Main Street Sheridan, Sunday Morning

Trail Hotel

Sometimes a place strikes you. The architecture. The quality of the light. The collection of buildings that are more than the sum of their parts. Early Sunday morning in Sheridan, Wyoming my uncle (who is an accomplished photographer) and I took a walk down Main Street to capture the signs and buildings that had captured our attention and imagination throughout our days there. The morning light and sky gives the photos a dusty, timeless quality, but if you look closely you can see that this place is firmly rooted in the present: new shops selling fancy Western Wear mixed in with shuttered, empty storefronts; a renovated theatre and faded painted signs and bricks. I think that we have a tendency to fix smaller towns in our minds as places that are “removed” from the march of time. However, I think these places that make up “Main Street USA” are where our culture and economy are lived, felt and experienced on a human scale and a day-to-day level.
Rainbow Bar

Boot Liquidation

Sorry We're Closed

Western Windows

Parking in Rear

Mint Bar

Hotel Rex

There’s more Wyoming views on Flickr.

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The Green Grass of Wyoming

Looking towards the Bighorns

When I was a child my mom and I would go out to Sheridan, Wyoming for two weeks a summer to visit my Aunt, Uncle and first cousins Ben and Heather. We would go in June or July, but I can’t remember the last time that we visited that the rolling, grassy hills and mesas around their house were green. By the time we arrived they were always baked a light beige with the red clay soil and rocks peeking through. It was a real treat to head out to Wyoming for a family gathering last weekend and be pleasantly surprised to see that the hills were still green, contrasting the roads and soil of red rock. I love it out on the range because I feel like these small roads stretch forever towards the horizon, the air is permeated with the smell of sage brush, and the sky is huge and expansive, giving me a sense of space, freedom and possibility. While Montana holds the official title, I would say with confidence, that Wyoming is also big sky country.

Out for a Walk

Trailer Tableau

Sunflowers on the range

Mama and Foal

There’s more photos on Flickr.

Wyoming Range Life

The view towards the Big Horn mountains

The last time I was in Wyoming I arrived in the middle of the night, having driven straight from Portland, Oregon on a compressed, cross country trip. To get there we drove through the Beartooth Mountains of Montana in August darkness, watching meteors streak down through the clear western air. I’ve joke that I am the penultimate East Coaster – that I walk and talk too fast and am too attached to the ocean to live anywhere else. However, chunks of my childhood summers were spent on the range and in the mountains of Northeastern Wyoming, visiting my Aunt, Uncle and two cousins in near Sheridan. I’d like to think that somehow, in some small way, that experience stays with me.

As a child and early teenager going to Wyoming was a dream come true. It is awash in wide open spaces to explore on horseback and was of pre-dawn mornings helping (however ineffectively) my uncle and aunt with the cattle they raise. Wyoming was freight trains, rattle snakes, sage brush, wild landscapes, and hours with my cousins playing Legos and reading Calving and Hobbes comics.

County roads, Wyarno, Wyoming

My grandmother lives in Wyoming now and so last weekend I caught (just barely) an early flight to Denver and then a propeller plane to Sheridan to visit her and the rest of my family. While the endless barbed wire fences, train tracks, range and sparse population are the polar opposite of where I live now, I felt a rush of familiarity and welcome when I arrived Wyoming. I love that place. I am a total outsider, but I feel a sense of awe and respect for the country there and the people who call it their home.

Coal train headed towards West Dutch depot

Maybe because we’ve just had a huge national election and the idea of what is “America” and who is “American” has been debated and thrown about ad nauseum I couldn’t help but think, “This is what people are talking about when they talk about America.” Here are hard working people who make a living from the land and another job to make ends meet. They drive sturdy American made trucks and cultivate a sense of Western independence. Native American history and contemporary culture is woven into the fabric of this place. This is where stories about the American West were made. And, yet. Wyoming cannot be reduced to a caricature. It is not a rustic idyll or a rural backwater. It’s a place as complex as “America” itself.

Winter Wyoming sunset

Wyoming is where I can have long conversations about the dangers of fracking with my Uncle, who is one of the toughest cowboys I’ve ever met. I remember he told me about what a bad idea it was 10 years ago, before anyone on the East Coast had really begun to talk about it. I wish New York State would take a cue from the experience of people in the west and see the havoc it wreaked on the environment there and how little benefit local people actually derived from it. It’s where I have out and proud gay family members, even though gay rights still has a long way to go there (and everywhere!). It’s where I can go out to lunch with my cousin I haven’t seen in 10 years and we can chat like we just saw each other yesterday. It’s a place I’m proud to know a little bit and proud to hold as part of my past and, hopefully, part of my future.

Western twilight

Sunset behind the Big Horn mountains

Below is a little look into my Wyoming past: wearing shorts, riding bareback on my Aunt’s Welsh pony, with awkwardly cut curly hair and in 12-year-old heaven