That seems to be what everybody ask’s when I tell them that I left Las Vegas for Pine Bluffs, WY. Why not seems more appropriate to me. But that really is too simplistic of an answer, and I’m sure there are plenty of reasons not to move to Wyoming for 95% of the people that have asked why. Here are some of the reasons, and by no means all of them, that played into us leaving a city of 2 million people, for a town of 1,250 people. These are in no particular order.
“It’s in my blood”
I’m pretty sure that Theresa will never let me live that quote down. So a couple of years ago, we visited Pine Bluffs. It was Theresa’s first time in Wyoming, and she fell in love with it. What’s not to love about wide open spaces with perfect weather and no traffic*? So after a week of seeing rural life up close and personal, we went down to Denver. After seeing maybe 2 cars a day on the road in Pine Bluffs, Denver traffic was basically Las Vegas in the mountains. In one short week, we had realized how much traffic annoyed us. Throughout the week in Denver, we talked about how nice it would be to raise our girls in a town like Pine Bluffs.
At the end of our trip in Denver, we went to a surprise party for my Uncle. After maybe one too many Banquet Beers, I told my cousin that if he ever had a job opening on his farm, I would love the opportunity to work with him. I’m sure he asked a question along the lines of why I thought I would make a good farmer, and boom, I said, “It’s in my blood.” I don’t know if it really is or not, as neither of my parents are farmers, and their parents weren’t either, but that night I was sure that it was in my blood.
All joking aside, those 2 weeks set into motion the thought of possibly leaving Las Vegas for a rural environment.
And while farming might not be in my blood per se, one cool thing about moving to Wyoming is that I am only 43 miles from where my dad grew up, LaGrange, Wyoming. In LaGrange, my Grandpa was the town butcher, and my Grandma the town nurse. The butcher shop was in the front of the house. Now that building is a grocery store and cafe. So when visiting LaGrange, a person can eat lunch in my Grandparents living room.
Also, we are only 76 miles from where my Grandparents are laid to rest. I can clearly remember visiting them every summer from an early age. The cities of Gering/Scotts Bluff were big when I was 10. The first time Theresa and I drove up there a few weeks back I actually noticed the population. It is 23,000, for both cities, combined. Amazing how growing up changes perspective. But the best ice cream is still found at the Platte Valley Creamery in Scotts Bluff. Amazing stuff.
Looking back, I could not have asked for a better place to grow up than Quincy. While I’m sure I complained about how small it was while living there, I’ve come to realize it was an amazing place to grow up. While living in Las Vegas, I never really imagined raising a family there. I envisioned something along the lines of Quincy.
Pine Bluffs is pretty close to Quincy, at least in terms of size and community. One benefit of raising kids in a small town is sports. If we were to stay in Las Vegas, the odds of any of my girls making a high school sports team is pretty slim. Here in Pine Bluffs, I’m confident that if they choose to play sports when they are older, they can make the team. While growing up in Quincy I was able to play 3 sports in high school, soccer, basketball, and tennis. Now I wasn’t very good at any of them, but that didn’t matter, I made the team! If I was to grow up in a city, I doubt I would have made the team in any of those sports.
Another way Pine Bluffs is like Quincy is that everybody knows each other. As a 16-year in Quincy, I was not a fan of that. As a dad of 3 girls, I think its awesome. One night in Quincy as I was heading home, I was pulled over for a headlight being out. I was given a fix-it ticket and told to head home, about a 2 minute drive. When I get home, my dad asked why I was pulled over. Some neighbor had seen me pulled over and called my parents to let them know. I hope to get similar experiences here in Pine Bluffs as my girls get older.
4-H was a big part of growing up in a small town for me as well. I met some pretty amazing people in 4-H and have stayed in contact with many of them for almost 20 years (that’s sad and crazy to think about). I look forward to my girls being active in the local 4-H club. Madelyn has already picked out what she wants to participate in this year; shooting, archery, cake decorating, and crocheting. I am kind of bummed that she doesn’t want to raise a pig, but hey, at least she wants to learn to be a good shot!
Ever since Theresa and I got married, I have wanted to have a job that my kids would be proud of their dad having. My last two jobs, I did not feel that way. I know this is completely an issue of mine, but it’s how I felt. When I would get home from work, one or two kids would ask what I did. 99% of the time the answer was the same thing, I worked on a computer. I had a feeling that while I was being paid to work, I wasn’t doing anything. While I was paid pretty well to work in the gaming industry, at the end of each day I felt as if I had nothing to show for what I did. I longed to do something tangible every day.
Since the move out here 6 weeks ago, there isn’t a day that has gone by where I don’t feel like I accomplished something. Maybe it was helping brand cattle, or combine wheat, or swath alfalfa, it has always been something. Even on my days off, Theresa and I are doing something. This past weekend, we bought 25 chickens. While we thought this would be a 2 hour job to just go pick them up, it turned into an all day event building fence and getting the coops into just the right spot. At the end of the day, I did something, and my kids helped and I could see how proud they were that something was accomplished as a family.
We can do it Better
Raising pigs has not always been a factory job. Just 25 miles from our house though, a subsidiary of Hormel has a huge pig factory. The sows are bred and farrow there in Wyoming, then the piglets are shipped to either Iowa or California to fatten up. They never see the light of day. There is a better way to farm.
We are going to raise pigs like our grandparents used to, well maybe not my grandparents, but like that generation did. Our pigs will be outside, they will get to root around like pigs, they get to stand on dirt and not metal grates. They will be fed barley and yellow peas. I don’t know enough about GMO’s to be for or against them, but if there is a way to feed my pigs non-GMO, then I’m all about it.
One of our Hereford sows, Miss Polka Dot. She’s about 300 pounds and is as sweet as can be. She runs over as soon as she sees me and enjoys a good scratch behind her ears.
And we are raising heritage pigs. The pork in stores now is said to be “the other white meat”. Well, I don’t want another white meat, I want pork like how it used to be before it was cross bred to be dried out chicken breast type meat. Theresa and I bought half a Berkshire pig in Las Vegas. It was far and away the best pork we had ever had. Now we have a bred Berkshire sow so we know that the meat we are raising will taste superior to what’s in the market.
So there are some of the thoughts that played into us moving. It definitely was a decision that was not taken lightly. We left a great group of friends that took years to build, a great Church that we miss every week, and the comfort of family close by. But in the end, we fell that this is the right decision for our family.
*When we visited in 2012, it was July and hot, at least hot for Wyoming standards. Just this past week, we got the first snow of the season, on September 11. Crazy, snow in summer. I’m sure that if Theresa visited any other time of year than summer, it would have been a much more difficult decision to move!! 😉