Almost a Legend

Watching a football game on television Saturday, Wyoming V. Utah State, as part of the promo they mentioned Jim Bridger and the fact that he was the first white man to visit the Great Salt Lake and the first into Yellowstone. Bridger may very well have been the first non-Indian into the Great Salt Lake Valley, at least I and many other western historians believe that. But the first into Yellowstone, I don’t think so.

John Colter, like Bridger, a Virginian was much more likely to have been the first into Yellowstone. It is most unlikely the two ever met and very possible that Colter was in Yellowstone while Bridger was but a toddler with a birth date in 1804.

Bridger became a legend in the west and Colter seems to have just slipped away into history. Colter left the west by 1810 and never returned, leaving a legend in the making, unmade.

Colter never lived long enough for people to believe any of his tales of Yellowstone. He died of Jaundice in 1813 leaving behind $124 and change. But then the story of the almost a legend in the west turns bizarre. He was buried on Tunnel Hill near present day Dundee Missouri. In 1926 his remains, along with the remains of five or six others, were dug up during a railroad excavation of the site. All were dumped somewhere nearby, buried in an unmarked embankment.

Not a very fitting finish to the first white man in to Yellowstone.

History Really Can be Fun

Sometimes history can be entertaining. I spent years trying to make history come alive and be relevant to today’s kids. Maybe I missed the point, I should have just made it up, or most of it anyway.

I am researching/reading a Wyoming History book published in 1918. Historians have widely panned the work, as too much fiction and not enough fact. I don’t find that true for much of the text, but some of it does read more like the society page of a hundred year old weekly than it does true history.

When the author described one member of the legislature, as one who didn’t like to speak in public, not sure we have any politicians like that anymore. It made me want to read on. Not many history books have punch lines, this one does. He goes on to say that this particular law maker was more concerned with the, after the secession was over day, than he was the law making process of the work day. The punch line – “the longest speech he ever made in his years in the state legislature, was, ‘I make a motion we adjourn.’ Now that is some pretty good history.

I.S. Bartlett    History of Wyoming, published 1918

Wyoming the Wonderful Rectangle

Remember one of the first puzzles you put together as a kid, sure we all do? It was the wooden map of the United States. Just find the shape of the state and put it in the correct place, which was properly embossed into the cardboard or wood backing for young learners. Every state had a unique shape and this made learning where each state was located fast and easy. But wait a minute, hold on here, what about Colorado and Wyoming, they are square, or almost so, properly rectangles. How did they get their rather non-unique shape? Not sure about Colorado as I am a Wyoming guy, but as for Wyoming.

Wyoming is the only state whose territory was taken from all four of the major land accusations of the United States. Parts of Wyoming have been claimed by five different countries and parts of Wyoming came under the rule of a dozen Spanish kings between 1479 and 1821. Not that it’s important but there were four kings named, Charles, four Phillips and four named Ferdinand.  

France also ruled parts of Wyoming under kings, Francis One and two, three Henry’s, Charles IX and four guys named Louis. At long last the little Emperor himself, Napoleon, gave up the French claim to Wyoming when Jefferson made the greatest land purchase in history, the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803.

Wyoming was also part of:  Utah Territory, Washington Territory, Nebraska Territory, Colorado Territory, Dakota Territory, and Idaho Territory.

It took thirty boundary changes to come up with the present day shape of Wyoming, an almost square rectangle- ahh, the government at work.

Oh- then we named it after a valley in Delaware.

Wyoming where mule deer sleep in your front yard, bear’s wander through local parks, elk, moose and pronghorn outnumber the people, mountain views are everywhere and people ski in the morning and play golf in the afternoon. It really is like no other place on earth.

It’s good to be back. 

Worst Week In Wyoming History

I may have placed myself into Wyoming History this week. The reason? The most miserable week in this states history. That would be for any one person, and one who did not die.
Started off the week with a sprained ankle, guess maybe guys my age should quit playing basketball, even if I do still have considerable game. OK, actually I did it stepping off a two inch step in Jackson Hole last weekend. By Tuesday I added a nose running, sneezing, itching eyes, cold. Thursday the flu set in. Today I am about as miserable as anyone can be.

I will attempt to remedy my maladies by watching dozens of football games in the next 48 hours, I believe it will work. And I have all the channels to give it a tremendous effort.

Wish me luck, I know it will be tough, but I have pillows properly arranged on the couch, assorted drinks, heating pads, throws, lap top, kindle reader and other goodies to get me through my time of need. And, of course, my wife is tending to me quite well. She went down to one of the local stop and rob’s and picked up a 7UP for me. When I finish it, I believe that will make, exactly one 7UP in the past several decades. Hey, tastes pretty good.

What's In a Name


Seventy, or so, years ago, The Wyoming Game and Fish Department did a study, trying to identify all bodies of water in the state. They found 38 Spring Creeks, 30 Cottonwood Creeks, 29 Beaver Creeks, 25 Bear Creeks, 23 Dry Creeks, 21 Horse Creeks, 18 Sand Creeks, 17 Sheep Creeks and 17 Lost Creeks. Makes me wonder if they didn’t have much imagination or if they only had a short book entitled, Best Names for Rivers and Streams, I would have named one after myself, Old Guy River, now that has a ring to it!

