Mary O’Hara’s autobiography, Flicka’s Friend (1982) follows a chronological path through her life from childhood to her later years. I had the impression that she had been born and raised in Wyoming, but she went there when she married for the second time. She describes Wyoming as being “on the summit of the divide” between the East and West coasts “with an impassable wall of mountains, running like a jagged backbone from north to south”, the Rockies. When she first arrived, she felt she “had stepped off of one planet onto a sphere that orbited at a different tempo, under different skies, under different orders”.
She writes: “It was transcendently beautiful. Vast. Empty. Glowing with heavenly colors.” On the other side of one unhappy marriage and freshly infatuated with her next, it must have seemed very peaceful and soothing: “Between us and that distant horizon stretched the grass, a flat carpet, bright emerald green; cloud shadows lay upon it here and there, very dark, purple or midnight blue, constantly changing their mysterious shapes. Way off, almost invisible, was a cluster of antelopes, just tiny dots. They looked like figurines on a lady’s table.”
That image, with the figurines: it’s what I remember of My Friend Flicka, how the domestic and wild appeared in the same page. (And now I understand why so much of that trilogy is preoccupied by the marriage between Ken’s parents.) But Wyoming was also a somewhat lonely experience for Mary. She was friends with the librarian in Cheyenne and with the Episcopalian pastor and his wife, but otherwise she found no community there. “So this was Wyoming, I thought, a secret hidden world unknown to the rest of the country, serene and calm, with a slow heart beat.”