Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Fort Laramie and the Old West

The End of the Old West

 As I was writing an introduction to a book that I am working on several thoughts crossed my mind. The book, about Fort Laramie and the American West, has been a much more than interesting research project. Fort Laramie may be more a symbol of the old west and last frontier than anything else.

Fort Laramie 1849-1890

Throughout most of its active years, Fort Laramie was the most important fort of the West. The fort protected an area that was mostly unsettled when it was established as a military fort in 1849. One could argue that the 41 years the fort was active, were the defining years of what many called the old west. Yes, there were people, quite a few, in fact, Native Indian Tribes who would soon be displaced, and a few hunters, trappers, and wanderers, and with Fort Laramie, Soldiers.

 End of the Frontier

During the active years of the fort the country rapidly expanded. The Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad, Telegraph, Pony Express, Civil War, and economic woes in the east all lead to the end of the old west. By the time 1890 rolled around, Benjamin Harrison was president and the United States Census Bureau announced the end of the frontier. In 1893, Fredrick Jackson Turner wrote an article for the Chicago World’s Fair, stating that there was no longer a line of Frontier in America. With the closing of Fort Laramie in 1890 also came the disgraceful Massacre at Wounded Knee and statehood for Wyoming. When Owen Wister published the first Western in 1902, The Virginian, the old west was gone.

Wild West

What about the Wild West? If it ever was, which it was not, it was a part of the old west. The Wild West was a creation by pulp writers turning out dozens of dime novel westerns and a few years later, Hollywood expanded the myth. 
Fort Laramie was the first sign, or last sign, of civilization to an American people who farmed the land or lived in cities on the east and west coasts and in the south. It was also a sign of things to come, and 41 years after it opened, the buildings were sold off for salvage.

The Time’s They Are Changing

At my age, we just returned from our weekend 50-year high school reunion, I am not always in favor of the changes I see taking place. It was no different with the ending of the frontier, some saw it as a good sign, others hated the Idea of everything settled. Such is life, change and time march on. 
Enjoying Time With Old Friends From The Class of '66'

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Ride With The President

In late May of 1903 the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt,  rode 50 miles from Laramie to Cheyenne. The story is well known in Wyoming and to Roosevelt and presidential scholars. Not much has been said about those accompanying him, and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the riders who rode with the president up the mountain trail.

Francis E. Warren - U.S. Senator from Wyoming
Warren was the man that did it all for the State of Wyoming. Served as territorial Governor twice before being elected as Wyoming's first governor. Shortly after becoming Governor he was elected to the Unites States Senate. Warren served as a Senator from 1890-93 then was elected again in 1895 and served until his death in 1929. At the time of his death, he had served longer than any other U.S. Senator and was the last Civil War Veteran to serve. Warren was also a Civil War Medal of Honor winner.  Warren's daughter married John J. Pershing in 1905. Pershing went on to lead the American Expeditionary Force in WWl.

Frank Hadsell - U.S. Marshal
Appointed a U.S. Marshall for Wyoming in 1872, Hadsell is best known as one of the posse leaders who tracked down Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch after the Wilcox Train Robbery.
Wild Bunch

Joe LeFors - Deputy U.S. Marshal
LeFors was appointed by Hadsell, reportedly after asking repeatedly. He bragged of being with Hadsell after the Wilcox Train Robbery but most likely was not. He did lead a posse after the Wild Bunch robbed the train at Tipton Wyoming. LeFors is best known for bringing in Tom Horn. In modern days LeFors name is well known among western movie lovers because it is mentioned as the mysterious man in the white hat chasing Butch and Sundance in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

N.K. Boswell - Albany County Sheriff
Boswell was the first sheriff of Albany County and most responsible for cleaning up- actually; they strung them up – Laramie’s crooked Marshall Steve Long along with his half-brothers, Ace and Con. Today he may be best known as the man who built the historic N.K. Boswell Ranch south of Laramie near present day Wood’s Landing.

