Feature: Falling to Heaven

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by William Hillyard

photo by Preston Drake-Hillyard

In this THIRD installation of his series on Wonder Valley, William Hillyard explores two men’s lives as they intersect in the arid isolation of the Mojave Desert.

Night in Wonder Valley is vast and limitless; out there, no lights distract the stars. Looking up, you see infinity. The heavens shroud the earth with the dust of the Milky Way, the ancient pulse of countless stars in that eternity of darkness. Out there, the sky appears torn from the earth along the jagged silhouette of the mountains—those mountains, along with the dilapidated homestead shacks and the empty sand and scrub of the Wonder Valley floor, sink into a featureless black void. Late, in the calm of the deep night, you can find yourself out there in an ear-crackling silence, in a darkness without form. All you are is your breath rasping in your chest, your heart lub-dubbing in your ears. Life, the entirety of your existence, collapses to a mere spark, the briefest blush of daylight in an endless night.

Out there, with the cosmic canopy hanging heavy above, Tom Whitefeather sits in an old rocking chair staring out the open door of Raub McCartney’s rock-walled cabin into the night. Raub’s dusty, half-drunk jug of wine sits at his feet. The rock-walled cabin sits anchored to the flank of an island, a scab of weathered boulders, part of that inky nighttime silhouette rising from the barren basin of the valley. Whitefeather will make his bed on Raub’s antique settee behind the old rocking chair, wrapped in a blanket against the cold darkness of the rock-walled room. He never goes into Raub’s room; it sits just the way they left it, with the boxes overturned, the bed covered with clothes and photos. They left it with the closet door sprung open, the contents spilling out onto the floor. They left it with the box fan on the floor and the bullet hole in the wall.

Tom Whitefeather stands outside Raub Mc Cartney’s rock walled cabin in the mojave desert.

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Profile: Falling through the cracks

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by Tom deMers

For most people public housing is an unexpected bend in the road that leads to a place they never anticipated, perhaps never knew existed. The gratitude they feel for such a place can be huge.

It might be the gradual onset of diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), or severe depression that brings them to Pineview, a public housing facility in Boulder.*  All these are severely debilitating and require continuous medical supervision and drug therapy over an extended period. Or it might be an economic downturn with high unemployment, failing banks and foreclosures.

Or the problem might literally occur overnight.

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Feature: Crime or Punishment?

Published April 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 4

by Margo Pierce, with contributions from Kimberly Gunning and Ross Evertson

photos by Adrian Diubaldo

Economic profiling treats homeless people as criminals.

In 2007, approximately 3.6 million people were homeless at some time in North America, according to a number of non-profit organizations. “Homelessness” is defined in a variety of ways, so it is impossible to paint a uniform picture of what this reality looks like, but the numbers show that homelessness has reached epidemic proportions. And looking around the country, for many communities a popular response is punishment.

 A man holds up a ticket in Denver for camping ilegaly . The ticket had no fine, but required him to go to Homeles Court.

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Feature: The Resolute Shepherd

Published January 2010 Vol. 14 Issue 1

In the rugged hinterlands of Colorado, a Sheepherder has gone off the beaten path in a fight against one of Colorado’s lowest paying industries.

text and images by Jacob Ripple-Carpenter

Note: Employee names in this article were changed or omitted at their request for fear of reprisal.

Mentions of Western American culture conjure up images of corrals and Stetson hat-wearing cowboys with belt buckles the size of dinner plates riding broncos and bulls for eight seconds to the wild cheers of fans. You think of wide-open vistas, desert canyons, or mountains stretching as far as the eye can see.

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Feature: From Afghanistan to the streets

Published October 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 9

text and photographs by Zoriah Miller

Zoriah is an award-winning photojournalist whose work has been featured in some of the world’s most prestigious galleries, museums and publications. With a background in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Aid, Zoriah specializes in documenting human crises in developing countries.


Young refugees from Afghanistan pass their time playing sports in Villemin Park, which has become their temporary home.

Each year, as the conflict in Afghanistan continues to escalate, more and more Afghans choose to flee their homeland in search of work and safety. They follow rumors of freedom and refuge, but often end up on the streets, stuck in yet another desperate situation.

I recently spent some time on the streets of Paris with several groups of homeless refugees from Afghanistan.  Stuck in a state of limbo, unable to gain official refugee status and the right to work, unable to make the difficult and illegal crossing to England where they would be able to gain that status and employment, they spend their days and nights on streets trying to survive.

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Feature: Wonder Valley

Published July 2009 Vol. 13 Issue 6

by William Hillyard
photos by Preston Drake-Hillyard

You might have passed through here, maybe.  Out for a drive with time on your hands, you might have taken the long-cut to the casinos of Laughlin, Nevada from the soulless sprawl of Los Angeles.


You’d have driven way beyond the outer reaches of suburbia, beyond its neglected fringe of citrus groves, past the outlet malls and the Indian casino, past remote Joshua Tree National Park and the Twentynine Palms Desert Combat Center, past the Next Services 100 Miles sign and any reason anybody really drives out this way.  You’d have blown through here at 60 miles an hour, probably, along a forgotten remnant of the old Route 66, its potholed and corrugated tarmac the only asphalt for miles.  If you were messing with your radio, fiddling with your phone, you might not have even noticed the grid of washboard tracks scraped from the sparse hardscrabble of greasewood shrubs in this nowhere corner of the Mojave Desert.  

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