JACKSON, Wyo. — Anyone entering Jackson over Teton Pass has passed its iconic greeting sign: “Howdy Stranger. Yonder lies Jackson Hole.”
Except it doesn’t say “yonder lies.” It says “yonder is.” Somehow, collective memory has convinced us otherwise — a quick google search of “yonder lies” will fill in “Yonder lies Jackson Hole sign.”
The title of a new local podcast hitting airwaves Sunday, then, is a triple-entendre. Yes, it’s a reference to the Howdy Stranger sign. It’s also a direct call-out of how much we get wrong.
“It’s ultimately a nod to the way that in Jackson Hole, we collectively just sort of believe whatever we want, regardless of whether it’s true or not,” said podcast co-producer Jesse Bryant.
This brings us to the third allusion: “lies” is a play on words, a reference to nontruths or “colloquial myth[s]” Bryant said. That is exactly what the new podcast is about: myths.
“Yonder Lies,” the new podcast from KHOL 89.1 and Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative Researchers, debuts Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on KHOL airwaves and as a podcast. Each episode will unpack a different myth about Jackson Hole: that it is wealthy. That it is white. That it is the “last of the wild west.”
“We imbibe heavily in our myths, our stories, regardless of whether they are good or useful stories,” Bryant said.
If there’s anything Bryant and his partner/co-producer Hannah Habermann know for certain, it’s that they don’t actually know that much. Their podcast is born of curiosity and a desire to uncover Jackson’s history through the stories we have long told ourselves about this place.
Habermann has always been fascinated by the stories and issues of the American West. She grew up in Billings, Montana, and as soon as she left to go east for school she realized she would never shake her upbringing.
“I’m driven by a desire to give back and be a part of this space that has raised me in both powerful ways,” Habermann said. “I came to the realization that there’s so much I didn’t know… [Jackson] seems to embody the mythology of the American West… I became really curious about what felt true, what wasn’t true, what had more nuance.”
For example: Habermann ascribed to the “pervasive narrative” that Jackson is a predominantly white space, full of white people. That is true, she said, but it is also true that more than 30% of Teton County’s population, by some estimates, is Latinx.
“None of that is really visible in the stories that are told. We should be interrogating that assumption,” she said.
Bryant’s awakening also happened outside of Jackson, in an east coast graduate classroom. He arrived and proudly announced he was from Wyoming after having lived in Jackson for a few years. His professor, turns out, had lived in Jackson since the ’60s.
“She was like, ‘sit down honey.’ And in a way, that was really appreciated at the time,” Bryant said. “I realized I need to understand context if I’m going to be operating politically in this place at all.”
Indeed, many of the myths and histories that shape Jackson are “still animating a lot of the conflicts that are happening today,” Haberman said.
Bryant and Habermann will release a new episode every other Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The episodes will play on KHOL 89.1 and will also be available online and on your local podcast app (Apple Podcasts, for example).
The first will cover the rich and complicated history of Grand Teton National Park — which “wouldn’t exist without a billionaire from New York,” and is where the story of Jackson as we know it begins, Bryant said.
Other episodes will cover Jackson’s indigenous history, the threat of CWD in the valley, wealth inequality and the housing crisis, and other myths about Jackson Hole.
Though the name suggests otherwise, myths don’t always have to be untrue. Myths are the stories we tell ourselves that inform how we understand the world, Bryant said.
“We’re making meaning from life and what a good life looks like,” Bryan said.
Tune into “Yonder Lies” on KHOL Sunday, or listen anywhere you get your podcasts.
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