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WY Bother?

by Our Man in Wyoming
Tue Jan 19th, 2016

Tensleep Canyon, eastern boundary of the Bighorn Basin

I am a New Englander, now enduring a second winter living at the center of the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming. In many ways the Bighorn Basin represents the polar opposite of the Millbrook Region, and I intend, in upcoming weeks, to use this column as a platform for sharing some of my observations and experiences surrounding those differences.

One example of the vivid contrast between the two places would be the attitudes found about environmental protection. Wyoming is the most environmentally regressive of all 50 states, bar none. It is home to Dick Cheney, has welcomed fracking, and there is currently an initiative going forward in Cheyenne to enact State Law to criminalize Environmental whistleblowing [1]. 

But another difference to mention is the warmness of welcome given newcomers, which for me was entirely new. During the week before my first Thanksgiving here, the Presbyterian pastor arrived at my door and introduced himself with a friendly smile, and invited me, a total stranger, to feast with them at the church the following week. Then, the day of the holiday, he reappeared to remind me that dinner would be served within the hour. 

Since then a highlight of my week has been the Meditation Class that Pastor G. holds in the church basement on Monday evenings. Pastor G. is a colorful, outgoing native of Tennessee who had served for many years as a clinical psychologist and family therapist before being stationed as a Minister to the badlands of Wyoming. Our group engages in deep introspection, and has named itself The Think Tank. 

We have been viewing a revolutionary series of videos [2] from Dr. Ronald Siegel of Harvard Medical School, which explores Mindfulness. Siegel says that Mindfulness Practice is now very much in vogue at the elite medical schools, where it has been learned that traditional Buddhist meditation techniques open non-pharmacological avenues toward wellness which can be very powerful. In last week's episode, Siegel used compelling MRI images to illustrate how Buddhist mindfulness practices have effects on the brain which are measurable and beneficial. 

Recently, I was very sorry to read in The Millbrook Independent that Amenia's Presbyterian Church had closed; but here is one glimmering of a very different kind: the basement of a little church in Wyoming is hosting some intriguing, though non-traditional, alchemy on Mondays.

Is there a methamphetamine problem in Wyoming? Like many of the Western states, Yes. Upon arrival I mentioned to the owner of the run-down apartment building where I live that some incandescent bulbs had been pilfered from the hallway. In what I originally thought to be an over-reaction, she announced, with alarm, it was time to call the police! But that came from knowing about the prevailing methode methamphetamine: addicts gently cook their crank, in advance of inhaling it. 

Though in this particular case, it was a false alarm: one of the several peculiar fellows in the building who receives disability benefits had simply been hoarding light bulbs.

During World War II, an unusual incident took place here which I think illustrates the estimable backbone of Wyoming folk. Japanese Americans were being rounded up for internment to an abysmally-misnamed concentration camp, "Heart Mountain". The White people of this little town refused. Soon I will expand on this story, and share the historical details. I would like to find out, in what specific form that refusal came. This is so unusual in American History.

Heart Mountain War Relocation Center


These distant, dusty towns didn't exist until the railroads did, and one of the original construction engineers in the region was Japanese. To this day, one of the most respected family names here is Japanese (his), and some of the faces one sees are quintessentially Japanese too. Like the lady I experience clerking at the hardware store, with her dramatically-chiselled cheekbones, petite frame, and manners easily more refined than anyone else's. And with a trace of girlish flirtiness too, which in some heady way, goes far beyond Breezy Self-confidence.

Easterners will have no difficulty guessing what proportion of hardware store customers in Wyoming are male. I assume she's there because the gender ratio is entirely to her liking.

Since first encounter, I've had the strong, persistent inkling that she has always had some effortless ability, nearly psychic, to comprehensively decode men at a glance.

With me, what does she see? For one thing, that rare male who doesn't wear blue jeans and a baseball cap. In Wyoming, even the medical doctors wear blue jeans to the office.


The author would like to acknowledge Kevin T. McEneaney for the idea of mentioning both fracking and methamphetamine in the same inaugural article; on a dare.