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Spirits were not all equal: the strongest—those of the toyawo, or mountain medicine—lived ‘in the wooded mountain areas of the Yellowstone National Park, the Absarokas, the Wind Rivers, and possibly the Big Horn Mountains.’ Shoshone bands living at lower elevations also believed that the strongest puha (power) existed in the mountains. Consistent with this spiritual hierarchy, the Sheep Eaters were recognized as “living among the powerful spirits” and absorbing some of their power. When, in the 1870s, Sheep Eater groups were moved to reservations, they were regarded as particularly powerful medicine people.

–Lawrence Loendorf and Nancy Stone

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TRIBUTE TO THE BRIDGERS
***

Growing up in Bozeman, I hiked Baldy and I hiked the ridge and figured there wasn’t anything more to it. I’d been to the top, and from town, at the bottom, I could scan everything in between with a single glance. The range reduced into two dimensions. It was a backdrop.

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Now I can’t do anything there without finding something I haven’t seen before. There is the sensational– last spring, a sow black bear standing on her hind legs, scratching her back on a douglas fir– and the diminutive. Fossils in limestone.

This is what I want to keep doing with my life. Strike out broadly into the great unknowns– but then turn around– and discover the microcosmic patterns I was incapable of seeing before.

***

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and it never was
so much
as too much to love
so much as it was
the operations of scale
such finds ever caused.

to live could be said
to die
of life: long-lost
drinking deep,
of an absence of years

///

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