Friday, September 18, 2009

A very short story set in the Old West to wrap up ADHD Awareness Week

"The pursuit of the big sky and the attitude of 'Don't fence me in' may be one of the reasons why Idaho leads the nation in per capita prescriptions of Ritalin for school-age children."
--From "Answers to Distraction" by Edwin M. Hallowell, M.D./John J. Ratey, M.D.

How the West Was Won

Idaho lies just over those mountains. Soon it will become a territory, and someday a state where potatoes will share the soil with concrete burrows of nuclear missiles. Ritalin will serve as handmaiden to its many children.

Our wagons stir the land, cause dust devils to rise. Black serpent cyclones rip the ridgelines. Native nomads, bison, tumbleweeds cross the purple prairie. Movement is religion. We are not destined for one place, but many; many mansions, as The Book says, many wagons filled with children, the amputated pasts of émigré nations.

My father farmed the same rock-chunked patch of County Roscommon land as his father before him, as his father before him, and all the fathers to back before the bastard Cromwell. Miserable sons of the sod. My father cursed the sick soil, dug the withered potatoes until only stone mingled with stone. The Great Hunger set us free and filled the coffin ships. Now our wagons prowl the prairies past forts and pox-plagued Indians, past Independence Rock, that granite lump like the devil's own hunched back, past grasslands that have no more sense than to act as carpets to the long horizon, to Idaho, and on to Oregon and the sea.

Our plan all along was Oregon, my brothers and I, but we grew distracted with the shades of Mormon children who whirl above our campfires. They can't get warm enough, can't move fast enough to escape last October's blizzard; it swallowed the Willie's Handcart party, froze 100 Latter Day Saints in mid-stride. Mormon youth are always on the move! One day, you will see them on bicycles from Beijing to Boise and Ritalin will be popular in Salt Lake City, Vernal, Provo. The Great Cities of Utah will vie with The Great Cities of Idaho and all the big-sky states for the coveted title of Ritalin Capital of the Nation.

At night, as the campfire dances in the constant wind, I stand within the circle of wagons and watch the stars wheel overhead. The comets are out there, weaving mists through the constellations; a shooting star streaks the firmament. In the hyperactive future, the lights of airplanes will always be visible, no matter how deep you push into the territory. Movement will still be religion, but my great-great-grandchildren in Pocatello will swallow a pill to give them pause and to muffle the nerve-twitching urge to move, that itch to be somewhere, anywhere but here.

Michael Shay, April 21, 2005
Originally published 2005 in
High Plains Register

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