How to Live Well in the Wilderness

Transformations in daily life, now taken for granted.

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UPSPackageI found the box with my new IPhone on the drivers’ seat of my car, which I had left unlocked on a trip to town last week.

The UPS driver, recognizing my car from many visits to our driveway, wanted to save himself the long trip out to my house. So he popped it in and drove on.

I find this remarkable on several levels: The fact that I can leave my car unlocked in this small town, without a second thought. The fact that the UPS driver recognizes my car and chooses it as a delivery point. The fact that I can easily get a new IPhone without even having to leave my house.

Maybe you have to be born well before the last millennium to appreciate this. The first folks who settled in the valley that we see from our window wouldn’t be able to comprehend it at all. They had no such thing as a telephone, and they were snowed in for the winter.

It was a RamshornSnowday’s long trip into town, what with the long slog through the snow to the highway. For the most part, whatever you had by October was what you got by with until spring.

When Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, he fasted and was tempted by the devil. These days, my greatest temptations arrive when I leave this wilderness and go back to a place where shopping is easier.

When we decided to move here, I used to wonder how we would manage in a place where great merchandise was no longer available around the corner or, at most, a few subway stops away. A few decades ago, I would not have dreamed of living in a place like Dubois, partly for that reason. I had no idea what transformation the Internet would bring to our everyday life.

In fact, I can have anything I want, if I’m willing to wait a day or two and pay the shipping costs. When you consider that there’s no income tax in Wyoming, I actually come out ahead.

I’m even farther ahead if you consider that I don’t often find myself wandering into a shop, drawn in by something in the display window, and come out with something I neither need nor really want. I feel this same pull even as close as a trip to nearby Jackson. But here in Dubois, I buy only what I really need.

FedExAnd given crowd-sourced reviews on the Internet, I usually wind up with the best product — not whatever brand happens to be in stock in the store I’m in.

Rather than paying (what is it now?) $20 each to watch whatever latest movie is on the big screen in the cinema two blocks away, we now troll around Netflix and the Roku channel. Thus we often catch truly wonderful films, either great obscure independents or big-screen features that we missed when they first came out.

A few nights ago, it was Night Train to Lisbon, an intriguing story and a wonderful mini-vacation, an escape to a distant city I visited long ago.

The next evening it was Finding Forrester with Sean Connery, a few hours’ enjoyable return to the world of New York City that I’ve left behind. All this with a glass of wine in hand and some healthy popcorn for free.

SahadisWe don’t even have to leave behind some of the best that we enjoyed in that city. There on my kitchen counter is a bag of the best coffee beans we have ever found, fresh (well, since frozen) from Sahadi’s, our former go-to Middle Eastern market on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. We place an order on sahadis.com, and find it at our doorstep a few days later — along with the same olives, nuts, spices, and gourmet teas we used to enjoy in our kitchen back in New York.

Sahadi’s was one of the few things I thought I would miss from my former life in the city. But I don’t.

And I can hike or snowshoe around the corner, rather than just shopping. How we are blessed.

© Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.

Lights Down. Leota’s Gone from Dubois.

She left the ranch and became a phenomenon.

Back in the city, a neighbor’s death was the loss of one thread in a rich tapestry. There were so many others weaving in and out.

Rainbow_croppedHere, it’s more like the fading of bands in the rainbow, a loss of our brilliance. In recent weeks, our light has dimmed with the sudden absence of several townsfolk — a beloved young man lost too soon to cancer, an elderly businessman important to the town’s growth, and now Leota Didier.

With her passing, I think we’ve lost the bright vermilion stripe. Alas.

Leota had a special place in my heart, because she gave us our first glimpse of Dubois when we stayed at the Lazy L&B dude ranch 30 years ago. She and her husband Bernard, a retired Presbyterian minister, had bought the ranch 20 years earlier. That was on a side trip during a vacation in Denver, when she had thought they were headed to California.

“My husband was a funny man,” Leota told me once. “He got urges.”

LazyLB “He heard there were marvelous buys on dilapidated ranches in Wyoming,” she recalled. Having formerly run church camps, Bernard got an idea. “Before the week was over,” she went on, “we owned a ranch.”

By the time we got there, Lazy L&B was far from dilapidated, but it was folksy and friendly. Having grown up on a farm in Iowa, she knew well how to handle animals, and I guess as a minister’s wife she had also learned how to deal with people

When we returned to Dubois decades later, I was pleased to find that she was still here. I invited her to tea, and then came to know her better.

