I walked into Diamond J Bar in Lovell, Wyoming, and made my way through the cigarette smoke, country music and cowboy hats to the main bar.
I leaned toward the bartender and asked, "KenIhaveapitcherofCoors."
He looked at me funny.
I had made my request in a rapid-heavy-handed Bronx accent. I might as well have been speaking Swahili. What we had here was a complete failure to communicate.
I tried this approach, "Can-I-have-a-pitcher-of-Coors? Please?"
"Hell! Why didn't you say so in the first place!"
Well, I sort of did. This was my first realization that things were different in the West.
I learned from this experience. I needed to speak Western States English. I had to change. The West was where I knew I wanted to be.
Back to the point of the story:
The next morning, I began my first seasonal gig with the U.S. Forest Service in the Bighorn Mountains of north-central Wyoming. I was assigned to a tree marking crew. This meant we painted many cords of Engelman spruce trees in preparation for a timber sale. The unfortunate ones were painted orange. They would eventually fall to a loggers chainsaw. We were called "Timber Beasts" by our cohorts who had jobs less stressful to the forest than creating small clear cuts. I envied them. My job wasn't fun other than the times we got to spray paint a cow who wandered within our range.
When the weekend came about, stumbling through the woods was the last thing I wished to do. I was then 21 years old, brimming with testosterone and energy. The bright lights, big city of Sheridan or Story or Lovell or Buffalo, Wyoming beckoned. I visited bars, drank beer and looked at pretty cowgirls. (I still like going to bars and looking at pretty women. Somethings never change.)
In retrospect, I never got the chance to notice the beauty that was all around me. I was in the freaking work mode. I'm now making amends. I spent over a week and many trail miles in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. It is indeed an amazing place.
See for yourself.
BTW: In a round about way, my first gig as a Bighorny led to my eventual career as a firefighter.
Yes, the West is still the best part of America. In the next few months, I'll prove this with words and photos.
From Garryowens, Montana
PS. In case you missed my first post from Cloud Peak.
Thank You, LBJ for signing the Wilderness Act of 1964