Happy Jack Reprieve
Trails of Happy Jack
Where is Happy Jack? It's about ten miles east of Laramie, Wyoming off I-80. After you exit the interstate, you first drive northwesterly over open sage plains and then due east on the back road to Cheyenne to wooded ridges of lodgepole pine, aspen, Douglas fir and occasional ponderosa pine. A good entrance way to Happy Jack is at Upper Tie City with a parking area at the trailhead. You need a map of Happy Jack trails or you'll get lost in the woods.
We used to live in Laramie (1965-1990) where I taught at the University of Wyoming. When times got overly heavy with academics, Happy Jack served as a nice reprieve either in winter with cross-country ski trails or in summer with deer, wildflowers and the scent of pine. Many a time I took my wife Maura and our kids deep into the woods of Happy Jack. One incident I remember was suffering from disappointment with a university press director who thought my selections from Henry David Thoreau's unpublished "Indian Notebooks" (with my introduction) were quite interesting but he had to decline publication because, quite frankly, they were mere "antiquarian curioso." Several years later a small literary press in Albuquerque called Hummingbird Press elected with joy to publish "The Indians of Thoreau: selections from the Indian Notebooks" and to pay me ten percent royalties on sales.
In a somewhat ridiculous sense of revenge against the university pres that rejected my book, I took a Hummingbird Press flyer and sprawled across it "Antiquarian Curioso" with a black pen. I took the flyer up to the deep woods of Happy Jack and went off trail to thumb tack it to a lodgepole pine tree. I wonder if anyone ever came across it before it disintegrated in winter snows. I hadn't thought about that incident back in 1974 until we visited our friends Tom and Margie just last week some forty years later.
Maura, Margie and I (Tom was detained with business) took a ramble through the woods from Upper Tie City to smell the pine trees and look at flowers and run our dogs (Sarah and Casey) in the forest and open meadows. It was a pleasant relief to get back up to Happy Jack after experiencing heat, heavy traffic, and malaise in the metro area of Denver. We all reminisced about skiing the trails of Happy Jack in the dead of winter and of watching chickadees and western song sparrows flutter above flowery summer fields. I never mentioned the antiquarian curioso incident but only chuckled to myself. What a joy to see our dog Sarah chase after their little dog Casey along gurgling streambeds and through deep woods. It's nice to know Happy Jack is but a two-hour drive from our urban home! And it's nice to know we still have good friends in our old hometown of Laramie!
© 2017 Richard Francis Fleck