Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wide Open Spaces

I was born in northeast Idaho--that is northeast part of southeast :-)--in Fremont County, framed by the Continental Divide along the Montana border and the Teton Mountains on the border with Wyoming... about 10 times the land area of Durham and still today less than 1/10th the population (and half of that in one town). But we were next to the huge, Jackson, WY, micropolitan area, today around 27,000 in population. Traffic is a problem… “not.”

At age 5, I inherited my father’s hand-me-down horse, a jet-black quarter horse named Gypsy, with a thick Belgian neck. She had been my father’s horse until I was five and old enough for roundup and didn’t pass until I was in college. As an only son, in that culture, that horse was my closest companion.

It was common, in high Rocky Mountain plateau, to come up on a rise and see for 50 miles--what seemed like a hundred. Part thinner air, part topography.

When I came to Durham nearly two decades ago, the first thing I noticed was the heavy tree canopy, thick underbrush and how rare it seemed to see the horizon. Another difference is how close population centers are.

This all crossed my mind as we gathered visitor demographics for the new Durham Performing Arts Center. There are 1.8 million people within 50 miles (more than the entire state of Idaho), 5 million within 100 miles (twice the combined populations of the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) and a full 10 million within 150 miles (about the population of Los Angeles).

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