Sunday, July 24, 2016

" Who Needs Hell When You Have Wyoming?"

Dear Uncle George,

I have decided a state is my nemesis.

I don't know Anne Proulx.  Candidly, she sounds kinda of nutty but we should have a conversation.  We seriously have something big in common:  we can't stand Wyoming.

Here she is.  We practically look like twins.


She writes fictional wild-west tales that include Satan in Wyoming.  You know the one, where the Prince of Darkness is moonlighting as an interior designer, brainstorming the look of eternal damnation.

I know what he has gone with...a winter motif.  Lavished in bright red velvet (a given), snow and wind.  Lots of wind.

Having been to Wyoming three disastrous times (not including that one visit to an old boyfriend) I can totally believe it.

And if by chance, you want to visit Hell on earth, I know the port of entry:
Casper (aka The Great Terrible).

The answer is Casper, Alex, for $100.

My last letter to you included the news that I was going to go back to Casper in February 2016 to photograph Martin's Cove for the Church.  I tried to go in 2015, but there was no snow.  No snow.  No story.  No story.  No pictures.

My heart tries to trust in the unseen, so I thought this year, "Man, wouldn't a little snow be great?  Snow to tell the story of the handcart pioneers."

I made plans.  I even bought special snow boots.  Hand warmers.  Gortex.  My first Gortex, ever.  I mean, I am a freaking Alaskan.  How hard could it be?

Don't try to play me, Casper.  I am on to your shifty ways.

Literally, the minute my plane landed in Denver (not kidding--that very minute), it began to snow.

Enter stage left...Blizzard Kayla.



A scheduled trip of three days became a trip of seven days, three of which I spent trapped in my hotel room.  A hotel room in The Great Terrible?  Yeah, it's all that and more.  All that.  The good news is that the local Chinese restaurant was the only place that stayed open, so I feasted on Asian ethnic food that is as good as could be expected in a town that based it's name on a misspelling.

If Anne had been in the state, I am sure she would have invited me over and fed me freshly slain cattle meat.  But obviously she is aware of the hardships of winter in The Great Terrible and has moved to Seattle.  Thanks for nothing, Anne.

Finally, the storm broke.  I was able to drive the 64 treacherous miles to the site.  And as they say in Star Wars, "This is where the fun begins."




It was actually pretty in it's own sort of way.  For about 8 minutes.


Martin's Cove has a long, tender pioneer history that I am not skilled enough to write. However Wikepedia is because, hello, everyone knows what you read there is totally true.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin%27s_Cove

Their story is beyond remarkable.  Catastrophic, actually.  And that was what I was there to photograph.  Catastrophe.  How do you do that?  "Engage wholly."


So I did.  At a cost.  

I feel like that "little snow" was not about me.  It was about the people who lived the story...the pioneers.  And my small photography offering was to help tell their story.

I gave what I could.

I can say that because, at this very moment here in Kansas City, we are in the middle of a "heat dome" (heat wave 110* with index).  And I can feel my frostbite burning in my hands and feet.  

Even with all my Alaskan grit, my winter wear planning, and my fancy 6 hour hand and feet warmers I got frostbite.  Freaking Wyoming wind.

With the combination of the snow storm and the -15*, my body did not have the fortitude to combat wind as well.  


The Great Terrible defeated me those couple days.  Me, as a person.  Not me, as a photographer.  And here is how I know:

 https://history.lds.org/subsection/mormon-handcart-sites?lang=eng

Many of the summer shots are mine.  But those winter shots...those winter shots own part of my soul.  
The actual trail

The missionaries on site make their own period costumes

There is a working ranch.  It is called the Sun Ranch



Missionaries live there year round. 
They are the toughest missionaries.  Ever.

My favorite picture


This is what frost bite in the making looks like  :)

I like a church that wears many hats


I wish I could say that I finished all the photographs I wanted to take but I can't. More snow arrived, and after the interstate reopened, I got the heck out of Dodge, er... I mean Cowtown.  

A big shout out to you, The Great Terrible, because you won.

In the words of some other religion I found on-line:  "There is no place on Earth closer to Hell than Cleveland."  

Whatever, Cleveland.  Have you seen Wyoming's interior design?  Anne and I know a guy... :)

Love,
Valsy


1 comment:

  1. I love this...as a girl who grew up in Wyoming...I love this. And I love you for making the best out of a miserable time and taking some very awesome photos!

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