Politics Foreign Affairs Culture

To the Republic for Which Wyoming Stands

In Wyoming, reality cannot be denied, only reckoned with.

(Sharon Govender/Shutterstock)

After living in Wyoming for a year and a half, I have realized the state is more like a separate nation than a full-fledged member of the United States.

Take the issue of “safety,” for example. In other states, safety means that no one should be allowed to say something that could upset you. Here, it means carrying bear spray and a gun when you go hiking and filling up your car when you have fewer than 100 miles of gas left—because you won’t see civilization for that long.  


In Wyoming, BLM means the Bureau of Land Management, not Black Lives Matter. Every time I mention BLM land to someone back East, I need to explain.   

In Wyoming, violence means a physical altercation, not misgendering someone whose personal pronouns don’t match his or her biology.

In Wyoming, Liz Cheney is frequently an expletive, not the apotheosis of political statesmanship and integrity.

Do not expect names to resemble traditional spellings in Wyoming or to follow spelling conventions. There are Jaysens, Jacens, Jaysons, but seemingly no Jasons. And Kortnis and Kortneys, but no Courtneys. And Kynnedys—but not Kennedys. Are the spellings a brand of freedom? 

Hunting is a rite of passage for boys—and girls—in Wyoming. I’ve never seen so many social media posts of beaming young women with their deer, elk or antelope—one even wearing rubber Crocs. I can’t recall seeing any such posts from families in Tennessee, our former home of five years.  


In Wyoming, no one wears Orvis to shoot—except in Jackson.

In Wyoming, some people shoot all the meat they will eat in a year. Ever met anyone like that outside this state? I haven’t, even after living in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South.

In Wyoming, it is totally normal for a group of home-school moms to sit around and talk about which animals they had butchered and processed and which they would be willing to—with a spit cup on the table for chewing tobacco. (Maybe this doesn’t happen in Jackson.)

As I know from personal experience, in Wyoming, your neighbor might almost shoot your dog and call the sheriff because the dog trespassed and wandered too close to a prized stud horse. Said neighbor might also become a friend after giving a proper apology.

But I learned your neighbor might steal your irrigation water if you just moved from Colorado, because people from Wyoming don’t like people from Colorado, or people from other states, either. As the bumper sticker says, “Wyoming is full. I hear Nebraska is nice.”

It does not make sense to own an electric vehicle in Wyoming, unless you would like to spend 15 hours driving 178 miles. Winds that regularly top 60 mph, sometimes for days, shorten the battery range. At least at present technological capacity, commerce would shut down and lives would be lost if the government mandated electric-vehicle use here.

In Wyoming, bravery is jumping a grizzly bear attacking your friend, not boldly posting on social media about how a bouncer fat-shamed you at a nightclub.

If your children play sports in Wyoming, you could spend 12 hours on the road to reach a game and back—or longer, if a road closes due to wind or snow, as is not infrequently the case. And I used to think two hours was a haul.

In Wyoming, it is not unusual for a contractor to write his invoices in Sharpie on leftover scrap wood from his current project and leave it on your doorstep.

In Wyoming, it is your responsibility to keep other people’s cows from entering your property, known as fence-out laws. So, if a bull wanders onto your unfenced property and destroys everything in its path, you must pay for the damages.

In Wyoming, it is abnormal not to see a herd of antelope or mule deer daily. And in different seasons and locations, you're bound to see massive herds of elk, bison, foxes, badgers, bears, wolves, coyotes, bald eagles, owls, and many other magnificent creatures. I always scan the horizon while in the car in anticipation of seeing something. In Wyoming, people keep binoculars in the center consoles of their vehicles (mostly trucks) for a reason.

No one could paint anything more beautiful than a Wyoming sunset. They never cease to mesmerize, nor do the views of the mountain ranges. To live here is to be in a constant state of wonder at creation—and humility at what it could do to you if you are not prepared.

I have started to think, in my time here, to quote Elsa Dutton in Season 1, Episode 5, of 1883, that “cities have weakened us as a species. Step into the streets without looking and the carriage merely stops or swerves; the only consequence an angry driver. But here? There can be no mistakes. Because here doesn’t care.”

Wyoming is a place where human frailty is daily self-evident and nature’s rules reign. It is a place whose landscape invites introspection and contemplation rather than escape into an online universe. And it is a place where reality cannot be denied, only reckoned with. 

I can’t imagine feeling more at home.


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