The plains roll like the ocean here. Green, tan, brown in undulating patterns stretching farther than the horizon. Cattle dot black specs across public land; an occasional camel, elk, llama. A rancher’s mansion sits nestled into a hill twenty miles south of Cheyenne, where Wyoming meets the Colorado border, a twenty-foot high cross declaring it God’s Country. A buffalo sculpture juts into the sky not far beyond.
Men here tip their hats when they meet you and say, “Much obliged,” when you give them a cigarette. Women wear rhinestones on their back pockets, their boots, their hats, their nails. Guns are fine and everyone has one, but my trucker mouth garners startled looks in the supermarket, and I think I’ve offended the Mennonite family buying pasta.
An hour to the west, the foothills of the Rockies shoot up from the ground, memories of glaciers fill scoops of land with clear, cold water full of fish as long as my arm. Marmots stretch out, sunbathing, draped already like a fur stole about a pair of fair shoulders. Quartz and barite tumble underfoot as you climb up one hill, then down, then up, then down, then up while the elevation steals your breath. The sun, unrelenting, scorches patterns into the back of your neck, dry heat be damned. Close to the trail head, green flows thick like molasses in the shade of gnarled, wind-hardened trees and mule deer hop down rocky embankments I’d surely lose my life on. Wildflowers pop: bluebells, Indian paintbrush, cow parsley, some purple daisy-like delicacy I don’t know the name of. Chipmunks flick their skinny tails in light that falls like rain between the leaves, and we are forever on the lookout for moose.
There is nothing, then a town, then nothing, and the Rockies shrouded in haze, forever constant, unmoving and watchful, to the West.