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Out West, Georgia's still on his mind

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

The problem with the following is that it should have a Byron, Wyoming, dateline.

I've never been to Byron, Wyo., a small town in Big Horn County, but I've met one of its prominent citizens, and I can see the town, population 555, in my mind's eye. Small-town America where people are neighborly and accommodating. They socialize amicably, and endorse laid-back living. A man in a hurry is likely to be lassoed by the laid back lifestyle. They drink coffee in the mornings and enjoy a social as the sun sets in late afternoon. They watch the nightly news and fuss about what is going on in Washington.

There is no service station and no traffic light, but there is a bar and a post office. After all, no matter where you live, you can't survive without the U.S. Mail and a libation at sundown. If you want to fish and hunt or hike and ride four wheelers into the mountains, you would enjoy compatibility with Byron and the locals who dress like the Westerners they are. They become exhilarated by the winter snows, which allow for one of the greatest of experiences -- snow skiing. "We cross-country ski, but not much downhill anymore," said Dwain Jackson when he came by my office recently. Dwain and his wife, Harriett, were once anchored in Georgia and never thought they would live anywhere else.

"We're pretty darn good Bulldogs," Dwain said, sounding as Western as Gary Cooper in "High Noon." "We feel blessed when the Dawgs play on CBS or one of those ESPN networks and we can see the games in our living room. We still come back this way every year to see family. We have the fondest memories of our days in Athens. Harriett and I started going out to Wyoming to visit our daughter Nancy O'Neill and just fell in love with the place. So when we retired, we moved to Wyoming."

What got my attention was Dwain's cowboy-style dress. He looked like he could have been a central character in a John Wayne movie: Western shirt, cowboy hat, cowboy boots, jeans, and twinkle in his eye that suggested he might be a cowpoke who just showed up amid the tumbleweed and staked a claim.

Our conversation lasted a while, and I hated for it to end. I've already looked at a map. Next time I go West, I'm going to figure out how I can get to Byron and see Dwain and Harriett in their habitat. "You'd be welcome if you come," Dwain grinned. "We like visitors, especially those who wear red and black."

With a degree in forestry from Georgia, Dwain graduated and signed up for Army duty for three years. Then he went to work at DuPont in Athens. Daughter Nancy was a member of the cross-country team in Winder. Her coach, Cook Holiday, was a track athlete at the University of Wyoming and influenced Nancy to matriculate in Laramie. She enrolled, she graduated, and she stayed.

Dwain and Harriett began visiting Nancy and vacationing in Wyoming. The allure was too great. As soon as retirement came about, they packed up and moved West.

However, it seems to me that the Jacksons can't get Georgia off their mind. Dwain couldn't stop talking about Izzy, his all-white, female Bulldog. "Her full name," he said proudly, "is Isabell's Montana Dreaming." For some time, he had been wanting a bulldog to remind him of his Georgia background and heritage. "We bought her from the head pharmacist at the Powell, Wyoming, hospital. He had bought her as a pup, and she was not a good fit with an older male bulldog he had at home. He put her up for adoption and by the grace of God, I found her," Dwain explained.

When Dwain was thinking of retiring, he couldn't wait to get to Wyoming. And now that he is there, he can't get Georgia off his mind. However, he seems to have his schizophrenia under control.

Loran Smith is affiliated with the University of Georgia and can be reached via e-mail at loransmithathens@bellsouth.net.