At my door the leaves are falling
A cold wild wind has come
Sweethearts walk by together
And I still miss someone. — Johnny Cash, "I Still Miss Someone"
Looking out the window from my vantage point in the office, the bright, cloudless, sunny morning belied the below average temperature the wind was forcing. It was a typical Saturday, jam packed with things to do, work to be done, several hundred miles of pavement to tick off on the way to each event.
None of this mattered to me. One of my favorite events, cattle-branding, was on my list of things to do today and I was anxious, excited, and wishing I had more time, always wishing I had more time.
I stepped outside, and the wind and chill cut through the light shirt I’d decided upon. I ran back into the house grabbed a jacket, advised my son to do the same, and off we went.
Everywhere I’ve lived, everywhere I’ve gone, one thing has always stuck with me at each place I’ve called home for a spell, and as I left the barbed-wire corrals of the Gross-Wilkinson Ranch heading a hundred miles up the road, I realized this too would someday be something I would miss and forever associate with my time in Wyoming.
I miss laying across my motorcycle, parked on the piers of San Francisco, the lazy stars almost obscured by the ever present fog but demanding to be seen by anyone who would take the time, pushing through the fog, announcing their presence.
The absolute insanity of Times Square on a weekend summer afternoon. Belligerent natives glaring at the obvious tourists snapping pictures of this and that, asking for directions to Broadway. “Down the street a couple blocks, you can’t miss it” was almost always the response in a near snarl.
The oppressive humidity of North Carolina deep in the dog days throes of a summer night. The humidity suffused nearly everything as it slowed all things down — your movements, your thought processes. I may be wrong, but I often think the southern drawl has its roots in the humidity. Both are a bit slow on the delivery, a bit deliberate and laced with a politeness that could shred you to pieces if you didn’t know which signs to look out for — isn’t that nice?
And the people, everywhere the people. The outrageously colorful personalities that peacock-ed the landscape of the Haight-Ashbury, forming a witch's brew of personalities, to the group of musicians struggling to find their way, locked in the poverty-stricken row houses of Baltimore. The smartly dressed friend who everyday put on a necktie, walked the two blocks from our apartment in Jersey City, down to the PATH station where he would go hurdling towards NYC, under the Hudson River to be delivered to his job at the World Trade Center. The wise and wizened old dwarf of a sergeant who always had the proper dose of gravitas to any situation but would suddenly flip with a well-placed bit of dry humor wit to lighten the mood – even at 40-something, Dan was wise beyond his years.
Some I loved and are still with me, others I loved intensely for a short period only to lose them in a sea of moves, email address changes or new cell phone – and technology was supposed to make staying in contact easier! Others still I loved but the love hurt so much as to force a permanent break. A few are still here, every day, as close to my heart as to reach out and touch them.
It's something of a strange feeling knowing that a very particular amalgamation of sights, smells, and sounds are burning themselves into your permanent memory even as they continue to unfold right before your eyes. Those images forever are part of what informs you, guides your decisions, and adds to the diorama viewable only by your mind’s eye. Much like the mark now emblazoned on those some 224 calves branded that day, that mark is now forever there for the world to see.
Cowboys working for the Gross-Wilkinson ranch bring cattle in from pasture.