He’s the Berries (Part 2)

Musings

All the next day I hoped I would see the pilot again and that he—instead of his friend—would ask me out. I was in the midst of a smallish dinner rush and was buzzing about my tables, checking on how their food tasted and if they needed refills. I had a water jug in hand and was filling up a table’s water glasses when I spotted him out of the corner of my eye. Instantly my stomach clenched and I could feel myself wanting to beam, but I didn’t want to seem overly giddy, so instead I kept my cool—which if you know me at all, is still me being wildly uncool. I kept filling the glasses though one wasn’t water, it was Sprite and as soon as I did it I snapped back to the present and away from the pilot’s smile.

“That was Sprite wasn’t it?” I said to the gentleman staring at his newly destroyed Sprite/water mix. He smiled and nodded. “Ooops. I am so sorry. I will go get you a new Sprite.”

I scurried to the front to seat the pilot and get a new Sprite. Again, he stayed until close. His new buddy Bill joined him again and I frequented their table, pretending it was just because I am an attentive waitress, but really I couldn’t get enough of the pilot or his disarming smile.

I hardly knew what to do with myself, he was such a distraction to me. I was delivering the wrong food and pouring the wrong drinks, but I couldn’t redirect my thoughts to the tasks at hand; they only wanted to be on him.

And so when he got up to leave, I kind of slunk behind my waitress station in nervous anticipation of whether he would just leave and that’d be the end of it or if he did remember that tomorrow was my day off and he really did want to take me to dinner. I had a large glass of ice water I was sipping on and I inched over to the counter at the front of the restaurant. He had paid for his dinner and walked back over to the counter where I was standing.

“So, if you would like to hang out or anything tomorrow on your day off…” he ventured while my brain instantly ceased functioning. “I can give you my information.”

I don’t remember what I said, maybe I just nodded like a loon, sliding a waitress tablet across for him to write down his information. He ripped off the sheet and slid it back to me. And being too dumbfounded for words—because besides his smile, have I mentioned how beautiful he is? How tall? Or dapper? How ‘bout that he looks just like a cowboy—I accidentally knocked over my entire glass of water onto the slip of paper, ice sliding this way and that, while water ran over the sides of the counter.

He laughed and asked if I was alright.

I felt honesty was my only option at this point. “It’s just your smile…” I confessed. “It’s very unsettling.”

“That doesn’t seem like a good thing,” he replied.

“No it is!” I insisted, “But it distracts me… and well…” I motioned to the mess I was trying to mop up with napkins, while shaking out the paper with his name, phone number and email.

“Maybe I should take your information too…” he suggested. I was deeply relieved. I knew I would have contacted him, because I was already too far gone, but I was very nervous and preferred the idea of him getting ahold of me.

I wrote out my information and finished cleaning up my mess.

The next day I shopped in town with my sister trying not to dwell on the impending ‘hangout,’ and if that meant date and if the pilot would take me to dinner or worst-case scenario, if he would even text me at all. When he did text me and even passed my serial killer joke test—where I ask if he’s a serial killer to test his sense of humor, to which he responded, “No I am not a serial killer! What about you? Are you the Bear Lodge brutalizer?”—I had to phone my mother and give her the lowdown: that my life goal of being asked out by a handsome stranger while at work, had finally come true.

I kid that isn’t my life goal, but I will admit, many a romantic comedy had given me the notion that this rather rare happenstance—at least in my case—could one day happen to me.

We settled upon meeting in the lodge gift shop at two and would go into town to visit, King’s Saddlery Museum. I ran into the lodge a minute late feeling breathless and nervous and quickly apologized for being late. He shrugged it off and said he usually ran late too. We walked out to his truck where he held the door open for me.

I chitter-chattered our way down the mountain. I couldn’t seem to stop or take a breath. Maybe it was nerves or maybe he just brought out the extra verbose in me. Country music played in the background and we both agreed that the new pop style of country was utter rubbish.

We arrived at the museum, where we wound our way throughout the Wild West decor, him admiring ropes and the fine craftsmanship of the saddles, me mostly admiring him. The pilot made saddles as a hobby. And he had horses. And although he was a pilot—also as a hobby—and not a cowboy, he had the quality of a cowboy, both in attitude, dress and general demeanor. He even had a sort of cowboy drawl.

