Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spring Cold And Winter Cold

In April of 2011 LC and I went to Meeteetse for the first time.
That day was spring-cold.  Not the winter-cold we were greeted with when we first ventured out of the house on Christmas morning. 
The difference between winter and spring cold is barely perceptable in Tennessee.
In Wyoming the difference between the two is a world apart.
A link to our first trip to Meeteetse last year, on a day when we wandered through free museums and ate burgers in the same bar where cattle rustlers and bank robbers of another time also ate their meals.
A year and a half later we were again headed that way.
The highway and the 30 minute drive to this tiny town was almost completely empty.
During the short drive we saw only three other vehicles on the highway and two bulls partially hidden behind tall snow-covered sage bushes.
Just on the outskirts of town we finally began to see homes again. 
Most were large ranches on multiple acres of land.
Christmas Day was freezing cold but the sky by this time was absolutely clear.
LC pulled the truck over onto the shoulder of the highway at my request, I climbed out, shivered against the cold and then wandered across the two lane road so that I could take pictures of the cows.
They had all been quietly grazing and (even though I tried to not disturb them), when I walked up to the cattle guard, as one they lifted their heads to watch me.
The entire group of black Angus directly in front of me, who were spread out out over a large swath of snow covered pasture, and who until only moments before had been engrossed in eating dried grasses that were buried under the snow, now stood unmoving and wary...............
Gradually they began to wander and graze again, determining (again almost as one) that I was no threat to them.
I stood beside the fence and balanced precariously on the rungs of the frozen cattle guard, briefly enjoying the challenge of staying upright.
After taking pictures of the cows I lowered my camera and took in the scene around me.
The sun shone brilliantly - still providing no warmth but making the world sparkle.
The sky was bluer.  The snow was whiter.  The cattle were blacker.  Every color was magnified by the strong sunlight and the world looked beautiful...................
A brief side trip down an unknown gravel side road.
We took it simply to see what was there.
Isolated and small homes dotted the terrain occasionally, but mostly there was nothing.
There are little more than 500,000 people in the entire state.
Huge expanses of the state contain nothing and nobody.
It is one of the things that draws us to this place..................
Eventually we made it into the town of Meeteetse.
There are few businesses in town, and what businesses there are were all closed for the holiday.
As we approached the corner of one street I looked for the grizzly, and smiled when I saw him covered with snow and wearing a Santa hat...............
A town abandoned.................
LC and I had left James at the house, and together we wandered along the main street, looking in windows and quietly talking together.
There is little in the way of commercialism in Meeteetse.
A gas station.  A small chocolatier that I suspect does more business via the Internet than they do from their store front.
A couple of burger restaurants decorated as though from the old west.
The town contains a rich history of bank robbers and cattle rustlers.
Of old stage coaches.
Of Malboro Man cigarette commercials being filmed at one of the local and very wealthy ranches.
As we slowly made our way back to the truck I (on the spur of the moment) told LC that I wanted to walk down to one of the museums.
The museum proper would be closed, but they also had old wagons and old farming implements standing outside the museum and I wanted to take pictures of them.
I kiss LC, he crossed over the road to retrieve the truck, and I trudged through the snow towards the museum..................

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Must Be Cold

We had a white Christmas in Cody.
Not surprising I suppose (considering we live in Wyoming) but as of 11:30pm on Christmas Eve there was very little snow on the ground here.
At 11:30pm the snow finally began to fall. 
It was so cold outside that the air was actually gleaming - snow and ice crystals falling from the sky and reflecting back at us in the darkness.
Frozen diamonds in the sky.
When LC, Jamie and I all climbed out of bed the next morning and looked outside, the ground was again covered with snow.
It was so cold.  -5 cold.  The coldest day I have seen since me and my boys lived in northern Ontario for a couple of years.
A million years and a lifetime ago.
Although snow stays in the mountains and out in the national forest, in and around Cody there is a continual winter-cycle of cold, snow, warm, melt, cold, snow, warm, melt.
With an elevation of over 5000 feet, surrounded by mountains and bordering the Rockies I would never have guessed that, but there it is.
It was Christmas morning and the frozen world was white.
The day was freezing cold, but the sky was gradually clearing, and I knew that the sky would eventually turn full-on blue.
Neither LC nor I could stay home.  We had to move and as we stood in the cold we decided that we would drive towards the tiny cowboy town of Meeteetse.
After coffee.  And breakfast.  And getting dressed. 
The guy who owns the property that we rent also owns a handful of horses.
They are all beautiful, wonderful, friendly and curious animals and have names like Blackie and Snipper and Rose and Petey and Buddy.
The horses have spent the past eight or nine months in a pasture out in the Southfork and only a few days before Christmas the owner brought them home for the winter.
Ignoring the fact that I was still wearing pajamas and slippers I walked down the snow-filled steps from the house, walked through the snow in the driveway and stood in front of Snipper who had been curiously watching us ever since we walked outside, ten minutes before.
Hello Snipper.  How are you big boy?  You're beautiful.  Do you remember me?
Snipper watched me and LC closely, as we crunched our way through the snow and as I snapped pictures on a very cold Christmas morning.
The watery sun shone but brought no heat at all, and the world surrounding me was filled with soft pastel colors.
The blues, the browns, the greys, were all muted and subtle. 
No bright colors in Cody Wyoming in late December.  Only the soft and sometimes barely-there colors of winter...............
Our neighbor saying Merry Christmas to Snipper.
He is a tall, friendly animal.  The leader of the pack.  The one who quietly and insistently demands and expects the attention of humans.
When our neighbor left I walked over to Snipper and gingerly stroked the side of his huge head, unsure after all this time just how he would respond to my touch.
He allowed me to stroke him, realized that he liked it, and then nudged my hand, wordlessly demanding more.
It was an unexpected and friendly encounter between woman and horse, and I smiled at him as I said goodbye and began to think about heading indoors again for coffee...............
From front to back - Rose, Buddy and Petey.
I have known Petey since he was born last year.
He was born at the end of April and has grown into a beautiful adolescent animal.
His was the first (and only) birth of a horse that I have ever witnessed:
The trailer beside the barn will be in place through the winter, and acts as a wind break.
The Indian profile of Heart Mountain in the background..............
I don't really notice the difference when I look at them in the field in back of the house, but when I look at these pictures the difference between domestic and wild horses is startling.
Blackie below was a wild mustang. 
Every year Bureau of Land Management captures and sells a limited number of mustangs, in an effort to control the size of the herds and maintain their overall health.
Wild mustangs are shorter, stockier, with a heavier musculature and a long mane that extends down and in front of their eyes.
I love the look of them.  I have since the first time we visited the mustangs on BLM land late in the spring of 2011.......................
By the time I had crunched through snow in my pj's and slippers, visited with the horses and snapped quick pictures of our world filled with snow, I was freezing cold.
It was time to go drink coffee, call Chris and go for a drive...................

Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories...............From the movie An Affair to Remember

Monday, December 24, 2012

Random Sunset

On this day before Christmas I had to drive into town to run an errand.
It was 9 degrees outside, the wind was blowing and the sky (and the forecast) promised snow.
I reluctantly stopped at the grocery store on the way home and watched (as I am apt to do when the stress level is too high) like a displaced outsider in my own body, as people rushed to do last minute holiday grocery shopping.
Thankfully the stop was brief and thankfully I soon drove out of town and back into the freezing cold and now-barren country-side outside of Cody to the house.............

I sent my daughter-in-law gifts for her new baby last week, and included my oldest son's Christmas stocking.
I bought it for Sean when he was only four years old.
So many years ago.
So very many years ago.
I hope that his son keeps it for a long time.................

I have no idea if my youngest son Chris is alright or not.
He sounds alright when I talk to him on the phone, but he is a reserved, strong and very stoic man.
When I ask, he is not ever dating anyone and that is not like him.
He talks about being focused on making money but does not follow through on job leads he mentions.
He talks about coming to see me in the fall, at Christmas, now maybe in the spring.
I have no idea what is in his head or in his heart......................

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Winters' Human Condition

I've been neglecting this blog for a few weeks now for a number of reasons.
Money has been tight, the weather has been cold, we have not traveled far, and both LC and I have been hunkering down safely beside the wood stove inside our small cabin outside of Cody.
And in truth I have had writers block.
I downloaded these pictures earlier in the week, but when I went to blog about them there were no words.
And so it went the next day and then the next.
Just pictures surrounded by a white screen that was silently waiting for me to hit the keyboard and fill it with.........words.
This time of year is very difficult for both of us, and both me and my beloved Mountain Boy struggle every day to stay upright.
Shock and anguish have transitioned into depression and great sadness, and we battle both of those things every day as well.  It never goes away.
I'm tired of crying.
But we keep trying and there is nothing else we can do but that.
These pictures were taken.........I'm not even certain when.  A few days before the last snow storm we had, so sometime last weekend.
On that day the weather was freezing cold but the only snow around Cody was that which was left over from a previous snow fall weeks ago, and which was still hanging stubbornly to the shade and crooks and crevices of hills around town.
As we drove east towards the tiny community of Frannie we were both surprised to see snow on the ground and ice hanging like Christmas lights from the trees.
About 20 miles from Cody the world looked entirely different, and when I saw the tree above I asked LC to pull the truck over just so I could take a photograph of it.
It was a magical, beautiful, wonderful solitary tree whose still-remaining leaves were covered in ice crystals
There's no wonderful or exciting story attached to these pictures.
We just went for a drive on a cold and beautiful day, both of us needing to move and needing to be outside................

Taken behind a gas station in Ralston just outside of Cody.
While LC took care of business I walked Jamie so that she could do the same.
Behind the gas station there was already more snow than Cody, and yet we were only 10 miles outside of town.
BLM hills were dusted with snow, and were partially obscured in haze.
One lone brown and white horse grazed close to us, lifted his head briefly when we unexpectedly appeared from around the side of the building, looked at us for a few moments and then went back to grazing....................
I had asked LC to stop the truck in the middle of nothing and nowhere, just so I could take a picture of the tree at the top of the page.
While he and James stayed in the warmth of the truck I snapped pictures of the solitary tree and then stood regarding the world around me.
The world was silent. 
There were no vehicles passing us by, no geese frantically realizing that they were late to the party and had better hurry to get their butts south, no fast moving military or private planes leaving long white jet streams in the blue sky, no wind trying as always to knock me off my feet.
There are very long stretches of only empty highway in Wyoming.
Stretches where there are no homes, no towns, no corner stores or tiny gas stations.
Only emptiness. 
BLM hill, pasture, bad land emptiness.
We were now in one of those long stretches.
I snapped pictures of the scene in front of me as I stood beside the truck, then walked to the back of the truck and then the drivers side of the truck, snapping pictures as I went.
As I suspected last year (but did not have a chance to really find out before heading back to Tennessee) BLM lands are beautiful covered in snow...................
We actually picked Frannie for our trip because we had seen a small and humble piece of property there for sale that we thought may have possibilities for a more permanent place to live.
It was nasty and we quickly disregarded it.  We'll stay where we are.....thanks anyway.
Before heading back the way we had come LC turned down a side road, curious to see what was down it.
As with most of the trip, what was there was a whole lot of beautiful nothing, and that was fine with me...............
Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.........Mignon McLaughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966