Kanye West is doing the Lord’s work: Bringing national attention to my childhood home of Wyoming, America’s least populous state with half a million residents spread over 97,000 square miles of majestic peaks meeting the rolling prairie.
I’m glad West is helping people discover the beauty that is Wyoming. Or, rather, helping others discover that Wyoming is a state in the first place, then highlighting its beauty by using the glorious Teton Mountains as the cover for his album, “Ye,” which he recorded in Jackson Hole last year.
Proving that he’s committed to the Cowboy State way of life, the rapper and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, last month bought a $14-million, 4,500-acre ranch in Cody, in northwest Wyoming, population roughly 10,000.
“It’s no surprise that Wyoming’s epic landscapes and laid-back vibe attract creators and artists like Kanye West,” Tia Tory, PR and media manager for the Wyoming Office of Tourism, said last year when West was recording his album.
“It’s hard not be inspired in a place like Wyoming,” Tory added. “These landscapes don’t care if it’s your first time or 15th time to Grand Teton National Park. Here in Wyoming, you’re at home no matter where you’re from.”
Wyoming is one of America’s greatest sanctuaries, where you can hole up in the middle of nowhere and let the creative juices flow. It’s also an escape, solitude. It’s one of the few places where people could care less about your celebrity — if you’re lucky the people know your name at all.
In Wyoming, one can still be left alone.
You can climb the rocky outcrops of Vedauwoo and survey the gorgeous scenery. Or breathe in the smells of sagebrush and greasewood dancing across the prairie.
Perhaps most important, West is showing the rest of the country how the West is fun — ATV-ing alongside antelope, even if it did earn him a lecture from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department about harassing wildlife; a source told TMZ they didn’t intend to chase the antelope.
And earlier this month, he organized an outdoor worship service that brought in thousands to The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody.
Some other cool Wyoming factoids: It’s known for being the first state to give women the right to vote. It also hosts the “world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration,” whereupon hundreds of thousands flood in.
One of my favorite tidbits: One of the first female war correspondents, Martha Gellhorn, married Ernest Hemingway in the little train depot in downtown Cheyenne.
For any of my fellow Wyomingites who fear that a Kanye and Kim “takeover” will spoil this seemingly unknown landscape, don’t worry: Wyoming is still country enough that even the Wests couldn’t change it — except maybe to liven it up a bit.
And let’s not forget: That long, harsh Wyoming winter is not for the faint of heart.