Strange Travelers

By Capossere, Bill | Colorado Review: a journal of contemporary literature, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Strange Travelers


Capossere, Bill, Colorado Review: a journal of contemporary literature


Non est ad astra mollise terris via. (There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.) --Seneca the Younger

Along time ago, in the earliest of days, not long after the People had crossed into this world, Coyote was tasked to carry a sack far to the south and not open it until he had climbed the highest peak of the southern range. Well aware of Coyote's curious nature, the People made him promise not to open the sack. Coyote reluctantly agreed, and so they tied the bag onto his back and sent him off.

For days Coyote ran through barren country, across soil and sand and rock, with the sun scorching his eyes and the bag flapping against his back so that the fur was nearly rubbed from his flesh. With each day's passing he grew more curious as to what was in the bag, as well as more gaunt because there was no food at all in this great empty land. At last, worn from traveling so long on an empty stomach, Coyote said to himself, "What if there is food in this sack? Surely they would not begrudge me just a little so I can continue on my way." And in this way he thought he could satisfy his mission, his hunger, and his curiosity all at the same time.

So he pulled the bag from his back and untied it to see what he might find to fill his stomach. But inside was nothing but stars in countless numbers, and, before Coyote could puzzle out what was all a-glimmer inside the bag, the stars flew out in a great spray of light far up into the sky. And there they remain to this day.

At a bit past noon, on September 19, 1783, over one hundred thousand people, including King Louis xvi and Marie Antoinette, craned their necks skyward from where they stood on the grounds outside the Royal Palace of Versailles. They had just witnessed the Montgolfier brothers, Etienne and Joseph, release a fifty-seven-foot hot air balloon from over its cauldron fire of straw, old shoes, and rotting meat, and now they watched it move steadily upward and away, its painted suns and fleurs de lis flashing golden in the midday sun against its dark blue fabric. From the large wicker basket suspended below the balloon perhaps came a few disconcerted bleats or indignant quacks, the passengers' complaints growing ever fainter in the ears of the "prodigious concourse of spectators" until they disappeared completely, the balloon well on its way to its peak height of fifteen hundred feet.

Inside were a rooster, a duck, and a sheep--aptly named Montauceil ("Climb to the Sky"). I imagine they took to the flight with varying degrees of aplomb. For the duck, of course, save for the cage it found itself in, this was nothing new; ducks are strong flyers and have been found at more than twenty thousand feet up when migrating. Roosters, on the other hand, are lucky if they can clear nine or ten feet. What then must he have felt, looking through the bars of his cage and the gaps in the wicker gondola, seeing the gardens of Versailles receding below and feeling the wind in his rarely used wings? Fear? Frustration? The wonder of possibility? Did he for the rest of his years strut around among the hens like, well, like a rooster, thinking about the time he flew higher than any other rooster could dream of? Or did he spend his days scratching idly for bugs in a dusty yard, now and then gazing forlornly at the sky, fitfully recalling his few minutes of glory--an eighteenth-century avian version of Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin shuffling desultorily from room to room, feet forever firmly planted back on this too small and far too heavy world?

As for Monsieur Montauceil, it appears much of the eight-minute flight was spent lamenting that the grass he had been cropping only minutes earlier was swiftly getting farther away--an unexpected turn of events it seems he wasted no time in rectifying when the balloon touched down at the edge of the forest of Vaucresson, tipping out its three pioneering passengers. When discovered by a pair of gameskeepers shortly afterward, the sheep was calmly grazing, seemingly unfazed by either the historic journey or the fact that he had apparently kicked or landed on the loudly complaining rooster, injuring one of its wings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Strange Travelers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.