from Idaho to Wyoming

I left Twin Falls, Idaho this morning at 10am and headed southeast acrossthe high plateau. The altitude hovered around 5,000 feet, and the countrywas dry and rolling. Signs warned of “Blinding dust storms next 20 miles”and “Severe and sudden storms – do not stop on highway!” Several stronggusts swatted my van, but the dust stayed on the roots of the sagebrush.The sky was blue.

Around Sweetzer Road, the highway entered rolling green hills. Snowstreaked the top of nearby mountains. I expect that these were the Rockies,but they didn’t live up to the name. They were rounded and covered withgrass, reminding me of the Appalachians back home in Massachusetts. Theylooked like the sort of mountains that would cause July Andrews to spin.

1,395 miles after leaving home, I crossed the dry basin of Lake Bonnevilleinto Utah. On either side of the highway were dust devils, crisp andtowering a thousand feet into the air. They looked like guardians to thegardens of Moroni, and I expected one to swat me away, forbidding Utah to anavowed homosexual such as myself. (I’m *way* past ‘practicing.’) But theylet me pass, and I entered the land of Mormon at 66 miles an hour.

I began thinking about mormons and their dietary restrictions, and this gotme to realizing that even though it was 1pm and I hadn’t eaten breakfast, Iwasn’t really that hungry. Back home I never miss a meal, but now I didn’tcare.

I think this is because in my family, food is a sacrament. It’s how we showone another that we love. On a farm, meal times are often the only timeyou’re all in the same place, and my mother never failed to make amazingmeals.

Without anyone around to share this with, I simply wasn’t hungry, and if Iwasn’t hungry, I didn’t need to eat. All of the emotion was drained out ofthe act, and only refueling remained.

A boy drove by in a red Trans Am. While passing me, he picked up a corn dogon a stick and bit into it. It was a profoundly surreal moment. Here, 30miles from an exit in each direction, was a cute boy and a corn dog. Thenhe was past, tearing up the highway.

I stopped in Ogden for a late lunch, passing taxidermy shops and ice creamparlors before stopping at Roosters Brew Pub on 25th Street. They servedseveral brews, including Bee’s Knees Honey Wheat, Polygamy Pale Ale, andJunction City Chocolate Stout. I tried a taste of all three. I normallydon’t drink in the middle of the day, but the perversity of drinking inOgden appealed to me. (My friend Brent grew up in Ogden. He calls it “Awonderful place to flee.”)

I crossed into Wyoming at 6,800′ and 1,590 miles out. Right now I’m inRawlins, a very sleepy town about half way across the state. Tomorrow Ihope to reach Nebraska.

The purpose of this trip is to photograph the plains states of the UnitedStates and Canada. I want to find the places that people run away from, theabandoned and dying towns. The farms that parents couldn’t keep ’em down ononce they’d seen the big city. The open empty spaces that most of us takefor granted when eating our morning toast and cereal.

Once I find these places, I’ll shoot them. I don’t tend to shootlandscapes, so I’m not sure what form my photos will take, but I’m going totry to be open to anything. I’m hoping they’ll speak to me and my camera,sharing their sadness and loss. But I’m not looking for a pitiful story oflonely, unloved places. I also want to reflect their beauty and strength,their patient wait for the prodigal children to return.

I’ve never spent much time in these states. I want to get to know thembetter. I want to make friends.


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