By Jon Ewbank Manchip White
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Additional info for A World Elsewhere: Life in the American Southwest (Southwest Landmark, No 8)
Apart from its awful climate, Britain has become too crowded, even by the standards of Europe. One is almost never out of sight of a house, or a car, or another human being. More than fifty million Britons are packed into an island that could be tucked three or four times into Texas, or California, or several other American states. Texas, of course, as Texans are happy to tell you, is larger than any European country except western Russia. It is seven hundred miles across and seven hundred miles deep, yet it contains only eleven million people.
To them, as for the pioneers, nature is intimidating and oppressive. And I must confess that on my initial visit to the first of the natural features I must describe in this chapterthe Grand CanyonI experienced a sensation of dismay that resembled the feelings of my American passengers. The Grand Canyon is on the northern perimeter of the American Southwest. The Southwest is a loose term, differently defined by different authors. For the purposes of this book it comprises the state of Texas west of the Pecos River ("To the east of the Pecos there is no law, to the west of the Pecos there is no God"); the states of New Mexico and Arizona; and the southern portions of the states of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.
You would have to be very stoical or very insensitive to do that. Most people hesitate, brace themselves, take a deep breath, then walk hesitantly to the edge. They grip the handrail hard. Below them stretches that Nothingness so dear to the Existentialists. Why do we feel an urge to throw ourselves into such cruel vacancies? The intensity and irrationality of our feelings frightens us. (Bruce Cole Collection, Arizona State Museum) of those flying dreams that are so common in childhood. One is tempted to leap, if not to death, at least into that beckoning emptiness, to twist and dive and soar among the cliffs and crags.