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In Many Western Towns, A Good Howl Is Just The Antidote

You might have seen it on social media - Italians on lockdown stepping out onto their balconies to sing together, or New Yorkers applauding health care workers at the same time each night.

In the Mountain West, connecting with neighbors and saying thanks to health care workers sounds a bit more wild - like howling wolves.

Cities around the region, including Boise, Missoula, and Laramie, have a new tradition: "Go outside and howl at the moon at 8 p.m. Simple as that."

So says Madison Graulty, of Laramie, who joined a Facebook page devoted to the nightly community howl, which she thinks makes sense in the Mountain West considering the surroundings.

"We have open spaces and picturesque mountainscapes and prairiescapes," she says. "So I feel like it's easier to feel connected to nature, to animals, to the ecosystem."

Graulty has had a rough few weeks. She was laid off from her restaurant job and is struggling to find other work. She says it's been hard. But it hasn't always been easy for her to express that.

"I think that this has been an excellent way to remind myself that it's OK to feel my feelings, and what better way to let them out than to just let something rip from the bottom of your soul, such as a howling at the moon," she says.

And when she hears others do the same thing, "It's like 'Yes!' We all might be feeling something similar. We might be feeling totally different things. But either way we're here."

Sean McCrea teaches psychology at the University of Wyoming. He says howling probably does help people reestablish connection and community.

"It's kind of interesting howling is the form it's taking, because one way to describe people would be that we're kind of pack animals as well. So taking that away from people is distressing," McCrea says.

Anna Schwyter also lives in Laramie and has been joining the 8 p.m. howls for a few weeks now.

"It's been six weeks since I've touched another human, and that makes me really sad," she says.

"It's a really funny, silly thing to do," she adds. "I think a lot of people might feel foolish, but knowing they can hear somebody a block down, or even like next door, doing it is like, 'I'm not a fool for doing it because everybody's doing it.'"

Now that she has some practice, Schwyter offers advice for first-time howlers.

"I would say just kind of, like, yell the word 'howl' and take as long as you have breath in your lungs to get the word out," she says.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Do you have questions about COVID-19? How has this crisis affected you? Our reporters would love to hear from you. You can submit your question or share your story here.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

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