“I just fell in love.” I can’t count how often the story ends in those four words, when I ask people how they came to be in Dubois. Sometimes “we” is substituted for “I.”
Joe and his wife were rounding the corner at the main intersection for the first time when one of them said, “This looks like a good place to retire.” And so they did.
Dorothy and her family got stalled here with car trouble on the way to Yellowstone. After a week at the campground, they returned to build a second home. Much later, as a widow, she lived here year-round.
We know many instances of young women from elsewhere who fell in love with a cowboy and ended up living here. I wonder whether the handsome young man was only part of a much larger infatuation.
I’ve also heard “I just fell in love” from a Millennial who moved here with her boyfriend, and from the mother of an eight-year-old boy who cried when leaving town after a week’s vacation. The family moved here a few months ago.
I know not one but two couples who traveled the entire nation in their RVs looking for a place to settle, and wound up living in Dubois. One of the couples had lived here before, looked everywhere else, and then came back.
What is it about this place? The charm of the small village in the midst of this vast magnificent wilderness is what takes your breath away at first. What grabs you later and holds on? The welcoming kindness of the people, flavored by their spirits of self-assurance and independence.
We still have to be pioneers to live here (but that’s a story for another day). You sense it once you get to know the townspeople. It’s the same lure that always drew people to the West. Remarkably it survives in Dubois, intact.
It was the vast, empty spaces that won me over first. Airlifted out of a stressful job in the busiest of big cities, I was wonderfully unprepared for what I would find at the Lazy L&B.
I could ride a horse or easily climb up a draw to the top of a mesa, from which I could look out forever without seeing another human being, or even a structure. And I had never before seen anything to compare with what I was looking at.
When I went home I took along cuttings of sagebrush, which I kept in an envelope. Now and again I’d open it to sniff the fragrance, which always made me wistful.
Our courtship with Dubois was more gradual than some. We came back to the Lazy L&B several times, and at one point I took a photo looking up the draw from the river. I took it to a shop on W. 23rd St and had them enlarge it into a poster. Ever after, at several successive jobs, it hung directly across from my desk in my office. I’d look at it when the office politics got too intense.
Once, when my husband had time to kill while picking up our daughter from a wilderness program, he took a look at some real estate here. He called me back in New York with what I thought was a totally crazy idea. Years later, when the son who came along as a toddler on our first trip to Lazy L&B was in college, I surprised him by suggesting that return to Dubois and investigate it as a place to live rather than just visit.
We stayed in town that time. I got my hair done, and listened. We went to Happy Hour at the Rustic, and listened. We went to church, and listened.
At the end of the weekend, much to my astonishment, we had bought a house.
I had been infatuated for decades. Then I fell in love.
© Lois Wingerson, 2017
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