Jackson hole, Wyoming, is an enjoyable little tourist town full of outfitting shops, restaurants, and fit-looking outdoorsy people who mostly drive Jettas and hybrids. It reminds me a little of Boulder, Colorado, where everyone bikes, snowboards, hikes, and listens to Phish or gets thrown out of town. If — or when — I settle down again in America, it will hopefully be in one of these trendy towns.
The main square of Jackson Hole is very pleasant to walk around. Since light pollution in the mountains is a no-go, there are giant orange flags on busy street corners. I had no idea what they were for until I watched a local walk up, take a flag from the holder, and cross the street with it high above his head so that he wouldn’t become roadkill.
On the other side of the street, he deposited the flag into another holder for someone walking the opposite way. I love how analog this system is and might be the only working thing in town if the computers crash.
Squeezed in between trading companies and T-shirt shops are also bars like the “Cowboy Bar,” where Clint Eastwood is sometimes spotted (maybe that explains the crazy prices in this town). Expensive or not, any bar good enough to lure in Dirty Harry deserves to be checked out, so I waited until the sun dropped and walked into the sprawling place.
The first thing that I noticed was that the bar stools were full sized saddles…which didn’t look too comfortable. The second thing I noticed was about 40 cowboys — all noticing me. As I stood there in my fake North Face jacket (courtesy of China last year) and Sketchers rather than boots, I might as well have been dressed like one of the Village People. Even over the drone of Hank Williams I could hear the sharp buzz of tension. Had Clint Eastwood been in there he probably would have spat something brown on the floor in disgust.
Suddenly, apart from the self-preservation feeling in my gut that I should exit quit, a startling realization came over me: these were real Wyoming cowboys! Sure, they were the type that could afford Clint Eastwood prices and probably drove Jettas back to their ranches, but there they stood in their vests, hats, boots, and Wyatt-Earp mustaches. With no tourist show in town, it had to be…they were the real deal!
Suddenly, I wished that I knew even a minuscule amount of knowledge about their world so that I could strike up a conversation. My best effort would have been something to the effect of: “I take pictures of horses back at home!” I opted to stay quiet and return their stares with a steely nod as if I had just finished branding two dozen cattle before riding into town and tying my minivan up out front.
I gawked around the place at some of the taxidermy and other displays and then collected my pride and exited to find a place without a gun-check window at the door. As the door swung shut behind me, I could hear conversations about things way over my head resume and even old Waylon Jennings went back to singing about the cowboy way of life.
I could really get used to a place like this.