Jeremiah and Lindsey Johnson, the boys’ parents, were living in Jackson when they fell in love with this land and the life it promised. Jeremiah builds high-end homes in Wyoming’s wealthiest ZIP code. Lindsey, a former interior designer, bakes cakes for luxury weddings. They wanted to raise “wild Wyoming boys” in a place with creeks to explore, snakes to catch, and meadows to roam in the company of chickens, goats, and horses.
The boys feed kitchen scraps to the hens and gather warm eggs with yolks so bright they can make a white cake blush. After chores, they scatter to catch tadpoles, poke at bugs with sticks and hide in the willows that shade the creek. They’re chaperoned by a rescued yellow lab named Jackson. Even Jackson knows the dinner bell means it’s time to run home for supper. “They play so far away I got tired of yelling,” Lindsey says.
They play at least five sports with a soccer ball: baseball, volleyball, golf, soccer and Keep It Off the Ground. Sometimes a foul ball gets stuck in an Aspen tree. They have a skateboard — but no pavement — so they ride it down a grassy slope, a summertime version of sledding. There’s a bike to pedal through freshly mowed fields, but the front wheel is missing an axle. That doesn’t stop them. But Dad does. They didn’t watch the Olympics. “I don’t even know what that is,” Killian says.
Summer days promise 15 hours of daylight. But the season is fleeting. Snow comes in October, and by November it’s starting to pile up higher than a boy is tall. It doesn’t melt off until May. When the snowless season is less than five months, you learn to play hard and soak up summer like a camel stores water. Punishment is having to stay inside.
In two short weeks, a bus will collect the younger boys from their driveway on State Line Road and haul them off to first and third grade. School isn’t bad. Last year, Killian’s school had a five-star view of the Tetons and a warning bell that rang when herds of wild bison wandered too near. Mom took them school shopping in Idaho Falls, nearly two hours away. The mall was an adventure.
“They think Idaho Falls is downtown Manhattan,” Jeremiah says.
“You should see them on an escalator,” Lindsey adds. “It’s like the movie ‘Elf.’”
The sun is sinking through gauzy curtains of light, a cherry orb that glows in the smoky haze from fires burning to the west. Each sunset comes a minute or two sooner than the last. Summer is slipping away. Jackknife Creek, with all its glory and bacteria, beckons irresistibly.
“Please, Mom?” Soren pleads. “Please?”
His mother smiles.
Now he’s up to his curls in the creek.