From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal December 22, 2010

Harry Potter is magical; but nothing beats the magic of Christmas with children.  Ten people, one house, two weeks off of school, cookies, lights, trees, music, and snow falling softly outside the window.  It’s the perfect concoction for warm memories.
When I was in 5th grade, I questioned Christmas magic.  Most of my friends told me that Santa wasn’t real.  I finally approached my Dad about the subject.  After a few silent moments, he read, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” to me.  Then he taught me a wonderful lesson about the magic of Christmas. 
Magic doesn’t just happen.  Magic is made.  Just as Harry Potter had to learn he had magical powers, parents and families can create warmth and magic in their homes.  At our house, we make magic as early as possible.  Christmas caroling, ten red stockings hanging by the fireplace, homemade gingerbread houses, and a secret Twelve Days of Christmas.  Too much celebrating?  I don’t think so.
One element in the magical Christmas potion is music.  We start playing it in early November, and are glad that it’s online and on the air in Casper.  Thanks, K2 Radio!  Another magical element is “Cookie Day,” when we all put on aprons and roll out the dough to make as many Christmas treats as possible.  We don’t just stop with the sugar cookies.  Gingerbread cookies, magic window cookies, red and green lollipops, and cream cheese mints are also in the mix.  Yes, it’s easier to buy them, but cookies from the store don’t make magic.
Then there’s St. Nicholas Tag.  Since we have German ancestry, we put our shoes out on December 5th.  Ten pairs of shoes, lined up from biggest to smallest, all along the front porch are a sight to behold.  In the morning, the shoes are cold and frosty and filled with Christmas candy...and a bit of snow.  Pure magic.
Cocoa is an absolute necessity.  We drink it by the gallon.  Our large container from Sam’s Club reads, “Great for daycares, businesses, restaurants and schools.”  “Which category are we?” piped my daughter one day as we were filling our mugs.  “All four,” my son quickly answered.  Have you tried vanilla ice cream and candy canes in hot cocoa?  Absolutely magical.
And then there’s the giving.  Drawing names in a large family is just too much fun.  In early November, we each choose a family member to give a gift to.  Can a three-year-old keep a secret?  Not mine.  Everyone immediately hears whose name he drew, but the rest are confidential.  Our only guideline is that the gift must be homemade.  Even the smallest children can paint, sew or build something.  Soon, secrets and surprises invade every corner of our warm house.  The concoction of interestingly-wrapped gifts under our tree is a sight to behold.  Nothing makes magic like giving.
            I spent two Christmases of my college years living in Japan.  Since it’s not a Christian nation, Japanese schools and businesses are open on December 25th, and life goes on as usual.  However, in an effort to capitalize on a Western holiday, major stores still put up Christmas trees and a few Santa and reindeer decorations.  My Japanese winters were lonely, and every time I saw something even remotely Christmas-related, I would feel a bit of warmth in my homesick heart.  Since that experience, I have been especially grateful for every business that puts up Christmas decorations.  Commercialism?  Not in my book.  Each wreath and bell is a celebration of Christmas. 
Casper has its own sense of magic.  When we lived in Las Vegas, we generally did our shopping at the Toys R Us store, just two blocks from our home.  My husband and I would normally arrive at the store around 10pm.  Going up and down the aisles stacked with late-night inventory, we passed other, bleary-eyed parents trying to make last-minute decisions.  ‘How will we survive without a Toys R Us store in Casper?’ we wondered. 
But last week we had our first downtown Casper shopping experience.  We arrived at dusk and pulled up to the curb on 2nd Street.  As we climbed out of our car, we heard Christmas music, coming from secret speakers.  Magical!  Happy people were hustling to make last-minute decisions, with the jolly music overhead.  It was just five feet to the front door of the store.  As we entered, we were personally greeted by one, two, three store clerks!  Then, an escort showed us where the item was that we were looking for.   Going up and down the stairs of the beautiful, old store, we were amazed at the incredible selection.  Finally, we went to the cashier, put our item in a gift box and received a hand-written receipt!  (Thanks, Lou Taubert!)  Downtown Casper at Christmas time?  Absolutely magical.
Why is magic so important?  Well, why did Harry Potter need a magic wand?  To fight evil.  Christmas magic is a surefire way to transform hearts without hope – in our homes, our communities and our nation.
In addition, family specialists cite the need for traditions in raising children.  Customs provide consistency, and give children something to anticipate – a vital key in a healthy childhood.  Warm traditions build warm memories which will warm grown children on future winter nights when they are far away from home.  In the words of Charles Dickens, “It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child himself.”
Another word for “magic” is “spirit.”  The magic of Christmas is the Spirit of Christ. Harry Potter magic has swept the world, so can Christmas magic; a time when warmth, friendliness, giving and smiles work miracles – in Casper, in Japan, or anywhere else.  That is exactly the potion this tired, old earth needs.  A magical Merry Christmas! 

