This site features short stories from my book Goodnight Wyoming

                                           Goodnight Wyoming

Everyone loves a good story and Wyoming’s history is blessed with good stories.  Enjoy yourself as you read through the following stories.  Some of the following are the familiar, some are obscure, some are serious or tragic and some are humorous.  But all the stories are Wyoming tough, through and through.  The Cowboy state at its finest!

These stories are not meant to be a history of Wyoming.  Instead they are stories of interesting people, places, and events in Wyoming History.  The stories do follow a rough chronological order, but there is no need to read them in order.  Take a look at the chapter listings and read the ones that look the best first, saving the boringstuff for later, you know, those days when you have problems falling asleep.

Note:  If you are reading these stories for a school report, bless you, and make sure you read every word, and don’t copy.  Keep the stories in your room or mom and dad might try to steal them, history gets better the older you are and if your parents are like most parents, they are really old.

Enjoy, and happy dreams!


The Oregon Trail

                                                      The Trails

                  Heading’ West, Hardly No Work At All

Arlo Slug stuffed the front of his shirt back into his trousers, picked up his lunch bucket and whistled a tune as he walked out the front door of the Cleveland Ohio Iron Works.  He’d been thinking about it for a long time and today was the day to tell Isabelle his plan for the rest of their lives.

 Oregon, Oregon,” Arlo shouted as he opened the front door of there, much in need of repair, house on E street.  “Let’s go to Oregon, away from the city, and the factory Arlo said.  Isabelle, somewhat surprised at Arlo's enthusiasm over something that they had never really talked about, smiled and said “and just what will we do when we get to Oregon and how will we get there.”  “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” Arlo answered, “I’ve got it all worked out.”  “It’ll be easy, hardly no work at all.  We just set up there on the wagon seat; soak up the sun shine and in hardly no time we’ll be in Oregon, hardly no work at all.”

Seven weeks later it was spring and Arlo and Isabelle, well Arlo anyway, were ready to carry out Arlo's great plan.  They tossed the last of their belongings on a considerable pile of last minute,” we can’t get along without this,” climbed up on the weathered and cracked wooden seat and headed west.  Lazy and Bones there two ancient mules reluctantly pulled the overloaded squeaking and creaking wagon to a roll.  “Yes sir-ee, Arlo shouted we’re headin' west, Oregon here come the Slugs”.  Cleveland was not going to get him down, not any more, no sir, no more shoveling coal in the Iron mill for Arlo Slug, Arlo’s mind raced and filled with happy thoughts of his soon to be new life.

The wagon was a patchwork of tacks, nails, wire, rope and twin, a relic that Arlo loved and Isabelle hated. Much to the embarrassment of Isabelle Arlo had painted, headin' to Oregon, in bright green on the wagons back board.  Arlo daydreamed of the west as he held the reigns and let the arthritic mules set their own pace.  A loud, CRACK, snapped his mind back to the present.  “Two blocks from home, two blocks,” Arlo muttered to himself as he climbed from the wagon seat to the ground and surveyed the damage.  The rear wheel on the right side of the wagon had snapped one of its wooden spokes, and now looked rather oval than round.  After a nearly two-hour delay and two new wheels, one lashed to the back of the wagon, just in case, and Arlo and Isabelle were off, again.  Isabelle had fought with Arlo about this trip for weeks, finally given up a month ago accepting the fact that they were going to Oregon.   Now she reached through the knitting on her lap, patted Arlo on the knee and smiled as they rolled westward on a bright April morning. “Maybe this won’t be too bad,” she thought.  But she was wrong!

Nearly ten weeks later they reached the Platte and Nebraska territory.  So far they had replaced all four-wagon wheels, both wagon sides and the seat.  Lazy and Bones, true to their names, and age, gave out the second week and were traded for two oxen.   The Slugs were still going it on their own, but hoped that a wagon train would come along soon, pick them up and make them part of one of the many caravans going west each year.

