Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Wyoming, Not What You Were Thinking

It is a bit hard to imagine the area in which I live and not any easier to explain. People keep thinking that here is like there where they live. It's probably not. For one thing towns are far and few between making it not unusually to travel over an hour to the next gas station and sometimes it is two hours.

 Occasionally when Kirk is in Atlanta, Georgia a friend from Japan is also there. They spend some time together and during one of their visits I happened to be present. Kirk and I were trying to describe to this friend where we lived. In an 'I understand tone' our Japanese friend replied, " I live in a little city too - 200,000 people." No, not quite. We live in a town that has 1,200 people. It almost came to counting the dogs to get that number. It was clear he couldn't fathom that so few people living in one place. When we said we would like to take him to the hills outside of our town, where he could look out off a bluff and see for miles, no house in sight. His eyes got bigger and bigger and in an exclaimed tone he asked, "Do you have electricity, telephones, Internet?"

With great restraint I said of course "We do", even though in my Wyomingite head I was saying, 'Yes, we do but those pesky Indians keep knocking down the power poles and raiding the grocery store.' There are a couple Indian reservations in Wyoming but they haven't been on the war path since I was a child. Okay, they haven't been on the war path in my entire life time or my parents or grandparents lifetimes but try and convince a tourist that when I was growing up. Telling bold faced lies with a straight face to tourist is compensation for the ridiculous tales we are suppose to swallow. " What are those strange animals with two horns the ranchers are raising." After a bit of confusion it was figured out that the woman tourist was describing pronghorn antelope but try and tell her that. No, it can't be pronghorn antelope she replied because they were behind fences. If it were only that easy to keep them out but they go under the fences and over them and pretty much any where they please.

Harder still is to convince tourist in Yellowstone Park that the animals should be given a wide berth. I remember walking out of Old Faithful Inn one time and cautioning a tourist to walk way around a huge, older bull bison standing next to the sidewalk. They tried to tell me that it had to be tame because it was right next to the building. Right, and bison bulls don't get more unpredictable and cranky the older they get. I didn't say a peep though another time when a guy placed his small child next to a black bear for pictures. The man obviously didn't have a lick of sense and I figured my energy was better off spent praying than arguing.

So don't blame us if we come up with things like Jackalope. Why not? People don't seem to believe the truth. That has made the Jackalope quite popular. It's home by chance is Douglas, Wyoming, just an hour and a half from us. You know what a Jackalope is, those rabbits with the horns on their heads. They are in lots of taxidermy shops but especially in Douglas. 

Another thing you need to know about a Wyomingite. We relate distance in time, not miles.  It is more relevant. For instance where my husband's hunts elk is only seven miles from the main road but that seven miles takes an hour to drive. See our point?

In the city you use lots of street names and highways to get around. It does me no good because I can't remember names. Then you go making it worse and completely confuse me by putting up those tall buildings and how am I suppose to tell if I'm headed north, south, east, or west? I always said when my sister lived ........ Oh my, I forgot where she use to live. I do remember you turned right at the Purple Turtle, a dark purple building that was a fast food place, and then left at the run down barn. Good thing those two landmarks never changed in all the years she lived in that area of Utah or I'd have been lost. Yup, if you are a true born and raise Wyomingite you will give directions by landmarks and good ole north, south, east, and west. I must admit that I've lived at the crossroads of several highways for over thirty years and I still can't remember there names half the time, just what direction they head and where they take you. Isn't that the important stuff?

Another Wyoming tradition is to name pastures after the name of the person you bought it from, for instance my dad would say ride a horse out to the Chrisnic place and check on the bull. Later he started naming horses that way. He had Scott because he got him from Scott and he even had a horse named Bird. It was the previous owners last name. That one really threw me. One day he hollered out the kitchen door, "Bird, get back here." I thought he'd lost his mind until I saw a horse drift back in our direction and realized Dad had bought a new roping horse. Now I'm wondering? He had a horse named Yogie, where did that name come from?

Yes, our state is fairly unique. We are the 9th largest state in the United States but we have the least amount of population. Even Alaska beats us. They have 735,132 people residing mainly along the coast. Wyoming has 582,658 people spread out across the entire state.  That is 582,658 people in 97,818 square miles. Or in other words .168 people per square mile. How do you have a .168 person? Anyway, I suppose that would be a bit much for a little city dweller from Japan to comprehend. So when I say I live in the boondocks, the north forty, the sticks, the toolies.  I mean in relation to most people, I live in the middle of nowhere.

