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By now you may have noticed that I’m once again dabbling with new ways to format my posts. Technology is always a struggle for me, even though I’m eager to embrace it. Why, oh why, does You Tube tack on that dreadful page full of foreign video links to the end of each of my own personal slide shows? Anyone out there know how I can avoid this annoyance? And, by the way, do you find it easier_more pleasant_ to read a chunk of text and then rest your eyes with a mini slide show? Or do you prefer the old-fashioned method of plunking images in amongst the text? I’m interested in all feedback and suggestions.

On to Wyoming, where I spent my formative years. At least, I guess they were formative. I think about this quite a bit because by now, I have lived in Idaho for longer than I lived in Wyoming. And yet, I still feel branded by the state. I ruefully confess that for years I harbored a personal resentment toward Wyoming and (excuse me, friends) the people who live in the state. I felt somehow superior because I’d had the good sense to escape a state filled with people determined to rape and pillage every ounce of lifeblood from the land. This notion is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, though there aren’t many people living in Wyoming, the people who do live there comprise a grand mix of education, ideology, and political affiliation. Many Wyomingites worship the land and the ecosystems that make it unique. There are lots of people in Wyoming who walk with a lighter step than I; who dedicate themselves, their lives, their families to the welfare of the land; and who struggle to educate themselves and others about the economics and science of global preservation.

Tom Bell at his kitchen table with his canary 'Birdie' at his side. Lander, Wyoming Photo: Brad Christensen

And then there’s the glaring reality…I escaped to IDAHO, for God’s sake! Idaho is at least as red as Wyoming and Idaho politics are surely the looniest of any of the 50 states. What’s more, it’s simplistic to presume that blue states have the answers and red states have the problems. The issues that our country, nay our planet, are confronting are far larger than simple party politics. So, I escaped from nothing and to nothing.

But Wyoming’s rich history, varied landscape, and often harsh weather are deeply imbedded in who I am. For example, the Wyoming Territorial Legislature led  the nation toward women’s suffrage in 1869; and in 1924, voters in the State of Wyoming elected the first female governor in the nation. My roots demand that I respect the responsibilities of citizenship. I have voted in every national election since I turned 18. I vote in most county and all city elections and have supported local school districts in their continual battle for funding.

Wyoming’s landscape has grown on me as I mature. I remember visitors from the East Coast and from Europe staggering across the antelope-dotted airport west of Laramie. Their stomachs churned from the choppy mountain air between Denver and Laramie. Their hair was blown by the same horizontal gusts that tossed the plane as it crabbed the crosswinds to bump onto the 7,000 foot runway. Typically these newcomers stopped mid-way between plane and terminal_eyes wide, mouths agape_ and turned a slow 360, riveted and transfixed by the vast bowl of cloud-splotched blue sky that touched the horizon in every direction they looked. I was as mystified by their wonder as they were mystified by the impact of all the sky_ all that unimpeded open space.

Open space is only the beginning. The state is studded with knock-your-sox-off mountain ranges, the Tetons being only the most famous, not necessarily the most spectacular. Ancient oceans birthed the bedrock sandstone, limestone, shale, and granite for plate tectonics to play with. As heavy molten rock from inside the earth stretched and reached for the sky, it shoved, pushed, and wrinkled all that lay above it. Ice formed on these cooled pinnacles and eventually succumbed to gravity and temperature changes, sliding and scouring its way to valleys, melting into rivers that carved canyons. The result of millions of years of geology in action, Wyoming is rich in beauty and in buried natural resources which have evoked endless cycles of boom and bust as the ever-fluctuating appetite of the industrial age gobbled up oil, natural gas, and minerals.

And what can I say that hasn’t already been expounded upon about Wyoming’s mercurial weather? After a 20 year absence from the ubiquitous press of air, I was nearly upended because I forgot how to cant myself into the wind. But I have never forgotten the danger of capricious weather. I learned early to always carry a jacket, to always have warm clothes and blankets, food, tools, and jumper cables in the trunk of the car.

So what’s not to love about Wyoming? It is a lot like the ruggedly handsome Marlboro man from the old tobacco advertisements. It evokes a feeling of strength, independence, and pride, while inwardly struggling with cancerous resource extraction.

Ironically, Wyoming’s famous wind has provided yet another counterpoint in resource debates. I drove as close as I could to a wind farm. From the distance of about three city blocks, I stopped the car, rolled down the windows and listened. I heard a rymthmic wooaaaoo, wooaaaooo, woooaaaooo. It made me think of a giant heartbeat, or the sound of amplified amniotic fluid. It sounded no louder than Wyoming wind howling around the corner of a barn. I tried to imagine living really close to a wind farm. In reality, I probably wouldn’t like it. It would be a lot like living under the armpit of the railroad tracks. But, I could imagine that living near a wind farm might be like living near the railroad tracks. Our family ranch was less than a mile from the tracks and I don’t remember any anxiety or discomfort from the sound of the trains going by. I do fondly recall the wistful wail of the train whistle as it sped toward town. The giant wind towers wield a magical power over me as they catch and reflect the mutating Wyoming sunlight.

Like other forms of resource extraction, wind farms take a toll from the land. Service roads built-in the middle of nowhere_that vast, magnificent landscape_tear up the land and unearth dust. Birds get carved up by the giant blades. But at least no toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground, nor are they off-gassing and leaching into groundwater. I think these towers are a better alternative to carving gigantic caverns in the endless, rolling skin of land. Perhaps wind will be Wyoming’s next oil boom. I don’t think this is an entirely bad thing.

Images of Marlboro Man: healthy: arnolddalope redbubble.com  Illl: marlboro+man+3.jpg gabrielgim.blogspot.com