Before we got to the checkout, so he could purchase his King’s Saddlery baseball hats, he asked me if I would like to get dinner. I nodded casually, while inside I did fist pumps and victory leaps that would impress the flashiest gay Broadway star.

Dinner was lovely and after we went on a drive around Sheridan and then out into the country where he played me cowboy poetry he had on his Spotify. My heart quieted for a minute, while I let the gruff words sift down inside of me like lazy dust flecks coming in through a sunshiny window. I think in that moment, driving in the country with him, rock ridges to my right, mountains to my left, and cowboy poetry playing on the radio, I fell a little in love with him.

He told me he wished I didn’t have to work the next day as he was going to a canyon he’d always wanted to see, and he would’ve taken me with. I told him I only worked the morning shift until one, if he wanted to wait.

He said he’d wait.

We wound our way back up the mountain where an 80’s party was taking place at the lodge. My outfit was to be your basic 80’s aerobics gear, while my sisters dressed up as Molly Ringwald and Madonna respectively—total knockouts. But upon seeing me in my simple cotton workout gear the pilot beamed and said, “If this is what the 80’s looked like, I want to go back!”

Later after we had a couple drinks and I danced with my sisters to Footloose the pilot walked me home, while holding my hand. Then he pulled me to him in a tight hug while he beamed and told me he would see me the next day.

The next day we drove two hours to the Wind River Canyon. He held my hand and made me laugh until all my mascara washed off. We stopped at the Marriage of the Waters, where I joked that I was going to jump in. We struggled to find anywhere to eat in Thermopolis, but I hardly had an appetite anyway as I was drunk on him.

On the drive home he told me I could sleep and got me a sleeping bag to lay my head on. Before I dozed he told me to pick out songs on his Spotify. I was listening to Righteous Brothers, You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling, while he pumped gas, and at the part where they belt out, “baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you!” he popped his head in the car and belted out the words to me.

I fell a little more in love.

Then I passed out.

When I awoke we were already winding back up the switchbacks and his hand was in my hair. I sleepily commented that we were almost home. He looked at me, the dashboard light flickering on his five-o-clock shadow and said, “I wish we had a 100 more miles to go.”

And right then I knew, the way you know about a good melon.

He left to go home to Pennsylvania a few days later and I ached thinking it was just to be some perfect mountain fling, but right before leaving, he wrapped a blue silky scarf around my neck that he said was his lucky scarf.

“I want you to have it,” he said.

Why would he give me his lucky scarf if I was just a fling, my brain reasoned?

I went off to Colorado on a weekend trip and he made his way back East.

And that’s the end.

Just kidding! That’s not the end. Barf, that would’ve been horrid.

No, my pilot cowboy continued to text and call. And then send me packages and letters. And generally seem like I was the farthest thing from a mountain dalliance. And well, now that handsome pilot is my handsome beau. In fact I am going to see him in Pennsylvania in two days.

So there you have it. The berries. Total berries up in here.

Bear Aware… And Other Concerns

Musings

I went hiking yesterday.
By myself.
I think bears were about.
And they probably would’ve liked to eat me, given the chance.

I contemplated bringing an old and probably very dull hatchet I bought for a friend—in order to encourage him to pursue dreams of becoming a lumberjack, but he left before I could gift it to him—I decided against the hatchet because I have a penchant for rock climbing and suddenly had horrific flashes of me not only falling to my death but severing my head in the process. The hatchet stayed home.

I arrived at my hiking destination, one I had been eyeballing for some time. Not only for its inescapable beauty, but its challenging qualities: namely a never-ending field of hills, atop of hills. I started out around 4pm, feeling charged on the idea of tackling this beast. I had asked a friend to come with me, but he changed his mind and not one to be deterred I opted to hike alone and informed my sister where I would be in case I did indeed fall off a cliff or got mauled by a bear.

Let me interject with the bear fixation here. Not only are there indeed bears in Wyoming, but I had recently been to Yellowstone where there were rumored to be Grizzly sightings. Also this particular spot I wanted to hike was an area in which I myself had spotted a black bear climbing along the tree line.

