I grew up outside of Riverton, on a piece of land that abutted the Wind River. We had the yard and the pasture, and surrounding that were three large fields a local farmer took care of for us. He rotated those fields with alfalfa, barley and occasionally corn, so they were smorgasbords for deer, pheasants and waterfowl. I was spoiled as a youngster, because I needed only walk about 400 yards to hunt ducks and geese all through the season.
But beyond the fields was what we referred to as the Lower Pasture. It was an uncultivated chunk of wild land, comprised of high plateaus covered with six-foot-tall sagebrush, and deep coulees where thick grass and rabbitbrush grew. Foxes, coyotes, skunks and other critters could occasionally be found there, though they usually saw, smelled or heard me coming and vanished before I caught a glimpse. But I saw their tracks everywhere I looked.
There were only about 20 acres of this wild, untamed land, but to a kid, it was a vast wilderness. I rode my bike down there every chance I got, or sometimes saddled up one of my dad’s old rope horses for a more thorough exploration.
I tried my hand at trapping down there, starting with crude deadfalls I learned to build by following instructions in Dad’s old woodcraft books. Later, I tried snares and leg-hold traps. I never caught anything, but I enjoyed trying.
I wish I had a place like that for my kids. Heck, I wish I could still go down to the Lower Pasture myself, even as a 47-year-old. All the worries of the world disappeared when I was exploring those fox dens and deer trails. It was a magical place where you could be Daniel Boone, John Colter, or Chief Washakie, and the only rules were those imposed by Mother Nature – and to be home by supper.
If you have a Lower Pasture of your own, hold onto it. Don’t let it get swallowed by what passes for “progress.”