“Ah, Wyoming. It makes Nebraska look picturesque.”
Dismissing both Wyoming and Nebraska with one practiced parry, the wit represents the confluence of heritage (Italian), upbringing (New Jersey), and training (courtroom litigation). But, as we find to our sorrow the next day as we drive from Utah to Nebraska, the comment is not just witty: It’s true.
Indeed, driving along a seemingly endless stretch of Interstate 80 through southern Wyoming, we find only two redeeming aspects to the scene laid out for us.
First, the top. As in Saskatchewan, the sky is half of what we see, and seems like more. Blue skies are smiling on, umm, us, but somehow the effect is still less than whelming.
Second, the edges. Along Wyoming’s borders the scene briefly becomes scenery, as some actual landscape slops over the respective state line. From an embarrassment of riches, Utah contributes red, rocky cliffs, Colorado offers snow-capped mountains, and Nebraska shares gently rolling farmland, curving rivers, and (gasp!) trees.
But most of our traverse of the Equality State looks not like Utah, Colorado, or Nebraska, worse luck. Most of it looks like this.
And so, with not much to look at, I have a bit to think about. Mostly how to scrunch Wyoming, preserving its make-your-neighbours-look-good contribution to the Union, while minimizing its make-your-tourists-feel-like-a-patient-etherized-upon-a-table effect. I am confirmed in a view I first developed in university: My day-to-day has no need of T.S. Eliot.
Home again, I begin to investigate what I’m sure must be numerous online rants about Wyoming (“Scrunch it Now!”), engineering analyses (“Three Feasible Options for Scrunching Wyoming”), and literary criticism (“Iconic Wyoming Imagery in T. S. Eliot’s Mature Work”). Imagine my surprise when my search turns up nothing of the sort.
Curious, I Google “images of Wyoming” in an idle moment, and a State entirely unlike the one I was just in bursts into view. What the heck? Over.
A quick review of the map helps. Along yet another edge—one we did not drive along—Wyoming is graced by Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Apparently this counterbalances a whole whack of truly tedious landscape; presumably it also explains the online forbearance, otherwise inexplicable in our “gotcha, flame ‘em” times.
We could find deep meaning here, I’m sure. Intellectual musings about not jumping to conclusions, not judging the whole by one part. Moral musings about the importance of what we look like, when pushed up against our neighbours. Philosophical musings about personhood, when we are defined in part by our boundaries with our neighbours. Even poetical musings (non-T.S.-Eliot-type, by preference): “They also serve who mostly make their neighbours picturesque.”
Me, I just hope that I give—to myself, others, and life in general—the same forbearance Wyoming gets: tolerance of some boring and even ugly bits, in light of some beauty, here and there.