A message from county commissioner candidate Christian Beckwith:
JACKSON, Wyo. — Do you remember the first time you set eyes on the Tetons?
In 1992, fresh out of college and armed with an English literature degree, I was wintering in Hueco Tanks, a bouldering area in Texas.
In the quonset hut where the climbers slept, I read an article in Rock and Ice Magazine called “Alpine Climbing in the Tetons.”
I’d grown up in rural mid-coast Maine, the son of a farmer and a folk artist. When I was eight, a young man who helped us work the land had read me The Hobbit, introducing wizards and dragons to the long summer afternoons in the fields.
That word: “alpine.” It made me think of Bilbo Baggins and his band of dwarves setting out on an adventure. I had to find out what it meant.
A college buddy en route to Alaska gave me a lift to Vernal, Utah, where I stuck out my thumb. It was April; I’d just turned 25.
My last ride picked me up in Pinedale. As we drove down off the Rim into Bondurant, I looked at the willows shimmering in the creek bottoms. It seemed like they were glowing.
The winter of 1992-93 had been fierce, and the flanks of the mountains were still patched in snow. We drove into Hoback Canyon, the walls meeting in a V at the river that ran alongside the highway. When the canyon opened up, a sensation I’d never experienced began to develop.
It felt like I was coming home.
As we drove past Rafter J toward town, the clouds in the cleft between High School and East Gros Ventre Butte parted. The jagged finger of the Grand, the Ford Couloir tracing a line down its middle, seemed to scratch the sky.
The view literally took my breath away.
I love the stories of how people roll into the Valley for the first time, and the feeling they get when they first see the Tetons. The sharp inhalation. The long moments that follow as they stare at the serrated skyline, trying to make sense of a view so majestic it feels incomprehensible.
It’s awesome. That’s a cliché, but there’s no other word for it.
And it has the power to transform our lives.
How many people do you know who came here for “just a summer,” or for a winter to ski, 20 years ago … and never left?
You’ve got to fight like hell to stay here. I know: I went through 23 jobs during my first three years in the Valley.
I’d started a magazine, The Mountain Yodel, to celebrate the men and women who had fallen in love with these peaks, and I’d work just enough to be able to afford to publish the next issue (followed by the next climbing trip), then quit so I could start editing.
We all know the story because we’ve all got one of our own.
- Sharing a three-bedroom place on Crabtree Lane with six other skids.
- Laying rebar in the bowels of what would become the Rec Center pool.
- Washing dishes at the newly opened Brew Pub, filthy and sweating as I fantasized about my next route in the Tetons.
I was poor, but it didn’t matter. I was madly in love with this place, and willing to do whatever it took to stay here.
Now, I’m running for county commission so I can fight for those of us who are madly in love with this place too—and struggling to make ends meet in Jackson Hole.
I’m running for the friends from the Brew Pub who are now teachers at the Middle School and Teton County Search and Rescue volunteers.
I’m running for the friends from the Crabtree Corner days who are now the owners of businesses like Jackson Temp Service and Pizzeria Caldera and Exum Mountain Guides.
I’m running for the folks who were climbing and ski bums back in the day and are now hoteliers and restaurant owners and newspaper reporters and firefighters—all of them, like me, who had to fight like hell to stay here, because they couldn’t tear themselves away.
I’m running for the second- and third-generation locals who have watched as their friends, unable to afford to live here any longer, moved away.
And I’m running for a new generation of people who came to this community in search of a better life for their families and are building this town, changing its sheets, washing its dishes, and have yet to see themselves in the cultural narrative of Jackson Hole.
What makes Jackson special are the people so hopelessly in love with it that they’re willing to fight like hell to stay here. The fight strengthens them and shapes them into the characters who in turn make this community special.
Characters who long for the feathered boas of frost on the pine boughs after two weeks of twenty below.
Characters who can close their eyes and see the mist tangling itself in the legs of a moose on Leigh Lake at dawn.
Characters who are stopped in their tracks by Crystal Butte awash in the evening light, a decade after seeing it for the first time.
Characters in love with the smell of sage after rain.
That’s why I’m here. I’ve fallen hopelessly in love with this valley. And I’m doubly fortunate to share that love with my wife, Giovannina Anthony, who moved out here in 2005 and married me two years later, and our ten-year-old daughter Soleil.
Giovannina’s an ob/gyn at the hospital. At this point, she has delivered a decent percentage of the kids under 15 in the Valley. Soleil goes to Munger Mountain Elementary School. We tell her everyday how lucky she is to live here—even though we know she won’t understand until she goes into the world on her own and realizes there really is no other place like Jackson Hole.
To be able to live here, raise a family here, watch them weave themselves into the fabric of this community and then talk about it over dinner at the kitchen table: that’s a privilege.
With great privilege comes great responsibility—the responsibility to make sure future generations have that opportunity too.
I coordinated the Teton Boulder Project, which built the Teton Boulder Park, in 2009, to give back to this community.
Now I want to give back again, as your county commissioner.
I’ll never forget that first time I rolled into the valley. I’ll never forget everything these mountains have given me: my friends, my family, my home.
It’s why I’m running, and it’s why I’m ready to fight for the people who have called Jackson home for generations, or who came to Jackson for just a summer or winter and never left.
We’re not a normal town. The people who make Teton County their home are not normal either.
A place this beautiful, and characters this special, deserve a spectacular community.
Give me your vote, and I’ll fight like hell to make this community as singular as its surroundings.
Come with me, fight with me, and we’ll build a place that keeps taking our breath away.
If the long term sustainability of our ecosystem and community matters to you, please vote for Christian Beckwith for Teton County Commission. You may learn more about his candidacy and positions at www.christianbeckwith.com.