Pariah

Adrift amid the Tumbleweed and Whistle Pigs

Story and Photos by Melissa Whiteley

In 2005 I married into a family of hillbillies, cowboys, and ranchers whose earlier generations began somewhere in Arkansas. In Idaho, they make their living raising cattle. They consist of five or six families living in the middle of nowhere, amid rugged mountaintops or in the wide-open desert. These communities are sometimes so small and so isolated that the bar is in the back of the convenience store and the bartender is also the Sunday school teacher. Some of the family, though—like my in-laws (thankfully)—live in a more pleasant manner, in manufactured homes perched on hundreds of acres. These homes are surrounded by flat brown plains, horse corrals, and looming haystacks. At times, the smell of manure and rotting carcasses fills the air—a smell that I have yet to grow comfortable with.

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