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On the Rim: Looking for the Grand Canyon

Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    On the Rim
    Book Description:

    Why do nearly five million people travel to the Grand Canyon each year? Mark Neumann answers this question with a book as compelling as the panoramic vistas of the canyon. In On the Rim, he describes how the Grand Canyon became an internationally renowned tourist attraction and cultural icon, and delves into the meanings the place holds for the individuals who live, work, and travel there. “In the chasm’s dizzying depths and flamboyant displacement of solid ground, as well as in the perceptions of those drawn there-explorers and day-trippers, employees and outlaws, artists and fast-buck artists-Neumann discovers a context in which to examine cultural and experimental fissures that separate leisure and work, home and away, religion and science, art and life. . . . A lively read.” Boston Globe

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8731-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    Beneath clear night sky and towering pines, I sit with nearly a hundred tourists on wooden benches anchored to the ground in a clearing near the Grand Canyon Visitor Center. This is the Mather Amphitheater and tonight—August 25—we’ve gathered for a park ranger’s evening campfire program that will teach us about some aspect of the Grand Canyon’s geology, history, or ecology. Today is National Park Service Day, commemorating the 1916 passage of the Organic Act and, consequently, the establishment of the National Park Service. But before the scheduled educational program begins, Ranger Andy—uniformed in Park Service greens,...

  2. 1 The Nostalgic Theater of the West
    (pp. 17-62)

    Every morning, a historic steam train leaves Williams, Arizona, at 9:30 and carries passengers to the rim of Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Railway brochure promises a “Wild West journey to the edge of time”; it is a trip that “Departs: 1901 A.D., Arrives 2 Billion years B.C.” Traveling aboard a restored 1910 locomotive, passengers can “relive the romance … and ride the rails in the tradition of kings, presidents, cowboys and movie stars,” says another brochure. “Come back to the Old West Territory and experience a nostalgic ride across northern Arizona’s plains and forest lands, … Arrive at the...

  3. 2 A Cultural Abyss
    (pp. 63-94)

    Walking the paved Rim Trail west of the Yavapai Point museum, I follow a National Park Service interpreter and a group of about twenty visitors from New Mexico, California, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Florida, Washington, Greece, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Germany. This one-and-a-half hour guided walk is called the “Awesome Chasm,” and according to theGuide(an information newspaper published by the Grand Canyon Natural History Association), it will help us discover “the Canyon’s true magnificence.” Ranger Karen, our leader, has written out a series of statistics and analogies on index cards. This information is designed to relate the canyon to...

  4. 3 Framing the American Masterpiece
    (pp. 95-126)

    “There is but one thing to say: ‘There it is; go see it for yourself,’” Charles F. Lummis told readers of his 1892A Tramp across the Continent. “It is a crying shame that any American who is able to travel at all should fail to see nature’s masterpiece upon this planet before he fad abroad to visit scenes that would not make a visible scratch upon its walls.”¹ Such words were indicative of Lummis’s fervent nationalism and promotion of the Grand Canyon and the Southwest. In the 1890s, Lummis told American tourists to “see America first,” and the idea...

  5. 4 Managing a View
    (pp. 127-164)

    “I think this one looks flatter on top, don’t you?” I hear the woman tell her husband, pointing to something in the distance. Not far from the visitor center, Joe and Kaye, a couple in their early sixties, sit on a fallen log off the Rim Trail, discussing the canyon spread out before them.

    “No, I don’t think it’s any flatter. It just looks that way from here,” returns Joe. His eyes follow two ravens rising out of the canyon on a current of air.

    “Sure it is,” Kaye tries again, this time a bit louder. “Look at those flat...

  6. 5 Fantasy Trails across Popular Terrain
    (pp. 165-212)

    A photographer near Grandeur Point, who is working on a western parks feature in a national weekly magazine, says he’s frustrated with his assignment. “These guys in the New York office tell me they want shots of some long, lonely road going out toward the horizon at sunset,” he says, and adds, “without cars. Maybe one car or an RV. Where am I supposed to find that? All these people come in cars, and they’re on the roads. People are all over the trails. I’m taking pictures of crowds. They want something that isn’t here. ‘Just get it,’ they tell...

  7. 6 The Depths of Time
    (pp. 213-290)

    The engine in the Mercury Sable pops and creaks on the hot asphalt. It’s probably been driven hard; a sticker on the rear window says it’s a rental. On the asphalt below, ice cubes melt in a pool of cola. The mixture stretches from a convenience store cup—a “gusher” size—and joins a stream of antifreeze dripping from the Sable’s belly. Together they reach toward the new shade made by a Plymouth Voyager, a fresh arrival in a recently evacuated parking slot. The breeze carries a scent of diesel exhaust while a Transamerica tour bus idles and keeps the...

  8. 7 Making and Breaking the Scene
    (pp. 291-338)

    On a cold and damp November afternoon, I can see clouds hovering in the canyon below the rim. The thunderstorm has passed and the sun is breaking through, illuminating distant buttes and plateaus, and leaving shadows on inner canyons. The clouds below the rim rise like smoke drifting up from hell. “Thatisstunning. It’s so huge, much bigger than I imagined it. This is the first time I’ve seen this,” I tell my friend Nancy, who stands next to me. “It’s beautiful,” she says. “Look at the colors … the light.” We speak quietly, not so much in reverence...