 Arlo went hunting often, usually coming home empty handed to cold beans and biscuits, but then he was not one to complain.  Arlo’s ability as a hunter had changed some as he went out day after day.  His first hunt had been a complete disaster.  Arlo had shot at a Buffalo calf from fifty feet, but his gun was not loaded causing him to shout a profanity so loud that the herd startled and almost stampeded over him.  Three days later Arlo tripped and shot the tip of his new left boot completely off, he was none the worse for wear, but he was now back in his old work boots telling Isabelle “I like the feel of these better anyway, more natural.”

Nebraska had been boring and flat but the grass was tall and the Slugs made good time, still all by themselves.  Arlo hadfashioned new front and back boards for thewagon from cottonwood he picked up and splitnear the grand island of the Platte.  Arlo also replaced the front axel with the new one he bought,”just in case,” in Saint Louis.  But now Fort Laramie was nearly close enough to smell the bakery fires burning.  Arlo was excited and hollered at Isabelle “look yonder see them mountains, them’s the Rockies”.  Isabelle was more tired than excited, but she was excited about reaching some semblance of society and maybe, just maybe:  a warm bath, fresh vegetables and fruits, a new dress, and if Arlo wasn’t looking a nice glass of wine.  Arlo let Isabelle off at the fort store and took the wagon to the carpenters shop to have the wagon bed replaced and then headed to the harness makers to get a complete set of new harnesses to replace the, fixed too many times ones, he was now using. 

            Fort Laramie was not what the Slugs expected, it was not exactly downtown Cleveland on Saturday night.  They were able to pick up necessities, but that was about all.  Isabelle found her hot bath, but no wine, she settled for a shot of whiskey from a jug Arlo bought, for medicinal purposes; actually she took four or five shots, but thought. “Who’s counting?”  The next morning Arlo tossed the nearly empty jug through the open back of the wagon and helped his, very headache-suffering, wife into the back and onto a pile of blankets and headed west. 

 At long last the Slugs saw other wagons as they arrived at Independence Rock two weeks later.  Arlo was very pleased to meet an experienced wagon maker with this caravan because he needed a new rear axel and new covering for the wagon as the winds had shredded the old patched one into tiny arms of waving white canvas.  Isabelle and Arlo enjoyed the company, and life on the trail with nineteen wagons and fifty-nine new friends.  Two weeks and two days later distant smoke curling from chimneys and campfires told everyone that the train would camp this night at Fort Bridger.   Arlo helped Isabelle down in front of the general store and rolled the wagon on over to the Smithies shop so the Blacksmith could replace the springs under the seat and build a new wheel brake for the wagon.  With the wagon fixed and the oxen grazing the Slugs sat down near the evening’s huge campfire, feasting on real beef, no more wild game, along with potatoes, roasted onions and apple pie.  After weeks of mostly jerky, bacon, beans and biscuits it was a feast for a king.

A puzzled look came over Isabelle’s face as she looked around at everyone suddenly whispering or silently jabbing each other and pointing at the old man taking a seat near the fire. He looked old but his dark penetrating eyes made him look menacing despite his age.  And there seemed to be certain spryness about him as he moved and sat that belied his age.  If the meal had been fit for a king, the king had just arrived. 

Jim Bridger the living legend sat down stuffing the last of a piece of apple pie in his mouth, chewed a few times swallowed, wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, cleared his throat and in a much to loud voice asked, “how are the all of you this fine day.”  Everyone present mumbled good or hi or fine and returned to listening hoping old Gabe would treat them to one of his famous tales. Not to disappoint any of them Bridger rambled on for three quarters of an hour about the mountains and the good times in the old days throwing in dozens of quotes from the Bible and Shakespeare as the travelers sat fixed on every word.  The wagon travelers, most on the only real adventure of their lives hung on every word, and in their minds pictured every detail.

“There I was with my fifty caliber Hawken, me one ball and that ol’ gun ready to go ta work if need be.  Problem was one shot and two Mountain Lions. And them critters was some meat hungered, ya know, and about to jump me.”  Bridger waved his arms around like a broken windmill and alternately crossed and uncrossed his legs and stood-up and sat down as he spellbound the people with his tail.   “Then I sees this big ol’ rock right tween them, I quick fired at that rock split the ball in half and ushered both them Lions right to the pearly gates.”  No one was sure what that meant but Arlo guessed that Bridger had killed those lions and they went off to heaven or something like that.

