Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Love Affair With the West

Remember that magical age of eight, before you discovered boys but were through playing with dolls? That's how old I was when my dad packed up our family of six and sped away from our home in the midwest for a life of adventure in the wild, wild west. It was 1955, long after the Indians had chased the buffalo across the plains and ambushed wagon trains of pioneers but us kids didn't know that and Dad fired up our imaginations with bedtime stories of wild Indians and wild horses and wild animals roaming the west. He even moved us onto an Indian reservation in the state of Washington where we lived in a little encampment of trailer houses near the uranium mine where he worked. We climbed nearby mountains, fished the beaver pond for lively trout, picked wild strawberries behind our camp, and bucketed our drinking water from a creek. I believe the summer of 1955 was when I fell in love with the west.

By Christmas of 1955 we had moved on to the state of Idaho where we lived in a motor hotel in the town of Salmon. My most vivid memory of that school was the cactus that grew in the schoolyard. Across from the school was a ramshackle collection of lean-tos where, I was told, the Indians now lived. I vaguely remember attending an Indian dance held at night where dust rose from the dancers' feet and we ate corn on the cob.

When school was out in May of 1956 we moved up into the mountains to the mining town of Cobalt where we lived for the next three years. I could write volumes about those years for the memories are vivid and many. We moved back to Illinois when the mine shut down and Dad had to find other work. For the next twelve years I lived in the midwest but dreamed of the west I had come to love.

In July of 1970 I convinced my husband to pull up stakes and head west, destination Boulder, Colorado. In retrospect I know I was trying to find happiness and hoped it still lived in the west I had known in the 50s. It worked, for me, if not for him. I'm still out here, living in Colorado with a new husband, a man who grew up in the west and loves is as much as I do. Two of my best friends started life in little towns on the Wyoming plains, Big Piney and Lander. Most of my other friends are native Coloradoans whose childhood memories are stories I love to hear. This is home now and I'll never leave, but there is a part of me that longs for the dark, fertile soil of my native Illinois, for the ripe smell of fall in a hardwood forest, and for springs of warm rain and no wind.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, AP. You really know how to paint a picture with words. I'm glad you love your Colorado home.