Furthermore, that morning at work I had been perusing a fishing regulations magazine in my downtime and saw an ad for bear spray with a particularly gruesome photo of a man who had been attacked by a bear. That image was now being replayed with every step I took toward that tree line and up the never-ending hill, to my point of interest which was naturally the tip top.

I also have read several cautionary signs in Wyoming that proclaim: Be Bear Aware!

So as I walked I repeated to myself, bear aware, bear aware, be bear aware.

This might have actually been a hindrance rather than a help because by the time I had ascended the first hill to make my way down into a valley to climb the second larger hill, I was almost petrified with the notion of being attacked by a bear. I had come upon a river I had no idea existed in between the two hills. It was nestled down a steep ravine. By this point I had mapped my route up to the highest point and wanted to be there, bad. So seeing the wild drop down to a river I could hear but couldn’t see, along with the fact that it slipped into forest, heightened my bear aware fever. But the thing about me is when I want something, I get slight tunnel vision over it and have to have it. In this case I wanted to be at the top of that hill. I hadn’t accounted for ravines and rivers, but my mind was already made up. So though I was pulsing with a slight paranoia over being mauled by wildlife I worked my way down the ravine anyway.

When I heard a tussle in the bushes nearby, I froze in crazed irrational fear, thinking, this is it; I was bear aware and it did me no good. Except it was just a deer. I continued down to the river. It wasn’t all that wide or fast flowing and there were ample rocks dotting the stream for me to climb across. I did come face to face with an imposing amount of scratchy brush, but I plowed through anyway, bolstered by fear-laced endorphins.

When I reached the other side, I could no longer see the golden hill that I wanted to climb. I only saw forest and rocks. I hustled up the other side, making my way over another tiny stream and was faced with a craggy rock wall. I breathed a sigh of relief as I shimmied up, getting scuffed and scratched while I huffed and puffed trying to outclimb the bears that were surely lurking and watching me in the forest behind.

And finally I was at the swaying field of gold that ascended right up into Wyoming’s crisp autumn sky. I was overjoyed and felt relieved, like I had escaped sudden death. But climbing this hill was its own version of death, because it was so arduous that I had to break and breathe about every fifteen steps while sweat gushed off of my face and I guzzled water and muttered profanities—my favorite way to deal with challenges. I pushed on, noting at this point my tenacity, simply to get to the top of a hill. I heard sounds that seemed to be rattley and hissy like a snake. The golden reeds were as tall as my waist and God only knew what lurked in there. The sun blazed down on my uncovered shoulders and still I was very much bear aware, looking warily into the forests to my right, while I heaved my girth upwards and upwards.

I got to the last peak, which was where the field was stacked with slate-like rocks. I was beyond spent at this point, shaking and sweating. When I went to reach for one of the rocks to climb, not only did it slip out of place and go careening down the hillside, but my arms gave way. I asked myself the question I often ask myself when doing something perhaps overly adventurous, and that is: Would Mom like this idea?

Nope.

I begrudgingly moved down the rocks a ways until I found a safer way up and when I hoisted myself up over the edge onto another field, I let out a euphoric yoop and got maybe a little bit teary. This field flowed downward into a deep valley going down the other side of the mountain with tremendous views of the valley, the highway and endless amounts of pines. I sat and stared for awhile. Maybe I did a few fist pumps. I can’t rightly recall in my state of exhaustion.

Then I scanned the hills, contemplating my way down. The way I came seemed a bad choice, so I outlined a different way down the mountain which admittedly was closer to the treeline and forest where I had spotted the bear months ago, but seemed less rocky. The only problem with this side as far as I could see were the cows grazing in the valley below. But I surmised that I could maybe bypass the cows, yet stay in the field far enough away from hungry bears. I started down feeling almost giddy with how easy it was going. Until I got to a dip in the hillside and saw the vast amount of cows and what looked to be another steep ravine. I know cows are just cows, but there were a lot of them, several with their babies and these are Wyoming cows, which is to say: behemoth and probably fearless.

I really didn’t want to be eaten by a bear, but if I was going to go out in an adventuresome blaze of glory, the bear attack would be the way to go. I was less enthused about coming to an end by cow. I inched away from the few cows who had heard my movement and were now eyeing me or running away. This placed me in a little cove of Aspens and closer still to the dense forest of pines I had been trying to avoid. Again I heard rustling and froze. I heard a growl.

