April 2012

A slight change since March. I am no longer feeling last month’s compelling urge to be sporty. That ended last week when the wonderful blonde I was dating dumped me into an all I can eat buffet of rejection and clinical depression. I don’t want to say I was in a fetal position for the first few days but I was showing up very clearly on sonograms. One of her many reasons for offloading me was she’s just not in love with me. Like any other woman I’ve ever had a relationship with has been? What makes her so damn special?

Right before the romantic coup de grace occurred I was lecturing at a charming museum in Meeteetse, Wyoming, a beautiful ranching community about 30 miles from Cody. I stayed at Meeteetse’s version of the Bates Motel. I was there for two days and I was the only guest. There were no cars; no people; never so much as a light on in the office. The museum director handed me the key to my room and I plunked it into a drop box when I left.

My bed was made very nicely during the day, apparently by a poltergeist. I should have known it was going to be an unusual experience when I noticed the hanging tag on the door. Rather than saying “Do Not Disturb” it said “Do Not Disrobe”. Instead of a Gideon Bible in the nightstand there was a copy of “Suicide For Dummies”. The 24 hour room funeral service was a first. I know, it seems like this is the perfect place to stop the jokes and end this paragraph, but I’m just not going to do that. The shower curtain’s design was of Janet Leigh bleeding from multiple stab wounds.

The town – all four blocks of it – was a few minutes walk from the hotel. First stop, Lucille’s Café. I knew exactly what I would encounter there – the same scene that plays out in every small town bistro in the West. I saunter in (it’s Wyoming – you have to saunter,amble or mosey) and immediately encounter six guys who’ve been drinking coffee together at the same table every day for decades. They don’t even have standard coffee cups – those are obviously for babies – no, these hombres have their own gargantuan size stainless steel travel mugs that are refilled every ten minutes with the liquid equivalent of the Bering Sea.They pretended not to be sizing me up, but I assure you one false move or remark on my part would have resulted in the beating of a lifetime.

The elderly waitress greeted me with “Hello Barry!”. Obviously I’d just crossed over into the Twilight Zone. I regained lucidity after she revived me with either smelling salts or salty smelts and she then explained she had seen my picture in the local paper and remembered me vividly because mine was the only photo that wasn’t of a heifer.

The coffee boys were now deep into an animated conversation about air compressors, but soon launched into a lively discussion about Negroes. I don’t exactly recall the last time I heard the term Negro used, but believe it was about 1970. The fact that there probably wasn’t one within 500 miles of the café was not an obstacle to their conversation and they enthusiastically mentioned how they admire how and I quote “dem people do loves to sing and dance”. It’s always so nice to be around true patrons of the arts, but I had to hightail it over to the museum and so left my new friends behind before they inevitably got around to caving my head in with a lug wrench.

It was a splendid turnout for my lecture and everyone couldn’t have been nicer and there wasn’t a racist in the bunch. On the contrary, these were great hard-working people with a love of the land, a deep appreciation of local history and the kind of open-hearted hospitality you never find in our big cities unless you run into some friends of mine in Cleveland and really, how likely is that?

Special thanks to museum director David Cunningham and to Dan Ochsner and his great girlfriend Karen who allowed David and I to fish for cutthroat trout on his magnificent Flying River Ranch. This is where the deer and the antelope truly play – herds of them. Canadian geese were chillaxin’ on the river – I think Canada geese is the proper name for the honkers, but I’ve always called them Canadian geese and these really were – I checked their passports. Three were from Ottawa. I treated them all very kindly, because as we all know geese are people, too.

I may be nursing a broken heart but my eyeballs are working just fine and I’ve picked a dandy Blanket Of The Month for you. From the Danny McFalls collection comes a magnificent Beacon blanket from the late 1920s. This is about as bold a Beacon pattern as anyone could hope for and is extremely rare. In the meantime, if anyone knows a beautiful single female looking for an expert on Indian blankets, do the right thing and introduce us. I can make her a very unhappy woman.