In the summer of 1956, my grandfather, Art Humble, moved to Cody, WY to start his first job out of college in the coal industry. In the summer of 2017, I collected plant fossils for a research project in Hanna Basin, WY among the layers of coal, carbonaceous shales, and sandstone. On my last day that summer, the coincidence struck me as interesting. Art and I have always understood each other well. Even in my early years, I was very bookish, and I loved history, and we always bonded over that because he is also bookish and loves history. It was funny to me that we would spend time in the same places when we were around the same age.
I never thought I would go back to southern Wyoming so soon.
This past spring (2018), when I found out I had gotten into the CLM program and would be working in Rawlins, WY (just 40 miles from Hanna), it was my grandfather who was the only one in my family who had been to Rawlins before.
“It’s not much”, he said. And he showed me a photo of the simple, brick storefronts of downtown Rawlins from when he visited there. Rawlins has grown considerably in the past 60 years, but it is still small, with a population just under 10,000. I moved here 3 days after graduating college with no sense of what to expect out of my first real job using my real degree. I quickly found that, while Rawlins itself does not have a ton going on, the BLMers in our field office are incredibly kind and interesting people.
Once I started working, the weeks started to fly by incredibly quickly. I climbed sand dunes to survey Penstemon haydenii, an endangered plant that only grows in constantly disturbed sand dune environments. I tried to cut through thick reeds and willows to search for Wyoming Toad, the rarest amphibian in North America. I built a snow fence to protect sagebrush seedlings. I spotlight searched all night long for the ever charismatic black footed ferret. I ground checked for historic raptor nests. I surveyed Bennett Peak for invasive weeds. I visited Cody, WY with my boyfriend. I collected SO MANY SEEDS for Seed of Success. I even returned to Hanna Basin for one of our seed collections.
The CLM internship was a very good decision for me. I learned a lot at work, I went to 3 national parks, and I met some nice people. That’s all I can really ask for. I hope to find a more research-focused position for my next job, and eventually apply to graduate school. I love plants; I love natural history; I love ecology. I am really just following that bliss.
Now, I am looking at the clock on my last day of work, mentally preparing for the drive home ahead. I don’t know what’s next for me. I can’t even be sure where I will be 2 weeks from now, but today, I am starting the journey home to my family, and I am set to start substitute teaching until I figure things out. I will see my grandfather, and celebrate my mom’s birthday, and keep applying for botany-related jobs, and feel anxious about the future.
The only certainty in life in uncertainty, especially when you are 22. In the summer 1956, Art Humble did not know what the future would hold for him in Cody, and in the summer of 2018, I felt the same way about Rawlins. This week, on the phone, my grandfather put these feelings into words. They seem very profound for me right now, as I move on with no real plans for the near future. I can’t say that I won’t end up back in Wyoming for work for third time.
“You never know what to expect until you are there.”