“Go West, and your heart will never leave.” My grandmother’s words, spoken to me as a child as she recounted growing up in frontier Wyoming, took on new life as my family and I kicked up our horses to a trot. As we edged up a trail traced centuries earlier by trappers and Native Americans, I felt the same spark that must have enticed those early pioneers to throw off convention for the promise of this vast, untamed new world.
Buttermilk, a palomino whose brawn seemed born out of the backcountry, crested the butte with an ease that belied the miles we had traveled that morning. I felt a twinge of embarrassment for packing my laptop computer. Up here above Cody, Wyoming, where the Shoshone wilderness opened up to the rugged Absaroka mountain range, a Wi-Fi signal was as unlikely as it would be unwelcome. The sweet linger of sagebrush whispering through the pines that stretch endlessly over the sharp mountains could only be experienced in person.
Photo courtesy of Buffalo Bill Center of the West
As we unpacked our saddlebags, I reflected upon the past few years. My grandmother’s passing had weighed on my family, as she had always prioritized keeping us connected despite distance or time apart. She was a matriarch whose soft-spoken kindness made perfect sense given the backdrop of Cody, where she grew up. In this small town, the ethos of the West still flourished. Friendship came naturally. When someone asked how you were, it was a genuine question.
Surveying the sprawling ridgelines, my wife, Julie, and I watched our sons, Sean and Will, as they played out among the wildflowers a scene from Shane, one of their favorite movies since watching it with their great-grandmother. Their closest encounter to this unique heritage, I realized, had been through the silver screen.