The chain from age 4 to 64Aug 8, 2014 By Chris Peck
Last weekend I retraced all the Wyoming links
I turned 64 in Wyoming over the weekend.
Paul McCartney of the Beatles imagined this was a truly ancient age when he wrote his 1967 classic "When I'm Sixty-Four."
The song appeared on the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album. Look it up. It was one of the best albums ever -- back in the day.
I remember the album. Indeed, 64 did sound really old back then.
Yet last weekend, the living, breathing 64 seemed so spry!
And seamlessly connected to 54, 44, 34, 14, even 4.
Looking back on our lives, we all can see the connections.
See how one year links up with another, and a third, forming an unbroken chain of events that conspire to push you all the way to 64.
Over the weekend I decided to follow those links back.
My earliest memories go back to age 4.
I remember sitting in my dad's newspaper office in Riverton, with my blanket, listening to the tap-tap-tap of his two-fingered pecking away on an black manual typewriter as he polished off another story for The Ranger. It's why I became a journalist and lived that life until, well, 64.
My memory next took me to age 14 --and the Fremont County Fair talent show. I sang "Blowin' In The Wind" with a guitar. The crowd clapped politely. I was no Bob Dylan. But I still love the song. Look it up, too.
At 24, I remember visiting Crowheart Butte with my girlfriend --now my wife. My grandmother, Ina Smith, lived in a log house just south of the butte.
She baked us an apple pie that made a fine impression on my bride to be. Not to be outdone, my wife of 37 years still calls upon Grandma Ina's recipes.
Between 34 and 44, Wyoming grew large as the favorite place for summer vacations with my two kids. We drove south and east from Spokane, through Montana, across the Tetons, over Togwotee pass to the family homestead there on West Main, where my brother and his family now live.
My kids still recall those as the best vacations ever with driveway basketball, parades in the Model T, and shopping at Maurice's.
At 54, Wyoming had become tinged with loss. My mother had died. My dad was about to grow ill from West Nile virus. Classmates from Riverton High School Class of 1968 were showing up in the obituaries.
And suddenly, 64.
In all, I drove from Riverton to Dubois over the weekend to jog my memory and see what had changed.
The roads are better than I remembered from childhood.
More big houses fill in along the Wind River, particularly in the upper country.
Satellite radio improved the reception as I drove along.
Yet in many ways, the land, the sky, the feel of the place remains fixed and fine.
The stark beauty of thriving sagebrush against the rising horizon of mountains and sky is unmatched anywhere.
The river, the red rocks, the reminders that this is a place where native Americans have lived for centuries -- it all flooded back and filled in the spaces that let me know where I come from.
At the end of my 64th birthday, the gratitude of being from Wyoming warmed me on a starry night.
Editor's note: Chris Peck retired recently as editor of the Memphis (Tenn.) Commercial Appeal. He lives in Memphis.