I sat into Taylor’s car with great excitement. This was officially my first road trip in America and I had great company in Taylor, Chinmay and Harrison who we would meet in Laramie. Harrison is one of Chinmay’s closest friend in America and Taylor is Harrison’s little sister. What really excited me so much was that both Taylor and Harrison have spent most of their schooling years in Wyoming and they almost call it home. This meant I would have a first hand commentary on the history of Wyoming and some great insights into the state. As we hit the road there was divine music playing on the stereo. It was nothing like something I had heard before. Taylor is Masters in Music and did her specialisation in the instrument Oboe. So what she had playing on her stereo was one of her recitals of Mozart’s piece. I made a mental note of listening to some more of him. The music was divine.
With Mozart playing in the background I indulged into some scenic sights all around me. The road from Denver to Wyoming is one of the most beautiful drives I have ever been in. After an hour and a half we entered the state of Wyoming. The only thing I could see till my eyes could take me were farms, hills, beautiful horses , cattle and windmills. There would just be one or two houses in all that land. Wyoming is one of the least populated states in the country. Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming has roughly around 60,000 people living in the city. Laramie , the city that we were going to be in for the next two days has a population of not more than 35000.
After a small pit-stop at Harrison’s place we left to hike in the mountains , destination – Medicine Bow. As we hiked , we got into some great conversations. Wyoming as a state in the late 1800’s wanted to secede from the United States but they didn’t succeed. Wyoming essentially as a state had nothing but farmlands. In the early 1800’s there were only the American Indians who lived here. The Government knew that they needed to give people some incentives to encourage them to come and live in Wyoming. Hence came the Homestead Act in 1862. This Act gave people land for a very meagre amount and if the family living there took care of it and made profits out of farming in the land after five years, then the land officially would be given to them. This led to some influx of people into the state. The most exciting thing of this state are the Cowboys and the stories of the Wild West that come with them. Cowboys are nothing but cattle herders and people who take care of their ranches. As the state started doing well newer people started coming in, thus making the old settlers of the region insecure. This led to many wars. The richer ranch owners would hire gunmen to kill the small ranch owners. The Johnson County War is one of the most talked about wars in the State. ‘The Invaders’ are the famous bunch of 200 men of the state who gave a fight to these hired gunmen to fight for their own lands. These wars are the sole inspiration to the romanticism of Hollywood with the West. (Taylor has given me a list of movies that I need to see)
My most favourite story came on the second day, when we visited the Wyoming Territorial prison. It is the oldest and the only territorial prison still standing. It was the story of Robert Leroy Parker. Does that name ring a bell? Let’s try this one, “Butch Cassidy”. Now? Butch Cassidy is a hero and a villain at the same time. American history still struggles with putting him in a bracket. Butch Cassidy was an outlaw, one of the most wanted , but never caught criminals of the country. His stories especially in the West have been told from generation to generations. More than hatred these stories have wonder and amusement in them. Butch was on the run every time and was absolutely loved by people. He would give away most of his steal to the poor and had an image similar to Robinhood. Butch has a great history with Wyoming and especially Laramie. Wyoming was the state were he was first caught for stealing a pair of jeans and some pie. He was imprisoned in a territorial prison in Laramie and then eventually pardoned after six months. The stint in the Laramie prison was the only imprisonment he ever served all his life. It was the beginning of a dangerous career. Butch Cassidy was killed in Bolivia. The romantics though say that he was still alive much after that, and that he died much later. His death is still a mystery, just like his life was!
As I discovered Wyoming I also discovered the great bond between Harrison and Taylor as siblings. They have such a great bond that it almost melts your heart. Their father is a millionaire and he got all his money through his oil business. Their parents don’t own a house. What they own is a really cool RV truck in which they live and travel the whole country. Both Taylor and Harrison are self-made individuals. I couldn’t but help compare this scenario with our Indian culture. Are our parents capable of not looking after us ? Of not owning a house and living in a truck? Would I be able to live like Harrison’s parents? The older and (hopefully) wiser I get . I have realised there is no one right or wrong way of doing things. Truth is just a personal manifestation of things. Everything is subjective. The end result needs to always be living a life with no regrets.
After our tour in the prison we headed to the Washington Park where they had barbeques and live country music playing on the eve of 4th of July, America’s Independence Day! It was a great atmosphere. People sprawled over the gardens with kids, food and the cutest of dogs. There was free ice-cream and hot dogs. The food was priced really cheap and was really delicious. America celebrated her 239th year of Independence. America’s celebration of independence made me feel so proud of India. We are just 67 years old and we have already achieved so much as a nation. When we compare our infrastructure, jobs, salaries and what not to America and rest of the developed economies we forget that they have been here so much longer than us. When in the night America had a brightly lit , beautiful sky with all the fireworks I missed India more than ever. That beautiful sky didn’t mean much to me. Fireworks only make sense to me in Diwali. It doesn’t matter in which part of the world I am I will always be an Indian Desi. Butch Cassidy might be a favourite here but for me Gabbar Singh will always be the cooler villain!