My heart ratched up 17.5 notches while I seriously contemplated my life if a bear were to take off all my limbs. Again it was only more deer. I moved more swiftly down the next ravine only to find that the river I had crossed earlier with ease, was now about 3 times wider and deeper on this side of the hill. Also it was missing the convenient rock steps I had utilized prior. I was stricken. It was nearing 7 o’clock, which meant I had about an hour left of daylight as the sun was already sinking on the horizon. I had very little energy to go back up the mountain and around. Also I was now all but convinced a bear had smelled the sugar in my bloodstream and wanted me for dessert. I also was also in a mild upheaval over the cow situation as well.

I gazed at the deep and terribly murky river with floating logs covered in algae. I was almost as scared of deep seaweed filled water as I was of being taken down by a bear. I walked along the riverbed for a bit mulling over my options and trying to find a way across. I got to an area where the river was less wide and considerably less deep.

I knew what I had to do. I looked down and it was as if God was already one step ahead of me, helping me along. There was an old rusted sign that was long enough to be used as a sort of walking stick. I stuck it into the river to test the riverbed’s bottom, seeing if it was deep mud that I might sink into. It was firm sand. I took a deep breath, quelled my fears and trudged in. The water was chilly but I hardly noticed as I sunk up to my thighs while moving across trying not to lose my balance in what I had already dubbed in my mind as the Cow Shit River. I hadn’t actually seen any cow shit, but given the proximity of the beasts, I could only assume this wasn’t the freshest river in the Big Horns.

Once I made it to the other side, I used my rusty sign to help me up this last hill, which albeit small in comparison to what I had just done, was still a feat, as I was now beyond exhausted and soaked up to my underwear. My shoes were filled with river sludge and all I wanted was to be back at my car where surely no bears or cows were hanging out.

Now here is the thing I realized on this hike, which I gotta say was a doozy, and also maybe one of my favorites, simply for the death factors. Okay, okay, I didn’t actually come close to death, but my hyped up overly-imaginative writer’s brain thought otherwise.

The thing is: I am a pretty determined person. When I want something bad enough I make it happen. I remember when I first moved to Virginia, I discovered this beautiful winery that I decided I had to work at. They weren’t hiring because it was winter but they told me to come back the first of May. I was there resume in hand on the first of May and ended up getting the job.

But for some reason when it comes to my writing, the thing I love most, have wanted the most and think about constantly, I don’t give it rock climbing, heaving through fields and prickers, warding off bears, tearing up my skin and hair through Wyoming’s wild terrain and crossing cow shit rivers persistence. I give it a small nudge at best. So why, I was curious, when I wanted to get to the top of a mountain, was I willing to risk life and limb, convinced of bear growling and all, simply to meet my goal? Do I want to get to the top of a hill more than I want to make something of myself as a writer? No. I don’t think that’s it.

I know I am unafraid of the tangible challenge of tackling hills and all their surprise encounters. But for some reason the writing world and all its challenges, including agents, and query letters seems to scare me more than bear attacks. What is wrong with me? I am willing to get eaten by a bear, but I am not willing to submit my work to a bloody magazine…

There is something smelly in the water here and it isn’t the cow shit. It is my logic. It is all kinds of skewed and makes no sense to me. But I’ll tell ya this. The dawning of this epiphany has led me to believe that if I can tackle mountains and bears in Wyoming (alright I know! I didn’t literally tackle a bear, but I was willing…sorta) then maybe I should send someone out there in the universe my stuff and ya know see what happens.

Maybe nothing happens. Or maybe I face mass rejection. But at least I will be moving forward in my fear and accomplishing something. Instead of sitting pretty on my fear like I have been doing. I am taking one from my own experience and am going to become bear aware in the arena of writing. Agents and freelance contracts cannot possibly be more frightening than a wild bear. Just sayin.

Feeding the Wild West

Musings

Working in the Big Horns has its pros and cons. An obvious pro is that any ol time I feel like I can dally in one of the many peaks or pines surrounding me. And mark my words, I do a fair amount of dallying. A solid con though is mountain life ain’t cheap. Meaning when 85 cowboys from around the country packed up their horses, mosied on over to the Wyoming High Country to camp for a week and set up a circus tent for food, my lodge was there to cater to their every dining whim.

