“You Can’t Go Home Again”

52 Pick-Up 2.0, #18, 5/5/2020

Nita Reinhold: “Why does Walt not live on his family land? Is there a back story short on the making about Walt’s younger years? As in the missing years?”

There’s one other visit, but I think the most that’s mentioned concerning the Sheriff’s ancestral home out on Buffalo Creek is in The Dark Horse, and I can still hear those handmade hinges his father made on the main gate as Walt visits… First up, I’ll deal with the practical aspects of why Walt doesn’t live on the family ranch and then move on to the others.

1) Distance.
The Buffalo Creek area of Absaroka County (imprinted over Johnson and portions of Sheridan County) would actually be larger than most New England states, and since that area is roughly an hour from Durant (Buffalo), a lot of it on dirt and gravel roads, the commute would be a killer. Being a sheriff, Walt has to be accessible to the office and the county, and it would simply be too far out for that to be feasible.

2) Practicality.
The Longmire Ranch is a working ranch, and from personal experience I can tell you that it takes a lot of time and energy to be a rancher, with not much left for being a sheriff.

3) Emotional Resonance.
I’m afraid the place holds a lot of memories for Walt, some of them good and some of them not so good. The relationship with his parents is something I’ve barely explored, along with the teasing of his explosive conflict with his grandfather, all of which are issues I intend to investigate in future novels. Still, I think it would be hard for him to live there on a permanent basis and be haunted by the people that were so dear to him.

4) A New Start.
It’s good to remember that the location of Walt’s home, the small cabin at the foot of the Bighorns, was not his decision alone. Martha’s family were big ranchers, and I’m sure there were opportunities within her family, but I think they both preferred to start anew without the baggage of either family. I think, like all of us, they had great dreams of what the place would become, but with Martha’s illness and subsequent death—Walt was left to his own devices. An unfinished house and a dog with no name are central to who Walt is, and even with the incredible support group he has, there’s always going to be something missing in him, something lost.

5) Pockets of Domesticity.
In Land Of Wolves, we get introduced to the cabin in the mountains that’s been handed down in Walt’s family, a place where he can’t even step through the threshold due to familial history.

There are numerous locations in the Longmire Universe that I’m looking forward to
exploring, whether it’s in flashbacks or modern day. There are scenes that play out in my head of a younger and older Walt interacting with family members long gone or ones in the future we haven’t even met. I think our lives are like a river that collects the tributaries of our family and friends, stories that make us fuller and deeper than we are on our own, plunging forward and being unafraid of joining the sea, because we are the sea.

​I’ve been writing about Walt Longmire for seventeen years and I sometimes feel as if I’ve barely tasted the waters of his life, and maybe that’s the way it is with all of us—there’s just so much more than we’ll ever be able to drink.

See you on the trail,

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