Progressing

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Less than a mile up the road, we stopped again-at a low, flaky roadcut of Mowry shale. Progressing thus across Wyoming with David Love struck me as being analogous to walking up and down outside a theatre in the company of David Garrick. The classic plays-Teton, Beartooth, Wind River-were not out here on the street, but meanwhile these roadcuts were like posters, advertising the dramatic events, suggesting their narratives, fabrics, and structures. This Mowry shale had been organic mud of the Cretaceous seafloor, wherein the oil of the Frontier could have formed. It was a shale so black it all but smelled of low tide. In it, like mica, were millions of fish scales. It was interlayered with bentonite, which is a rock so soft it is actually plastic-pliable and porous, color of cream, sometimes the color of chocolate. Bentonite is volcanic kantoor huren per uur leeuwarden tuff-decomposed, devitrified. So much volcanic debris has settled on Wyoming that bentonite is widespread and, in many places, more than ten feet thick. To some extent, it covers every basin. Also known as mineral soap, it has a magical ability to adsorb water up to fifteen times its own volume, and when this happens it offers to a tire about as much resistance as soft butter. Wet, swollen bentonite soil is known as gumbo. We were crossing badlands of the Bighorn Basin one time when a light shower fell, and the surface of the road changed in moments from dust to colloidal suspension. The wheels began to skid as if they were climbing ice. Four-wheel drive was no help. Many a geologist has walked out forty miles from a vehicle shipwrecked in gumbo. Bentonite is mined in Wyoming and sold to the rest of the world. Blessed is the land that can sell its mud. Bentonite is used in adhesives, automobile polish, detergent, and paint. It is in the drilling “mud” of oil rigs, sent down the pipe and through apertures in the bit to carry rock chips to the surface. It sticks to the walls of the drill hole and keeps out unwanted water. It is used to¬†kantoor huren per uur eindhoven line irrigation ditches and reservoirs, and in facial makeup. Indians drove buffalo into swamps full of bentonite. It is an ingredient of insecticides, insect repellents, and toothpaste. It is used to clarify beer. If Love had ever tried bentonite to repair his air mattress, he did not mention it. He did remark that when there was rain in the Wind River Basin on the ranch where he grew up-an event that happened about as often as a birthday-wagons were stopped in their tracks.

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