Now don’t get me wrong, I asked to be put on this particular catering job, because, duh, like I need to explain myself—horses, cowboys, dining amongst the pines—and I was properly forewarned that the days ahead would be long, but I tell ya what, a 72 hour work week will wear a girl right down. I don’t know how doctors and CEOs do it. Kudos all you folks at Google, I salute you, but I wouldn’t wanna be you, not even for all the scooters and ice cream bars on the East Coast. But I digress. This isn’t about how much I worked. This is about Trail Ride and what an experience it was to be a part of something so Western, so the opposite of Midwestern, and so romancing that I didn’t even mind when one old cowboy in particular saddled me with daily come-ons. In fact I kinda liked it. Hey he was still a cowboy! Even if he was sixty-ish.

Each day for trail ride consisted of my coming into work at 5am to help the folks who had already been in the kitchen prepping food since 3:30am. We then packed up the caravan of all-terrain vehicles for the trail riders first meal of the day. I watched the road bleary eyed on the thirty mile drive through the mountain out to their campsite. Elk stood grazing on hilltops, their antlers a regal and proud silhouette against the morning sky.

My driver, Francis, would swerve the car onto the gravel on the side of the road and lean over me excitedly snapping pics of the elk and uttering death vows to those sweet Bambis. I countered back with warnings for the elk to take their young and flee as this man couldn’t wait to gun them down.

“Actually it’s a crossbow.”

“No matter. I am going to buy a bugle to warn them you are coming for them.”

He would smile and shake his head at my hippy-dom. I shook my head at his loving them purely for their luscious meat and striking antlers. Though truth be told, I am a bit of a traitor as I do enjoy their meat and their antlers are something of a stunning sight. But still, I felt like were they to be unknowingly struck down by arrow there should at least be a Native American Poem recited over their body for giving their life like that. But again, that’s just the hippy in me.

So trail ride. Every day I ladled either mashed potatoes, pancakes, salad or strawberry shortcakes onto nearly 100 hungry cowboys (and cowgirls) plates and happily beamed at their bandanas and chaps and spurs and wide brimmed hats, while sneaking glances at their horses grazing outside.

When we would leave the site later in the evening I would twist my body around in the truck to whisper sweet nothings to the painted ponies disappearing in our dust and hope they felt my love.

One day on the way to our dinner meal, we encountered a downed pine tree in the road, the size of a semi. It was utterly unmovable. The owner of the lodge who pulled up after us, bemoaned that she didn’t have her chainsaw in the truck that day and went to go try and fetch one back at the lodge.

It started to rain as we waited in the truck with the hot food that would have to be delivered somehow or some way to the hungry campers.

A fellow in a large white truck came up the road a bit later and offered to hitch the tree to his truck and pull it out of the way. Francis hopped out of the truck, running out in the drizzle to be of assistance. I watched from inside with rapt excitement while a young co-worker of mine, Victoria, sat beside me smoking a cigarette.

“Now this is what I came to Wyoming for!” I exclaimed in glee as the men wrapped the pine tree with chain and hooked it to the hulking truck.

“What’s that?” she asked bemused.

“Manly men doing manly things like pulling trees out of a road on a whim. Look at them go!”

She didn’t seem to see it. Then again she is a lesbian and does not share my love of bearded lumberjacks.

“Girl, you may need to step out of the car a moment,” I joked as I pretend fanned myself from the sight of the men and the truck straining to get the tree out of the road.

“Or you could step out and have a cold shower,” she quipped back. I burst out laughing.

The tree was promptly yanked aside and Francis got back in the car to deliver us and the cuisine to the waiting brood.

On my last day of Trail Ride I wore my cowboy hat and cowgirl boots. I swayed to the Merle Haggard tunes being played by a musician in the corner of the tent and stuffed myself with prime rib and shortcake and bemoaned afterwards that I put myself into a food coma.

On the way back to the lodge I saw a field of about twenty horses trotting towards me. I bellowed for Francis to stop the truck so I could run out to them. I ran up into the field and stared while they moved past me in a line, barely giving me notice as they wound their way back into the pines.

I got back into the truck and asked Francis where they were going and he said, back to their campsite.

“They just know to go back?”

“Yeah.”

I watched them until we rounded a corner and they were gone.

