Two years ago, on a trip east to attempt reconciliation with my father, I visited the old Sodergreen Ranch. It had changed. A rich construction magnate from California bought out three of the working ranches there, including that one, and lives in a fancy new house without ranching the land. He just drives around in his earth-moving vehicles, tearing things up.
The log house I lived in – a beautiful building with dovetailed joints and fourteen rooms – had burned down years ago, and was replaced with a mobile home.
The old wood bridge where we used to read in the summer sun, or fish, or play, had washed out, and was replaced with a narrow, nasty construct of concrete, as friendly as a slap in the face.
The barn was cold and empty. The old cabin we lived in before moving to the big log house had been hauled away. Most of the corrals and sheds had been destroyed.
All but one of the old ranchers and cowboys I grew up with were gone. Instead, the prairie between Laramie and the ranch was dotted with ugly prefabricated houses on tiny lots.
God knows why anyone would want to live that way. In that country, three acres is barely enough for a goat, and on the prairie, there's no shelter from the wind.
Only the land remained.
I walked across the bridge, through the hay meadow and over the beaver dam on the slough, and then across the prairie to Jelm Mountain. I climbed all the way to the top.
It was like land that man forgot, owned by God and his creatures. Deer and antelope were everywhere. Several times I approached fawns to within twenty feet. As I crossed the slough, a moose waded from the water.
I tried to recapture my connection to that land, but I have changed, and my former connection was intertwined with the rest of my childhood. I didn't have the days it would take to rebuild the connection, and left disturbed, dissatisfied, and deeply sad.