On the first day of fourth grade I was handed a small, red, hardback Wyoming history book. It was an ancient text when I used it; I shudder now to think about how the "facts" were represented but that crisp fall day I took it home and read the entire 300 pages. I was so fascinated by the lives of the Indians and the Trappers, of Lewis and Clark's journey with Sacajawea, of the westward expansion and of the cowboys and of the hearty men and women who settled this huge and sometimes harsh land. Did you know that Wyoming was the first state to allow women voters? That's why we are the Equality State. My theory is that the women outlived the men (something about those drunken gunfights, rodeos and Indian wars) so who was left to run the ranches? Cowgirl up, I say!
For years I have been looking for that little red history book with no luck on Ebay or used book stores. I've had my mom hunt for it. Today, she did better than hunt for it. Mom arranged for the boys and I to visit my two room country school house so the boys could see the place and so I could poke around for the history book. The current teacher was kind enough to let us take any books we could find because she is pretty sure the school will be closing after this year. Having only three pupils may have something to do with it! When we walked in the first thing that hit me was the smell. How can a school smell exactly the same after all these years (something like 22 if we are being honest)? Not a bad smell, just old wood, paste and ancient books. Quite comforting, really. I showed the boys the gymnasium where we used to blast Bryan Adams' "Summer of 69" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" on a tape player, the kitchen where we made green cornflake Christmas wreaths and the stage where I sang my first solo. Back in the fifties when Lance Creek was something of an oil boom town the school was quite large. When I was in fourth grade the old building (with gym, library and stage) was falling apart so the county supplied a two room modular building rather like a double wide trailer but more utilitarian. I was one of the first kids to use the current building. My favorite part was the small wood paneled library where I learned about Anne Shirley and ants who lived under the back steps. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. The boys and I had a great time looking at all the old books today and checking the library cards for my name. We didn't find any but we found lots with names that I recognized. And best of all, I now have in my possession my very own dilapidated copy of "Wyoming's People," my fourth grade history book. Yes, I plan on reading the entire thing but probably not in one night. I have to be responsible and feed my children. But hey, I'm a Wyoming girl. I can read and cook!