And just like that Trail Ride was over. I would go back to working only nine or ten or twelve hour days and the cowboys would go back to Montana or New Mexico and I would be left with the memory of their horses and hats. And the fact that for a week I got to be a part of the Wild West. If only just to feed it.

If This is 29…

Musings

My twenty-ninth year has arrived. And in style I might add. Admittedly I was getting a wee bit skittish about inching ever closer to the nervy thirty, simply because I am so goal-oriented and feel that I am not quite where I ought to be for thirty-ish. Sure 401K’s and babies seem appropriate but I am not giving much thought to either of those at the moment, even if I should. No. My only thoughts seem to center around my writing career taking off and well, adventure.

This is only natural as adventure has been my long time beau and damn if he isn’t good to me. Celebrating a birthday as a new transplant to the West was as enchanting as one might expect with all these mountains and old fashioned gents about. A girl could get downright spoiled if she weren’t careful. In fact that was most definitely the theme of my birthday. Spoiled, spoiled rotten. Just how I like it.

But before you get the wrong impression in thinking I’m a birthday brat, although I am a little bit of a birthday brat, understand that my favorite part of my birthday isn’t about being spoiled with presents. It’s the fact that I get spoiled with love and affection from all my favorite people across the globe. And if that isn’t about as humbling and awe-inspiring as standing before a mountain top, then I don’t know what is.

Then my main man, God went and did one better and spoiled me with Mother Earth. I already adore my birthday so I was off to a swell start with my waffle heaped with strawberries and whipped cream and piping hot cup of Joe in my cowboy mug. I was so full of pep and pizzazz that a coworker of mine asked me in all seriousness if I was on drugs. I resisted replying that I was high on life—I am corny but not that corny—but did indeed explain that, no I did not need drugs to feel this good and why would I ever need drugs in a world where birthdays and mountains coexist?

I proceeded to take myself on a date down the mountain. I stopped in town at the old Mercantile and visited a little with the old men lounging there. Then I wove my way into a canyon with raging rapids flowing past me on my left and jutting red rock faces sprouting up in front of me on all surrounding sides. I gasped in delight and felt an abundance of gratitude to share my birthday with the canyon and endearing locals.

A couple hours later I drove back up the mountain to pick up my sister so that we could then drive right back down the other side of the mountain into wild horse territory. I had spoken with one of my best friends on the phone and told him if I did indeed spot wild horses on my birthday then I really was the most spoiled birthday girl this side of the Missip.

When Kirst and I made our way down into the bright and blazing sunshine of the valley, Kirst couldn’t contain her excitement over the landscape in front of us. She kept squealing that she needed to marry the land, and run through the vast fields before us, and kiss the ground and gather good Native American spirits. I pulled over so she could do three out of the four. I really would marry Wyoming too, but who would perform the ceremony?

Kirst true to form bounded out of the car and ran straight for the nearest field where she wove this way and that. She laid down and jumped up, kissed the ground and pointed to cactus as this side of the mountain was dry, hot and barren, while the other side I had just been on was lush with green and misty with low hanging clouds. When I caught up to her she was lying on her poncho staring at the sky.

I felt giddy with her enthusiasm for the striking nature before us in every direction. The mountains stretched as far as the eye could see and boasted every possible color. Deep blue in some areas, red and speckled, green and rolling, grey and jagged, white capped with snow or shadowed from the clouds above.

I knelt down to kiss the earth too. It seemed only right. I wanted to honor Her. And maybe Kirst was right. Maybe Native American spirits or Mother Earth or some force much bigger than us would take note of our love and shine favorably upon us.

We made our way back to the car to head into the wild horse range. There we crossed over into Montana. We stopped at Devil’s Canyon, a canyon so deep, my mind couldn’t fathom that there are canyons larger, like the Grand Canyon. Again I was humbled deep into my core for my existence and my part in the universe, however small it may be. And standing next to that gorge of rock, I felt very small indeed. In that beautiful way of feeling small, like maybe sometimes that is exactly the size you ought to be.

We moved on and yes, we did spot two wild horses. While my romantic, fanciful brain expected them to be running or kicking up their legs in obvious wild abandon, the two black beauties we came upon were casually munching on some grass oblivious to me and Kirst’s ogling.

