My life in Jackson, WY
The first picture I took of the Teton Range
I never thought I'd be living in Jackson Hole, WY, but it happened after making my mind up one day in May of 2009. I had been laid off earlier in 2007, and was bouncing from job to job trying to find a career. Plus, I had just gone through a divorce after two years of marriage. Don't get me wrong, I loved my wife, but we were total opposites and things did not go well. I won't go into that, it's too depressing....I'll just say I wasn't going to be unhappy in a relationship that was failing. We came to terms and now are better friends for it. She has remarried since then, so all I can do now is pray that she is happy and stays that way. I do wish her the very best life has to offer! Now, about Jackson!! I was working in retail in early 2009 and we all know how that is right? I enjoyed the people I worked with but my life was missing something and I was tired of where I was in life. Here I was, 47, divorced and nothing to show for it. I had been a decorated military man, served my country proud for 12 active and 4 reserve years. As a Medical Tech/EMT-B, I had saved lives with the best docs and nurses a man could work with. I had delivered a baby in a person's bathroom with one other tech, and had done CPR on hundreds of unfortunate people, some lived, most died. I loved my life in those days, made great lifelong friends, and had a son from my first marriage that I loved dearly. The time had come, I needed change and my good buddy knew it! He told me...."Jeff, quit dreaming of the West, just go man, just go." So, I gave my two weeks notice, stored my things away, said my good-byes and headed West. I loaded my car with all belongings, clothes, and must-haves. For two days, I drove 2500 miles with a determination of making my home in the small tourist town of Jackson Hole, WY. Driving cross country was a blast just by itself! I stopped when I wanted, took routes off the map, tried to get lost, but always found a road that returned back to the highway, and just enjoyed every minute of the trip.
After 17 hours of driving, I found myself in Amarillo, TX for the first evening. Sleep came fast but the morning came quicker. I took my time leaving the town, just looking at the different shops, getting some good food, seeing the sights, etc. I headed toward Denver, determined to make it there by nightfall. Would I make it?......You bet I would!
I spent the night outside of Denver, CO on the 24th of May, 2009. I was anxious to get to Jackson, so sleep didn't come easy. I arose early and ate the usual continental breakfast of muffins, waffles, coffee, and OJ, hitting the road at 0700. I refueled at the local gas station and headed toward Cheyenne, and then making my turn toward Jackson. In 8 hours, I would be in my new hometown! The air was cleaner out there for sure. No city smog to worry about, no rush hour traffic, no road rage or tail gaiters whatsoever $6 either. Life was peaceful for once, and it had been a long time coming. I had many hours to think about my life, my family, my friends, and when the next time I'd see them as well.....
It was the 25th of May, 2009....It was mid-afternoon when I reached the point where I saw the Teton Mountain range for the first time since I had seen them in over 5 years. I stopped the car, and the emotions surfaced quickly. I thought of what I had been through to get to this point in my life. The military years, my friends that were now gone, that had given their ALL for this country. I thought about the days of my cancer treatments and the day I was told it was never coming back. I thought of my son who I would die for and who is now serving our country in the USAF, and that I had a grand baby on the way! All of the emotions came forth and I just sat and cried because I had made it, I was here in Wyoming where I had dreamed of for many years....I was finally here!!
It was almost 4 PM when I finally arrived in town. I had no place to stay, no job, and no worries. I knew I would survive and do what I had to do, it was in my blood to survive. I quickly surveyed the area, places to eat, work possibilities, apartment options, etc. I chose to stay at a weekly rental motel and quickly unpacked for the night. I ate sushi for my first night in Jackson, and it certainly wouldn't be the last time. After dinner, I still had a good hour before dark, so I headed out into the back country to look around for wildlife and to see those mountains up close! Well, the wildlife was everywhere you looked. Bison, elk, moose, mule deer, etc. lived in this area of Wyoming and I was going to make some great memories here, even if it killed me. Dusk turned into darkness as I watched the sun disappear behind the Teton range. I turned in early with thoughts of getting my resume out in town tomorrow, the 26th of May.
The next morning I arose to a beautiful sunrise to the East, with the Tetons coming alive in the sunshine. It was amazing to see that sight, the glow of the sun shining on the snow covered peaks. I was definitely in God's country. I had my resume on my laptop so I sat at a little coffee shop in town, and started going through the classifieds to first find a job, and then an apartment to rent. I sent about 30 resumes out to different sources, looking for anything to get some cash coming in. I had noticed one job opening for an "Art Consultant", but passed it up at first. Well, I thought I'd contact them just to see what they were looking for. I called them and talked to the Gallery Director....I told her my plans for the future, and that I had the experience to do any job. She liked my attitude and asked me to come in to meet the owners. I dressed for success and met them later that afternoon in the gallery. The gallery (Trailside) was the number one gallery in town, and had the most amazing paintings and sculptures that I had ever seen in my life. They told me they were going to talk and would get back with me in a few days....I was happy I had passed the first test so I left to look for an apartment. Days went by as I looked for a nice, but low cost place to live. Rent wasn't that cheap in that town, but I was determined to find something. It was the 31st of May when I finally found a place to rent. I had a roommate but he wasn't home much so I took the deal of $650 a month for a room in a condo. It had great views of Snow King mountain, and you could see the Tetons looking to the West. I moved in that day! I had noticed that my breathing was labored during the last week, and thought it was the high altitude. Jackson was 6000ft above sea level. The oxygen was thinner so my lungs weren't used to that....I thought. Turns out moving to Jackson was about to save my life......
It was almost 8 PM, the 31st of May, 2009.....I told my roomie I needed a break, since I was having labored breathing after moving my things in and going up three flights of steps. I just didn't feel good and sat on the couch. My room mate left for work minutes before, and it hit me all of a sudden. Since being an ex-medic, I knew I was in trouble. The pain between the shoulder blades, traveling down my arm, profuse sweating, and projectile vomiting all added up to one thing....HEART ATTACK! Quickly I determined I was a dead man if I didn't move quickly. Being that the hospital was only around the corner, I decided to take myself in my car. I prayed to God to let me make it to the ER, and hit my chest twice while driving to keep my heart activated. I felt a calm come over me while driving and reached the parking lot of the hospital. I calmly walked inside to the ER nurses station where I, again...calmly told the nurse I was having a heart attack. She didn't hesitate and pushed a button on the desk. Four men burst out of the ER doors, placed me on a gurney and wheeled me into the ER where they quickly started the routine tests for someone with a heart attack. IV's, EKG's, Blood cultures, Chem 12, CBC, Diff, etc.....The doctor was a younger man than myself, about 40. He was very professional, calming, and had great bedside manner. He looked in amazement as I lay there calmly as they went about their job, and finally asked me, "Mr. Randolph, how can you be so calm right now, because you ARE having a heart attack as we speak?" I told him, "Doc, I've faced death before, so I'm at peace with what ever happens, I know God's with me." He said, "Wow, that must be a great feeling." I told him it was and that I was fine with what ever happened next. They gave me 3 nitroglycerin pills and placed them one at a time under my tongue.....More to follow....
The Cathedral Group and the Snake River
Well, here i was...lying in an ER 2500 miles from family, friends, and anyone who knew me. Just me and God....I had to call someone to let them know, just in case I wasn't going to make it. I decided to call my brother Wayne. He would take the news the best of anyone, and Lord help me if my mother heard about it. Wayne was worried but I told him NOT to come out there, that they would be flying me to Idaho Falls to a Cardiologist Hospital for further treatment. That would be an experience in itself! I told Wayne I'd call him the next day when I knew the plan for me. After what seemed hours, I finally arrived at the Idaho Falls Hospital, and met the cardiologist that would perform the angiogram the next morning. Dr. G did an amazing job and placed three stints within my heart arteries. I felt like a new man and he told me to rest for two weeks. After that, I could live life like before.....Full speed ahead!
Two weeks exactly after my H/A, myself and my great friend Monty hiked the Lupine Trail in the Teton National Park. It was a beautiful day, and we saw wildlife, and great views once we got above treeline. That hike started us on a quest of our own, to hike as many trails as we could in the TNP. Overall, we hiked over 150 miles within that park, some very strenuous and testing our abilities. Our longest was a sixteen miler, then there was the Solitude Lake hike, up through the back country and up to Solitude where we found it frozen over, and it was in July!! Those were some great hikes and we met some great people on those trails, and some animals as well. Memories for life and many photos to refresh my mind.
Blocking the trail...
The trail to Lake Solitude (10,500ft)
Lake Solitude, frozen over in JULY!
As for my job, the gallery called me 3 days after I was released from the hospital. I didn't mention what had happened though, since that probably wasn't something one would talk about during a hiring interview right?....No worries, I was a new man and ready to do what was needed. I was hired as a Fine Art Consultant, with a salary plus commissions when I sold a painting, pretty sweet deal if you ask me!! The people I worked for and with were great people. The job was busy at times, but mostly daily emails were the norm, and shipping and receiving great paintings worth thousands of dollars. This was the real oil paintings that collectors would kill for. The clientele were great as well, when they'd come in and we'd walk the gallery picking out which pieces would look best in their homes or offices, or mountain retreats as we called them there. If you've never been to Jackson, don't hesitate anymore. Get out there soon while the weather is great! Ah, the weather....another subject that changes quickly out there. When on hikes, you better be prepared for any weather as I found out a couple of times out there. One minute a beautiful sunny day, a second later....snow so thick you couldn't see 10 feet in front of you. Now that was awesome!! Or a rain shower that soaked you to the bone as quickly as jumping in a shower. Good times, you bet!
Rainstorm quickly approaching....
I thought I would stay in Jackson until the Lord above called me, but things happen for a reason I say. I loved my life in Jackson....the hiking, the wildlife, the scenery, and especially my job...it all added up to a great time in my life. Working in the gallery let me realize how fun it was to meet different people in life, sharing your experiences, and making new friends to last a lifetime. The nightlife in Jackson was a little different, friends hanging out at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, two steppin' and dancing the night away with the pretty cowgirls. Our lives are enriched with different people, friends, and experiences to make us better, stronger, thankful, and blessed. The West was a special place for me, and I thank God for the time spent there adding to my life experiences. The day came that I had to leave Jackson Hole....my step dad was ill, so I felt I needed to be close to family, and for Mom's sake as well. I moved back in November of 2009. He gave it a good run, but sadly he passed away in April of 2010. He suffers no more.....Mom's doing good today, but misses him on a daily basis.....Now we just have to take care of her until her time comes, which I hope doesn't come soon. Life is a journey, so enjoy it while you can, be a steward of kindness to one another, and be thankful for the things you have....Remember, there's always someone in worse shape than you are so help those you can, and pray for the others.....God Bless us ALL!