I have traveled more this summer than I have… um… in a long time. In fact, I have traveled so much that my brain feels like it’s scattered across the continental United States. Including Alaska. Because, hey, Alaska is on the continent, even though there’s some Canada in the middle.
Which is not a complaint–I love traveling, and I’ve had an amazing time rocketing back and forth and stuff. I’m just kind of stupid.
I have a theory that the deal with jetlag is that your body travels at the speed of sound or whatever, but your brain is in a covered wagon behind two oxen on the Oregon Trail. Kind of getting jostled. And it takes a while for the twain to re-meet.
So here is where I just got back from: Wyoming. Where the buffalo roam. And the elk, and the bison, and the antelopes, and the horses and stuff.
I got to go stay on my Uncle Bill’s ranch outside Cody, which was pretty fucking awesome. Here is what we ran into on the driveway, on the way in:
These guys are just kind of pets, who wander around. I thought that was pretty great. But then one of them decided to scrape the paint off the rental car’s hood with his teeth. Not so great.
And, frankly, he was a little pissy about it.
Which seems a little entitled to me, considering what the hood looked like.
But hey, it was totally beautiful there, even though there are wolves and you kind of shouldn’t go outside without “bear spray,”
and so maybe it’s not so great if you’re a young elk (this was also on the driveway, BTW):
But, seriously, beautiful… here is one of the trout ponds:
And here is one of the 183 alligators that Uncle Bill shot last winter in Florida:
Uncle Bill likes to shoot stuff. He is very, very good at it. He taught me a bit about shooting while I was there, too. I kind of suck at trap shooting, as it turns out. I only hit one clay pigeon on Saturday, and one on Sunday. Out of about 50 each day. So, you know, MASSIVE suckiness on that front. And I think he was a bit disappointed.
(This would be me, NOT HITTING ANYTHING)
Thankfully, I did better with the crossbow:
Here is what I hit:
Not too shabby.
And also, he loaded up a nice pistol for us and let us shoot at the range he’s set up on the place:
I did okay with that, too:
Although when I posted this pic on Facebook, I got shooting tips from no fewer than four men. Only one of whom I actually know in real life. No women offered comments–perhaps because I didn’t actually ask for advice? Testosterone is funny stuff. Go figure.
Also, I beat Uncle Bill at chess three times. Which was pretty great. But then again, he’s 93 and he’s only been playing for a year. And he beat ME six times. So… well… it’s kind of like the time my sister sent a postcard home from Switzerland in eighth grade that said, “Dear Mom, I was in a ski race the other day. I came in third. Unfortunately, there were only three people in the race.”
Although as my sister likes to point out in retrospect, “the other two people made the Swiss Olympic ski team, so I didn’t suck THAT badly…”
Don’t even ask how many times he kicked my butt at Go. Because that’s just embarrassing.
But the best thing about being there, other than the fact that Wyoming is so gorgeous:
(this is where we stopped to picnic, on the drive up from Jackson)
Was getting to hear Uncle Bill’s stories at dinner.
I posted a link to the interview he did with a naval research institute magazine about getting shot down in the Phillipines during WWII the last time I posted here, but I got to hear way more details about that adventure in person.
Like, about how he had a COMPOUND FRACTURE of his leg and they were on the island for six weeks, and he made himself a crutch out of the bomb cradle from this Japanese plane that got shot down a couple of days later–wrapping the metal with the shrouds from parachutes in the Jap plane. Which had thirteen dead guys in it.
I asked him what they ate while they were there.
“Coconuts,” he said. “Although I did see one of those Komodo Dragons, and thought maybe I could get it so we could grill it and have it for dinner, but then I realized that it was going into the plane to eat the dead Japs, so I decided against it.”
They finally got the two guys in the best shape to build a raft and go to another island for help–from the Phillipine guerrila fighter dudes. They finally got picked up by a submarine.
“What was that like?” I asked.
“Food was good,” he said. “Always is on a submarine. But the view’s terrible.”
He ended up in a hospital in Australia for a couple of months. The guy in the bed on one side of him had his arm in a sling after cracking up a Jeep. Guy in the bed on the other side had his leg in a sling. He told Uncle Bill that everything had been going fine “but then her husband came home.”
Uncle Bill has a Wyoming license plate with a Purple Heart on it. And he totally earned it.
Also, he told me about going hunting with my Great-grandfather Fabyan in the Twenties, which was pretty great to hear about. Bill is the eldest of my dad’s eight siblings. So, the stories about family stuff go way back. Which I love.
(Uncle Bill is second from left, top row. Sorry this is such a crappy repro–photo of a photo, taken with my phone.)
And he gave us his passes to the Buffalo Bill Center, in Cody. Which is an incredible museum.
They have astonishingly beautiful paintings of the west:
And incredible Plains Indian artwork:
And then we went to Bubba’s for Barbecue:
Which was pretty damn fabulous:
Also, I learned how to make really good buttermilk biscuits from Billy, who works on the ranch. He’s from Florida. I made sausage gravy, which Billy said looked relatively authentic. Though he makes his gravy from sausage he makes himself, out of wild boar he shoots in the Everglades.
He made his biscuits with Crisco, for us, but at home he makes them with lard he renders from the wild boar fat. The dude is SERIOUSLY awesome. And he’s also a rocking crossbow coach. Well, and pistol coach. We said we were psyched to get to do “biscuits, bows, and bullets” with him.
Uncle Bill has asked me to come down to Florida to shoot alligators, which I totally want to do this winter. But I’m also hoping to taste some of that boar gravy… and more of Billy’s biscuits.
Anyway, the whole trip was astonishingly wonderful. And we scattered some of my dad’s ashes on one of the trout ponds–under some falls where he always suspected a really giant trout was hiding.
I also loved getting to go to the bone store with my stepmom and half-sister–and travelling with them generally:
Even though my half-sister kicked my ass at trap shooting:
I am hoping I get to go back to Cody some more, because it was lovely, and Uncle Bill is fabulous. And also, I need more practice shooting so I don’t embarrass the family quite so badly.
For now, though, I have to go back to being a Democrat.
Though I did return to New Hampshire with a souvenir:
And some very fond memories:
So, hey… thank you, Uncle Bill!
What’s your favorite thing you’ve done this summer, o dearest ‘Ratis?