 How anyone found their way through the state, or all of the American West, before roads and railroads might be one of the great mysteries of American history. Hope they didn’t tell people to hurry along Spring Creek, turn left when they reached Sand Creek and follow it to Lost Creek, seems they could have ended up about anywhere in the state with directions like that. But the state did have some names for streams that were unusual enough to remember. Dry Donkey, Robbers Gulch, and Nameit are my favorites.

But then again we name towns mostly after people, or maybe people named towns after themselves. Guess that’s why we have towns like Bill, Aladdin, Patrick, Elwood, Merna, and Rosie’s Ridge in Wyoming.

Oh, we also have Jackass Pass up in Fremont and Sublette County, (yep, named after explorer John C. Fremont and trapper William Sublette) but that is another story for another time. Early trappers said the ancient Indian trail was so steep that only a Jackass could make its way on it.

Standing Bear – A Western Superhero

Before Spiderman and Superman, America had Frank Grouard, a superhero before his time.

Frank Grouard was General Crooks most well known scout. Crook held him in such high regard he told his superiors he would not lead men into Indian Territory without Grouard as his scout. And latter said he would rather lose a third of his men before he lost Grouard. This didn’t set well with the rest of the scouts and might be why he is a somewhat misunderstood in history.

But this is not the entire story of one of the west’s most famous scouts. His life story reads more like mountain man fiction than the truth. Grouard’s father was a missionary from California who married a native islander while working in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. When Grouard’s father moved the family to Utah his mother became homesick and returned to the islands. Frank was left in charge of the family as his father was either off on a mission or trying to find his wife in the South Pacific.

This didn’t set well with Frank and he left for as the old-timers used to say, “For parts unknown.” He spent time as a bull-whacker and later worked for the Pony Express. History doesn’t say much about his time with the Pony Express but he likely worked for, more than rode for, them. Grouard, just in his late teens, was described as over six feet tall and around two-hundred pounds. He probably seemed a giant to most of the riders who weighed in closer to 100-120 lbs. But he did ride at least a few trips because on his fourth trip he was captured by the Crow. (Some sources report the tribe as Blackfeet)

He was tortured by the tribe who let him run for his life, naked and being beaten by any tribal member that could pick up a stick, as he ran.  But he outdistanced his captors and escaped, ending up at Fort Hall, nearly 70 miles away.

A year later he was captured by a band of Sioux as he rode along at a snail’s space in a blinding Wyoming snowstorm. As his captors argued, over who would get what, of his possessions another man rode up. This person seemed to be most powerful and he took Grouard as his captive. Grouard learned during the three day ride to camp he was riding with, Hunkpapa Sioux holy man Sitting Bull. When Sitting Bull rode into camp hauling Grouard, Gall and No Neck, chiefs with as much power, in the tribe, as Sitting Bull insisted he be put to death, the sooner the better. Grouard with his long black hair and skin of a pacific islander looked to them like an Indian from another tribe, therefore an enemy.

Sitting Bull didn’t often, if ever, lose what he wanted in the tribe. He announced that he had made Grouard, his brother, renaming him Standing Bear. Because it was the dead of winter Grouard was wearing a full length bear-skin coat, towering over his captors by three quarters of a foot and looked, very much, the part of a bear.

Grouard stayed with Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa for more than six years, reaching near legendary status in the tribe for his strength, speed, size and look. All warriors within the tribe, who had ambition to lead, had to undergo the torture test and Grouard withstood the cutting of 400 pieces of flesh from his arms and allowed flaming sticks held against his body until they burned out and cooled. He endured the punishing torture for more than four hours.  Never crying out or flinching and was pronounced, “brave.”   

Depending on which western history authority is researched, Grouard either escaped or was left with blessings from the tribe after six or seven years with Sitting Bull. All of this and he had, by then, reached the grand old age of 25 or 26. He went on to become one of the most famous scouts in the west working for the U.S. Army and General Crook.

Grouard reached Little Big Horn shortly after Custer and the seventh were annihilated and was the first to report the news to Crook. He was present at Fort Robinson, Nebraska when Crazy Horse was murdered. He was also on the Yellowstone Expeditions and at the battle of Slim Buttes. He was assigned to the Pine Ridge Reservation during the Ghost Dance Uprising and was present at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890. Grouard later served as a U. S Marshal in Fort McKinney near Buffalo, Worming and was somehow connected to Wyoming’s Johnson County War of 1892.

Here was a man that made history and lived history.

You can get the full text of the Life and Times of Frank Grouard here-


Tom O'Day, Horse Thief and Mystery Man

The Outlaw Tom O’Day rode with the Wild Bunch, or at least they put up with him, according to some Butch Cassidy experts. He is sometimes referred to as a forward scout, you know the guy who goes in and cases the joint, before the robbery. Others say he may have been kept around for comedic relief, like the time he got too drunk to even watch the horses properly.

Regardless of which Tom O’Day the real guy was, he is interesting and certainly much more than just a footnote in Wyoming and Wild West history. Almost any mention of the Wild Bunch and you will find Tom O’Day’s name.

