Recently, my friend and Western singer/songwriter Janice Deardorff from Tucson, AZ played me a new song of hers entitled “You’re Part of the West.” In it, she addresses the point that there is a great deal to the West in addition to the Cowboy. The song, which will be the title cut of her forthcoming CD, talks about the many and varied ways a person can be “part of the West.”
I was reminded of this when I was recently in San Diego and drove over for a rehearsal at the home of my buddy and frequent co-writer, Bruce Huntington. To get to Bruce’s house, you go as far west on I-8 as you can go without driving into the Pacific Ocean. You make a couple of turns and you’re there. As I was making those turns so as not to drive into the Pacific Ocean, I was contemplating its majesty. It’s BIG! I found myself thinking…“That’s sure enough part of the West!” How many people headed west to California dreaming of making their fortune in some way or another? “California dreaming”?? Now there’s an idea for a song! Nah, it’d never work. But I digress. The more time I’ve spent in California (having two grandsons there has that effect), the more I’ve discovered what a wonderful and varied state it is. There is, of course, the rich vaquero culture that pre-dates my Texas cowboys by quite a bit. There is so much lovely country to see and so many wonders of nature to experience. The sequoias, the largest living organisms in the world, are truly awe-inspiring. Yosemite National Park, even when seen from the back of a mule (thanks a lot, Ross Knox!), is breathtaking. They’re all part of the West.
Arizona has the Grand Canyon and the OK Corral, which is a pretty good pair to draw to, I don’t care who you are. There’s so much more though, including the various rugged mountain ranges southeast of Tucson, the historic Gadsden Hotel in Douglas, the cowboy culture of Prescott and the new age beauty of Sedona. It’s all part of the West.
My good friend, the late Doc Stovall from Cartersville, Georgia, wrote a beautiful song about the first time he saw the Rockies “from the ground.” He’d flown over them on a number of occasions but when he actually stood before them in their magnificent presence, he was overcome by their beauty. I get to experience the southern end of the Rockies in the northern part of my adopted home state, New Mexico, and I only have to drive another hour north from there across the Colorado border to see the glory of the Spanish Peaks and a little further on, Pike’s Peak. There’s nothing in the world to compare to waking up in a tent on a frigid mountain morning, scrambling to put on every piece of clothing you’ve brought with you on your camping trip and walking outside to breathe in the smell of pine and the freshest air anywhere on the face of the earth. Drop a dry fly in the nearby stream and you can have fresh trout with your eggs. It’s part of the West.
In just over a week, I’ll be heading up to Utah to perform music and oh, by the way, take a long ride out to explore Robber’s Roost, hideout to Butch, Sundance and a host of other outlaws. Twice in the next two months after that, I’ll be up in beautiful Wyoming. And of course, I could wax eloquent for many pages about my home state of Texas, and all there is to see in the Lone Star State (yes, J P Gorham, those bluebonnets really ARE blue!). From the Big Thicket in East Texas to the Big Bend in southwest Texas to the Palo Duro Canyon in the Panhandle, there are more people and places to see than you can shake a stick at…and they’re ALL part of the West.
Recently, my wife and daughter were having a conversation while I sat there quietly (this happens a lot…it’s hard to get a word in) and they agreed that they wanted to go to India. When I found a brief (and rare) opening…they both had to take a breath at the same time…I said, “Be sure to send me a postcard.” I’m not opposed to world travel (although India is only above China on my list of crowded places in which I have almost zero interest) but there is so much of the Western United States that I’ve yet to see. In addition, there are so many places in that part of the world that I’ve been numerous times but will go back to over and over again until I finally leave this earth. I’ve faced it and embraced it. I’m part of the West and the West is part of me.