-Nettie Francis is Editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine


From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal December 8, 2010

As cautious as people in Casper are about the dangers of big-city life, Las Vegas residents are wary of living in Wyoming.  “Has it snowed yet?”  “Is it cold?”  “I could never live where it gets below 60 degrees,” commented our Vegas friends when we visited Nevada last month.  And, in a city that knows more about Black Jack than Jack Frost, any degree of cold weather could seem a bit frightening.
I must admit, we were nervous ourselves about the Wyoming weather when we moved to Casper.  After all, when sunshine is the norm and 63 degree weather warrants a winter coat, any sign of snow does make you uneasy. 
It was 70 degrees when we pulled out of Vegas on a December day to move to Wyoming.  Driving north through Utah, we watched our car thermometer drop lower and lower.  As we passed through Evanston, it was only 30 degrees.  Soon the monitor read, ‘ICE.’  “Hooray!”  shouted our excited children.  I cringed.  ‘How will I ever survive the cold?’ I wondered.  Fortunately, the inside car temperature never wavered from 70 degrees during that long drive.
After taking a few days to settle into our rental home, the children finally had time to go outside and build their first snow fort.  They worked all day, wearing the new snow pants, coats, boots and gloves they had received for Christmas.  (Thank goodness for Santa.  At least he understands cold.)  I watched them out of the kitchen window, enjoying the warmth of the furnace and the hot soup on the stove.  When they finally came in for dinner, their cheeks were rosy and their fingertips were numb, but they were thrilled with their first official winter adventure. 
“Can we sleep outside in our fort tonight?” asked my ten-year-old son.  He was eager to “fully” experience Wyoming.  Unfortunately, letting my children stay outside was just a little too much for someone accustomed to the Vegas heat.  “No.  Not tonight.”  I said in my best, diplomatic voice.  Groans of disappointment erupted everywhere, with promises that they would be warm enough in the snow.  However, my motherly good sense prevailed, and we all slept in our beds that night.  And, in the morning, when the freshly fallen snow had caved in the fort—just where their sleeping heads would have been—my children were once again sure that “mother knows best.” 
After a few weeks in Wyoming, I began to adjust to cold weather, snow and ice.  In addition, it became clear to me that what our Vegas friends don’t realize is what they’re missing:  snow-capped mountains, frost-covered trees, and winter geese flying south.  No one can describe the beauty of the white prairie or crystal clear rivers, flowing with chunks of ice.  The winter landscape holds a vivid splendor, different than desert vistas.  After all, didn’t Lucy catch her breath at the beauty of Narnia when she left the wardrobe?  Didn’t Irving Berlin write “White Christmas,” longing for such a scene in Beverly Hills, L.A.?  “The sun is shining, the grass is green,” but on Christmas day, most hearts yearn for the cozy beauty that only snow can bring.
We are now starting our second, full Wyoming winter.  I know we’ll survive.  We have a fireplace, a gas stove, good windows, and a garage.  And, Santa’s arriving just around the corner.  Hopefully he’ll supply us once again with the winter gear we need. 
And so, to my trepidatious Las Vegas friends, “Yes, it’s cold in Wyoming.”  “Yes, we have snow.”  But more importantly, “It’s indescribable.”  As much as I loved the warm, winter days of Nevada, I thrill with the crisp, winter time of Wyoming, too.  No one can match “the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,” (Clement C. Moore) or the “sweep of easy wind and downy flake” (Robert Frost). 
When those Vegas days get too dry or hot, drop in for a visit.  Dig a coat out of your deep closet, put some snow tires on your car, and come experience winter.  We’ll pull up a chair by the stove, enjoy a cup of cocoa and look out at the vast, frosty prairie. Welcome to Wyoming, a winter wonderland.

