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I am both a contrarian and a man of great contradictions. I tend to look at the world from a  warped lens and this became abundantly clear as we made our way west through the beautiful state of Wyoming.

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Three children and three adults left Minneapolis Friday morning and Sunday’s drive was the most spectacular to date. The roar of Harley pipes has become less frequent as we left Sturgis and its bike rally in our rear-view and traded the straight four lane of Interstate 90 for the twisting panorama of US highways and the accompanying beauty that is the Big Horn Mountains.

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Our three tween-aged riders had never seen mountains before and found the vistas that spread before them worthy of many appreciative and inquisitive comments. After multiple, “Look at that!” emanating from one youngster or another which was inevitably followed by a chorus of “Where?” from the other car occupants I finally implemented the o’clock system for identifying where the ocular jewel was located.

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The fighter pilot’s locator system stream-lined communication and three o’clocks and tens allowed us all to zero in on the glory of the moment. It wasn’t long before the hours between eight and four were being called out regularly and wonders great and small were being shared with one and all.

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We stopped in Cody, Wyoming and trundled our bags inside the century old, rustic log-cabin that was our overnight accommodation. The cabin featured two double beds in the back room and this was accessed by walking through the smaller front that held a comfortable queen size. Between the two rooms was a small but nicely updated bathroom. Our wi-fi was an unobtainable dream but the two window air conditioners and ceiling fans kept us comfortable.

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As beautiful as Wyoming is it is not a place of cultural nor racial diversity. We bought tickets for a Chuckwagon Dinner and the accompanying music of the Triple C Cowboys, a trio of  award winning musicians that did a fine job of entertaining the 100 or so fellow dinners and listeners. After the music ended we took a small walk and attended a rodeo. It was here that my contrarian and contradictory nature made itself known.

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We started the evening with a prayer. Five hundred folks, mostly Americans, nearly all white and many blond stood and listened with heads bowed while the announcer asked that the riders and livestock receive divine protection, that our troops come home safe and other apple pie America pabulum.

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I believe in prayer, I really do, but asking the Lord to bless our little rodeo in the same breath as declaring how great our nation is just touched a bit of a raw nerve for me. I got back at him though. When he finished his prayer with, “For this we pray in Jesus’ name,” I responded with a hale and hearty, “Bismillah!” because God is indeed great.

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Even though he never ‘herd’ my little Islamic response the announcer got the last laugh. Instead of five hundred souls listening to ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ he asked us to sing along. I complied and loudly sang to the best of my abilities. I made it two thirds of the way through before my emotions got the better of me and I had to stand in soggy sympathy. Our National Anthem always makes me cry. Even a contrarian knows that the USA is a shining beacon of light, I just see our flaws that much more clearly because of the light that she provides.

Bismillah, pardner!

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