National Geographic : 2010 Oct
• "DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE GOING AWAY?" I asked. It was a summer day in 1969. ere had been no rain for weeks. e 17-year-old boy from a Hutterite religious community in Stanford, Montana, said you can tell it's really dry when a single rider can kick up a dust trail. We stopped with our horses at a stream. e water was cool and tasted of the earth. We drank carelessly, splashing our faces until our shirtfronts hung wet. "You know---do you ever feel like leaving the colony?" "No," the boy said. "It must be a pretty rough life on the outside, all alone, trying to make a living. Don't you think?" We let the horses drink, and then rode on. "Yes," I told him. "It can be all of that." Since that innocent exchange, I've spent much of my life travel- ing the world. I've seen a lot of wonderful places. But it was the American West that never le me. It kept drawing me back. Raised in Minneapolis, I didn't get my rst look at the West until the mid-1960s, while on my rst assignments for National Geographic magazine. I can still remember one early morning in Wyoming and the first light on high mountain meadows, the wisps of clouds within my reach. at look demanded another, and another, until I found myself seeking any excuse, any story idea that would lead me back from the East, where I had moved, to that grand expanse. Now I live half the year in western Montana. I once knew an old Montana cowhand, now dead, who used to muse about times when the country was more open, with fewer fences and gates to slow a man down---restrictions in the land of the free. I suppose we all feel more restricted today. ere seem to be gates in our lives that we never get open. But if we're lucky, we nd a place special to us. Even though it may change with time, if we love it deeply enough, there is a part of it within us to the end. at's how I feel about the West. j A RETROSPECTIVE LOOK William Albert Allard is a 46-year-long contributor. National Geographic Books will publish William Albert Allard: Five Decades in mid-October. A companion exhibition will open December 2 at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City.