-Nettie Francis is editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine

Mothers of the Mayflower

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal November 24, 2010

            One hundred two passengers.  Twenty-four children.   Nine cats.  One cargo ship, ninety feet long.  Sixty-four days on a stormy sea.  A possible recipe for disaster—at least in this day and age.
            If I had set sail with my children, I would have preferred a private room, catered meals, and disposable diapers.  And I would have requested a cruise liner instead of a 1620’s trading vessel. 
            At the end of the voyage I would have demanded my own bed—not an isolated beach inhabited by “savages;” a lonely place where nearly half of their company would be buried that first year.

The End of Elections

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal November 10, 2010

The elections are over, and although I wasn’t thrilled with every single outcome, I am grateful for the democratic process. 
Last April, I interviewed First Lady Nancy Freudenthal.  She mentioned that one particular benefit of living in Wyoming is the opportunity to be involved politically.  With such a small population, every single Wyoming resident can have a direct influence on city, county and state elections.  I agree.  It’s been wonderful living here this election period, where we had the opportunity to personally meet candidates and be involved in their campaigns. 
Even my children caught the political fever.  “There’s another Matt Mead sign!” my three-year-old would often shout as we traveled down the road.  “Are you voting for Cindy Hill or Mike Massie?” my other daughter questioned.  We have all enjoyed the political “small town feel” of Wyoming.  However, even though we are now registered to vote in Natrona County, some of our political heart strings were still drawn back to Nevada, and we kept close tabs on several elections there. 
It just so happened that we traveled to Las Vegas the week before the election to attend the funeral of a close friend.  We were gathered with the family in a small room for the viewing.  Imagine our surprise when Senator Harry Reid and his wife walked through the door.  At first, I did a double-take.  (It’s hard to place someone when you’ve only seen him on the news.)  But after half-a-second, I realized who he was.  The four security personnel, stationed at both doors of the room, complete with ear pieces and stern looks, caught all of our attention.  Senator Reid and his wife, both in dressy, black outfits, were gracious and empathetic to the family, who had been previous neighbors of theirs.
After visiting with them, the Reids then took time to personally greet most of us in the room.  Although I rarely (um…never) agree with Harry Reid’s political decisions, I must admit that I was impressed with his demeanor, genuine caring, and kindness.  He and his wife knew several of our close friends, and it was nice to see them interact and greet each other.
A few minutes later, we went out to the parking lot to meet our babysitter who was picking up our youngest children.  Senator Reid’s vehicle was parked right next to ours, along with several other huge, black cars in his entourage.  Just then, our babysitter pulled up and stopped just in front of Senator Reid, blocking his exit.  She left her car idling while we loaded several babies, baby car seats, diaper bags, bottles and snacks into her car.  The Reids sat graciously in their vehicle, waiting for us to finish so that they could leave.  (Their driver, with a bit of a scowl on his face, may not have been as patient, but he didn’t say a word; nor did the other security personnel, positioned at strategic positions inside and outside of the building.)  I was grateful for their understanding.
Later, while telling my friend—a staunch Reid opponent—about the experience, she asked, “Did Senator Reid look evil?”  “No,” I said.  “He struck me as a very good person, who sincerely believes in what he does.”  Another friend—a staunch Reid supporter—asked if the senator looked tired and worn out from his campaigning.  “No,” I replied.  “He seemed energetic and happy.”
We have good friends in Las Vegas on both sides of the aisle.  Watching the Nevada election results come in Tuesday night was exciting, even from Wyoming.  We made a few phone calls and kept tabs throughout the evening with several friends volunteering at different polling locations.  When all was said and done, some were happy with the outcome, and some were disappointed.  I was initially disappointed. 
However, after meeting Senator Reid and his wife in person, I must say that I have a better opinion of him.  He’s a person, just like me.  He loves Nevada, just like me.  He loves America, just like me.  And, he believes in what he does, just like me.  At least we have those things in common.
And, whichever side we voted on, the real victory for the United States is the endurance of the democratic process.  On the Wednesday morning after the elections when America woke up again, we all went back to our jobs, our homes, our businesses, our lives.  Those who lost didn’t take it out on those who had won.  We just moved on.
In the end, only one person can win—despite the campaigning, despite the money spent, despite the speeches and the promises.  And somehow, we all accept that.
In fact, “moving on” is a principle I’d like to teach my children.  If someone loses or doesn’t get their way, there’s no need to throw a temper tantrum.  No need to fight or argue any longer, just go back to your own toys, your own interests, your own life.  Isn’t it a miracle that in today’s world an entire nation can do that?  Americans in every town, in every city, in every state can accept the election results and move on. 
No matter who is “in” or “out” of Washington, let’s keep one thing at Status quo: the democratic process.  Even Harry Reid and I can agree on that.

