By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily
Want to feel warm and fuzzy about Wyoming?
(I do. Don’t know about you. Maybe you’re one of these sour cranks who doesn’t, but I’m going to assume not. My optimistic mother lived to be 99.)
Check out these emails I got after last week’s column about the distinctly rural habit of giving folks you meet on back-country roads a friendly wave, in the understanding that we won’t let each other get stranded out where the buses don’t run (and, according to our vice president, where you can’t get a photocopy at Kinkos). The wave means we’ll help each other.
This came from Karl in Lander:
“Our Incident Command team was on a fire in Northern California. As I drove down the rural roads I would wave to folks passing me and get the quickest head turn and look or simply a stare. If other Wyoming folks were in the truck with me, we both might wave. That really confused ’em.
“If local California folks were with me they would say, ‘Why are you waving? You could get shot for that.’ I was kinda having fun with it until the locals said you might get shot.
“Before the environmentalists shut down the northwest logging with the spotted owl ruse, the locals knew the wave. Not so today with the druggies and the welfare state and all the criminals of Northern California. Even 20 years ago it was dangerous out there and it wasn’t from grizzly bears.”
Then there was this from Kevin in Cheyenne, but before that from a ranch in western Nebraska:
“When I drive back to the ranch at Oshkosh, Neb., I start waving to other drivers when on Highway 30, beginning about Sidney. Yes, if I don’t get a corresponding wave I wonder what is up with that guy???? I tried to get the wave going here in Cheytown, but it didn’t catch on.”
(I met Kevin years ago at a wonderful bluegrass music festival in North Platte, Neb. Sadly, that festival no longer exists. He brought his mom over from Cheyenne to enjoy the music. I was editor of the paper in North Platte for four years, and came to understand that ornery western Nebraskans have a lot in common with feisty Wyomingites. When some western Nebraskans came to the Wyoming Legislature in the early 1980s, asking to become part of Wyoming instead of Nebraska, skeptics in Cheyenne said they ought to “sober up.” If you’ve ever driven across the 454 miles of Nebraska on I-80, you might agree with my late father: “They could take a tuck out of Nebraska.”)
And then there was this email, from Kay in Dubois:
“Saw your column this morning at Cowboy State Daily and had to tell you that it was that friendly wave that drew us to Wyoming.
“When my husband retired from the Pentagon four years ago we downsized, sold the house in Northern Virginia, and took off in our travel trailer thinking we’d never settle anywhere again, just stay on the road. He’s working on a series of novels, I’m acting in film, so half the years in L.A. And the other half traveling.
“But California got crazy … well … more crazy … and conditions being what they were this past year we one day found ourselves in Dubois, Wyoming, and fell in love with the Painted Hills, the indescribably blue skies, and the friendly people.
“The job titles and advanced degrees that once gave us ‘status’ in Washington, D.C., mean nothing here. In Wyoming, know-how is king and the most respected man or woman is the one who can fix, build, and create things. He-men and She-women who seal deals on a handshake.
“Wyoming is a special place. We consider ourselves so very lucky to have found it. We bought property and are preparing to build a house.
(I’ve got some wonderful Dubois memories of my own, of the Circle-Up Campground and the Rustic Pine Tavern, on the way to Yellowstone.)
Always remember the famous words of 15-year-old Helen Mettler in 1925:
“God bless Wyoming and keep it wild.”
And don’t forget to wave.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org