From the Farm:
CASPER COLD AND WYOMING WINTERS
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