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When I was a teenager, my family's car broke down in Ouray, Colorado, a barely-there village (pop. 1,013) sitting at an altitude of 7,800 feet in the middle of the San Juan Mountains. I couldn't believe my misfortune: there was no swimming pool or television at the hotel where we stayed. There was no McDonald's; the nearest movie theater was forty-five miles away. My parents said we'd be staying until the car was fixed.


More than fifteen years later, in 2001, when l needed a remote location to get some writing done, I began an affair with that same little village, those same mountains. I shadowed some horse trainers at Eagle Hill Ranch and wrote about them in my hybrid memoir-in-progress, Splitting. The story of a marriage and an equine program for women in trouble, Splitting is told from three perspectives (a wife who stayed, a wife who ran, the wife who survived). Chapters have been published in River Teeth, Prime Number Magazine, Quarterly West, Barrelhouse, Fourth Genre, Grist, So To Speak, The Fourth River, Baltimore Review, Able Muse, under the gum tree, Image: Art, Faith, Mystery, and other journals and anthologies.


Meanwhile, my story-collection-in-progress, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, spins into fiction local newspaper accounts about the environmental and wilderness disasters along U.S. 550 (known as the Million Dollar Highway), from Durango, to Silverton, through Ouray, and ending at Montrose. Stories from this collection have appeared in Colorado Review, The New Guard, Quarterly West, and other journals. In 2012, this collection won the Everett Southwest Literary Award, judged by Lee K. Abbott.

An arrow, Egan aims for the fishpond, the tall grass swishing as he angles through it. None of us crack jokes—our usual response to dating and romance—because we’ve never seen Egan hopped up on the promise of a girl.


Because all those firefighters and engines and slurry bombers waging war, all those summer days in battle, failed to bring the wildfire to her knees, but Mother Nature disap-peared her in four hours.

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in Sweet

She chews his knuckles, the web between each finger, gnaws loose the tang of snot, perspiration, urine, shit. When she finishes his right hand, Billy withdraws it and offers his left.


You like to claim you landed at Eagle Hill by mistake. A misunder-standing of some kind. Truth is, Billy Scales and his ranch hands found you in a bar named True Grit, and they knew, from minute one, who you were.

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Tonight, you wonder why evolution hasn't yet untethered the eyes of female humans, bifurcating their vision so they can better see what's coming. Your head tilts over your shoulder toward the blind spot behind you, listening for trouble to charge through The Grit's door.

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When Noodle and I abandon our home, three hours on your heels, it rains fire overhead. I douse our son with a hose, the water trickling off his mixing bowl helmet, down his slicker, puddling around his ga-loshes.


I collect several leaves from some younger trees, for my mother-in-law, her daughters and granddaughters, me, and maybe mine.  Placed under the tongue, an aspen leaf can make even the mute speak eloquently.

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A nail driven into a horse’s sole is called a “hot nail” because the horse suffers the flush of pain. He kicks or rears, and every time his hoof pops the ground, the nail jabs his flesh.



in Quiddity

As the reel starts, the lights dim, you tell yourself two hours in a theater with a man not your husband means nothing. There's the tame aroma of popcorn. There's the crowd---safety in numbers.

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My trusty guide had us parked in a rockslide zone, right beside the sign warning us to keep moving. “The Highway hasn’t taken anyone late-ly,” he said. “Someone’s number is up.”



in Quarterly West

At my cabin, spider webs dangled from the ceiling in the bathroom and kitchen. There was no telephone. A fat bear-proof garbage can sat on the deck—a warning. As I stood at the opened patio door, I pondered the chore of trash, the types of predators I’d traded my husband for.

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The cowgirl is all business. She wears torn Levi's, a Carhartt jacket, scuffed boots. She hauls wheelbar-rows of wet shit out of the stables and returns with clean shavings. Her breathing coasts from her mouth, slow and steady. 


Jenny doesn’t like fishing so close to the sterile headwaters. She resents the old mines that filled the river with ore and sulfur, and dyed it the color of egg yolks. She doesn’t like the roar of water this time of year either, how the snowmelt pumps up the river till it runs high and wild.


I’d heard stories about ranchers feeding bread loaves and aspen leaves to their winter stock when the summer was barren.


Occasionally, a pair would enter the V&S, scowls on their faces. They didn’t like their hotel, the nearest Walmart was forty-five minutes away, the grocery store was closed on Sunday, where could they buy some milk for Chrissake?

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