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June 06, 2013 8:03 am

Lawrence at Large: Encounters with Wyoming then and now

Written by Tom Lawrence

My close encounter with Wyoming finally arrived last week.

I first came to the Cowboy State in 1978, while on a trip to the Black Hills in my native South Dakota. Some friends wanted to buy Coors beer, which wasn’t legally allowed in our state, so we darted across the line.

Once here, we started to think about the hit movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” You may recall Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi classic, which featured kindly aliens descending from the skies to meet with invited humans, including intense actor Richard Dreyfuss, at Devil’s Tower.

We decided we needed to see Devil’s Tower, so off we went in a three-car caravan. It seemed so close, but as we learned, while the tower looms impressively from a distance, it was farther away than we thought.

Still, we got there, and enjoyed the experience. A couple of the guys even scaled part of the way up before we lured them down and headed for the Hills, Black that is.

I saw Devil’s Tower from the highway again six days ago. I wasn’t making a short jaunt into Wyoming with friends, however. I was moving here.

The chance to serve as the managing editor of The Powell Tribune, and a blossoming personal relationship led to my decision to move here. I have quickly realized what a good choice it was.

Wyoming is one of those places that is as much legend as location. The very name evokes daunting vistas, vast, windswept plains, and colorful historical characters.

I found all that to be true in the past week, as I was met by a powerful windstorm when I entered the state, and was dazzled by the sights I encountered on the way west to Powell.

You folks picked an amazing place to settle. Have you been keeping it a secret from most of the world? Is that why this gorgeous place has the lowest population of all 50 states?

Is someone not telling people from Nebraska? Are Rhode Island residents purposefully being kept in the dark? Does Iowa know what’s it’s missing?

I know I am very proud to call this place home now.

I have written for and edited newspapers since 1978. No, I’m not really that old. I started out as a boy editor.

OK, a teen reporter.

I have covered and interviewed presidents and politicians, from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama, and sports stars and musicians, including Pete Rose and Jimmy Buffett. They all helped provide a fascinating ride for more than three decades in this business.

But the best stories I have heard and tried to tell came from the people who shared their lives and experiences, including the mom who lost her son in a car-train crash, and became dedicated to rail safety.

Or the young pitcher who spent long, hot days in his parents’ basement, a possible career in the big leagues ruined by a line drive that smacked him in the eye.

Or the old ladies who had a flower that bloomed once a year, and this time it was going to happen at 3:30 a.m.

I spent six years editing newspapers in Montana, in addition to three and a half years in the Black Hills, so although I was born and raised on the flatlands of eastern South Dakota, I have found the high country calls to me.

My job at the Tribune is to keep working with this talented, dedicated staff to produce two papers packed with local news each week. We will continue to focus on the people, businesses, organizations and events that make Powell, Park County and the region such a jewel.

I have been surprised to learn of the family members and friends who have been here over the years. They all said the same thing when I told them I was coming here.

“You’re going to love it,” they said. “It’s a beautiful place.”

While I may be the journalist in the bunch, they all reported honestly and accurately.

Maybe I’ll buy them a Coors and talk to them about Devil’s Tower, and the heavenly sights on the other side of Wyoming, the next time I see them.

(Tom Lawrence is the managing editor of The Powell Tribune. Contact him at 754-2221 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

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