The FrontierrnAmerica’s Broken Templaternby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnWhile visiting out-of-state friends in Jackson last summer,rnI was involved in a conversation with a just-marriedrncouple who had moved to Wyoming two months beforernfrom Los Angeles for the now-familiar purpose of escapingrndrive-by shootings, berserk retired football stars, and the multifariousrnSons and Daughters of Emma Lazarus. In the course ofrnour discussion my hostess, a lady from Florida, overheard mernwarning them that Jackson is not Wyoming—a remark she laterrnasked me to explain. My reply was an invitation to visit mernat home in Kemmerer and see for herself, but all I needed tornhave said was that the state of Wyoming, unlike Jackson Mole,rnremains a frontier society—as do the greater geographic portionsrnof Montana, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada,rnUtah, and Arizona. Which is why, to answer another questionrnby my friend, I choose to live in Wyoming. Bill Kristol can’trnfind the place on a map, and Father Ncuhaus doesn’t know tornlook for it.rnThe dictionary defines “frontier” as 1) a border between tworncountries, and 2) a region that forms the margin of settled orrndeveloped territory. The American frontier as described by thernprimary definition was erased 20 or 30 years ago, and replacedrnby a no-man’s land along the Southwestern edge of the UnitedrnStates. Strangely, while the frontier in the modern politicalrnsense has disappeared, the frontier of legend is still recognizablernat the end of the 20th century, a hundred years after its officialrndemise was pronounced. Though much—too much—in thernAmerican West has changed since the late 19th century, thernbasic characteristics of the Western frontier persist to this day:rnChilton Williamson, Jr., is the senior editor for books atrnChronicles. This article was originally given as a speech at thernJ 994 meeting of the John Randolph Club.rnspaciousness, harshness, and scarcity on the part of nature; hardiness,rnresourcefulness, and independence on the part of man.rnWhile the Old West is dead and gone, the New West retainsrnmany of its attributes. (Westerners, statistically speaking, arernoverwhelmingly an urban people. The truth behind this oftenstatedrnand apparently contradictory fact is that millions ofrntransplanted Angelenos, Chicagoans, and Northeastcrners arernnot Westerners, and that the life led in Denver, Albuquerque,rnPhoenix, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City is not the Western life,rnwhich dominates territorially, though not numerically, acrossrnthe vast expanses still separating those cities.)rnOf these attributes the first, most obvious, and basic is, ofrncourse, space. In spite of urban growth and the arrival of retirees,rnlone eagles and computer cowboys armed with modems,rnand second-home builders in the most picturesque mountainrntowns, the West today is what it has always been: a fierce wideopenrnplace eager to embrace and engorge the naive and therncareless. Between the Hundredth Meridian and the SierrarnNevada, the wilderness—not wilderness as defined by thernpurist prisses of the Sierra Club, but wilderness in every reasonablernsense of the term—continues to be the overwhelmingrnfact of existence. The second, equally determinant and inescapable,rnis weather, characterized by extremities of heat,rncold, and elevation producing sandstorms, hailstorms, electricalrnstorms, flash floods, and blizzards of Wagnerian proportionsrnthat occur above impassable mountain chains and across perilousrndeserts extending for hundreds of miles. In the ruralrnWest, a bank teller needs to be able to read the winter sky as accuratelyrnas a rancher or game warden in order to reach homernsafely at the end of the dav, while oil- and gas-field employeesrncontend, equally with agriculturalists and foresters, against thernnatural elements. Third, while most of the rest of the nationrn18/CHRONICLESrnrnrn