I grew up in southern Wyoming. Where I went to high school, you’d see guns in lockers during hunting season. There was a student parking lot at the junior high schools for the ranch kids. The public golf course by my high school often had antelope problems. It’s the type of place where people tilt at windmills not because they didn’t realize it was futile, but because SOMEONE needed to teach that windmill some manners. You don’t leave the work for others, you lace up your damn boots.
Wyoming is a place of stunning, shocking natural beauty. Cynically I feel it’s a good thing that it doesn’t have enough water to support more people. They’d probably just screw it all up. There are places in the state where you could fall asleep at the wheel and wake up 200 miles later in the same lane. It’s vast and towering. It’s the state that can hold the Tetons and Yellowstone without making the rest of the state seem drab. If you want to feel small and awed by the audacious, insane spectacle of the natural world visiting Wyoming is a perfect choice.
However, at least when I grew up, it was a state that feared change. A state that didn’t encourage or reward new ideas. A state that couldn’t figure out how to honor the past and inspire the new at the same time. Most of us left because the state had no room for our dreams. So She and I moved to the Midwest. To Minnesota. A state of stunning, shocking natural beauty. A state that encourages individualism and new ideas. A state that wants its children to think carefully and dream big. It’s the type of place where people tilt at windmills not because they didn’t realize it was futile, but because to not do so would be rude. And because it was part of the job and the job had to be done right.
So here I am, the product of these two places. I’m someone who’s been in a bar fight or two, but is terrified at Halloween and can’t stand masks. I know how to hunt, but don’t like the hours or the killing. I can survive out in the woods with a pocket knife and fish line, but am never sure how to open the hood of my car.
We are the outcome of our experiences. Every day, from our first to our last, we gather moments. From a distance those moments resemble moments that everyone has. But every one of those moments was uniquely ours. Experienced in a different way. My first day of school was not your first day of school. And each day added a new moment, an experience that added up to each of us seeing and reacting to the world in a different way. Each of us added layers and layers of nuance to what we felt and believed. And that amount of chaos creates individuals, exceptional and unique.
Every day my two sons are collecting their moments. Their first days at school did not look like my first days at school. Their favorite moment isn’t my favorite moment. The words that inspired me are not their inspiration. They are busy at work writing their own story. And it won’t look much like my story. Maybe they’ll believe in small government and think the income tax is unconstitutional. Maybe they’ll become rabid football fans. Maybe they’ll decide pepperoni is a cliched pizza topping that flourishes because of the unimaginatively lazy. Maybe I’ll just be their weird old tattooed, pierced liberal dad. But I don’t care because the men they’re building out of those moments are men I’m very excited to meet.