…in Wyoming: “Yes neighbor, my pick-up truck is paid-for.”, “Yes darlin’, I won my belt-buckle in the rodeo.”, “Yes sir officer, I was just trying to help that ewe back over the fence.”.
Like any terra incognita, Wyoming has accumulated quite a bit of mythology. Mythology should be debunked, but it is notoriously resistant to fact. So even though Wyoming is not just rednecks and national parks, I know that I can’t prove that with data. Gestalt is the remedy. Here is the feel of the place – the good and the bad.
- The Weather: Much of the state is arid or semi-arid and above four thousand feet. The sun shines a lot. In the Summer, even if the day is hot, the night will be cool. Because the humidity is very low, sweating works. By the same token, low Winter temperatures often prove much more tolerable than the thermometer alone might imply, due to the sun’s warmth and the dry air.
- Geology: Uplift, sedimentation, erosion, volcanism – Wyoming has it all. Many states have mountains, but none have the sheer profusion of geological features and types of rock found in Wyoming.
- Self-sufficiency: A state economy based on mineral extraction and agriculture, sparse population and dearth of urban amenities have bred a powerful streak of self-sufficiency into the inhabitants of Wyoming. This quality leads to a breadth of experience in the populace, with an attendant measure of curiosity. Self-sufficiency also makes for humility and an appreciation for the knowledge of others. Nothing shows a person their limits and cultivates a taste for learned advice more than mandatory DIY. Being far from help makes one value help and be willing to lend it too. It’s rare to see a single car with its hazards on by the roadside in Wyoming.
- Critters: Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Elk, Wolves, Mountain Lions, Bison, Antelope – you get to see them all, up close and personal.
- The Weather: Sometimes the place catches fire. Wind is considered a natural resource. Remember the line from the song Oh Suzanna, “…the sun’s so hot I froze to death…” ? Wyoming is the place that makes sense of that line. The snow forms ten foot drifts as hard as concrete and the snowpack is often a thin crust over bottomless depth hoar. There are frequent ‘ground blizzards’, with blue sky above but impenetrable white in every other direction.
- Geology: Unfortunately, geology translates to geography. Monumental forces make for monumental obstacles – expansive basins and high, jagged mountain ranges. A short drive is anything less than 400 miles. A short walk is anything less than 6 miles.
- Self-sufficiency: The habits of self-sufficiency lead to a surfeit of caution and a preference for ‘good enough’. Enterprises are frequently one-of affairs. The atmosphere is friendly for extractive industries and Republican politicians, as it is in third world countries everywhere. Witness the number of ghost towns in the state.
- Critters: Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Elk, Wolves, Mountain Lions, Bison, Antelope – you get to see them all, up close and personal. Don’t feed the dog outside. Keep the collision insurance on your car. Buy an orange hat and a can of bear spray.
There it is.