Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I just got back yesterday from a Memorial Day Weekend excursion to Lander, Wyoming. It's a little town under the "Y." If that doesn't make sense, Lander is in western Wyoming. It's got a population of almost 7,000, and if you blink while cruising down Main Street, you might miss it completely.

Why did I go to such an obscure town for such a long weekend? My fiance's father grew up there, and his mother still resides there, as does his identical twin brother with his family. It was time to get up there and meet some of the family.

The drive up was pretty painless. I downloaded Batman Begins to my iPod to pass the time, and we had one mix CD featuring Laura Veirs and Regina Spektor that we listened to over and over. There wasn't as much sage brush as I expected (but don't get me wrong, there was definitely a great deal of sage brush), and the drive was very beautiful. We drove through canyons and over mountains and saw breathtaking scenes of greenery and redrock. We also saw occasional pronghorn antelope and mule deer.

We arrived at the home of Ashton's grandmother, Jackie, a feisty old woman who has recently lost a lot of her eye sight and hearing. She's half British and speaks her mind, a quality someone like me appreciates. I knew it would be sink or splash with her, so I went with splash. The moment we got there she and I started bantering, and after four days of flirting I won her over. When I walked in the front door, she introduced herself by saying, "Let me show you were you're gonna shack up!" She led me to the guest room, a cluttered cell with a tall, skinny bed with a short and solid mattress. I told her I was afraid of falling off the bed and she snapped back, "Well it's all I got, unless you want to sleep on the floor!" I knew we were going to have a healthy friendship.

We spent the evening chatting, eating brownies and ice cream and playing Bespelled, Jackie's addicting favorite computer game. When we got tired of that we put on Raiders of the Lost Ark and went to bed.

The following morning started early, as Jackie and I had professed our desires to go garage-saling. It's her favorite hobby, and she is quite good at it. Her house if chock-full of wondrous amounts of junk and clutter, and most of it was accrued at garage sales. We drove to a special location in town where everyone advertises their garage sales, and wrote down the more promising addresses. We dropped by three or four homes, and we got some decent stuff. I picked up a pair of brown Banana Republic pants, which I later fashioned into cutoffs, as well as some old books. Jackie bought some left handed scissors, a precious commodity I'm told.

After the garage sales we worked in the yard, planting flowers and digging up weeds. Jackie had me transplant some lilies, but I'm quite certain I killed them. I made it look good though. After we got nice and dirty we had breakfast and took off to Sinks State Park. There's a pretty fantastic cavern there where the river just dumps down underground. It was pretty awesome to check out, and the scenery was beautiful.

After Sinks we went to a used bookstore on Main Street, and it was very fruitful. I found just about all of my favorite novels from my childhood, surprised to see that most of them were Newberry Award Winners. My mom was doing something right. As I approach being married I've become more and more fascinated with child rearing and educating, and Ashton and I both agree that a solid foundation of reading is a good place to start. So you'll understand why I couldn't resist buying all these gems, books like Banner in the Sky and Slave Dancer. After that we met up with Ashton's Uncle Michael, and his fireball wife Bonnie, and their boy-crazy daughter Emma, at the only theater in Lander, the Grand Theater, to see Prince Caspian. It was anything but grand. I guess the lack of competition really didn't drive them to upgrade the facilities, because the sound system was very poor and made it hard to follow what the characters were saying. I was also disappointed by how many young children and babies were, revealed by the constant sound of shrieking and crying. I was beginning to wonder if the people of Lander had ever heard of baby sitters. Just a little common courtesy for the cinema.

After the movie we went over to Michael's place, which was beautiful. Michael's built his own barn and they have a nice corral surrounded by an electric fence. Ashton and her mother found that out the hard way. I begged Emma to saddle up a horse for me, even though it was cold outside and getting dark fast. She obliged and got her dad's horse, Calila, ready for riding. Calila is a very spunky, disobedient horse, and likes to show the rider who's boss. Emma rode her around a little bit to humble her, but Calila fought back by throwing Emma off. I was starting to second guess my request to ride, but I felt obligated since I'd inconvenienced her already. I got on the horse and Emma proceeded to instruct me in all this horse-riding advice that was all very foreign to me, which surprised me because I'd grown up riding my grandpa's horses. I tried to concentrate on what she was telling me, but knew in my head that if that horse started bucking, I'd do whatever felt the most natural to stay on. The moment I blew that horse a kiss it started walking, and I had no problem steering it around the yard, until we turned around and decided to bolt into a canter. I was a little startled and felt the adrenaline hit the bloodstream, but was able to get Calila to stop by pulling back on the reins and yelling Whoa! Emma no longer trusted my skills and decided to walk the horse around the yard a couple times. It occurred to me that this would've looked more appropriate if she was dressed up like a clown and we were at some snot-nosed kid's birthday party. After we made a couple laps I asked to go around by myself again, and just as I expected, Calila bolted again, this time running much faster and jumping a little, in an effort to toss me off. More than a little alarmed, I let out a nice yell as we ran behind some trees, leading the bystander to believe that I'd been thrown off. I got Calila to stop finally, and took a moment to catch my breath and let my heart rate subside. Riding this horse was way too stressful!

After we left Michael's we went back to Grandma's and popped in the second Indiana Jones movie, The Temple of Doom. I remembered immediately why I didn't like that movie, and we all fell asleep watching it.

Church was pleasant in Lander. The ward was small and friendly, and slightly reminiscent of the mission. We had a wonderful meal at Michael's and then Ashton and I went for a walk along the Popo Agie river. Shortly after returning to Grandma's it started pouring rain, so we resumed our games of Bespelled and Speed Scrabble. We threw in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and had a good laugh at Michael Caine, and I realized again how obnoxious Steve Martin is. After another round of brownies and ice cream we found ourselves surfing through channels until we finally ended up watching Clueless. Wow. I mean, as if.

The next morning it was with great sadness we left Lander, Wyoming, especially since my iPod was dead and we only had one CD to listen to. Overall the weekend was a fun experience, and a nice insight into what living with the inlaws will be like. Can't wait for the next reunion!


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