2013-09-25 / Editorial

WESTWARD

Don Lively

I didn’t know who Horace Greeley was back then.

I only knew that he was reputed to have penned one of the most iconic and repeated quotes of the 19th century.

"Go west, young man."

Other than that literary tidbit I couldn’t have articulated the difference between Horace Greeley and Jethro Bodine.

But, even in my ignorance of his place in America’s history, I did take his advice.

I went west.

One hundred and eleven years later.

I’d only been to Colorado once and had only spent ten days there but I knew immediately that I wanted to eventually make it my home. Later I spent a whole summer there to see if it was all I hoped it would be.

It was.

So, that fall after I completed my education at the world’s greatest university over in Athens, I started preparing Mama for my move. My mind was made up. I was headed west.

She didn’t think I’d really go. She kept encouraging me to seek jobs locally and maybe marry “ that cute Reeves girl “, apparently unaware that the cute Reeves girl had been married for three years to somebody that wasn’t me. It finally sunk in to her the day before I left. Even then she told me that I’d be moving back soon.

"Soon" turned out to be thirty years.

Mama didn’t understand what had happened.

I had discovered my beloved Out West.

It was a good fit right away except for my new friends, sisters Cindy and Sherri, making me repeat everything I said. At first I thought they were making sport of me until they confessed that they liked my accent. Up to that point I didn’t know I had one. I thought it was them.

I was back Out West last week. My eldest still lives there and I spent a week reliving the three decades I called it home.

I drove up Lookout Mountain, not the one in Tennessee featuring Rock City, the one directly west of Golden, home of Coors beer. Atop Lookout Mountain is the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody, the western scout, plains hunter and showman. To this day there is a standing reward offered by the good folks of Cody, Wyoming for the return of Bill’s corpse to their town. Consequently, Bill is buried under twenty feet of solid concrete.

Typical behavior for ornery westerners.

The night time view from up there is magnificent. When I first saw it I was awed that you could see the whole metropolitan area of Denver. These days the lit up area is twice as big. Whole cities now exist where only coyotes and mule deer roamed when I first arrived.

Apparently millions of young men, and women, took Mr. Greeley at his word.

I know why.

The West has to be experienced to be understood.

Like Santa Fe, New Mexico with its adobe architecture, Indian Market featuring turquoise jewelry and pottery fired with horse manure ( Yea, I know, it sounds icky, but it’s really beautiful. ) and an opera house as fine as any European venue.

Or Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border with its towering sandstone buttes where I once visited with the ghost of John Wayne. I still need to tell you that story one day.

Speaking of towering natural wonders, Wyoming has Devil’s Tower, where the space aliens landed in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. The tower was impressive, like a thousand foot high tree stump. I didn’t see any little green men though.

Montana has Yellowstone, an American jewel.

South Dakota boasts Mount Rushmore with its stone presidential faces, and North Dakota has more church goers per capita than any other state. I’m ashamed to confess that the Sunday I spent there I played hooky from worship services.

Then there’s Kansas. I can’t think of much to say about Kansas except that it’s five hundred miles across. I know every inch of that five hundred miles like the back of my hand since I traversed it a hundred times en route to and from the Blessed South.

Still, Out West will always be my second home.

A big hunk of my heart is there.

By the way, Horace Greeley was an author and newspaper man and a leader in something called the Liberal Republican party who campaigned for socialism and vegetarianism.

Proving that a person can be so right about some things, "Go west, young man," and so wrong about others.

Thanks anyway Horace.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of Howlin’ At The Dixie Moon. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com and visit www.DonLively.com.

Return to top