Shawn on Instagram – @groan_ups for more pictures of his time in Green River.