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In my mind, it only exists in black and white, but I clearly remember watching the first stages of the Glen Canyon Dam being built. It's in black and white because that's how my dad preserved the memory with his trusty 8mm camera that recorded so many of our vacations, camping trips and family outings.

I never did figure out how he could even afford it—to be honest—having no other trappings of a middle-class lifestyle in those years from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. But middle class we were, I suppose. Coulda' fooled me.

Years prior to our visit to Glen Canyon, back in the 1940s, my dad and other adventurers from Bingham Canyon somehow found their way to the bottom of nearby Marble Canyon, just below Glen Canyon, where they were among the first to explore Marble Cave. According to my dad, the cave held a trove of handwoven figurines that were left behind by the ancestral Puebloan people (sometimes called Anasazi) when that civilization departed the area a thousand years prior—likely thanks to a great drought that begat climate change in the region and which made life unsustainable for them. The figurines, then, were a sort of 8mm reckoning of that era, proof that people once lived there.

The men left Marble Canyon the same way they arrived—via rope. My dad wasn't a mountain climber, but in his trade at the Kennecott Copper Mine at Bingham Canyon, he worked in the powder department. That job meant that he and other expendable men doing the dangerous work—mostly Greeks and Mexicans—would shimmy down a rope at a mine level, drill or pound a hole into the rock face, fill it with explosive powder and TNT, light the fuse and then climb the rope back up to safety as fast as they could.

It made for some very strong men and, be assured, my dad was one of those. Only fools messed with him. I was a fool now and then, as I painfully discovered.

Dad's arm muscles came in pretty handy on one trip down to Marble Canyon when one of his crew became terribly blistered and could no longer stand. No problem. My dad just put him on his back and carried him up the rope where he could and hoisted him up where he couldn't. Also hoisted and pulled along with him were the figurines from Marble Cave. Back then, it was not uncommon for such discoveries to be turned over to credible curators, which they did.

Upon returning to Bingham Canyon, the figurines were delivered to Dr. Russell Frazier, the town physician and the person who directed them to Marble Canyon. Frazier was an explorer himself—including along the Colorado River environs with the Hatch and Swain river runners—and two decades prior had been the attending physician on the Admiral Byrd expedition to Antarctica. Dr. Frazier then transported the figurines to the Natural History Museum at the University of Utah and to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. An old Smithsonian book in our house thanked the men for their efforts.

Now when we visit those museums, we learn that men and women lived and thrived along the Colorado River and throughout the entire Four Corners region. Around 1,200 AD, the ancestral Puebloans' civilization simply disappeared. No one really knows for certain where the people went or if they partly remain among certain indigenous cultures today. But the civilization itself—exemplified in impressive structures like those at Mesa Verde, for example—and the many valves of society that kept it alive, from irrigation modes to travel paths, all ceased to function.

Today's scientists attribute all or part of that anthropological shift to a mega-drought that lasted many years and led to deforestation, erosion and the withering of the very life spring of the ancestral Puebloan existence—the waters that fed them. No water. No crops. No food. Time to flee.

My black-and-white memories of those huge buckets of cement being transported hundreds of feet down to the bottom of Glen Canyon—I remember the mighty Colorado amazingly diverted right there—reflect the endpoint of what is likely to come. Looking south, to the right, was Marble Canyon, where parts of a once strong and stable desert civilization thrived but thusly disappeared. To the north was Glen Canyon, soon to be filled with a reservoir of water that vain men claimed would not only help avert a similar fate as the ancestral Puebloans but would allow for exponential "civilized" growth all over the American Southwest.

By the looks of things, those vain men were wrong. Start with the fact that neither Phoenix nor Las Vegas contribute much of anything worthy to modern society—one area became a haven for conspiratorial numbnuts and the other for conspiratorial gamblers. Yet, we feed those desert towns our precious water resources. Neither give society or the U.S. a reasonable return on that water investment.

Not only are the waters of Glen Canyon down to historic lows, the same is also true of Lake Mead downstream along the Arizona and Nevada border. People bemoan the fact that when the water runs dry, rationing may ensue. They don't often talk about what will happen when the water levels drop so much that the dam's power generators cannot produce electricity. It's one thing to live in Vegas or Phoenix with rationed water. It's another to live in either city without reliable air conditioning.

But that may be what is coming. If you listen to right-wing media or watch the talking heads on Fox News, you may hear talk of a pending civil war in this culturally divided America. Well, it's one thing to fight over whether Joe Biden can ride a bike or not, and entirely another to fight over a perishable, limited resource.

When those wells run dry, dust is gonna fly. Whose side will you be on? Team Rocky Mountains or Team Dry Desert? Get your cameras out.

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