I have written before about growing up in Indiana. A first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection to the west in the flat lands and cornfields, or why I would, as writer, end up writing Westerns. To the contrary, there are plenty of western connections in Indiana…but that’s not the point of this post. I might explore that idea further one of these days, though.
I was lucky enough as a kid to spend time with my grandparents. My favorite pass-times included fishing (they lived on a lake), riding bikes with my grandma, or sitting in front of the TV (a big, long console that also had a record player in it), eating ice cream (plain vanilla), and watching the Ed Sullivan Show. The best part of that experience was listening to my grandmother laugh if there was a comedian on. She had the best laugh. It was real, deep, unbound, and unapologetic. If something was funny, you knew it.
But my most favorite time was when my grandma would pull out the pictures from the trips they had taken. She would tell me the stories about their journeys, the troubles they had, the people they'd met, the things they saw, or the sad reasons why they had to hurry home.
One my favorite trips they took was to Mt. Rushmore, and then on to Yellowstone. As you can imagine, it was Yellowstone that captivated my imagination. I was probably 6 years old when I first saw those pictures—and I can’t tell you how many times beyond then, at my urging, that I sat on the floor going through those pictures and those stories with my grandma.
This was my first introduction to the west, other than what was on TV at the time, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, etc. The pictures, however, made the west real. If my grandma and grandpa could go there (the first time was in 1953 before there were interstates, and the second time was in 1959), then surely, I could go there, too, when I grew up.
And so I did.