Breakfast fires burned bright, it was four-thirty A.M., and two days rest had made the once weary travelers restless and ready to, once again, head west. 

But not everyone was ready; Arlo and Isabelle were tired and no longer excited about Oregon.  They quickly said their good buys, telling everyone that they” had seen the Elephant and were turning back.” Arlo harnessed the Oxen and turned them east into the rising sun and slowly walked back to the life he once couldn’t get away from fast enough.

Arlo Slug tucked the front of his shirt back under his belt, picked up his lunch bucket and whistled as he walked out the front door of the ‘Cleveland Iron Works’.  He had an idea and it was a good one, he couldn’t wait to tell Isabelle about his new plan.  Australia”, Arlo bellowed as he walked in the front door, “let’s go to Australia and hunt gold and diamonds.”  “By ship, it’ll be easy, hardly no work at all, just sits in the sun and pretty soon we’re there.”  Isabelle smiled as she walked to the kitchen took out her only wine glass, popped the cork on a nice bottle of red wine and started to poor.   She handed the glass to Arlo put the bottleneck in her mouth, drank till she couldn’t breathe looked at Arlo, smiled and said, “NO.”

Jim Bridger and the Glass Mountain

                    Jim Bridger (ol’ Gabe) and the Glass Mountain

Jim Bridger was a storyteller extraordinaire and a good enough entertainer to always be in demand.  Everyone wanted to here old Gabe spin a yarn.  Bridger may have been as good a yarn spinner as he was a trapper and explorer.  The following story, one of Bridger’s favorites was told dozens of times around the campfire, often with some new twist and the story always started the same way----

“Now this here is a true story, the absolute truth or I ain’t the greatest Mountain man, and trapper and trader who ever lived.  I woke up one morning was about daylight up in the hot water country of the Yellowstone.  I rolled out of my Buffler robes, gave my eyes a good rub and took me a peer outside of the teepee to see what was about.  My eyes couldn’t believe the good fortune they was seeing, not twenty five feet away stood a big Bull Elk with his head down eating grass.” 

“Well ya see I was a might hungered this time of year and I crept to the back of the lodge and picked up my rifle.  I poked the barrel of that old fifty-four caliber through the door opening took careful aim at that sitting duck Elk and squeezed the trigger.  The Elk never even looked up, I took me a quick look see around to make sure no one was about to see ol’ Gabe make the worst shot of his life and started reloading. This time I steadied the rifle over my saddle; beings as I must have missed on account of not being completely woke up yet, and squeezed the trigger.  The Elk never moved.  Well sir I dove back into that Teepee and started to, real carefully load that old rifle and shot again.  Why I think I’ve figured it out I can’t shoot no more and to my good fortune that old bull is deaf.  I shot and nothing happened.  I says to myself, this here rifle is plum worn out but that old deaf Elk is still a standing just as pretty as a lonesome tree on a rocky hillside.”

“I pulled out my skinning knife and gave that Elk the Bridger charge, with a mind to jump him and slit his throat, a trick I had used on Buffler and Indjen alike.  Not four steps from the teepee I hit a wall of solid glass, yes sir a solid glass mountain not twenty feet from my camp.  I spent the rest of the day riding around that mountain of glass, which I later determined had perfect magnification cause that Elk I was a shooting at was not twenty-five feet away but twenty-five miles.  And I am a telling you, that story is as true as if I were a sitting here telling it to you myself, which I am.”

Good Night!

Big Lie about Wyoming-But Fun

                                     The Unbelievable Gniraw Lien

The story of Gniraw Lien is a story repeated often two hundred years ago but today the story is lost to most Historians and Wyoming scholars, tall taletellers, (try to say that real fast about eleven times) and outright lyres.  Gniraw Lien of Irish and English descent was probably the first white man to explore the area of Wyoming and the American West.  The story that follows is his story, the story of the “Lost One”, Gniraw Lien.

