I grew up in Wyoming, the cowboy state. Wyoming has a population of about half a million; spread over approximately 100,000 square miles (about 6 people per square mile). Winters are long and cold. The wind blows most of the year, great in the summer for blowing away mosquitoes. Wyoming cowboys and girls (the few there are) are a hardy, independent, eccentric group.
I was reminded of how quirky Wyomingites are with a story my sister shared from her fiftieth high school reunion last week in Cheyenne.
First, she sent me a picture of a 1965 yellow Ford Mustang with a black faux leather roof. Her note said, “This is our car.” The picture did look amazingly like the car Jane and I drove in high school and college. I texted her, “Does look just like our car.” She texted back, “It is our car.” A guy at her reunion had bought the car from our dad for $600 in about 1977, refurbished it and kept it in pristine condition all these years. Only in Wyoming with such a tiny population would you run into someone who knew you and owned your car for almost 40 years.
I remember the day in 1965 when, Dad brought the mustang home. He drove up in front of our house in Cheyenne. I looked out the picture window and was thrilled. The car was only a year old, very few miles, yellow with a hard top, automatic gear shift in the center console, creamy leather interior smoothed like butter over bucket seats. Quite a “ride” for two girls from Wyoming! The mustang went back and forth to high school though we lived about four blocks away from school. Then it traveled to college when my sister needed a car her senior year for student teaching. I was a freshman at the same school so I was one of the few freshmen on campus with access to “wheels”–a literal joy ride!
The Mustang stayed with me all through college after Jane, graduated. The car had two busy summers while I was in college. During that period, I was Lady-in-Waiting (1971) and then Miss Frontier (1972) for Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest out-door rodeo. I spent those summers traveling with a Native American Dance troupe, attending civic functions around Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, and riding my quarter horse, Debbie. The car took me everywhere “pony style”, the nickname for the Mustang’s compact design . Because the “Frontier Days Royalty” had all kinds of outfits for the rodeo, the tiny trunk was frequently filled to the gills with a variety of colored boots and hat boxes filled with expensive felt cowgirl hats. The back seat carried white silk blouses and buck skins (the official outfit), along with several hand-tailored western suits for night shows and rain gear.
The Mustang and I travelled down to Arizona when I attended graduate school at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The problem with the Mustang in Arizona was it didn’t have air conditioning. I only went to graduate school during the school year so the heat problem was limited to late August and early June. But driving back to Wyoming was a bear. My sister flew down to drive with me the spring I graduated (1975). The car broke down in transit back to Wyoming. Now ten years old, Dad got me a brand-new Mercury Bobcat to go to Washington State University in Pullman where I worked on my doctorate.
After the Mustang retired from driving girls, the car was parked behind our house in Cheyenne, out in the open. Dad used it as his golfing car, carrying his golf clubs out to the Country Club every day in summer. A young man at the time cruising the alley spotted the car and stopped to inquire if Dad wanted to sell it. And so a good long-term family friend went to another apparently forever home.
If the Mustang could talk, it would have many tales to tell. Jane and I would drive from Cheyenne to Hastings, Nebraska for college and back on I-80. We were almost always speeding. The speed limit at that time was 75. One time, when we were going almost a 100 miles an hour, I could feel us barreling off the road. I remember shouting at Jane as we were heading off, “Slow down!” She calmly replied, “Too late now!” as we swerved into the high grasses. Fortunately for us, much of the road between Wyoming and Nebraska is flat plains. We just rolled to a stop, backed up and were off down the road again. Thinking of our escapades now gives me shivers. But in the late sixties we would drive like the wind, with reckless abandon, racing everywhere to the next big adventure. After all we were Mustang girls, who grew up on the wild, windy, Wyoming plains.
Ride around girls,
Ride around girls,
Don’t you ever slow that Mustang down!