The story is very short—730 words—but it touches on a great number of themes and subjects, both directly and obliquely: the horrors of war; the mournful complexities of governmental bureaucracy; the Peace Corps and the State Department; the question of how we perceive the “other” and the nature of realpolitik; the dark secrets of the global economy; and cow farts.
I wrote it when I was at the Ucross Foundation in April 2006. Ucross is surrounded by real, non-fictitious methane fields. Although it would be slightly more accurate, I believe, to say that the entire 22,000-acre ranch, of which the buildings that house the artists and writers and composers in residence take up only the tiniest little corner, has a whole crapload of coalbed methane running underneath it.
Coalbed methane is a huge political and environmental issue out in that neck of the woods—one that I know I don’t fully understand. Fortunately, at least with this piece of writing, and in terms of knowing what the hell I’m talking about, I am not in the business of factual accuracy, but rather in the business of making stuff up. I will leave the truth and politics of cow farts to others.