We traverse westward through North Dakota, passing by that monumental holstein in New Salem. I know this dairy cow well, I’ve waved at her from the window as we drove by at least a dozen times as a child on our pilgrimages to Minnesota to see our grandparents, but I have never met her. This time, Sheri and I pull off of the highway and make the slow drive up the steep, narrow, twisting gravel road to take pictures beneath her massive udder and to feel the fast wind whip through our hair. We are on our way to Cody, Wyoming the Rodeo Capital of the World, to photograph the 16 year-old barrel racer, Hadley. We intend to stay with my sister Julie and her family, but it’s fair week and they’ll also be busy competing with their market pigs.
Located near the eastern entrance of Yellowstone National Park, and originated in part by THE Buffalo Bill, Cody is a fabricated Disneyland-esque Wild West fantasy for tourists. During the summer it hosts a nightly rodeo, it’s home to the the largest firearm museum, and is the birth place of Jackson Pollock. Incidentally, across the field from my sister’s house lies the remains and historical wounds of The Heart Mountain War Relocation Center where over 13,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II - a number that exceeds Cody’s current population. After the war many of these citizens had nothing to return to on the West Coast, but were prohibited from homesteading in Wyoming (an alien land law that remained in place until 2001). After all, tourism is the town’s primary industry and the Old West facade crumbles in the face of racial diversity. Cody, Wyoming is a place where Americans flock to proudly wear Stetson and red MAGA hats with hopes of experiencing the last frontier of their Louis L’Amour fantasies. -Holly