Please welcome with me our Guest Author — Andrea Downing
WHAT IS IT WITH ME AND WYOMING?
I have no idea when this love affair began, but I do know James Drury playing The Virginian had something to do with it. Drury, the proverbial tall, dark and handsome hero with an air of mystery about him (of course! He was the original ‘Man with No Name’) captured the heart of this newly-minted teenager who already dreamt of riding her horse away into the far hills. Well, those hills now had a name: Medicine Bow, Wyoming—some two thousand miles from my home, and with wide open spaces that left suburban America far behind. What more could I want?
Strangely enough, the name ‘Wyoming’ apparently comes from an eastern American Indian nation, the Algonquin, and is attributed to their subgroup, the Delaware Munsee tribe. It apparently means something like ‘on the great river flat’ or ‘large prairie place.’ However one wishes to interpret it, it was actually named after a valley in Pennsylvania; the name was first used for the territory by an Ohio Representative in Congress in 1865, when a temporary government for this off-shoot of the Dakota Territory was being organized. It strikes me as strange that this name, this state, that now positively resonates with being Western should have such eastern origins. Yet there it is.
The first time I set foot in Wyoming was on a teen trip to Yellowstone. In those days, there were none of the highways that bisect the park and make transit for its numerous summer visitors easier. One could step out of the Old Faithful Inn and take a short stroll down to the famous geyser without feeling you were in an auditorium with a show about to start. But while Yellowstone is most definitely in Wyoming, it most definitely isn’t Wyoming, if you know what I mean. Neither is ski area Teton Village, and a good chunk of the Jackson Hole valley, including Jackson itself, most would say. Gone from Jackson are the “mom and pop” stores, which used to serve a widespread community, and in their place are high-end boutiques and pricey restaurants serving the summer tourists and the winter skiers. Celebrities now have homes along the Snake River, including Sandra Bullock and Harrison Ford, and land and house prices are no longer commensurate with the rest of Wyoming.
Still, I love it here. While I can now talk about the Absarokas and pronounce the name in the Wyoming manner, I know I’ll never, ever be accepted as a Wyomingite. But there is recompense: I can easily drive out onto the high plain areas that stretch east of the national parks while enjoying the out of season quiet in the parks. I must ask myself, if I ever got to Medicine Bow what would I find for me? Now a town of some 300 souls, it still seems to bask in its Virginian connection. I’m sure I’d find a warm welcome along with some interesting historic sites and a wind, I’m told, that can be pretty constant. And ranches resembling Judge Garth’s Shiloh Ranch probably exist.
But nothing, to me, beats the grandeur of the mountains and lakes around the Jackson Hole area. I set my story, Lawless Love, there, as well as my WIP, Dearest Darling. Yesterday I spotted moose, deer and herds of buffalo. I drove down unpaved roads past ranches announcing they’d been homesteaded in the late 19th Century. And then I returned in the 21st Century via my car to my well-heated apartment with views over the Tetons and more moose out the front door.
Heck, even James Drury has moved on. He’s now living down in Texas while continuing, some fifty years later, to make public appearances as The Virginian.
Lacey Everhart has carved out a tough existence in the wilds of 1880s Wyoming, working hard to build a secure life for herself and her younger brother, Luke. She will stop at nothing to protect what’s hers and keep them safe. Even if it means keeping a secret that could destroy their lives.
Marshal Dylan J. Kane is a man who considers everything as black and white, right or wrong. He’s never seen life any other way until he sets eyes on Lacey. Suddenly the straight and narrow that he’s followed has a few twists and turns. Loving Lacey offers the home life for which he hankers…but can he really love a woman who seems to be plain lawless?
Lacey thought of fluttering her eyelashes, but it was such a silly thing to do. How could women act like that? She just looked up at the marshal and waited, the possibilities turning over in her mind, flitting through her head but never settling.
“You wanna tell me what really happened now so we can try to sort this matter? All I can do is promise I’ll do everything in my power to sort it for you, but I cain’t help you less’n you tell the truth. You tell me lies and make me look a dang fool, there’s nothin’ I can do. You understand that?”
Along with the tiniest nod, she clasped her hands together. She looked up at Dylan Kane and saw kindness in that face, a face she could so easily have loved had things been different. She could sense the heat radiating from his body and knew if she touched his chest, a strength would exist where his heart beat. If she ran her hand down his arms, she would find that same strength in his muscle. How she wanted those arms around her! All her life, it seemed, she had looked after herself, cared for her brother, struggled to make a home for the two of them. What would it have been like if Morgan had not…
“Lacey?” Dylan’s soft voice brought her back from her reveries. “You ready to tell the truth?” With one gentle finger, he lifted her chin so their gazes met for a moment before they each stepped back from the brink of something neither could control. “Lacey?” he repeated.
“Yes, I’m ready.”
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC. She now divides her time between the city and the shore and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, came out Sept. 4th as part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series. Three more books are in various stages of progress!
Thank you so much for joining us today, Andrea. Like you I have a fondness for the west and always wanted to visit Wyoming one day. Maybe I’ll get there!