Heading West

Heading West
June, 2020

We had been on the road for over a week when we pulled into the grocery store parking lot in Sheridan, Wyoming. Sheridan lies in the Goose Creek Valley, on the eastern slopes of the Bighorn mountain range. It is the 6th largest city in the state, which makes it not very big. In case you didn’t know, Wyoming is sparsely populated. Tulsa county has more people than the entire state of Wyoming. As I recall from my youth, Wyomingites tend to have an independent, still-frontier streak about them, at least the ones I knew.

I suppose many towns in Wyoming seem like cowboy towns, but Sheridan certainly is one. Just drive through the picturesque downtown to see storefronts with names like Kings’ Saddlery and Brian’s Boot and Shoe Co. As with other Wyoming towns though, it’s not able to have its parade and rodeo this year. But the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo was quite the event, as I remember as a child.

This is where my mother was born and raised, and where my parents met. Her parents arrived in Sheridan by covered wagon in the early 1900s, emigrating from Poland. They were soon trying their hands at ranching. When we were kids, my parents would bring us to Sheridan and the Bighorns for vacation. It was always a wonderful experience and seeded my love for the West.

Julia was captured by the mountains’ allure 39 years ago. Her first trip west of Oklahoma was to the Bighorns. A 5-star resort may have made for a more spectacular honeymoon location, but crossing that rickety wooden bridge spanning North Piney Creek and pulling up to the log cabin my aunt and uncle had built by hand was all we needed or wanted.

A Surprise in Store

Anyway, back to the store’s parking lot. We were there to re-stock our little fridge and pantry before driving over the Bighorns heading west to Yellowstone. As Julia and I prepared to enter the store, we both put on our masks and independently wondered to ourselves if we would stand out as overly-cautious tourists in a town of hardy pioneers, ranchers, farmers and the like.

Much to our surprise, as we entered the store and dutifully followed the directional blue arrows on the floor, we noticed most everyone else was also wearing a mask – employees and customers alike. It made us feel like we were back in Tulsa, shopping at the local Whole Foods Market. We’ll leave it to the scientists to decide how many germs our masks are stopping from entering and exiting our faces, but it was a relief to see so many being worn. As a result, instead of our new normal of “grab and go”, we calmly walked up and down most of the aisles, looking for things that we might need for camping out in Yellowstone for 10 days. Thus, the preponderance of masks helped this local grocer transfer a few extra dollars from the pockets of these two Okies into the hands of the citizens of Sheridan.

After filling the van with diesel, we pointed it towards Cody, Wyoming, another quintessential western town, nestled between the Bighorns and Yellowstone. However, the geysers and falls of Yellowstone were calling loudly so we didn’t stay long. We spent the night at an RV park where fellow travelers didn’t seem to care too much for masks, as Julia quickly discovered based upon her brief experience in a small, crowded laundry room.

Next stop – glorious Yellowstone.

Bob and Julia

The look you get when encroaching on someone or something in Wyoming
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