Fields of Gold

July 10, 2001

You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley.
You’ll forget the sun in his jealous sky as we walk in fields of gold. . . 

                                                     — Gordon Sumner (“Sting”)

I want to go to Wyoming. In Wyoming, people live on ranches or in towns with wooden sidewalks. There are no big supermarkets or Wal-Marts, just individual shops of different sizes and designs attached in rows. One of them is a saloon with swinging half doors that go from neck to knee. In Wyoming the sky is blue and the fields are gold and green and everyone owns a horse. The vista stretches unbroken along amber waves of grain, and you can ride your horse on out into forever in search of adventure.

That’s the vision I have had of Wyoming since I was ten years old. I was a dedicated fan of the Saturday morning TV show My Friend Flicka, which was set in Wyoming, although it was filmed in California. But I didn’t know that, and I took the hills and canyons where young Ken McLaughlin and his horse met adventure as authentic Wyoming. I also watched Fury, the Story of a Horse and the Boy Who Loves Him, set in the less appealing Texas (and also filmed in California) and dreamed of being adopted by Ralph McCutcheon, who owned and trained the glossy black stallion.

But I learned from reading the source, Mary O’Hara’s novel My Friend Flicka, that a mare was a better choice as the companion animal for a youngster, so Flicka and her environs became the paradigm of my fantasy life. I was a city girl, however, living in half a double house with a patch of back yard barely twenty feet square, and the closest I ever got to a horse was the time the Budweiser Clydesdales visited the beer distributor up on Seventh Street, and I was allowed to go along with my older cousin whose passion for horses was much more indulged by her mother than mine was by my mother. (These women were sisters. My cousin refers to her upbringing as “haphazard.” I regarded it as perfect.)

Last year an on-line friend, Susan, moved from Massachusetts to California, traveling by car over the northern route. She asked her readers for requests for postcards, and when I wrote her a Godspeed note I asked for a postcard from Wyoming. Evidently some little corner of my heart still harbored my youthful desire.

Susan was making the move that I see I should have made at the same age, although I recently cautioned my younger self that to have done so would have profoundly altered the life I have now. As I followed the progression of Susan’s new life in her on-line journal, I began using the postcard as a marker in my paper notebook, and I think that, over this year, going to Wyoming, by myself, has become a symbol for my ability, even at fifty-four, to do new things and take modest risks.

I still have a way to go in this regard. It is hard for me to do something just for the pure joy of doing it. My first impulse was to find something useful or valuable to do in Wyoming. A search of the Shaw Guides to Writers’ Conferences and Workshops turned up one given in August each year at Breteche Creek Ranch in Cody, Wyoming. The details of the 2002 conference are yet to be determined, but I’m on the mailing list. I have half the money already, and a determination to follow through.