“I write about time and places I would visit in a time machine, like ancient Rome and the Wild West.” -Caroline Lawrence-
Wyoming is huge and sparsely populated. Its people make me flashback to Gary Cooper Westerns that portray ‘Coop’ as silent to the point of frightening. Point—during my teaching years, I remember one mid-October day when I received a new 8th grade student who hailed from Wyoming. He enrolled rather late during the school year. I wanted to find out more about this silent student. That particular week I had outside playground duty; he and I spoke. The kid wasn’t one for many words. He told me the reason why his family moved to Chicago. They were literally run out of town Wild West style sans rail, hot tar and rope for doing something I didn’t ask nor needed to know. If this kid was a reflection of typical Wyoming mannerisms I’m glad I watched my step when in that state. I read later that they still round up cattle, hunt rustlers, openly carry side arms though I haven’t read about anybody being a recipient of any ‘necktie parties’ lately.
Wyoming in all its vastness is still a child of the Wild West where rodeos, horse auctions and where western clothes are still worn on special occasions. I’m an artist. I draw portraits and cityscapes. In the few art galleries I’ve visited during my brief stay in ‘Frontier City’ the local galleries were a vast array of all things Western. If you like ‘cowboy’ art Cheyenne has more than you could ever view in two lifetimes; search: ‘Wyoming cowboy art’ where you’ll see a wide variety of ‘cowboy/girl’ clothes, saddles and other equestrian accessories. One warning: never purchase western duds out west; too expensive. Shop either online or ‘out East’ in cities like New York, here in Chicago, the Twin Cities and other metropolitan areas.
It was my first bus trip out West. I’ve always wanted to see the majestic Rocky Mountains close up. Now I would traverse through them! Sitting on that Greyhound bus looking out the window as we wound our way up the steady incline I saw the approaching Rockies from a distance on the horizon. In all honesty, I was a bit disappointed. There was barely any snow on their summits and they looked small; mountains enough though more like very high hills. One could see miles of sparsely ‘developed’ sections of this large state. The state appeared to have been devoid of the familiar ‘concrete canyons’ that engulf mid-western shopping malls that dupe customers into purchasing junk. Wyoming is still a virgin land barely touched by the heavy hand of human interference.
About a few hours into our trip the driver stopped at a local KFC. Placing my chicken order was a weird experience. The slow moving, taciturn girls behind the counter and some seated patrons looked at me weird as though I was from another world which in their eyes I was. It’s truly amazing that compared to other nations, each American state is totally different from its neighbors yet we remain a single country. ‘E Pluribus Unum’ ‘From Many One’ isn’t mere words to many Americans.
There was the college professor from a Canadian war college. Unlike the more taciturn ‘Whyomingites’ this guy was a stimulating conversationalist. From his mustache and goatee, I initially took him for a poet, writer or another person who earned his living with his pen writing about people who earn theirs by the sword. Teaching about military strategy and tactics was the furthest profession I associated this wimpy looking guy with.
We had a few hours layover in the state capitol. Cheyenne was nicknamed ‘Frontier City’ during the time of the city’s founding. Cheyenne was popularized by the hit AMC television sitcom ‘Hell on Wheels.’ The show is about the building of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads up to their engines joining up at Promontory Summit (Point), Utah. Americans on the whole aren’t history buffs; we get a lot of what happened back then through the medium of television. Perhaps not entirely accurate ‘Hell on Wheels’ was well researched so through that viewers are visibly and mentally transported to that time in United States history known as the ‘Reconstruction’ that brief period after the American Civil War when the evils of racism and sexism narrowly missed becoming ancient relics of an evil time. This show puts viewers in the midst of the raw violence and hardship of ordinary life in the latter part of the 1860’s and 1870’s. The racial and sexual violence of that era replete with racial/sexist prejudices of that period is portrayed no holds barred. It was a wild period where might was right. This long running program isn’t for the politically correct which surprises me that it ran so long given the ‘wimpy’ national character of these modern United States.
Despite its utterly turbulent beginnings contemporary Cheyenne’s populace are among the most literate anywhere. According to my research 23% of its people hold Bachelors and Masters degrees with a substantial number of post graduate degree holders thrown in. World class colleges and universities abound in Cheyenne and in smaller communities throughout the state. Wyoming gave women the vote in 1869 a full 52 years before universal suffrage. In 1925 Ms. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the nation’s first female governor. Like its Texas cousin Wyoming may have a reputation for roughness to the point of barbarity but education is given top priority. Historically speaking wasn’t it the savage Vikings that founded European banking, commerce, international trade plus raised the bar in global exploration?
—To be continued.—