Since its christening in 1920, the R Lazy S Ranch has rested sweetly between the mountains and the river on the Moose-Wilson Road.  There were countless times when the ranch could have easily dissolved into a dusty footnote in Jackson Hole’s history – succumbing to pressure from the newly formed GTNP which came to surround it, or evaporating at the end of that 20 yr lease.   It would’ve been easier not to move the original cabins down the Snake River dike to a new location.  It would’ve been a lot easier to sell that land – it’d been surveyed for a 60 house subdivision.

But sometimes you listen to your heart.  Sometimes you decide that your story will be about lifelong friends and perseverance.  You navigate new territory.  You keep following your dreams.

Kelly Stirn spent summers at the R Lazy S long before he came to own it.  We walked around this spring, prior to any guest arrivals.  It was quiet, and he talked about other ranch cabins that’d found new lives here.  We stopped to admire the old Sinclair gas pump beside the maintenance shed, also lovingly restored.  Two fuzzy burros grazed nearby;  he was coaxing them to be friendly with the guests.

Sometimes you see the value before anyone else.  Is it any wonder that, in 1981, the R Lazy S was the first donation to the Jackson Hole Land Trust?

I painted there in a tumultuous evening thunderstorm, and again later on a silent sunny morning with only a cautious doe as my witness.  Elsewhere, guests were drinking coffee, or putting their boot into a stirrup, or laughing – or maybe, for the first time in ages, choosing to just relax.

It’s struck me that there are a thousand and one love stories at the ranch.  First kisses.  Summer romances.  Marriages mended after a long strain.  The honest scent of a horse you came to trust.  The animal who paused to meet your eyes, reminding you of your own wild heart.  Cold mountain rain and the pungent smell of sagebrush sustaining you like a psalm.

There have been so many changes in the valley.  But the R Lazy S Ranch remains.  And with it, the chance to remember what’s essential.

– Erin O’Connor