In the meantime, Bernard had succumbed to Alzheimer’s and passed away. Leota had left the ranch, moved to town, and become a phenomenon.

CuttingParty2015The “L” in Lazy L&B, Leota was hardly lazy. Among many other blessings, she helped to move the historic Dennison Lodge to the center of town, where it became an events venue (and pity the person who left a mess in that kitchen!).

She installed large bronze statues by local artists in the town square, and was heavily involved in helping to create the new assisted living center at Warm Valley Lodge, where she spent her last days.

I saw her most often when I would help out at the weekly square dance selling soft drinks. She would always sit at the door and stamp hands as people paid their fee and came in. I have great photos of my young children at the square dance decades ago, and I’m sure she must have been at the door back then.

LeotaEven last summer, after she had moved to Warm Valley, she would never miss this duty as long as someone would pick her up and take her home after.

Tall and patrician, she dressed with elegance, even as she grew stooped and slow. Always slim skirts and fitted jackets in the muted colors of the West, and always that signature hat.

I bought the sassy red hat below in the thrift-shop auction one year, thinking it must have been a donation from her. That was her style: Classy and bold.

She told me she had not donated that hat. Who knows; at that time her memory was fading. I can’t pull it off with her style, so I seldom wear it. But in any case I think of her whenever I see it.

Hats_cropped

“How are you?” I asked, the last time I saw her, only weeks ago, at church.

“About as well as could be expected,” she replied, with a gentle echo of her former husky laugh. Typical Leota: Ironic, straightforward, candid.

Her devoted wrangler, Max, posted on Facebook about her death, inspiring a flood of responses.

“Leota was a true original,” someone wrote. “She was a Pioneer and a woman of substance. She had a great heart and an energy and a drive that was legendary.”

“She did so much for so many people and the town of Dubois,” replied someone else, “and most of the time nobody knew.”

Another post said that nobody could fill her shoes.

“Or hats,” I replied. Max gave that a “like.”

© Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.

How Dubois Gets Lost Online

The highway over Togwotee Pass has disappeared!

PassHighway022514_4Have you ever been steered down an utterly ridiculous route in your own neighborhood by a digital navigator? Then you’ll appreciate this.

Helping out at the Dubois Chamber yesterday, I took a call from an unnamed man who has visited Dubois before and wanted to return.

“Have they removed the highway between Jackson and Dubois,” he asked, “the pretty one, over the Togwotee Pass?”

I laughed and said of course not, that in fact it has been recently improved.

“Well, I was looking on Rand McNally’s online map,” he said, “and that highway doesn’t exist. I thought maybe the Indians took it away.”

I laughed again, thanked him heartily and looked it up. Sure enough, that household name of highway maps and atlases, Rand McNally, routes people from Jackson down to Farson, across South Pass, through Lander, across the Reservation, and back west toward Dubois. A 287-mile, six-hour trip that ought to take about an hour and a half:

RandMcNallyDirectionsJacksonDubois

US Highway 26/287 does not appear on their map. The (more or less) straight line from A to B has vanished.

Needless to say, I immediately contacted Rand McNally’s online support about this problem, pleading with them not to rob Dubois of its lifeblood, as tourism so important to our town’s economy.

In return, I’ve received ticket number 1094112 and a promise that my submission will be reviewed.

I probably couldn’t hope for any response at all from Google Maps, which directs everyone wanting to go from Denver to Jackson to head straight west on boring old I-80. It doesn’t even suggest the possibility of heading north at Rawlins and exploring beautiful Wind River Country, heading up that gorgeous valley past the Wind River Reservation and through that lovely green stripe between Dubois and Jackson at the top there:

GoogleDirectionsJacksonDenver

At least MapQuest offers both routes, with the information that the route through Lander takes an hour longer. Of course, nobody looking at the online maps would understand the difference between an overnight in Rock Springs and an overnight in Lander or Dubois. Pity there’s no easy way to convey the scenery en route.

Maybe this will come along with virtual reality  mapping.

DuboisWebcam121715Last evening I attended a town meeting to consider a new project to improve traffic flow through Dubois. My husband and I cast sidelong glances at each other when the consulting engineer from another town spoke about potential “loss of service” and the results of traffic monitoring, which showed little evidence of traffic jams.

We knew this already.

Part of the objective is to prepare for future increases in traffic. I didn’t think to ask whether he has any contacts at Google or Rand McNally. Perhaps he knows something I don’t know.

© Lois Wingerson, 2018
You can see new entries of Living Dubois every week if you sign up at the top of the right column at www.livingdubois.com.