Nebraska shares a boundary with the state of my dreams: Wyoming. I say this not because of the side-by-side signs I saw in a town called Grey Bull (“Obama is a pile of excrement” said one. “Trump hats for sale,” said the other.) Wyoming is the state of my dreams because of its expansive, exhilarating landscape.
Our first night in the state, we took refuge from a severe cold snap in a hotel. The next morning, I found a gallon jug of water frozen solid as a rock! My instinct to winterize La Tortue’s plumbing system the previous day had been a good one. I travelled west across central Wyoming until I found a broad, arid valley that followed the Wind River. Highway 10 runs north into a land of bentonite mines and cattle ranches. I headed that way, staying resolutely east of the BIG tourist attraction in the state: Yellowstone National Park.
On #10 I found the emptiness I had long been craving. For, let’s say, almost 40 years, since I was a high school graduate. Here’s Dellie, greeting the beauty of Bighorn Canyon. She looks happy, I think partly because I was so happy.
My thoughts, my dreams, my aspirations, everything inside of me was opening into a space that was almost too wonderful to believe. I don’t think the photos can possibly do it justice, but here is another try.
For mile after mile, we lumbered north through the dry, dramatic mountains, eventually climbing onto a windy plateau, where we found “Hell’s Half Acre” — a canyon within a canyon. The name given by settlers demonstrates one way to value land. This was, to farmers and ranchers, a mini-badland, a place of virtually no water, where virtually nothing can grow. For indigenous tribes, it was simply a buffalo jump, useful as a geographic trick. Men could drive members of a herd off the edge of the canyon. Far below, the women worked to make use of the fallen animal’s warm pelt and meat. Tribes had dozens of uses for dozens of parts of the buffalo, an animal once ubiquitous on the western plains.
Note to self: badland or no badland, return to Wyoming as soon as possible.