What could be more American than the wild mustang? There are several bands of horses scattered throughout the middle of the U.S. and though their genetic makeup differs, they are all hardy, healthy, intelligent survivors.
Last week I drove into the Devil's Canyon recreation area, northeast of Lovell, Wyoming and into southern Montana in hopes of a mustang sighting.
I was blown away by the quiet majesty of the painted desert terrain – massive red rocks and a curving cliffs that look down 1,000 feet to Bighorn Lake.
Armani and I went swimming.
I meditated for a minute atop these cliffs, while flying birds and wind swished past my face.
And while I was on my way back from the canyon, I spotted this guy:
Here's how close he was to my van:
"The first casualty of the Iraq War was from Powell. His funeral was here at the college. There were talks of protests. It was a really difficult time… Wyoming is a very traditional state…. I think that might have toppled it (the sense of unquestioning patriotism) a bit."
— Rowene Weems, director of Powell's Homesteader Museum
This is on the side of the video store, which I thought was pretty cool!
Ilene Olson is news editor of the twice-weekly Powell Tribune, circulation 4,000.
The city of Powell has just 5,300 residents. Not all the paper's subscribers are residents; many once lived, worked or attended college in the town. But that's still a pretty impressive percentage rate!
A news staff of four covers the traditional beats, including courts and cops, and makes sure to tell the local feature stories as well or better than its three print competitors, says Olson.
Issues affecting national lands and and agriculture get special attention.
"The reason I started in journalism is really the reason I stay," she says. "I love people and finding out what makes them tick."
The paper and the town turn 100 this year.
"I never did consider myself patriotic because I grew up in the Vietnam era and was a protester. My views have changed over the past few years. I think there's a lot of hope for America (because of) the fact that America was willing to take such a drastic change with the last election."
— Camilla Boykin-Jones, jewelry designer and owner of Indigo Magpie boutique in Cody, Wyoming
I'm in Buffalo Bill's old stomping grounds. He built this tourist-friendly hotel. Guess lots of bikers dig the city of 9,000, too.
This snippet of Constitution is on a garage door!
Don't worry, I'm not going to stop blogging. But I thought I should address a couple things that keep coming up.
People often ask me what my "thesis" is for this project, and that's a great question. You can check out my about page to see why I'm doing this.
As a journalist and amateur sociologist, though, I'm trying to keep my own opinions from heavily affecting what I present to you.
Of course, my "coverage" is bound to be skewed by my political views! Also, because I'm driving my house and dog everywhere with me, I'm sticking to smaller cities and towns, which has so far resulted in pretty poor ethnic diversity.
I'll try to work on that.
I am finding patriots are everywhere!
If I had to choose a thesis for this project, so far, I'd say it's that there is a powerful connection between American identity and wild lands. I'd probably argue that we need to actively preserve and promote our landscape in order to maintain a connection to our rugged, individualistic history.
That may sound 101 to lots of you, but growing up and spending much of my adult life in the suburbs and city, it's actually not something I really connected until recently.
The other thing that's been bugging me is the fact my focus on patriotism is not obvious when you peruse my blog.
Because I'm not getting paid, I've been using this forum as a travel diary in addition to my project. I'll try to stick closer to Americana stuff in the future.
Lastly, you would not believe the juggling act required to post sometimes. Many of my entries have been shorter than I'd like, but just know that I am on deadline – the deadline imposed by a flickering bar of wi-fi and the waning batteries in my electronics.
As always, I love getting feedback so please comment or email me.
And enjoy this mural on the wall in Cody, Wyoming!
I drove through the north loop of Yellowstone National Park on my way between Montana and Wyoming. I almost left without pictures. You'd really have to be there to smell the sulpher and get hit in the face with spray to fully appreciate the otherworldly nature of mud pits and geysers.
It was crowded with people and the weather was rainy and gray through most of the park. But on my way out, heading toward the east entrance, I was blessed to see this:
Eating locally "hearkens back to some values that Americans have always admired, such as sustainability and ingenuity. I feel like our worship of corporate America has totally distorted that. Entrepreneurship and greed have become synonyms."
— Bozeman area resident and self-proclaimed "local food geek" Cherilyn DeVries at the Sabo Ranch event
In Harrison, near Pony, I attended a free afternoon educational event at a sustainable, grass-fed beef and dairy ranch run by Mark and Jenny Sabo. There were programs on a variety of creative and effective sustainable farming and building practices, as well as ranching in harmony with wildlife, living "off the grid" energy-wise, hunting for herbs and eating fresh year round.
For $8 I also had one of the best meals I've eaten in a while, along with a tall cool glass of raw milk.