OCTOBER 1966

It happened during the epic Baldwin Family Migration west.  We left Pittsburgh, our trusty station wagon loaded with 7 kids under the age of twelve, 2 parents, 1 surrogate grandma, a new puppy, and a roof rack loaded with enough food and luggage to last 10 days.  Our destination: California.

Dad liked to take the scenic routes.  Hence, we parted ways with the interstate highway in Sheridan, Wyoming in favor of a winding two-lane “short cut” through the Bighorn National Forest.

xxx

About half-way up the east slope of the mountain we encountered a freak blizzard, and Dad, not being one to admit defeat, drove on.

We arrived in Greybull, Wyoming 12 hours later – what should have been a 2 hour drive – cranky, tired, and hungry.  Unable to free the frozen ropes from the frozen tarps that encased our frozen food on the icy roof, we had breakfast at the Wagon Wheel Café, aptly named for the dilapidated wagon wheels leaning against the fence … evidence that we were not the first family to break down in Greybull.

Sitting at the rustic wooden dining table, I glanced across the room to the counter.  There, propped on the foot rail level with my eyes, was a row of cowboy boots caked with bits of straw in dried mud.  Attached to every pair of boots was a man wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a hat.  Cowboys!  Not the Roy-Rogers-all-spiffed-up-for-TV kind of cowboys.  Real cowboys!

I was hooked.  Right then and there I fell in love with the wild, wild, west … a love affair that continues today.

I’m not a great city dweller.  I love the big open sky, the dirt, the hundred different shades of sage, the brilliant orange sunsets, the sound of a horse thundering across open land, skin that has been weathered by sun and wind, sleeping outdoors, food cooked over an open fire, and a fortitude that defies the elements.

Years later I bought my first pair of cowboy boots.  Where did I go?  To the boot shop in Greybull, Wyoming.  It was a long drive from San Francisco … and worth every mile.

I’m NOT DONE YET with cowboys.  Or horses.  Or boots.  Cowgirls are good, too!  There’s just something about a pair of worn jeans, shit-kicking boots, and an attitude that says “I thrive in the great outdoors.”

Recently I’ve been yearning for a pair of fancy ostrich-skin boots for dancing.  Know where I’ll go?