Changed? You bet I've changed.
Twenty years ago, I lived on a farm in Pennsylvania. My roots ran so deep I couldn't imagine ever leaving. Then I moved to Wyoming.
This week, I went back and visited my family and my old stomping grounds. It was a great visit, but today, on the last leg of the long trek back to my adopted state, I realized how much Wyoming has become my home.
The East is beautiful, with its rolling hills and leafy forests. While I was there, I noticed a lot of things we don't have in Wyoming - old stone farmhouses, black and white dairy cows, fountains of flowers growing in naturally rich, dark soil. We don't have a big selection of fancy restaurants, either, and we definitely don't have anything like Wegman's gourmet grocery stores.
But Wyoming has so many things I missed, even after a week. We have mountains - mountains with snow on top, even in August. We have sagebrush and antelope, and even buffalo dotting the hills along the interstate. (Yeah, they're at a buffalo farm, but they used to live wild in Wyoming by the thousands!) As I drove, the sky darkened with a storm but the late afternoon sun kept shining, highlighting the golden summer grass and the rock outcroppings, casting deep purple shadows that made everything stand out sharp and clear.
Just as I passed the buffalo farm, a rainbow shimmered into view, arching over the scattered houses on the outskirts of Cheyenne, and I know it's corny, but I got a lump in my throat and my eyes stung a little.
I love it here. This is home now, and I've become a devoted Westerner.
A lot of people picture scenic Yellowstone when they think of Wyoming, but that' only a small part of the state. The landscape around Cheyenne is rocky and dry, with fewer trees and more cattle. The wind blows hard and the living's not easy, but you have to respect the ranchers and cowboys (and cowgirls) who manage to tame it. That's the landscape I write about in Cowboy Trouble, and in One Fine Cowboy, my new book that comes out in September.
Nate, the hero of the new book, is struggling to make his grandfather's ramshackle ranch into a horse operation. He's quiet and determined, and to me, he represents the best qualities of Wyoming's cowboys. His collision with Jersey girl Charlie Banks - and her discovery that Wyoming just might be the home she's been looking for - make up the heart of the book.
Like me, Charlie is changed by Wyoming - and Nate is changed by Charlie. The book will be out in just one month - and that will be a change for me, too. Instead of being a debut author, I'm now officially multi-published!
Are you a native who's stayed in one place all your life, or a transplant like me? And if you've adopted a new home, how has it changed you?