The Law of the Harvest

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal October 27, 2010

Fall is finally here, and the harvest is in full swing.  Thank goodness!  When summer days are hot—and there are weeds to pull, rows to hoe, and plants to water—it’s hard to explain to children what a harvest is. 
“Didn’t we just weed the garden yesterday?”  “It’s too hot to work today,” and “Do we have to?” are phrases I heard often during the summer.  But at last, we now have something to show for our labors.  
In Las Vegas, our garden was the size of a small sandbox.  The days were hot and the summers never-ending, but we still planted every spring (that is, in January.)  The neighbors around us would lean over the fence and say, “You can’t garden in Las Vegas.”   They would watch, smiling, as we dutifully plowed the postage-stamp area, planted the seeds, and put out a water drip system.  Surprisingly, we had great gardens every summer.  Perhaps it was the compost, or the watchful tending of our many children, but we always produced plenty of vegetables to eat. 
In addition to our garden, we also enjoyed a yearly harvest of grapes from our patio vine.  We ate, juiced, dried, and gave them away—by the bagful.  Our neighbors soon adapted to the idea that they would often open their doors and find a bag of produce waiting for them. 
Moving to Casper last year made our gardening efforts even more ambitious.  The previous owners of our house already had a huge garden, but we decided to till twice as much land.  Then we eagerly planted everything we could think of.  Just like in Las Vegas, our neighbors watched and commented on our progress. 
“Why aren’t the deer bothering your garden?” “Why did you plant so much corn?”  “Do you think all of that will grow?”  I’m sure that gardening activities of any kind with eight children are entertaining.  Still, we persisted.
The summer wore on.  The hot days came, and we wondered if we had outdone ourselves.  Our children, remembering our tiny Las Vegas garden, wished we were back in the big city.  “Why did we ever complain before?” they groaned.  “These rows are ten times as long!”  We persevered, hoping our efforts would produce something of worth.
And now, the harvest is here!  The first to come was the lettuce, chard and peas.  Then, tomatoes, onions and zucchini.  Soon we had yellow squash, carrots, corn and potatoes.  Last week we made autumn soup—all with homegrown vegetables.  Complete with hot, homemade bread, it was a wonderful meal which made it all worth it.  There is something indescribable about eating food you have produced yourself.  Even the most doubtful children could taste the victory of it. 
The next night we had fresh corn and tomatoes with our rice, and then had red, juicy watermelon for dessert…homegrown!  The finished rinds we fed to the chickens, and felt especially good about the food going “full circle.” 
My three-year-old son has been the most excited.  “Can I go dig potatoes today?” He asks every morning.  Then he takes his yellow bucket and red shovel, and digs up our dinner.  He also gives a daily report on the pumpkins:  “They’re getting big!”  “We have seven now.  There are two little ones for the babies.”
Our first year of Wyoming gardening hasn’t been without incident.  We certainly never dealt with deer or antelope in Las Vegas.  After returning one July weekend to find our rows pocked with hoof prints, we quickly invested in a tall fence. 
But, deer aren’t the only ones who want to share our harvest.  Once, we accidentally left the garden gate open.  As we were eating dinner, we glanced out the window and noticed that the chickens were inside the fence. 
“The chickens are in the garden!” yelled my daughter.  Everyone immediately jumped up from the table and went running outside.  Soon there were eight people and ten chickens—racing around the squash, jumping over the potato plants, and dodging the corn stalks.  If you’ve ever seen chickens run, you can fully imagine the scene which unfolded.  Fortunately, even the youngest in our family can catch chickens, and soon all ten of the wandering birds were outside of the garden gate.
I know that winter snows will be here soon enough, and this year’s garden will be a thing of the past.  But the real harvest of the summer is the truth learned by our children:  we reap what we sow.  In future years, when they are making their own choices, I trust that they’ll look back on a hot summer day, weeding a garden row, and then remember the taste of homegrown watermelon in their mouths, or the joy of husking their own corn.  Perhaps this experience will help them to plant other fruitful crops—both in garden rows and in life.
And when spring comes again next year, we’ll head back outdoors to start planting.  This time we’ll already have our deer fence in place.  I’m sure the neighbors will be watching again.  Who knows, we may even till twice as much earth.