R.S. Van Tassell - Cheyenne area rancher
One of the largest landowners in Wyoming history. One of his holdings, his Laramie County Ranch, was where Roosevelt and his companions stopped several times and changed horses at least once was listed as approximately 21,000 acres. During the ride Van Tassell who was near 70 years old at the time set such a fast pace that President Roosevelt, nearly 30 years his junior, reportedly said, “Say, Van, you old rascal, I believe you're trying to show me up.” Van Tassell for much of the 50 plus mile ride rode his favorite mount, Gypsy. Van Tassell kept and rode a horse named Gypsy for more than 50 years. Obviously several different horses, but most certainly a good way to remember your horse's name.

Seth Bullock - Black Hills Forest Reserve Supervisor

A long time friend of the president. Bullock was a Lawman from Deadwood South Dakota, a position he took over the day after Wild Bill Hickock was murdered.  He met Roosevelt in 1884 when he was in Deadwood and Roosevelt was a lawman in North Dakota. Roosevelt once said of his friend, "Seth Bullock is a true Westerner, the finest type of frontiersman." Bullock, although never deployed was a captain in company A of Roosevelt's famous Roughriders. When Roosevelt was inaugurated, Bullock rode in the parade along with Tom Mix to honor his friend. It was Roosevelt, as president, that appointed Bullock to the position in the Black Hills.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Living in a Small Town

Since I have never lived in a town with more than 30,000 people and have spent most of my life in towns much smaller than that I do not know much about city life. One thing I do know is about life in the country, in my case in a rural Wyoming town of 1,200 people. What I know is friends and neighbors can be great.

My pickup has been down for a week, the shifter would not put it in any gear, including park. Diagnosis from the Dodge dealer, it needed a new steering shaft. Ouch! $1,800 for the shaft and several hundred in labor. I looked it up online and this seemed about right.

Here is where the great small town neighbor part comes in. My, across the street neighbor, said, “Let me see what I can find in the junkyard.” The next day he said he found one for $75.00 plus the cost to take it out. Good deal I figured maybe a $100 or so to take out. I told him to go ahead. Well, he found one, but it was already out and for $65.00.

Today I subbed at the school teaching high school history classes. When I got home he had already replaced the old with the new – all done. Then he decided that my battery cable ends should be fixed, and they needed it.  He didn’t want to see me stranded somewhere, so he put on new ends.

Now the pickup is once again running great, thanks to a kindly neighbor. I can hardly believe when we read all the bad news in today’s world that there are people like this man. Always paying it forward. 
Here is our previously, and once again, reliable pickup up on Black Mountain

Thanks a million Bob. and when I can I will pay it forward for someone myself.

Love living in small town Wyoming – where the livin’ is easy.

Friday, September 2, 2016

School Is Back In Session

It’s that time of year again. School starting all over Wyoming. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at early schools in the state.
Remember these? Black boards and Elementary School Rules

The first Wyoming school opened at Fort Laramie and was soon followed by several private schools as the population warranted. Robert Baker opened a school in South Pass with families paying one dollar each week per child. By 1870 the census listed five private and four public schools in the state. That same year the only public school buildings were in Cheyenne.

In 1871 Dr. J. H. Hayford, the auditor for the territory of Wyoming listed schools in Albany and Laramie counties as good, Carbon and Uinta had schools he listed as fair. Students furnished their own school materials and textbooks were, a haphazard, whatever could be found that was suitable for the job.

Pretty Nice Place to Live

In 1873 a compulsory education law took effect, ordering every child between ages 6-18 to attend school for three months each year. As the state grew so did the number and efficiency of the schools. Territorial Governor Hoyt said in 1878, “I have never known a community, whether in this country or in Europe, more zealously devoted to the cause of popular education than the people of this new Territory.”

In the last decade before statehood, in 1890, Wyoming’s population tripled and the school population doubled. The number of buildings now used as, or built for schools, grew from 39 to 138.

Wagon Trains, trappers, traders and hunters passed through the state for many years, but when the railroad came, people followed and with people came schools. And with schools came that great sound of kids playing on the playground and if you are inside, learning the old three Rs and a few other things.
Just Passing Through

After 42 years of teaching, I still sub in the local schools a few days each month. That leaves me many days to sit and write at home. I just published Ghost of the Fawn, my sixth book.

