Boxcar Blues – Hammond’s Summit


       Beyond Hammond’s Summit is a flat desolation so vast and lifeless that “Badlands” won’t even describe it. There, you’ll find a meandering scar that cuts across the landscape. It’s a muddy swirl of tepid water that runs from an underground spring east of town. They call it a river—the Willow River. The random outcrop of red rock and the hot distorted waves of air that rise from the surrounding surface, create the illusion that water is a stone’s throw from where you stand. But, not the case. Aside from the Willow river, there is no water except what they dig from underground wells. The city has a few pumping stations and a tower that bears its name, but that’s it. The rest is an endless stream of nothingness called the Colorado Plateau.
       The train passes through every couple of nights, stops to fill its water tanks and refuel, then leaves. No one gets on, no one gets off except the railroad workers that live here. There is a quiet bustle of people on avenues that lead nowhere. Except for the boulevard to the County Road and the State Highway, they all end in dirt roads that break past the boundaries, as if trying to escape.
       From above, these 4-wheel drive trails wind aimlessly out in the open like the mangled tentacles of an octopus writhing in the heat, suffocating in the agony of a slow death. It’s no wonder the most popular pastime here is whiling the hours away, think of where you’d rather be, then rinse off those dreams with a fifth of cheap Bourbon, Scotch, or a case of Old Milwaukee.

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