ers and newly planted trees, fresh coats ofrnpaint—but there had been other recentrnsubtractions besides Bill; among themrnScott McPhee (whom I remember as arnWestern FalstafF decanting scotch half arnfifth at a time on the Commissar)’ Commandos’rnannual foray into the wilderness),rnChetty Buck (dead at 35 from thernhantavirus “experts” claimed couldn’trnsurvive as far north as Wyoming), andrnBill Thoman (struck by an oilfield worker’srntruck as he stood beside his pickup onrna rig road, viewing a band of sheep out onrnthe sagebrush flat through binoculars). Irnstayed over the weekend at ThomanrnRanch, waiting for Don’s Chevron tornopen up Monday morning and realignrnthe front end of my truck after it hadrnchewed two brand-new tires down to thernsteel belting on the 290-mile drive fromrnLaramie, and catching up on the newsrnwith Mary, her mother Mickey (Bill’srnwidow), Laurie, and Dick, one of severalrnsons who lives with his family a few milesrnaway across the Green River. Except forrnBill’s absence, nothing much seemed tornhave changed: The Thoman family wasrnstill pulling together to turn a profit inrncattle and sheep in spite of depredationsrnby bears, weather, the market, and thernEPA. Mary and I ate out together Saturdayrnnight in Rock Springs; Sundayrnevening we had supper in Mickey’srnkitchen and went down to the sheep pensrnafterward to vaccinate the bucks. BobrnThoman, in Kemmerer with his familyrnand in-laws for the funeral and wake,rntook the time before driving home tornRiverton to show Laurie how to adjustrnthe clutch on the Peterbilt truck she’drnbought the year before and was usingrnnow to haul asphalt for the widening jobrnon Highway 189 north from town.rnDressed in old jeans and a torn plaidrnshirt, Miss Rodeo Wyoming 1994 joinedrnher brother on her back under the chassisrnto see how the job was done. “You’ll havernto do this every ten or twelve thousandrnmiles,” Bob told her, “so be sure you understandrnexactly what it is I’m doingrnhere.”rnWyoming weather and geology—therncold, the aridity—are the principal reasonsrnwhy business and a sizable laborrnforce are in no hurry to gratify the state’srnpostmodern boosters by moving here.rnAnd the reason the natives, and tiie transplantsrnwho feci like natives, don’t want tornsee them come is their attachment to arndeeper, better grounded, more humanrnexistence than what the New Westernersrnfrom Colorado and California would imposernon them. Number One, the postmodern,rnhigh-tech, suburban life is impractical:rntil fact, it’s deadly, a fishtiap forrnhuman beings. “We have all these people,”rnCarolyn Chute says,rnwho can’t do anything who wouldrnhave been farmers. rhe”d be surviving.rnThey can’t anymore:rnThey’re living in slums, trailerrnparks.. .. How many survival skillsrndo your children have? How manyrnkids today can provide for themselvesrnfood, tools, clothing,rnwarmtii?rnNumber Two, it doesn’t satisf}’—morally,rnspiritually, or even physically. SusanrnFaludi, in her new book Stiffed, analyzesrnwhat she calls “ornamental culture” (thernculture of the last 30 years or more)rnwhich, being “[cjonstructed aroundrncelebrity and image, glamour and entertainment,rnmarketing and consumerism,rnis a ceremonial gateway to nowhere.” Ifrnwomen in the 1950’s were significantlyrnshaped by the male view of what a womanrnshould be, more recently the transformationrnof a utilitarian cultiire into an ornamentalrnone has feminized men byrninsisting on success through displayrnrather than demonstration, surface insteadrnof resource, the marketplace, notrnthe workplace.rnA socict)’ of utilit}’, for all the indisputablernways that it exploited men’srnhealth and labor, and in an industrialrncontext broke the backs andrnspirits of factor}’ workers and destroyedrnthe lungs of miners, hadrnone saving grace: it defined manhoodrnby character, by the innerrncjualities of stoicism, integrity, reliability,rnthe abilit)’ to shoulder burdens,rnthe willingness to put othersrnfirst, the desire to protect and providernand sacrifice.rnIn the new economy and the culture it isrncreating, men—and women—are oftenrnnot certain what their job (“managing,”rn”facilitating,” “expediting,” “coordinating,”)rnis, let alone what use it has, whatrngood it really does. What Susan Faludirndoes not appear to grasp is that the misdirectionrnof the modern technostructure isrnnot the problem, but its fundamental inhumanity.rnMost people are made to workrnwith their hands, to work with tools thatrnoperate directly upon the natural worldrnor on machinen,’: to pick clods of clottedrnearth from the turned fields, to sense thernmouth of a bitted horse through thernleather reins, to feel the warm blood of arnfreshly killed bear or elk on their hands,rnto cut down a living tree. For these experiencesrnthere is simply no substitute, andrnwhen the world has become a placernwhere the large majority of the populationrnknows nothing of them, while fearingrnand hating the minority who do, itrnwill be a world running to Bedlam—andrnColumbine.rnIt’s a pity, I guess, that some of thernyouth of Wyoming have to leave thernstate —or feel they do, perhaps encouragedrnby conferences like the recent onernat UW—to find what politicians callrn”good-paying” jobs offering, besidesrnmoney, “security” and “a future.” Truthrnis, few if any jobs today offer either securityrnor future (as Miss Faludi demonstrates).rnAnd, if that is so, why not, likernthe Thoman family, live where you likernand do what you love doing? Is there anyrngreater benefit or joy to be got from life?rnAs for those native sons and daughtersrnwho can neither find a place in the localrnlife and economy nor really wish to —rnwell, Wyoming isn’t going an^’where, tiiernroad they left by is still tiiere, and Christmasrnand Thanksgiving make good excusesrnto visit home. Finally, there’s retirementrnto look forward to (if the golfrncourses of Phoenix and the condominiumsrnof Los Lunas, New Mexico, are notrnirresistible by then).rnIn the meantime, Wyoming remainsrnthe last best place for an American remnantrnknowing exactly who they are andrnwhat they want—and don’t want—fromrnlife: a sort of reservation for leftover frontiersmenrnmore than happy to share itrnwith the disinherited tribes—the Arapahoernand Shoshone—whose society theyrnprefer to that of the suburban swarm andrnthe global mall-trotters. People who likernliving otherwise have already succeededrnin taking over most of the rest of therncountry, so why begrudge us our measlyrn97,000 square miles of sagebrush andrnbentonite, ice and cold?rnNorth of Durango, a cattle drive onrnColorado 550 last fall ran into trouble atrnboth ends when a southbound car toppedrna rise and plowed into the herd at 50rnmph. Minutes later, an enraged motorist,rnencountering the drive from thernrear, cursed the horsebackers from thernopen window of his car while repeatedlyrnbumping the cows with its front end. Ifrnthis man really is the face of the NewrnWest, tiien who needs him—and it? crn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn