Like the stories of the pioneers who have fascinated me since childhood, my life story has been a westward journey. I was born in Missouri, not far from where Oregon Trail pioneers began their treks. Later, my family moved to Oklahoma where I grew up and was educated.
My first westward adventure was as a college student working one summer in Yellowstone National Park. I fell in love with Wyoming’s mountains and open spaces then. Twenty years later an opportunity to teach at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs finally gave me my chance to live in Wyoming. In the words of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High,” I felt I had “come home to a place I’d never been before.”Teaching writing, western literature and western American studies at Western Wyoming Community College while living in the small city of Rock Springs and later in the rural area of Eden Valley, Wyoming have all been influences on my writing.
I still see the western landscape, wildlife, people, and history with the same sense of wonder I felt when I was first introduced to them. For over thirty years I lived with my husband close to the Oregon Trail in Wyoming on ground homesteaded by the first settlers in Eden Valley and in the home they built over 100 years ago. Surrounded by reminders of the Oregon Trail and memories of pioneers, by the Wind River Mountains and the high plains deserts they knew, I found my voice as a writer and my heart’s home.
In the fall of 2012, I reluctantly exchanged rural Wyoming life for suburban Colorado life. Leaving my beloved Wind Rivers and our old homestead place felt like a betrayal. After five years of trying, I realized I wasn’t meant to be a city girl. Now I am enjoying life in the welcoming community of Laramie, settling into small town life, and getting to know the landscape and people of a new part of Wyoming. It is good to be back where I belong.
“The Lady’s Parfleche” is an artistic creation by Connie Zullo of Columbia, Missouri which was inspired by reading Staking Her Claim: Women Homesteading the West. Ms Zullo explains: “I am creating an artist-made box, using authentic artifacts as well as contrived art pieces symbolizing the women homesteaders” in Ms. Hensley’s book. “What an inspirational and enlightening book it is! It should be a required read…for all American history classes.”
“The Lady’s Parfleche” was part of an exhibit in Columbia, Missouri in October, 2009.
Copyright © 2020 Marcia Hensley - All Rights Reserved.