School Days

From the Farm


Published in the Casper Journal October 6, 2010

School has officially started again.  And, while I do prefer summertime to school time, I will never complain—even one iota—about Natrona County Schools.
            We recently moved to Casper from Nevada.  Try to imagine sending your children to school in downtown Las Vegas.  Let me illustrate, with no exaggerations.
            To start with, the city school was surrounded by a high fence, coupled with a cinderblock wall to divide it from the raging freeway right next to it.  There were no windows in the building except for a few, high, barred ones in the office.   Despite the exterior view, however, I took my oldest son there to start kindergarten.  I was optimistic.  After all, good people and good teachers live in Las Vegas.
            I joined my son often in his classroom, and quickly made an observation:  there was no recess!  I was sure I was mistaken.  No recess in school?  I called the secretary, and then the principal, and then the school district. 
            “No, ma’am,” the voice on the other line said.  “Recess was cut several years ago, after a new study showed it detracted from the school day.”  Detracted from learning?  Little children without a break?  ‘What disillusioned doctoral student did this research?’ I wondered.  He was certainly not a parent or a teacher.  No, I’m not exaggerating.
            After our first semester, I approached the principal about volunteering.  He informed me that the school had no PTO, but he invited me to a parent’s meeting the following week.  At the meeting, he addressed us. 
“My focus is on three groups of children this year:  those receiving free lunch, those who don’t speak English, and those from one-parent homes.”  After listening empathetically for most of the hour, I raised my hand and asked what the principal would do for children who didn’t fit in any of those three categories.
“Nothing,” he abruptly replied.  “I don’t have time to think about the others.”  I sat quietly through the rest of the meeting.  No, I’m not exaggerating.
            During a later school year, a teacher approached me and told me that my daughter had scored well above the math standards for the 2nd grade. 
“Wonderful,” I replied.  “Will she be doing advanced math then?” 
“No,” the teacher said, apologetically.  Then, in a whisper, she explained that as a federally-funded school, she was not allowed to stray from her script or curriculum, and could literally do nothing for my daughter.  Her hands were tied at the expense of losing her job.   Once again, I’m not exaggerating.
Why do I love Natrona County Schools?  It hardly needs an explanation, but let me explain anyway…with no exaggerations. 
We arrived in Casper in January of 2009, and began searching for a school where all four of our elementary children could attend together.  We started our search at the school nearest our home.  As we entered, I was pleasantly shocked when the secretary, dressed in a nice skirt, rose from her seat, smiled, and asked if she could help me.  After catching my breath, I explained our situation.  Unfortunately, her school didn’t have four grade slots available. 
“Let me recommend you to the next nearest school,” she replied. Soon I was speaking to another friendly secretary at another school, and then another, and then another.  While none of these schools had room in all of the grades we needed, the secretaries were all incredibly helpful!  I returned to the car and my waiting husband each time, exclaiming, “You would not believe how kind everyone is!” 
When we finally found a school to meet our needs, the secretary, once again, was fantastic.  I will always be grateful to the secretaries at Verda James, Cottonwood, Manor Heights, Crest Hill, Sagewood and Fort Caspar Academy for their warm welcome to Wyoming.
            As my children left for school on their first day, I had no expectations of what Wyoming education would be like.  But when they arrived home that afternoon, they couldn’t stop chattering. 
“Everyone is so friendly!  The teachers all smile!  Everyone speaks English!  All the classrooms have windows! We have three recesses!  We have an indoor gymnasium!  We each have a computer!”  My jaw hit the ground.  When my husband arrived home that day, I couldn’t stop chattering either. 
“Look,” I said, showing him the contents of their backpacks.  “Newsletters from the teachers, quality literature, field trips and spelling words!”  I hadn’t seen a single spelling list or field trip in Las Vegas.  One son even had an assignment to memorize The Battle Hymn of the Republic. 
“They allow you to repeat that in school?” my stunned husband asked.  We were filled with gratitude.  I immediately called my friend.  “You would not believe what Wyoming schools are like!” I told her.  “You should move here immediately!”
This fall, we’re starting our second, full year of school here, and my wonder hasn’t diminished.  Last week I received a phone call from a school principal. She told me she had noticed my son’s high math score, and wanted permission to move him to an advanced math class. 
“Thank you,” I wanted to sing.  “Thank you for being aware, and for allowing my child to progress.”
And so, although the school days have started and I miss my children as they walk out the door each morning, I always watch them leave with a sense of gratitude.  Gratitude for the friendly bus driver who picks them up and knows them by name, gratitude for the teachers who love them, gratitude for the principals who are aware, gratitude for the high standards, clean buildings, and abundant resources of Wyoming schools, and gratitude that this type of education still exists.  No one in Las Vegas would believe it.
Nettie Francis is editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine

Is Eight Enough?


Published in the Casper Journal September 29, 2010

I have eight children.  When we all go to the grocery store, perfect strangers will often stop and ask, “Are those all your children?” (Why do they think I would bring extras along?)
“Wow!  You must be a very busy mom.” (Thanks for stating the obvious.)
And then the inevitable…
“Are you planning on having any more?”  (Is that any of their business?) 
Soon the jokes start.
“You know what they say… ‘Eight is enough.’”

Casper...Another Name for Crossroads



Published in the Casper Journal August 18, 2010

I had never heard of Casper, Wyoming before my husband interviewed here.  Now, it’s on the travel itinerary of everyone I know—family, friends, even long-lost acquaintances.
In the early days, pioneers and the Pony Express blazed trails here. In fact, their paths run right past my house.  This summer has taught me that “trekking” through Casper hasn’t ended yet.
Living in Las Vegas was like living in the center of the universe.  It was convenient to fly to or through, and everyone seemed to stop there while traveling to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, or any other southwest attraction.  I couldn’t imagine that living in Casper would be anything similar.  However, once summer started, we suddenly found ourselves on everyone’s vacation route. 
First, my sister came from Chicago.  She and her husband brought their five children on their way to Denver (are we on the way to Denver?) and loved their visit to Wyoming.  A few days later, my sister from Tucson drove through with her family.  They were traveling to Yellowstone, and of course, Casper was right on their way.  Less than a week later, my sister in Montana decided to stop by for a visit.  By this time, the neighbors were getting confused about how many sisters I had.  It did help that one sister was pregnant, but other than that, they all looked the same.  When I was out for my morning walk, I introduced my Montana sister. 
“She’s here with her seven children,” I smiled. 
“You sure seem to have a lot of family,” my neighbor said hesitantly. 
We thought we were at the end of our visitors, but received an email from our German friends.  They were in the United States for a few weeks and wanted to see our new home in Wyoming.  I was afraid that the amber rolling prairies would be a disappointment compared to the lush, green hills of Germany.  But when we ate our dinner outside and looked for miles at the country around us, they were thrilled. 
“You can see very far in America,” was their reply.  They even picked some sagebrush to press and take home with them.
Once our international visitors left, I was sure my summer hosting was over.  But then the phone rang. 
“Hi!”  It was my long lost high school friend.  She was driving through from Michigan with her husband and six children.  “We’d love to stop by,” she chattered.  It had been eight years since I’d seen her last, so what could I say?  They arrived in a family van and soon all of their children (the same ages as ours) were running across the lawn, having a water fight and chasing bunnies. 
By now the summer was more than half over.  But the visitors didn’t stop.  With just a day’s notice some old friends from Las Vegas “dropped by” on their way to Jackson.  And later, more family from Utah drove through at the end of their Midwest travels. 
“Wow,” my husband commented.  “I never knew Casper was so central.” 
We thought Wyoming was the end of the earth, but instead found that it was right on the highway of life.  That’s o.k.  Visitors are an incentive to clean my house, to weed my garden, and to make a delicious meal.  So, I suppose they’re ultimately a benefit to my family.  And, we’ve seen so much extended family and friends this summer that we’ll consider ourselves “visited” for a while. 
Still, I’m sure there are more to come.  In fact, my cousin is arriving tomorrow, and my in-laws just called and told us about a family reunion they are planning, just an hour away.  The pioneers and Pony Express started a tradition that hasn’t ended.  I think Casper is another word for crossroads, the Crossroads of the West. 

Nettie Francis is the editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine.