Friday, July 03, 2009

"WYOMING: It is for everybody!"

You can find some strange truths in bumper stickers.

I saw one the other day in Cheyenne. It was on a pick-up. It read: "WYOMING: It's not for everybody."

At first, I thought it was another in a series of "Unique Wyoming" bumper stickers: "Wyoming is what America was." "Wyoming: Like No Place on Earth."

The theme that unites them all could be summed up into the fact that Wyomingites like the state the way it is and its residents don't need any of your newfangled coastal ideas.

That's no revelation if you live here. We're a conservative state, more libertarian that right-wing fundamentalist -- although there's a streak of that here too. At best, the libertarian streak reveals a healthy distrust of big government. At worst, it's venomous, mindless gubment-hating more akin to Nativists and neo-Nazis than any sane political philosophy.

But as I mulled over the "WYOMING: It's not for everybody" bumper sticker, I began to wonder: What if Wyoming was for everybody? What if everybody in the U.S. moved to the Equality/Cowboy State? Latest state population figures show 532,668 in an area of 97,818 square miles. That makes for about 5.4 humans per square mile. So, if Wyomingites were placed equidistant from one another across the state, nobody could see his/her neighbor.

That's impossible, of course. You can't tell Wyomingites where and how to live. Besides, everyone wants to live in scenic locales such as Jackson, Sheridan and Cody, or the not-so-scenic-but-already-settled-places-with-jobs such as Cheyenne and Casper and Gillette.

But what is everybody in the U.S. moved to Wyoming? Sure, there would be a lot of gun play, but let's say that most of the immigrants survived the melee. Wyoming would have some 303 million new residents. Suddenly, there would be 3,108 people per square mile. That's a big boost, for sure. A lot less elbow room, especially if you landed in one of the square mile parcels with citizens from "fat states" such as Mississippi and Arkansas. But if you're sharing space with skinny-state Coloradans, you could stretch until the cows came home, although there would be no room for them if they did.

How crowded would it be? Well, if you increased Cheyenne's population of 56,915 by a factor of 575 times, the city would become a teeming metropolis of 32 million. Now that would put a strain on city services. But hey, we still have the Wal-Mart Regional Distribution Center west of town. Wal-Mart, with its super-efficient delivery system, could keep all 32 million of us supplied with Chinese-made snack foods and diapers for the foreseeable future.

But what if I'm giving short shrift to the bumper sticker's message? What if everybody meant "everybody," even the Chinese, North Koreans and Iranians? Now we're talking a population explosion. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the worlds population at 6.76 billion souls. If you provided a 4-square-foot space for everyone, Wyoming could easily accommodate everybody in the entire world, with a bit of room left over for rivers and lakes and mountaintops and bears and prairie dogs and Wal-Marts.

So the bumper sticker is incorrect: Wyoming is for everybody. Every person on the planet.


jhwygirl said...

I always thought - still do, actually - of Wyoming as the worlds best kept secret.

And I'm fine with it that way....there'll be more for me when I get back.

Happy 4th to you, Mike!

Michael Shay said...

Happy Fourth to you, jhwygirl. Keep celebrating that gift of free speech!