Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Pearl of the Laramie Plains, 1975

It is the dead winter of early 1975 in Laramie, Wyoming and the author of the recently published Pilgrim of Tinker Creek , Annie Dillard, has written Dad that she's interested in moving there and wanted to know what Laramie was like. At the time Dad was earning $12,000 a semester to teach and give lectures there and, in his small apartment, he tried to finish off Friendly Fire "so that I can afford to feed my family for another year". We were back in Connecticut and some of us were driving my stepmother crazy.
Anyway, here are some of his lines about "The Pearl of the Laramie Pains".

I don't have a car here, so I go everywhere on foot. And the whole town can be covered in a day. Laramie wasn't even here until the 1880's, it is a railroad town, cattle ranches with small herds on huge acreage because there is no water. The Laramie River, for example, a small boy could jump across and, failing that, walk across without being greeted as a Messiah...

The town, itself, is filled with one-floor, white frame, semi-ranch houses with picture windows looking out on picture windows. The streets are named after Lewis and Clark and Fremont and Sheridan...and a marvelous one called Sublette after the French explorer who discovered the fiscal advantages of student housing. There are vast numbers of cottonwood trees around here, but few birds. That may be because it's winter. Or it may be because of the altitude (7200'+) which brings me to my knees. Or it may be they are trying to tell me something.

Dad wrote his friend Peter Neill he discovered a Park Avenue in Laramie:

Park Avenue here deadends into a drainage ditch followed by miles of gently rising plains broken only bu high tension lines, US 80 and three fuel storage tanks.

Well, I for one, would have been scared away. Annie Dillard would win the Pulitzer Prize for Pilgrim that year and wound up teaching the next four years at Western Washington University in the book loving city of Bellingham.

Annie Dillard

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