After staring for a spell, we wound our way to the bottom of the canyon where the river spliced through rock. We turned around to head back up and passed a herd of horses being led around the winding road by cowboys. But wait… wait. Upon exiting the wild horse range I spotted a massive rainbow taking hold of the sky to my left while Kirst dozed in the passenger seat. At this point, the sight might’ve been overkill, with the canyons and wild horses and cowboys, but it was simply an affirmation that the West had won me over, fully and implicitly.

Being that both Kirst and I are somewhat poor planners, nothing was open for dinner in the small town at the base of the mountain, as it was Memorial Day. We feasted on gas station hot dogs and Coca-Cola’s in a Veterans Memorial Park. We beamed at each other because it felt fitting and perfect. Like the rest of the day. Like the West. It fits and it’s perfect.

If this is twenty-nine, saddling up to my thirties with mountain ranges and desert flowers and earth kisses, then yes please. I will take more of this. Who needs a 401K anyway?

The Mountains, the Moose, the Men, Oh My!

Musings

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The West: where does a small-town Midwestern gal even begin? For starters I have been here in Wyoming for exactly one week and I am already so drunk on sheer adventure overload that starting at the beginning feels so long-gone.

Perhaps I could go backwards starting with seeing a cowboy lasso this afternoon. I wanted to faint upon seeing this, like an overwrought lady of yore. But I don’t think the cowboy would’ve understood. He maybe would’ve just assumed I wasn’t used to the elevation when in reality I am not used to so many manly men doing manly things like practicing rope handling and looking dashing while doing so.

Or yesterday how I went four-wheeling in a landscape that could only be described as some sort of decadent mix between Alaska and somewhere the Von Trapp children would roam. I hate to start describing Wyoming with references to other places as Wyoming stands alone in her splendor, but it’s the only comparison I can draw. I kept squealing, “holy buckets!” at a loss for any other explanation for my feelings upon seeing mountains and valleys and elk, that my four-wheeling companion, D2—a bearded outdoorsman who works at the lodge—chuckled and started saying holy buckets the rest of our 30-mile off-roading journey.

He let me drive on the way home and I drove us through a creek, nestled between two bluffs, made sure to hit every mud puddle as speedily as I could and the best part? We saw fourteen moose, one so close to our trail that I sincerely feared for my life as he casually eyed us, eyeing him. Those beasts are indeed massive and have a justifiably cocky look about them that bespeaks of their majesty in the forest.

Or there’s the fact that on our second day at the lodge the fellas taught Kirst and I poker and all initial ditzy doodling aside, we actually raked in the chips. Okay fine I did have a little help from the outdoor adventure guide who called me sweetheart during the game and would tap my leg multiple times when I needed to raise my bet, but still, I think I might need to go to Vegas. Just kidding, I would definitely need my pal to tap my leg for instructions and I think they frown upon that sort of thing in Vegas. In fact I’m sure I would probably be taken out back and have my kneecaps broken and be asked never to visit again. I digress, of course.

I definitely feel like I might be living in an old-timey Western movie. Especially when I meet old cowboys named Merle who kiss my hand upon meeting me. Or when I discovered that there are wild mustangs on the other side of the mountain where I reside. Simply knowing I was in the vicinity of wild mustangs nearly made me choke up with swells of gratitude for the beauty of life in the West. Or the fact that I have driven through what seems to be intense fog and suddenly I descend from the mountain and it clears and I see in my rearview mirror that it wasn’t fog at all, but indeed a mass of clouds I was just passing through.

The mountains, the moose, the mustangs, the men, the majesty, oh my! It’s easy to see why a gal could become overwrought with emotion and simply need to pass out. Or barf. As I pointed out to Kirst today about a man we met while hiking who later met up with us for coffee. His beard was dark and lush. His flannel was, well a flannel. And he laughed at our banter. When he left I turned to Kirst and said, “can we talk about how cute he is?!” Kirst responded, “He is so cute I could puke.” Amen, sister. Amen. The men here are so cute I too could just about vom. But I won’t, as that’s unladylike.

Anyhow. I want to wax more poetic. Always more poetic. But it is my first day off and I need to find more adventure. Wyoming would have hurt feelings if I didn’t. But here are some pictures from our first hike so you understand all this melodrama.

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