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Visiting Cole Bell and Kyle Redtail

August 16, 2014
Posted at 4:59 pm

My journey across Wyoming on U.S. 20 took me a hundred miles north of Laramie, the setting for my book, Redtail. I couldn't resist. I wrote about Laramie and Centennial as if I lived there and I wanted to know how much of what I had to say was lies.

Well, most of it. But I got the essence right. The essence is that Wyoming is a beautiful state with fiercely independent people who are kind and friendly.

First off, I visited historic downtown Laramie. First Street faces the railroad and was where most of the brothels were where Kyle would have grown up in the 1880s. Prostitution wasn't made illegal here until the 1960s according to one willing informant. I find it amazing that the state that was the first to give women the vote was also one of the last to outlaw prostitution. I saw one sign that read, "Where men break the laws and women make the laws." The Coal Creek Coffee Company was a treat at First and Grand. I got good coffee and a sandwich for breakfast and also bought enough ground coffee to make it through my next ten days in the mountains.

The University of Wyoming is one of the most beautiful campuses that I've ever seen. The sandstone buildings are impressive. Even the newer buildings have kept with the traditional materials of Old Main. The Student Union is just thirty or so steps from the Coe Library and not more than a ten minute walk from Fraternity Row and Sorority Row. I walked by both Cole's and Ashley's houses.

Greenhill Cemetery was both a surprise and a familiar sight. I entered from right behind Fraternity Row on the south side because 15th street was under construction. The first big surprise was that you can't really see the cemetery from either the library or any of the other buildings in the main campus area. You can from the fraternities and from the sports facilities. You probably can from those along 15th, but I couldn't get into that area. Also, I imagined the main entrance and Avenue of Flags to the center of the cemetery as a paved avenue lined with flags. Neither was true. All the roads through Greenhill are dirt, narrow, and plain. Few have names. The cemetery is immense and it took me a full half hour to walk leisurely through it. What didn't surprise me was the Potter's Field where I indicated that Caitlin was buried and Kyle put a headstone for her. In this field of about an acre or so, there are only a couple dozen headstones. Some are flat on the ground, some tumbled. Most unreadable. I even discovered a couple of wood planks that had fallen and had obviously once been carved but had little that was legible. It was a lonely and sad place.

I drove out to Centennial, near which Cole's ranch was supposed to be. Population 250. It's at 8000 feet and the Snowy Range is just beyond it to the West. All the land between Laramie and Centennial (about 30 miles) is pretty much rangeland. I saw several hundred head of cattle. Of course, the location that I set Cole's ranch was probably the least hospitable for raising cattle as the upper slopes are far too steep to drive cattle up for summer grazing. Nonetheless, it was easy to see how Cole, Mary Beth, Ashley, Kyle, Laramie, Kat and their progeny would all fight to protect their land. It is breathtaking.

All told, I think Redtail does justice to the area. I'm thinking seriously of writing a sequel this winter featuring Cole, Mary Beth, and Ashley's children, Laramie Wyoming Bell and Kyle Redtail Bell. Let's say the story is now in an investigative stage and would feature time travel of the same sort as what Cole/Kyle experienced in Redtail. I started rereading the story myself and find that I'm enjoying it. It's still available here on SOL and is available for both Kindle and in paperback on Amazon--by Devon Layne.

Tomorrow, I head north and west toward Yellowstone.