Long ago and once upon a time in a far away eastern part of the country in an era commonly referred to as the Pre-Cambrian (actually I think it was 1991), a medium young couple with geysers in their eyes ventured west and came to work in Yellowstone National Park. At the end of the season when they cut our I-D cards in half and told us that we were free to return to the non-magical lands of our birth, we refused to go. So we wandered out of Wyoming and up up up over the Beartooth Mountains to the small (2000+) ski resort town of Red Lodge, MT where all the dogs are happy, stop lights don’t exist and where, just like in the TV show “Cheers”, everyone knows your name. A year or so later, we moved north (actually going down in elevation) about 25 miles to a small place (+/- 5 acres and often referred to by a relative we try not to have too much to do with as “that crappy old trailer”) outside of the even tinier town of Joliet(485 good folk). As the UPS guy told us, the people in Joliet are Jolly so pronounce it that way and not like the town in Illinois where the prison is and everyone is so sad.
The town has two bars, two fitness centers ( not quite sure what that says about the town),one grocery store, a carriage maker, a thrift shop, gas station, at least nine official churches and a now out of business restaurant (for sale in case any one wants to move here and reopen it) previously owned by a show business couple (He an Elvis impersonator and she a Marilyn Monroe look-alike) from Las Vegas, a post office and oh yes a damn fine Community Center and library.
We are surrounded by folks that we are proud to call neighbors and
friends. One often saddles up and rides over to bring us REAL farm fresh, free range eggs. Many of the last names on the mail boxes up and down the road are the same. It has been a settled country for a very long time. Some raise sheep. Some raise cows.
And a few raise sheep and cows. Almost all have horses and all of them are good caring people.
But as Barbara lives the life of an ex-pat in Mexico, we too, in a small way are living a kind of ex-pat existence in our own country. United by a common language and currency yet separated by a ranching culture laden with conservative beliefs that we have no comprehension of nor understanding of. We have come to accept it (and they us) and even in some ways admire it but I don’t think we will ever understand it. There are times when it is tough trying to remember all the hot button issues that are just too sensitive to broach. Wolves, property rights, guns, snowmobile access, ATV access, stream access, etc. etc. It is far too common to have a conversation halted with, “You can’t possibly understand the situation. You didn’t grow up here!”
Still, what we can’t talk about is only a small part of what we do share. The phone call telling us about the elk bedded down in the field behind our house; the best places to hike in the Beartooth Mountains; anticipating the arrival of the Sandhill Cranes in the spring; the day six Bald Eagles were soaring overhead. And…….sometimes that’s enough!