It was late in the spring of 1748 when Lien decided he had had, (hey the word had used twice in a row) of Boston, packed everything he owned in a brindle sack, threw the long stick over his back, blew out the only light in his lonely one room flat, a single candle, and stepped outside. The sun was just starting to rise as Gniraw pulled the door shut, pulled the brim of his hat down to shade his eyes from the sun and started walking.  Walking right into that bright early morning sun and right into a new life.

After walking for less than an hour Lien ran into the beaches of Boston Harbor.  Turning around Lien took a deep breath and headed west where he had intended going to start with. Forty-five minutes later Lien was back to his flat.  There was still some bread and cheese in the cupboard so Gniraw started a small fire made coffee and ate as he contemplated his new life in the west.  Gniraw had no idea how far west he would go, but this he knew, it would be away from the settlements as far as he could get.

As Gniraw walked he fantasized about his new life in the west, until he realized he was once again walking east.  An abrupt turn around was made at this point and west he was finally heading.  Really!  The bells on Boston Tower sounded out noon as Lien once again passed his old flat and stopped in, this time to pick up a small notebook and a pencil, which he stuffed in his shirt pocket. 

Lien spent the next year heading west, mostly.  Upon reaching the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming Lien figured he was almost to the Pacific and this would be a good place to stop.  And if you are getting tired this is a good place for you to stop and lay this book down and get some sleep because this story doesn’t get any better.  Gniraw Lien was a man alone and he liked it that way!

The next few years were spent working, mostly capturing and razing buffalo for meat.  The first two he captured were young cows enough to start his own herd.  One day setting under the shade of his own back Lien said to himself, “BOY, this is some hard work raising these cows, hey that makes me a cowboy, and somehow the word stuck and Wyoming has been the Cowboy State ever since.  Without that moment of brilliance we might have been the cow chasers state or the brander’s state or the only state without a nickname.

Three years later Lien found himself many miles south for the winter, he had intended on going East, but, opps, wrong turn.  Good fortune followed him to this area though because it was here he found the beautiful Kiowa maiden A-nn-a-see and married her.  He called her Ann and they were to live happily ever after.  She was an exceeding shy person and seldom came out of the shelters they lived in to meet with anyone passing by, unlike her husband who loved to talk to everyone.  Gniraw even named the place where they met after her to honor thespot where they met; he called it Shy-Ann.  Much to Liens disgust the spelling was later changed to Cheyenne.

The Liens spent their first few years together on an unnamed river and life was good.

 A-nn-a-see was a good cook and good old Gniraw started to put on some weight, enough that they took to calling the nearby river the FAT River because of these extra pounds.  Seems the local Indians of the area had a tough time pronouncing the F sound and when they said Fat River it sounded like they were saying Platte River.  The Liens never heard if the name Fat stuck to the river they named but they supposed it did.

After a few good years Gniraw Lien wanted to show his wife off to his old friends in Boston, he just knew how shocked they would be if they found out he was married to a real live wild Indian from the west. Every thing was packed and the happy couple headed off to Boston, and ended up in Yellowstone country.  Seems the direction problem had once again reared its ugly head.

This story gets even worse from here, but if you are still awake----READ ON!!

The Yellowstone country was beautiful and the happy couple built their first solid home a nice log cabin a few days walk south of Yellowstone.  The next year Ann delivered their first child a healthy boy they named Jack, ah, our son Jack.  The area soon became known to all as Jackson.  Two Years later The Liens had moved back to the Big Horn Range to avoid the bitter cold winters in and around Jackson and Ann gave birth to a beautiful girl they soon named Sheri. After six years and no more children Ann one day told Gniraw that she must be DONE having children and they should name there new home after their last child Sheri, just as they had done with Jack and Jackson.   Yep, you are way ahead of me on this one!  Sheri-DONE was the name they picked and it became the present day city of Sheridan, Wyoming.

