We moved to Wyoming in the late 70’s, when the oil business was booming, and no one could imagine the bust that would come in less than a decade. My father is a petroleum geologist, and we were transferred from Singapore, where I was born. Both my parents had not grown up in the United States. My mother was born and raised in India; my father grew up in Ireland and Australia.
We actually were being sent to Norway, and the company routed us through Houston so my dad could have some training. While in Texas, Norway fell through, and the oil company gave my father three choices: we could move to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Bakersfield, California, or Casper, Wyoming. My father asked my mother where she wanted to go, and she promptly went to the Rice University Library and looked up all three places in the encyclopedia. When she looked up Wyoming, she saw pictures of the Tetons, of Yellowstone, and of Devil’s Tower. She thought we were moving to the Alps.
Instead, we arrived in October when the wind was blowing to an oil and gas town with a small squat mountain. Because there was a boom on, we couldn’t find a house. We lived in a hotel for weeks. I took my first steps on American soil, in a Ramada Inn.
We found a house soon after, and that first year, my mother didn’t unpack. She asked my dad to put in for another transfer. My dad was in the field a lot that first year, and my mother would play with us, and over the course of the year, slowly start to make a home. She bought us snowsuits and boots; she bought herself a warm hat and coat. She joined the church and took us every Sunday. We spent afternoons at the library and at Sears and Penny’s. At night, she would sing us lullabies in Tamil.
We would drive to Denver, Colorado, which was 280 miles away, to buy Indian groceries. There were only two Indian stores then, and on the drive home a big sack of basmati rice would be wedged between my sister and me. Our feet rested on bags of spices and jars of pickle.
For me, I have always known Wyoming. Casper is a trails town. The Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail, and Pony Express all go through the town. It seems fitting then that our family journey took us there. But unlike the pioneers who traveled on – further West, we stayed in Wyoming. It’s been more than 35 years, and I cannot imagine a different route. I cannot see a different trail.
— Nina McConigley