26 Pickup, #14
So, are you going to change your Instagram and Twitter handles to Ucrosspop26?
Probably not… You know, when I bought the land where my ranch is about thirty years ago, there really wasn’t anything much in Ucross other than the Foundation, which is an artist retreat, the U-turn Inn, which was the model for Henry Standing Bear’s bar, The Red Pony, and Sonny George’s Junkyard, which I attempted to immortalize in my novel, Junkyard Dogs. I remember when I told my friend Mike Terry that I was building a ranch on the land he said, “Oh Craig, there’s nothing but outlaws out there.” He was right, and I blended right in.
In the thirty years I’ve been in Ucross some things have changed, the bar and the junkyard are gone, but the foundation has flourished, and we now have a marvelous research center in the middle of town named for my good friend Raymond Plank, who passed a few years back and who was the B-24 Liberator pilot I used as one of the models for Lucian Connally. The foundation is where I do my annual Ucross Longmire Christmas Reading. I miss the bar, it was a raucous place where you’d find Scottish sculptors sitting next to Powder River cowboys, a marvelous cross-pollination of thought and ideas. Though I miss the place, it’s probably better for my writing output that it’s gone—besides I’m a respectable, married man, and I’m not sure if Judy would go for me hanging around in bars.
I don’t think I could’ve chosen better though. I truly enjoy being out on the road and touring all over the globe (by the way Penguin/Random is putting together a monster tour for Hell And Back this year), but my favorite place in the world would have to be Ucross. There’s nothing I like better than writing or sitting by the wood-burning stove and spending time with Judy. I know there are some artists who derive a great deal of their energies from having a lot of tumultuous commotion in their lives, but I’m not one of them. I prefer a quiet, undramatic life—saving the spectacle for my books, and poor Walt.
As a catalyst for your question, yes, the population boom has finally struck Ucross, Wyoming, after forty years and according to our three road signs, our population base has burgeoned from twenty-five to twenty-six… Now, I’ve talked to all my neighbors about the latest going-on, and none of us can come up with any recent additions—no new babies or people moving in. We’re kind of at a loss, and I’m thinking the state is up to some shenanigans in an attempt to bolster the population base of northern Wyoming. Personally, I’m thinking my neighbor and current governor of the state, Mark Gordon is involved with this skullduggery in some way, but I’ll be seeing him at the International Hemingway Association Conference here in the home state next month and will confront him with the issue.
Nope, I’ll be leaving my handles as they are because who knows what the state will do next year, but yes, I will be changing the bio on the back flap of the books. One wants to be accurate, after all…
See you on the trail,