Wyoming and the Code of the West

Last March the Wyoming legislature passed senate file 51. This bill, while not a true law as much as it is a suggestion has been both admired and critized. Some say it makes those of us who live in Wyoming look like a bunch of hicks, others say, yes, this is what we are all about.

Here it is - The Code of the West, bill.

Adapted from the book, "Cowboy Ethics," by James P. Owen

-The code includes-

1. Live each day with courage
2. Take pride in your work 3. Always finish what you start
4. Do what has to be done
5. Be tough, but fair
6. When you make a promise, keep it
7. Ride for the brand
8. Talk less, say more
9. Remember that some things are not for sale
10.Know where to draw the line

The Code of the West, alive and Well in Wyoming –click here to watch a great four minutes of Wyoming.


Laramie Wyoming

What a crazy place I live in.
No, not that way crazy, but a crazy name.

Laramie, named after a French-Canadian trapper, Jacques LaRamie. He came to Wyoming Territory to trap no earlier than 1816 and was killed by the Arapaho in the winter of either 1818 or 1819. According to Jim Bridger who came to the area a few years later LaRamie was well liked and respected as an honest trader by Indians of the area.

So why was he killed? No one knows but likely for whatever possessions he had with him at the time. And no one can say with absolute certainty that it was Arapaho who killed him, although most stories back up this belief.
Today the city of Laramie is named after him along with: Laramie Peak, the Laramie Plains, and the Laramie Range of the Rockies, Laramie County (Home of Cheyenne, Wyoming’s state capital), the Laramie River, the Little Laramie River, and maybe others I cannot think of right now.

So what did he do that warranted naming more things after him than any other person except James Bridger? No one knows, but Laramie City was a true wild and wooly Wild West town in the late 1860s when the railroad first came to town. Jacques LaRamie, a true symbol of the times long past seemed to be a fitting name for an area changing so rapidly.

LaRamie was a pioneer, trapper, explorer and trader in this area and we don’t even know his real name. There were many Jacques with French last names during this time in history so somewhere along the way historians assigned him Jacques as his first name. LaRamie may have been one of many trappers who went by only one simple name (and to think people today think, Elvis and Cher came up with this idea). Not sure why historians thought he needed anything other than just LaRamie.


Merry Christmas With Only One Mishap

Christmas is over and I am sitting in my recliner playing with my brand new Kindle. All four kids and all seven grandkids made it. BUT as always there had to be a mishap and this one was a dozy. Our four year old granddaughter broke her leg sledding. It was our second day on the hill (yesterday) she is a tough little kid but when she said she needed to go to the doctor we knew it was hurting. Now it is all cast up (hip to foot) and in about eight weeks she will be as good as new. Thank God for grandkids, good doctors and quick healing for four year olds.

Peno and the Bear

Some stories are just too good to let die. The following story came from the trapper/mountain man period of Wyoming history (1820-1840s). Tall tales made for great sitting around the fire conversations and fun. One of my favorites and one of many nearly lost tails is the story of, “Peno and the Bear”. Like so many other stories old timers would, “swear” this one is true. Whether it is true or only a tail to pass a long winter night I hope it will not go away. Following is my version of the story.


A Canadian trapper named Peno, short on powder and ball, shot a bull buffalo with a light load, wounding but not killing or dropping the animal. The stunned buffalo charged Peno goring his horse to death and breaking the trapper’s leg. In the process Peno lost his rifle, food and possible, but not his senses. He was able to crawl into heavy brush and lucky for him the buffalo lost interest in the mess he created and left.

Peno crawled for hours, intent on reaching a large Indian village he had passed a few days back. Hungry and in shock he finally reached the creek that today bears his name. Along the way he ate as many choke cherries as he could reach and upon reaching the stream drank his fill before blacking out.

When Peno awoke a huge silver tip Grizzly stood over him. Peno did the only thing he could think of—he played dead. After what seemed like an eternity the old trapper opened one eye only to see the bear still waiting. Then a strange thing happened, the bear held out a front paw as if wanting to shake hands. Figuring, why not, Peno took the bear’s paw in his hand and immediately saw a huge festering spot on the soft pad of the bears paw. By this time Peno believed he had nothing to lose, he took out his Green River Knife. Very carefully he removed a long tangled sliver from the bears paw. Once the surgery was complete the bear laid down a few feet from Peno and fell asleep.

Peno knew it was time to exit and he moved away, even trying to walk with the aid of a piece of a cottonwood limb he used as a staff. Over the next few days every time Peno stopped to rest or sleep the bear was near, sometimes within a few feet. Peno took to talking to the bear and danged if it didn’t seem like the bear understood.

After a few days Peno reached the village looking down on it from a sage brush hill less than a half mile away. Now that the trapper was safe the bear held up his fast healing paw to say goodbye, turned and disappeared.

Although this is purportedly a trapper tale it very much sounds like a teaching story, maybe for young Indian children. It may have taught the age old idea of everything, including animals and people, having a good side no matter how ferocious or bad they may seem.

10 things a cowboy says that might be hard to believe

• I won this buckle in a rodeo
• I walk better in boots
• This time I really gave up the Copenhagen
• I wear my jeans this tight for safety on the ranch reasons
• I try to watch what I eat – not too many fried foods please
• Not too much coffee I’ve had enough
• My pickups paid for
• My hat-oh-that ol’ thing
• Never lost money on a horse
• Wife never says a thing when I stay out this late

Thinking About Home and Wild Bill Hickok

The legend of Wild Bill Hickok began just outside my hometown at a place called Rock Creek station. (Southeast Nebraska) It was here that Wild Bill, by his own account, killed single handedly, nine members of a blood thirsty, cut throat McCanles Gang. Dime novels of the day led to it being called the greatest one man gunfight in American history. A battle Hickok survived with eleven bullet wounds.
What a story – how much of it is true –probably not much.
• Hickok became famous later and the facts changed after he became bigger than life. History forgot that he was charged with murder and released after a trial lasting a few minutes.
• Also his nickname changed from Duck Bill to Wild Bill, likely at his insistence, maybe at the point of a pistol if you insisted on calling him Duck Bill
• There never was a McCanles gang although David McCanles himself was a bully and not liked or missed by many.
• People who saw Hickok soon after the battle reported he had no wounds after the fight.
Anyway, so goes the tight line separating truth from fiction in the old west. Wild Bill went on to become a legend throughout the west. Including right here in Wyoming where he spent some time.