by Jacque Fisher
The ancient cottonwood had stood alone for a century or more on the valley floor, its roots pushing deep into the arid soil in search of water. The venerable tree had weathered drought, storms, and time. Anchored to the earth, it stood as a solitary sentinel, greeting passersby for decades and outliving them. Perhaps the Utes had paused beneath its shade and blended their soft voices with the dry rattle of gray-green leaves. Maybe a farmer, tired from the morning’s plowing, had sought the coolness the expansive tree offered and eaten his lunch in the cottonwood’s company. Red-tailed hawks, hungry and sharp-eyed, had perched imperiously on the great tree’s outstretched arms, waiting patiently for the next mouse or rabbit whose belly was full of the warm sweet grass that sprang from the same hidden source as its towering cousin.