November 2017: Desiring Wyoming

~by Virginia Rhys-Anson, OFS

I didn’t grow up on this beauteous prairie, so generous with God’s masterful touch. That privilege was awarded my ten siblings—or most of them. Some never knew any other than this expanse of nature. How fortunate were they.

I only lived in Wyoming for eight short months between my graduation from high school and my enlistment in the Air Force. It was the only time I ever lived in the country, the environ that feeds my spirit, the environ of my heart’s longing.

I desire Wyoming. I desire her mountains. I desire her sage brush and prairie foliage. I desire her vast spread of unencumbered wilderness. I desire her antelope and pronghorn and bison. I just plain desire her.

The Laramie Peak Mountain Range of the Rockies looms to the west. There is not an inch of the view west of the ranch that is not mountains. Their irregular peaks give way to shallow depressions only to ascend and dip and ascend and dip yet again and again. Though distant, the charcoal patches that would be pine forests speckle their terrain. In winter, the white of snow dresses them, hiding forest patches ‘neath its frigid, yet soft, cover. How they make me long for the towering view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains of my New Mexico youth.

A railroad track bisects the land, though more to its south side. Occasionally a freight train rumbles its way along the tracks. You would think it an intrusion into the quiet. But it is oddly a quite pleasing occurrence. Seems a tad strange that it does not spook the horses and cattle. They simply take its journey with calm nonchalance.

In the pasture south of the railroad tracks, a small herd of Angus cattle grazes lazily on native prairie grass. Calves venture to investigate or romp, but none too far from Mom. Sire bull casts a suspicious eye in my direction. Little could he know that this suburbanite girl can pose no threat to his harem, nor would she venture close enough to even attempt a pet, though she would relish the chance. Much of his band has now decided on a midday lie down, except, of course, the calves. Ah, the energy of youth.

Loitering in the pasture on the near side of the tracks, my sister’s two horses–Hope, a rescued sorrel quarter horse mare and Whyatt, a mustang gelding garbed in his bay pinto markings—pause for an occasional nibble. The sight of my approach draws them. Greedily do they extend their heads over the fence vying for the stroke of my hand. Of course, I very gladly oblige. Such a reminiscence, the feel of their muscular necks and soft muzzles under my palm. From youth have I cherished the horse—God’s majestic creature. And now to enjoy this ever so rare bonding. Did I tell you just how much I love this land? I do envy my sister.

I did have a horse once, when we first moved to Wyoming. A deep sorrel quarter horse. Munchkin was his name. Tis quite humorous that I chose to christen him Munchkin as I am definitely not a fan of the Wizard of Oz. Munchkin was young, not even old enough to ride and as yet unbroken. I enjoyed him for only those few short months. Oh, I could visit him on the occasions when I came home on leave, but we never really developed that tie between horse and human. Sad. He became more my brother’s horse as he had more time to spend with Munchkin and make that connection.

So regrettable that my country soul lived free and alive in its kindred habitat for such a brief time. Soul has yearned for it ever since, yet never found it.

Near land is back a ways behind the house, a teeny, tiny creek, if one dares call it that, has been created. Or so it reminds me of a creek, though actually it is a dwarf tributary of the irrigation ditch. The contour of the earth and several small boulders—okay, large river rock—create a level change and the teeniest hint of a river cascade. Creek is only maybe a couple of feet wide and a foot deep, yet chilled enough to refresh feet and ankles. Yep, a micro forest creek it has become.

On the opposite side of the creamery pasture, a foot-worn path roams eastward toward the irrigation ditch. Although it is likely also truck-worn. Its dusty cover is silent underfoot as I mosey along, osmosing air’s brisk sparkle and the scents of the plain’s flora. Low growing cacti, prairie grass, and a varied selection of desert plants cloak the landscape. Given the right time of year, the fragrance of sagebrush provides a quite strong aromatic treat.

Careful not to disturb any resident snakes and to sidestep cow pies, I veer off the path for a much loved saunter through the virgin range. The foliage is only a few inches above ankle height, so it is easy to navigate—easy also to spy a napping snake, which, of course, I have never encountered. Now killdeer I have seen scurrying across the field. They are such fun to watch. A somewhat peculiar bird. Their legs, a tad longish for their bodies, look so thin and fragile. Still they seem to carry their avian bodies quite well, bodies seemingly better adapted to a ramble than a flight.

Across the irrigation ditch—the make shift swimming hole when water runs through—the land takes a gradual decline to become a valley of sorts. The view pure semi-arid wilderness. So peaceful, so untouched, so native. My psyche simply wants to capture it, to hold it hostage, never to relinquish. An irresistible desire, to take what I can of Wyoming home with me, cradling it within my spirit, ne’er to let it escape lest I lose forever my link to the country life.

My fantasy having succumbed to reality, tis time to head back, my ramble winding now along the dirt road. Gingerly do I cross the cattle guard, more tenuously than those reared on this land, as twould seem easy to slip and catch a foot between its rails.

A breeze has kicked up. Yes, a true breeze, not a Wyoming breeze. For such would be wind to most folk from other corners of America. You see, the wind—I do mean wind—nearly always blows in Wyoming. Today it is merely a gentle breeze that ruffles my hair a bit, carrying the perfume of the plains. The Angus bull is still eyeing me, apparently afraid that I, a thin-boned woman, a miniscule fraction of his weight, will attack his ladies. Like that’s gonna happen. I will simply content myself to enjoy his herd’s company from this side of the fence—the safe side.

I don’t know how to end my visit to the ranch, to this prairie paradise, because I just plain don’t want to. I want it to continue on and on. I desire Wyoming as my permanent home. But alas, that cannot be. I must be satisfied to merely “live” Wyoming in my memory, in my mind’s visions, reliving its feel and its scents, remembering its horses and cows and the bull that kept his eyes focused on my every move.

Wyoming. Oh how I do desire Wyoming.


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.


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