Sunday, February 21, 2016


     The Enemy of All Coyotes ducks her head and squints into it as we go outside to do the morning chores at first light. She’s no sissy, the product of a thousand generations of sheep-herding border collies, but the wind nearly topples her. Little beads of decomposed granite, the exfoliated skin of the Laramie Range 30 miles west of here, sting her nose and bounce off her wooly back. Usually she makes a pass along the west side and into the back pasture before she lies down in a spot where she can watch for intruders. But today she sticks close to me, still squinting, hoping for signs that we’ll be going in soon. It’s been blowing like this for five days straight. Steady at 35-45 MPH, gusts over 60. At first, you don’t pay it much attention. It’s just part of living here. But after a certain period of time, something inside you wants it to stop. Now.  
     I don’t know what it was like to live in a tipi here 200 years ago. Maybe the Cheyenne and the Arapaho moved down off this wind-scoured plateau until the grass greened up. I would have. But I think I can imagine fairly easily what it might have been like to be some poor soul in a sod house on a homestead claim, with kids cooped-up and clamoring to go out and dust sifting in all day and all night. It’s a wonder more of those women didn’t go berserk. Some of them did. And some of them just left. They couldn’t do it anymore – couldn’t stand one more day of the screaming wind. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who had to explain to that woman what was so precious about 160 acres of cold, dry shortgrass prairie when the wind had been blowing like this for a week.
     A friend of mine recently remarked that Wyoming is the only place where communities vie for bragging rights on who had the worst winds. We’re a long way behind our neighbors to the north right now. The weather service clocked winds near Clark at 103 MPH. A friend on the north end of the Bighorns measured a gust at 106. But it’s not the gusts that wear on you. They are by definition fleeting. It’s the day in, day out banshee wailing. It’s the grinding, incessant, never-ending howl that gets inside your head and makes you want nothing but out of here. 

     A newcomer here on the llano once asked, “Does it always blow like this around here?” To which the old-timer replied, “Nope. Sometimes it sucks.”


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