After the children had grown and left the home for good Ann and Gniraw built a wonderful new cabin out on the high plains about in the center of present day Wyoming where they were happy for many years.  Then out of nowhere one day Gniraw announced he had decided they should really go home, to Boston, for good.  They packed their belongings and headed east.  They thought!  After more than weeks travel, and very tired, they found them selves in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada.  I know I know Las Vegas wasn’t even thought of yet, but I didn’t want to have the poor couple walk all the way to the Pacific.  They wearily turned around and headed back for their cabin in the middle of Wyoming.  But they never found it.  Can you see this one coming?  Lost Cabin Wyoming now had a name.  And they lived happily for the rest of their lives.

The preceding story is a complete fabrication of a truly fragmented mind.

Good Night.

Jim Bridger-story teller

                             Trappers and Traders

Jim Bridger (old Gabe), spinner of tall tales, teller of great yarns!

Old Gabe setting Indian style rolled onto his hip, unwound his legs and very slowly stood up, straightened his lean weathered body and groaned.  His back still ached from an arrow years ago and sitting wasn’t what he did best.  But these greenhorns from the wagon train wanted to hear about his adventures and ol' Gabe wasn’t about to disappoint anyone when it came to story tellin'.  Bridger drew deeply from his long stemmed pipe closed his eyes, as if lost in thought, stretched his arms high over his head, groaned again then sat back down. This time Bridger sat on a large cottonwood log and leaned back against its ancient trunk as he continued his story.

“I member it like it were last week, me and ol' Milton Sublett were trapping up on the Yellowstone that fall.  Now the Yellowstone is Blackfoot territory and them Blackfoot can be some ornery. We spent a lot of our daylights holed up and did our work on the trap line early and late.  We knowed them killin' Red Devils was still about but I wasn’t in any hurry to get another arrow in my back just to prove it.   One evening we had just commenced to check our traps when the both of us heard men and horses, lots of men and lots of horses.  Well sir, we hardly got ourselves cleared of the stream and we saw them a coming out of the trees, and they was coming out like ants from a hill, Blackfoot, painted for war.  There must have been seventy or eighty of them, all warriors, bows and arrows ready, and itching for a good fight.  Now ol’ Milt and Me we didn’t seem to have that same itch being the odds seemed a might on their side.” 

“We jumped our ponies and rode like hell fire through the trees trying to get our selves rid of them skins.  But we couldn’t shake um!  After ridding but a few hundred miles we stopped in some downed timber and commenced to fight, and fight we did.  All night and most of the next day.  But it weren’t going our way and we needed to high tale it out of there.  Now ol’ Milt and me we had seen a lot of territory in our days but where we were now we didn’t know.  We hopped our ponies, now well rested, ya see, and headed into the settin' sun, so as to make it hard for those injuns ta see us.   We hadn’t rode but a few miles, probably not more un thirty, and we come upon a sheer rock wall and no where to go.  Now we was in some predicament and we knowed no way out.”

“At daybreak the next day we tried to make our escape, but the Indians was a waiting for us as we tried to walk our ponies out around them.  We got chased back to the foot of the cliff where we fought on till nightfall. There we was ol’ Milt and me backed up against a two hundred foot tall rock cliff, with no more ammunition and the Indians a moving in on us with these funny little smirkey looks on their faces. And them red faces told us they knew we were plumb sure done for and scared.  Now they were less than twenty feet away and there was nothing we could do.”

 “With that Bridger abruptly got up and walked away.  The startled greenhorns who had been entranced with his stories for the past several hours shouted for him to come back and finish the story.  With a reluctant look on his face ol’ Gabe walked over nearer the fire, crossed his hands behind him and asked, “Now what was it that you was a needing from me”. 

“The end to your story, shouted a young man of about twenty, “how’d you get away? What happened?”

“Oh that, it’s really not much of an ending,” Bridger said, as a wry smile turned up the corners of his mouth.

“Bless your heart there child but we didn’t get away, they killed us”.

Bridger walked away smoking his pipe, chuckling to himself.

“Good Night”.

