During a recent drive across America, my route took me through a portion of the high plains of Wyoming. It was early on a Sunday morning and I might as well have been travelling on one of the lesser moons of Saturn. For a period of nearly two hours, I did not see another vehicle, and the only man-made structures in evidence were a scattering of eerily prehistoric-looking oil wells. Nowhere else in America – not in the deserts of Arizona or the tundra of northern Maine – have I felt so utterly alone.
It is this bleak landscape that provides the setting for Alexandra Fuller’s heartfelt third book, The Legend of Colton H Bryant. The English-born Fuller, author of a popular account of her African childhood, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, has lived in Wyoming for the last fourteen years and is clearly smitten with this unique region. Her book is both a love letter to its rugged natives and a cry of protest against the damage being done to its ecosystem by greedy oil companies.
Colton H Bryant was born in 1980 in his parents’ speeding Ford Thunderbird – ‘the birth certificate gives a mile marker as the place of [his] birth’. He was a typical son of Wyoming, a cowboy at heart but destined to work as a roughneck on one of the oil