Looking down from 20,000 feet, or whatever it is that this airplane is cruising at, I don’t see Gus or Woodrow. I don’t see Pee Eye, or Newt, or Laurie, or even Clara, the one that got away. I see no natives, no buffalo, no open prairies, not even any amber waves of grain. I do see roads, squaring off the fields into smaller fields closer to St. Louis, and larger ones now that we are an hour into the flight.
I see the winding rivers, especially the Missouri, which we followed along for quite awhile. Now we are in the dryer plains, I have begun to see the circles of inefficient irrigation, green on the brown and taupe fields.
The little LDS babies are squealing behind me in the plane, evidence of the exceptional fertility of well-fed women who avoid the spacing that comes with suckling their young, instead feeding the tiniest from a strange kind of throwaway collapsible liquid container. Of course I do not know they are Mormons, but there are a lot of babies and we are headed for Salt Lake City, so I surmise.
Another twenty minutes west and the circles are less common, inexplicably. The land is squared off a bit smaller again, but still there is no wildness. I suppose in America wildness comes only with difficulty, with cold, with cliffs, with rocky soil. What would Gus do? What would Call do? What will I do?
I’m unreasonably excited about going to the meeting. I imagine I’ll see many old friends. I checked my records and I don’t seem to have given a talk at these meeting, that used to be my home meeting since 2004. I know I’ve been once or twice since then, but not talked. I wonder why, what got in the way?
Recently on Facebook, David Hillis started us reminiscing about the 1993 meeting when I talked about phylogenetics of wasp social parasites and pestered David about phylogenetics and molecular clocks. David wrote a futuristic piece about the meetings in 2033, when the faculty don’t go, and the students don’t particularly know who we are. Hmm, how much of that is already true?
When I get to these meetings, will I feel like Call when he got back to Lonesome Dove and heard crazy old Bolivar bang the dinner bell? Or will it be more like the time Gus met the young bar tender in San Antonio who didn’t even recognize him?