Ancient Buffalo Hunt

                          It’s a Great Day to Hunt Buffalo

Runs-With-Fire and Small Bear stood warming themselves over the cooking fire alternately rubbing their hands together and then rubbing their chest and arms.  It was cold outside, but not as cold as it had been just a few days ago.  Neither spoke as they watched the smoke figures dance in the tipi and then escape through the hole in the center of the lodge.  The two, friends since their youth, and now the best hunters of their people had spent the early morning scouting for sign of a return of the great herds.  By instinct they knew that as the days grew longer it would soon be time to jump the Buffalo. Small Bear and Runs-With-Fire now talked trying to decide who in their tribe they should take to help them lead the big spring hunt.  A large hunt in the spring and another one in the fall kept the people alive, and choosing the right people could decide weather the tribe lives or dies.  This spring hunt would be the most important in their lifetime as the starving time (winter) had come early and many in the tribe were ill or weak from lack of food. Several days had passed and Runs-With-Fire and Small Bear knew it was time. The two stood stoically at the Tipi opening, enjoying the warm morning sun, and greeting the five hunter-warriors they had selected be hunt leaders.  Each of the five were chosen because they had proved themselves and each had a special skill, like White Weasel, selected for his cunning and stealth and Wind-At-Night selected because of his superior vision and hearing.  Although it was an honor to be chosen each knew it was a time for great seriousness and careful planning.  All of this made the selection of the sixteen-year-old Smiling Dog a mystery to the others because he seemed to be always joking and laughing but they would admit that he could throw his hunting spear farther and more accurately than any one else in the tribe. 

This was a time long before the whites had come to the west and a time when the British still ruled America.  This was a time when the natives of western America ranged free without horses, living season-to-season and year-to-year.  This was a time when these seven men, none more than thirty yeas of age held the lives of their four hundred fellow tribe members in their hands.  This was a time when life was hard, life was easy, life was sure and life was unsure.  This was a time when the American Indian reigned supreme in his part of the world, the American West.

After three hours of smoking, offering prayers, burning the sweet grass and much planning for the upcoming hunt the council of seven was ready.  Each of the seven picked two or three warriors to help with their part of the hunt, the rest of the tribe would wait nearby until they could hear the awful chunking sound as the buffalo hit the canyon bottom.  When the sound came they would hurry to the area and begin the tedious skinning and butchering of the dozens of animals.  The hunt plan was simple, the same as the ancients had used, run the buffalo off the cliff, kill the cripples, and collect the meat.  The council could only hope that the kill would be that easy.

As the buffalo ranged ever closer to the jump sight the council and their helpers worked feverishly to repair the rock wall that would help turn the shaggy beasts into the cliff and into a six months supply of food for the tribe.  No member of the tribe could remember the original building of the wall; it was so long ago that none of their stories or songs told of it.  The tribal elders simply said it was built before “the sun brought light and warmth to the people”.

The jump sight had not been used in many years because the people always let the wind and rain and the seasons scrub the area clean of all scent and color related to a kill.  Now the time was right and the buffalo were close.  This night all of the tribe would sing and dance the buffalo dance around the fire tomorrow would be a good day! 

A dreary gray March morning arrived but it didn’t dampen the spirit of the council because today was the day, Buffalo jump day. Theircamp was nearly an hour’s walk from the jump sight and the warriors left well before the first sight of light in the sky.  They walked by instinct in complete silence until Wind-at-Night stopped them with a barely audible shee, shee.  Wind-At-Night could smell the great heard as it had moved closer to their camp and farther from the jump sight.  Runs-With-Fire and Small Bear looked at each other and smiled, the buffalo were not where they had expected but it still would be a good day because they had prayed and danced around the fire last night and the buffalo were waiting.

In a matter of a few short minutes White Weasel let out the low cry of a morning dove telling the others that he and his three helpers were in place, just behind the herd.  They were crawling now within a few feet draped in wolf skins with the buffalo completely ignored them.  When the spear from Smiling Dog landed almost silently beside them Gray Antelope and Old Tree lit their torches and the torches of the four warriors with them from the hot coals they carried in a hollow buffalo leg bone.  The buffalo started to snort and move away startled as much by the men as by the fire.  But it was too late.  White Weasel and his followers were on their feet wildly swinging the wolf hides in the air and screaming pushing the herd forward.   The prairie was being lit on fire beside the hairy beasts and the buffalo were now starting to move away from the fire and away from the wild wolf men but the rock wall blocked the other side.  Panicking the buffalo stampeded over the cliff to what they thought was freedom and in some strange way it was.

