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Give thanks for where you are from

Nov 27, 2013 - By Chris Peck

Be thankful you are from Wyoming.

Thankful for the gin-clear mornings.

Thankful for skies at dusk that look like God's own majestic canvas if he were a painter.

Be thankful that when people think of you in Wyoming, they likely imagine your back yard looks out on Yellowstone Park-like landscape free of squalor, violence or stress.

Wyoming, of course, has some of that. Suicide rates are high. The Wind River Indian Reservation is poor, as are other areas. People get shot and thrown into lakes.

Yet the core of the state's identity is defined by a stunningly special landscape unlike most of anywhere else.

It's vast, empty, open to imagination.

To grow up in Wyoming is, to be honest, a mystery to most people.

They haven't visited. Nor ever met anyone from there.

That's a blessing, too.

When nobody knows where you came from you don't have to fit a stereotype. Like a Californian.

And for many people who grow up here, the fact that Wyoming is a far-from-the-city lights place actually provides more space to be who you want. You don't know that you aren't rich enough, traveled enough, or cultured enough. You just decide who you are and want to be without as much clutter.

Sure, the state has pockets where you have to keep with the Joneses. Jackson Hole comes to mind.

But in much of the state, you are the Joneses. Able to life you want. Do it your way. Even far away from the state that you call home.

That's the part of Wyoming that travels with you everywhere.

I had Wyoming with me when I met my wife in Italy. We were far away from the Wind River Mountains. But she tells me still she could feel that quiet confidence that comes from believing that it doesn't matter where you are from because where you are from prepares you to meet anyone, anywhere and feel confident. That's what Wyoming gave me.

Later on, I carried Wyoming with me to jobs in Montana and Idaho, Washington and Texas, Connecticut and Tennessee.

And it served me well, that cowboy state mentality.

It's a mentality that suggests a little less complaining is better than, perhaps, the bitching level embraced by Bostonians or New Yorkers.

Wyoming mentality calls for more stoicism, something Floridians who grumble about one bad weather day never understand.

From living in Wyoming you know that just because the sun is shining doesn't mean it's warm. You learn that just because it's 20 below doesn't mean people's hearts are cold.

Most everybody in Wyoming knows that.

Once, before 100 channels of cable and the 24/7 Internet, Wyoming had to imagine itself on its own. Less true now.

Today, you can live in Wyoming and swim with the masses -- watching the same shows, talking the same lines, feeling like Hollywood or Dollywood are just next door.

The buffers of place and distance have lessened. By some measure the marvels of modern communication and travel make Wyoming far more livable.

But don't forget the place. Or minimize its place in your life. I haven't.

Listen, and remember. There is something powerful, something deep about saying you are from Wyoming, of imagining stunning vistas and resourceful people.

On this Thanksgiving, be thankful for being from Wyoming.

Love those around you who where sculpted like sandstone on a windy, wide unforgettable plain.

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Editor's note: Former Riverton resident Chris Peck lives in Memphis, Tenn., where he retired recently as editor of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

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