It is set, of course in Wyoming, and originally I targeted it as a young adult book. My first readers, who help me refine and edit, seem to think it is a great adult read as well. If you have time give it a look, not sure when it will be available but certainly should be by the end of the weekend.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Few Wyoming Photos

Nice Buck Looking at Me
I have been on a bit of a writing break, or summer vacation the last couple of weeks. With that time off, I missed my post last week but never fear I am back, be it good or bad.
Here We Are, Spending Time in the Blackhills Last Week

When the weather is nice, I try to spend as much time as possible in the woods, forests, and mountains of Wyoming.
This One About Four Miles From Home

This week, doing some research for a project, I ran across the works of John Hector St. John. Although he never ventured farther west than New York State he had some profound things to say about what he viewed in the west or wilderness of early America. At the time and his writing it was the middle and late 1700s, well before even the first mountain men came west.
Mountain Man Camp at Fort Laramie

Crevecoeur was a Frenchmen who moved to America became a citizen/farmer and later writer. His volume of essays, Letters from an American Farmer, quickly became a best seller in Europe making him one of the first Americans to experience a best seller in Europe. His stories gave Europeans a first look at what one of their own thought of America.
Wonder if St. John Had Views Like This to Write About?

Today I thought I might share a few of my favorite photos from my time in the woods this summer. Not exactly the essays of St. John, but still nice.
Albino Mule Deer Peeking From Behind a Bush

I must tell you, that there is something in the proximity of the woods, which is very singular. It is with men as it is with the plants and animals that grow and live in the forests; they are entirely different from those that live in the plains.

J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur
Elk - I Snapped This Just At The End of Daylight

Enjoy, now it’s time for us to head out to Guernsey State Park and spend some time in the woods. 
Looking Good In Tall Grass

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Forty Liars and Other Lies

With all the craziness that comes with every big election year, seems the news is full of name calling, accusations and finger pointing, it is always fun to take a look back. When we do we find that although years change, not much else does.

Over the years I have made several posts about one of my all-time favorite Wyomingites, Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye.

In this case, the trash talking was not among politicians but newspaper editors Nye of his Laramie Boomerang and the editor of the Sweetwater Gazette, in Green River Wyoming. Here is what Nye had to say in the 1884 squabble.

We have nothing more to say of the editor of the Sweetwater Gazette. Aside from the fact that he is a squint-eyed, consumptive liar, with a breath like a buzzard and a record like a convict, we don’t know anything against him. He means well enough, and if he can evade the penitentiary and the vigilance committee for a few more years, there is a chance for him to end his life in a natural way. If he don’t tell the truth a little more plentifully, however, the Green River people will rise as one man and churn him up till there won’t be anything left of him but a pair of suspenders and a wart.

Taken from Bill Ney’s Book, Forty Liars and Other Lies

My First Edition

Sounds much like politicians or political reporters in the present day. It is always fun to read the humor of Bill Ney, some of it is timeless. Nye had a great take on life, especially life in the west. I believe all of his books are available as reprints but most all of his works can be found, free online, and give him a look.

Great way to spend a lazy summer afternoon.

This is not a bad way either

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Get Along Little Dogies

Almost anyone with an interest in the history of the American West, Western movies or Television Westerns, has seen cattle drives and night herding cowboys at work. Lonely riders circling the cattle singing. The singing was both to calm the cattle and to keep the Cowboys awake and alert. It's a shame so many of these songs are lost. On the other hand, it's wonderful that some were written down and saved for poor stiffs like me to write about a hundred, or so, years later.

At times they sang about guys like this but normally it was the little ones cowboys sang about

One of my favorite songs, popular in the Hartville area of Platte County recounts the problems facing the night herder as he watches and puts up with the troubles presented by small motherless caves referred to as dogies. The term dogies might also apply to weak calves that have trouble keeping up.

-Go Slow Little Dogies-

Go slow, little dogies, why don’t you slow down?
You’ve wandered and trampled all over the ground
Oh, graze along dogies, Go slow, kinda slow
And don’t be always on the go.
Move slow, dogies, move slow.

Oh say, little dogie, why don’t you lay down?
And quit this forever siftin’ around?
My arms are weary, my seat is sore.
Oh, lay down, don’t be on the go.
Lay down, dogies lay down.

Simple song but it says a lot about the work of the cowboy on night herd. Oh, and he mentions his seat is sore. Too much time in the saddle will do that to the best of Cowboys.

This was me herding little dogies this winter - well, maybe not
But it is a very cool Wyoming Traffic Jam