A Past Revisited
My mom had terminal cancer and only a few months to live. On her bucket list was a return to the state of Wyoming, to visit old friends, and for a brief time, to bask in the afterglow of a life well lived. I made that memorable trip with her.
In Denver we rented a car and headed north along I25. At the state line we stopped and took pictures of each other in front of the big familiar Welcome To Wonderful Wyoming sign. We spent the night with an old friend in Cheyenne and in Rawlins, visited the graves of her two sons, (my brothers) lost in plane crashes during WWII. My sister was living in Casper and we went with her to Riverton to attend her daughters’ wedding. Afterwards, we were on our own.
“Do you think that we could find Mike?” mom asked. I knew that we were close to the Wind River Indian Reservation. We could try, I told her. The mention of Mike Goggles conjured up childhood memories of Thermopolis and Labor Day celebrations when there would be Indian dances on the green in the middle of main-street. The main attraction was the big Indian in full head-dress and breechcloth, dancing to the beat of the drums with agile steps. Mike was an Arapahoe Indian, Chief Flying Eagle. Each year when they came to town, they would come out to the house in the Lane where my step-father would give them meat, butter and all manner of food stuffs from the freezer. They had become close friends over the years. So it was that I found myself driving , it seemed for hours around the Arapahoe-Shoshoni Indian Reservation, stopping to ask of his whereabouts. When we finally found him, he was living with his sister on the far edge of the reservation. He approached the car with tears streaming down his cheeks. “Naomi”, he said, “I thought I’d never see you again”.
Our journey was finished with a pleasant picnic with old friends and former neighbors in Tensleep, so named because it took the Indians ten nights of sleep to get over the mountain from Buffalo. We used to camp for two weeks at a time there. I had loved awakening to the roar of the rushing creek, canyon walls bathed in golden sunlight and little camp-robbers (chipmunks) scampering about.
Five months later my mother passed on peacefully, leaving me with the comfort of knowing that I had helped to make her last days so special.