The old people sang as they skinned and butchered the pile of buffalo flesh, assuring themselves health, wealth and shelter for many moons.  It was a great day!

Good Night.

Devils Tower Wyoming

The Legend of Devils Tower

It was the custom for The People (Kiowa) to put away food each fall in preparation for the starving time (winter).  It was the job of the young girls to pick blackberries and today was picking day.  Old-Basket-Women was in charge of sending out groups of young girls in different directions each armed with a large basket and orders to not return until it’s full.  But before the girls were sent off they were all seated under a sagging ancient willow tree, fighting to hang on to the last of its summer leaves.  When the girls were ready Old-Basket-Women started her story, it was a great, ah inspiring story but also one that reminded the girls to be careful and stay wary of dangers as they got farther and farther away from the village. “Seven girls, about your ages, were sent out to pick berries, but it had been a very dry summer and the girls wandered far from the village, some farther than they had ever been before.  They found a stream that had a good supply of blackberries, some gooseberries and some juicy wild plumbs.  The girls giggled and talked excitedly, mostly about the young boys of the tribe, as they, finally, started to fill their baskets.

ARRAG, ARRAG, ARRAG the girls all turned to look toward the terrible sound.  They really didn’t need to look because they knew what it was that they were hearing.  Mato, the terrible one, a Grizzly Bear, but it wasn’t just one Bear, the girls saw more Bears than they could count on both hands.  The girls dropped their baskets and started to run, at first the bears seemed to not be interested in the girls and instead started to eat the easy pickings from the girls overflowing baskets.  The bears had also experienced the very dry summer and were hungry, and some were flesh hungry and at least a half dozen of the bears gave up on the fruit and started after the girls who were now on the open prairie running as fast as they could toward the village. 

As the bears started to close in on the girls, they scrambled up on a large gray boulder that stood like a lonesome Buffalo on the open prairie.  The girls immediately began to sing a song to the gods to save them and a song to the rock to protect them.  Much to their surprise, the rock, who had never been prayed to and spoken of so nicely before, heard them and decided to answer their prayers and save the girls from the horrible Mato.

In seconds the rock started to groan and creek, and then, like magic, the rock started to, very rapidly grows taller and taller.  The Bears had now reached the rock but the girls were too high for them to reach.  But the Bears, who have great magical powers started to grow as fast as the rock.  As they grew they scratched and clawed at the girls but were only able to make deep scars in the holy rock that white men now call Devils Tower.  The bears circled the rock scratching and clawing off great piles of rock all the way around but were unable to reach the girls.  Finally after many hours of trying the bears gave up and slowly waddled back toward the stream and the berries left behind by the girls.  As the bears walked away they slowly shrunk back to their original size.

The girls were left on the rock for many days.  They prayed to the rockto give them a path to get down but the rock was sleeping again and did not hear them.  So the girls sang to the stars and asked them for help.  The stars smiled when they heard the happy songs of the girls and took the seven girls into the skies where they became the constellation known to all as the Seven Sisters.  Each clear night they smile down at the rock for saving them and at the bears that made their great shinning life in the sky possible.”

“O.K. girls now it’s time, go fill your baskets.”  The youngest of the girls got up from under the tree and hung back for a brief few seconds.  “Is their something you need,” asked Old-Basket-Women.  “Yes there is,” answered little Red Leaf, “what should we do if we see a bear.”  Old-Basket-Women smiled, patted Red Leaf on the head, winked at her and answered, “Run like hell!”

Good Night!


The First People

Wyoming's Fabulous Big Horn Mountains Medicine wheel

The circle of warriors listened intently as Buffalo-Calf Running started to once again tell the story of how the ancient ones built "Wyoming’s great Medicine wheel.  Now nearly eighty summers old, and with the wisdom that comes with age Buffalo-Calf Running was about to tell one of his tribes favorite stories.  He had told the story dozens of times, but it was a story that needed to be passed on, and a story he loved to tell.  Buffalo-Calf Running took a small drink from the water gourd beside him, cleared his throat and started the story.