A thriving metropolis for us is our capitol, Cheyenne, Wyoming with a big whopping population of 60,000 people and Casper, Wyoming comes in second at 56,000. No where near a little city as our Japanese friend describes but far too large a place for me to live. If a place of 1200 people is beyond comprehension then how are we to explain our soon to be new address? We live at the end of a lane in the country but the town on our mailing address has a population of 0. You read that right - 0. It's a ghost town - maybe. Don't actually know if any ghosts live there but I do know it never was more than a post office where you could buy a few groceries.

So how do I explain to the Holistic Hen and the rest of you that indeed there aren't organic farms here? If there is even one, it is hours and hours from where we live and I'm not aware of it. Carpenter, where there is suppose to be organic chickens for sale, is a five hour drive there and of course five hour drive back home. It is no surprise that 91 percent of the state is rural. 86 percent of the state's agricultural receipts are from livestock and 78 percent of that is cows and calves. Yup, a two to one ratio of cows to people -- just the way I like it.

 If you are doing the math you see that if  86 percent of the agricultural receipts are for livestock then that leaves only 14 for crops.  Most of that 14 percent is hay. There are a few pockets of areas in the state that grow something besides hay. The Big Horn Basin where I grew up is one of them. They get only 5 -8 inches of rain a year making them nearly classified as desert but there is irrigation that wets the richer soil. We are talking richer but not as in Iowa rich soil. In a few areas there are farms which produce 3.9 %,  barley 2.0 %, sugar beets 2.8 %, dried beans 1.3%  of cash receipts for the state. With farms and ranches averaging 2,745 acres. My dad when he managed a couple ranches for a banker took care of 1000 head of cattle, 1000 head of sheep, some dry land oat fields, hay fields, and that was on 68,000 acres. Now that same land has gone dry and there is no farming at all just grass. The weather is changing once more so who knows about the future.

There is also a little corn and a few oats in the state but not much for people food except a little wheat like in the Carpenter area but then again there is a whole lot of the state that can't raise anything but grass. If you want something fresher and better than the store produce, you have to grow it yourself. Over all the state's average rainfall is 10 to 12 inches labeling it semi-desert which complicates that task. Some of the mountains may be blessed with as much as 15 inches a year but you can't grow crops at that elevation. We have a lot more than just agriculture as our state is rich with mineral so you will see quite a few oil wells, methane fields, and surface coal mines.

We are the second highest state in the U.S. Our mean is 6,700 feet. 2000 ft. above most states. Probably why Wyoming doesn't label high elevation gardening until 6000 ft. where as other states labeled it at 4000 ft. We have from 140 to only 60 days growing season depending on what part of the state you live. One of the main reasons for our moving is an increase in growing days, richer soil, more moisture, and better weather as in less wind. We will still be at around 5000 ft. but the south sloping hill the new place is on will be a big help.

There are a few other unique qualities about Wyoming, we have strange things such as reflector poles. Metal poles placed at equal distances along a paved highway with a round reflecting disc on top that when your car's headlights hit it, it reflects light, telling you where the side of the road is. No it is not a low IQ that prompts the need for such things but high winds. Some parts of the state it is common to have winds in excess of 60 mph. It flips over semi-trucks and makes the where a bouts of the road mighty confusing in a snowstorm. We call these white-outs. One more thing about our highways, you won't see a two-wheel drive truck, unless it is a tourist. Most have three-quarter ton trucks with four-wheel drive unless it is a dually, a pickup truck with four wheels in the back and two in the front meant to haul heavy loads. Nope can't get around here with a two wheel drive truck most of the year and besides, you'll just get laughed at.

We have other strange terms such as draws, borrow pits, and even hole such as in Jackson Hole, Wyoming but keep the Wyoming part quiet. We Wyomingites don't claim Jackson. We can't afford to live there anyway. It is full of stars from Hollywood and you know the most conservative state in the U.S. and Hollywood don't see eye to eye on politics. So if you hear us tell someone from Jackson, " Snow fences are bleachers for watching antelope races." and we have our poker face on, be sure to keep your face straight. I'll explain later.

We may not have commercial organic gardens but that's okay, we are pretty independent cusses and will just do it ourselves. I like our state. In fact I love it!! Where else can you go to the state capitol building and wonder the halls freely because it is YOUR house? And where else can you just happen to bump into Governor Meade in the hallway and he stops you because he's spied you carrying Flat Stanley. Yes he knows Flat Stanley well and invited us to take a picture with the four of us for our oldest grand daughter's third grade class. Our government is just that approachable.

We might not have commercial organic garden farms but we do have a whole lot more and in just a few short weeks I'm about to show you as my camera clicks and clicks upon the picturesque scenes surrounding our new home.

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