By Easton Smith
I began research on the Tavaputs Plateau quite by accident. While driving from Denver to Las Vegas for a conference on conifers or crustaceans (or something, I can’t seem to remember much of my life before this occasion), I found myself on a long stretch of desert highway with a full bladder. I pulled off the next exit I could find and relieved myself into the sand. It was there that I saw a lone elk not three hundred feet in front of me, barely shrouded by a juniper tree. The elk stared at me with impossibly large eyes. I am a scientist, and I say these eyes were too large. But what truly grasped me, so much so that I peed on my shoe without noticing, were the antlers. They sprawled like the arms of an angel oak tree and shined black. A thick, living black. The tar slipped from the antlers in a slow, sensual drip. I followed the elk into the cliffs, and there I began what would become my life’s work: tracking the tar through the veins of this body, the Tavaputs Plateau.