“Walks-Himself and Snow Bear had been traveling for more than one full moon to the south.  Looking, they were looking for a holy place for their tribe, the Absaroka, a tribe here long ago, and long before the white men came and started to call our people the Crow.  They were not sure what they were looking for, but when they found it they would, by instinct, know.  Walks-himself and Snow Bear were together because they had nearly the same vision during a quest several months ago.  Both had studied the ways of the medicine man since they were only ten summers and both, although only sixteen and seventeen were thought to have great and mysterious powers.  What they found in the Big Horns was a veryhigh area on a windswept mountainside, strewn with rocks.  They knew this would be the spot, the spot they had traveledmany days to the south to find.


In their visions they were building a giant Medicine Wheel, much like the one near their own village, but the ancients had built that one, and no one knew any stories from that time.  Theirs would be on a grand scale but with only the two of them, their dogs and travois it would be many moons in the making. They started building by heaping a great many rocks into a pile that would be the center of their great sacred wheel.  From the center they built four lines of stone away from the center to represent: North, South, East and West. They couldn’t determine, even through much prayer and meditation, just how long each of these great spokes should be.   Finally they decided to simply drag and lay stones until the sun was straight overhead and stop, then make each line that length.  After circling the four directional rock lines with rocks that took both of them to carry, a process that took nearly four full days, the two were ready to start on the final spokes of the giant wheel. Over the next several weeks’ rocks were gathered and laid in six lines between each of the original four lines.  This would give them a perfect lunar calendar with twenty-eight spokes to match the phases of the moon.  The moon they used to calculate important times of the year, such as, the return of the Buffalo and the coming of winter.

            After their nearly three month long labor they walked back a great distance to admire their work but decided the wheel was not complete it needed something else, it did not look as the one in their visions and not much like the one near their home village far to the North. They now spent endless, sweating, hurting days building six stone Medicine lodges around the circle.  The lodges were to represent the things most sacred to them: water, food, Buffalo, fire, the changing seasons, family, and tribe.  A year later when they came back they added one more lodge, but at a distance from the circle reminding their clan to stay within the circle of the Crow because great dangerous lay far from the circle.  (Some believe this to be a warning of the migration of white people that would be coming in another one hundred years).

This Medicine wheel was used for many years but after the children of Snow Bear and Walks-Himself had passed on it was used very little and finally, not at all, for many generations of our people.  It was when I was a little boy of eight summers that this great wheel was found again by the Crow.  Buffalo-Calf-Running stopped to light his pipe and take another drink from the water gourd before ending his story. When we found the wheel some of the elder’s stories that had been passed down, the ones we never understood started to make since.  Many of the missing parts of the stories could be filled in once we found the Medicine wheel. Snow Bear and Walks-Himself seemed to live among us again. They had always been in our stories but it was not until we found this place that we truly understood their power and what they meant to our tribe.

Good Night!


The Bighorn Mountain Medicine Wheel is located on the West side of the crest of Medicine Mountain in Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains.  The setting is nearly ten thousand feet high just north of highway 14 east of the town of Lovell.  It is now set aside as a National Historic Landmark

The shape is not a perfect circle but it is circular in shape.  There are twenty-eight spokes radiating out from the central cairn (pile of rocks) around the edges are six smaller rock Cairns.  Another cairn can be found a short distance away.  The wheel is about seventy-five feet across and two of the Cairns roughly line up with sunrise and sunset on summer solstice.  Other parts are said to line up with bright morning stars.  All of this could be by sheer chance and over zealous imaginations of present day scholars or these ancient Americans may have had some real astronomical knowledge.

Archeological evidence points to the use of the area by Aboriginal people thousands of years ago, but just when the wheel was built has not been determined by any solid evidence.  If it is some kind of lunar calendar, as many scholars believe, it best matches up with the skies of eight hundred years ago.  When it was really built and what its original purpose was we could only speculate.  Guesses for its purpose range from the really weird, built by ancient astronauts, to the very possible, a shrine for healing and worship.

American Indians say it best------

The answer lies in the rocks and only the can last forever”.

Sleep Tight!