Count Me as One Earnest 2024 Human

What started as a task to write about technology and life in the rural west has morphed into a mandate, self-imposed, to take back my brain from tech-soaked deviations. You could say the topic got the better of me. I’m guessing it’s got the better of you.

  • Are you talking less with strangers?
  • Is your attention shrinking?
  • Sleeping less and feeling more socially anxious?

Me, too.

Forget about all the handwringing over artificial intelligence. I’m more concerned with tech’s universal seduction. You might think that out here in Colorado’s most southwestern county, with no Uber, Door Dash, or 5G, it’d be less of a problem. Not so. Rich, poor, rural, urban: we all spend too much time on our phones.

Count me as one earnest 2024 human, swimming for the shore, taking back what I’ve allowed tech to suck away: I’m waving to neighbors, talking with strangers, getting dirty and occasionally bloodied. I’m silencing my phone or leaving it at home or in the truck.

PC: Beau Gaughran

More specifically, I’ve been dayworking, riding for work, fixing fence, checking water, fixing more fence, and helping critters stay alive. It is work that insists I pay attention, also known as “being present.” It’s a minimum wage, part-time gig that helps me feel better.

The perils of tech seduction run concurrent with our disconnect from nature; together they are our new epidemic. The EPA estimates Americans now spend 90 percent of our time inside. Isn’t this sickening?

To combat the phenomenon, eighteen states now fund offices of outdoor recreation. The Redford Center and MountainFilm are so concerned, they’re asking for films of those on the front lines, not doctors and nurses, but outdoorists. I figure most of these short films will feature adrenalin-rich, backcountry snowboarding and mountain biking. Epic!

But while we’re thinking about reconnecting with nature, let’s not forget those who are working on the land, with animals, every day.

My film, if I were to pitch one, has four characters – dog, horse, cow, human – and tells of their storied confluence in this landscape of mountains and high desert. It’s a story of tiny moments of understanding and connection, rich with meaning and speaking to “nature” in a way that honors intuition, experience, life, and, yes, death! Plenty of death.

The Cast:


Meet Monty, Tina, and Chuck, dogs who learn the quietest of cues and have uncanny wisdom about cows and country. (Ok, maybe not Chuck. He’s just a pup. But he’s learning quickly.) You want athletes? They’re Olympians.


Some are 12 years old. When they summer in the mountains, they know where the water is. They pick through the grasses and weeds, instinctually seeking out plants that have the nutrients they are craving. In the fall, they know the route home. They can teach you a lot if you’re paying attention.


Meet Ray and Table. In bear and lion country, pay attention to them as they’ll sense a predator long before you will. They understand their intertwined relationship with dog and cow better than you do, too. Good horses are partners, nurtured with trust and consistency over long days and hundreds of miles.


In 2024, the loudest, most extroverted person usually wins. But here, the quiet, observant, focused, mindful ones win. The land and the work require humans to be here now, not in our heads, not heading down virtual rabbit holes, but actually, really, looking out for rabbit holes and prairie dog holes.

Some things this human knows.

  • I know shit. As in scat. This is handy when thinking about who’s out there with you on any particular day or week.
  • I know how quickly it gets cold up on the west fork of the Dolores River, after the sun goes down. About one degree per minute.
  • I know how long it takes to move cows off that big clearing on Stoner Mesa to the orange gate. I know that a few will always peel off to the south and it’s best to head them off before they even ponder the idea.
  • I can speak to my dogs with my eyes and one hand.
  • I can bring a horse from uncatchable and unrideable to fairly reliable. His name is Table and he’s awesome.
  • I know that bulls can be randy and ornery, but when they’re done for the season, they’re done. They’re like the bull in The Story of Ferdinand, off on their own, smelling flowers and chilling. This can make them hard to find over an entire side of a mountain, some 30,000 acres.

I have no outrage to share.

My evolution will not be televised.

If there is a victory, it will be in my (occasional) silence.

Posted in ColoradoOutsider Women, Essay.


  1. I miss you! Fortunately your writings make me feel that you are close by with your four legged friends and your adventures. You continue to raise the bar and provide thought provoking moments for all of us????

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