In November of 1903 O’Day was tired of working for wages for area ranchers and decided to run off a few horses to sell for himself, something he had done in the past and was quite good at. He rustled fifteen head of fine horses and took off for the rugged lands of the Owl Creek Mountains of central Wyoming.

The penalty for horse stealing in 1903 Wyoming was five years a horse, so O’Day was looking at 75 years worth of horses. It was a good business if you got away with it. Each prime horse could be worth two or three months wages. O’Day liked his chances, a little bit of work; hide the horses for a few weeks in a mountain pass, then run them into Montana to sell. Easy street, for the next few years, was just around the corner.

But, things didn’t work out so well for Tom O’Day, he got caught, likely because he stole the horse flesh from Bryant B. Brooks, an important Wyoming politician of the day. The judge was soft hearted toward the amicable O’Day and sentenced him to six year in the Wyoming state penitentiary in Rawlins.

Well of all the crazy stuff! Bryant Brooks was elected as Wyoming’s seventh governor two years later and two years after that re-elected to a second term. And then he pardoned O’Day with a year and a half left on his sentence.

Who says politicians can’t be understanding fellows at time?  

O’Day went straight after leaving prison, moving to a Nebraska farm where he lived and worked happily ever after until his death in 1936. Or maybe he moved to Deadwood where he worked as a greater in a gambling and other entertainment business up to his death in 1930. Some Wild West historian’s note O’Day left prison, never to be heard from again until his death in Iowa in the 30s.

OK, so no one knows what become of the horse thief after leaving prison. Well at least we know he left other peoples horse flesh alone for the rest of his life----maybe.

Crazy Discovery Tail

Not sure if every state has a tail of discovery, but Wyoming does. I would rather call it, the, who was here first story. The answer is, of course, Indians, several tribes. But much like Columbus discovering America, when there were already a million, or so people here, Wyoming, for years taught about who the first, non-Indian to enter Wyoming was, and like Columbus often said they were the discoveries of Wyoming.

Many texts tell us that a brother duo, the Verendrye’s were likely the first non-natives to visit the cowboy state. Nice, but this is based on the fact that school children in South Dakota found a lead plate in 1913 that was buried by Chevalier de la Verendrye dated March 30, 1743. This is a fine tail, and likely true, with a few details filed in, but it was a long way to Wyoming from Fort Pierre, South Dakota.

Historical speculation seemed to get carried away. Some would be historians assumed the Verendrye’s must have journeyed on to the Black Hills from Fort Pierre and then might just have gone on to Wyoming. Maybe just to say they had been there, just kidding.

Fort Pierre is some 200 miles from the Wyoming border; believe I will stick with my belief. John Colter, who traveled west with Lewis and Clark, left the ‘Corpse of Discovery’ on the west coast and made his way back east, stopping in what is today Yellowstone. No one believed him when he told tales of Yellowstone wonders, but later they were proved true, and I have been there to see them.

Historical facts are just that, they can be proven; historical speculation belongs in fiction, not textbooks.

Big Lie becomes a National Park

From the time of John Colter, who left the Lewis and Clark expedition when they reached the Pacific, to wander back to what would become Yellowstone Park, to Jim Bridger and later the Washburn- Langford expedition of 1870, everyone who told stories of the Yellowstone area was branded a liar.

The wonders of the park were just too much for people to believe, so they didn’t. Finally in 1872, only a little more than a year after Langford was branded the last of the champion Yellowstone liars of the west, President Grant approved dedication of Yellowstone as a national park. And guess what? Langford was named the first park Superintendent, guess Grant believed his tales of the Yellowstone country.

Today only in Iceland and New Zealand can one see geysers on the tremendous scale of Yellowstone. But you won’t see bears, bison, elk and moose anywhere else in the world like you can in Yellowstone.

It is a must see, if you have not yet been there put it on your list.  And on your way stop here in Guernsey, Wyoming to see the Oregon Trail Ruts, Register Cliff and the magnificent Guernsey State Park.

Old Guy Went Down But Now is Back Up - Kind of

I am starting to feel better, finally, after a month of the worst sinus problems in all my 65 years. Couldn’t breathe, couldn’t hear (my wife says it was even worse than my normal selective hearing), tough time sleeping and got little or no work done. Hope to be back blogging in a few days, the nice weather here in eastern Wyoming is helping. See you in a week or so.

Did you see that Wyoming has the nations cheapest gas? But looks like we will have more gas tax soon, someone must have told the statehouse. Oh well!

Buffalo Bill - He Earned the Name

William F. Cody had to win his famous nickname and by doing it he proved he was indeed Buffalo Bill. Cody had already proved his worth and his nickname to the railroad as legend or facts say he killed nearly 4,300 buffalo over a period of 18 months to feed hard working and hungry railroad crews. But Bill Comstock, chief of scouts at a Kansas plains Calvary fort, challenged the legend of Cody, saying he was the real Buffalo Bill, and Cody needed to prove he was the better hunter.

The game was on and the stakes were $500 per side, pretty steep in those days, and pretty steep in this day for guys like me. Each man was to hunt one full day from eight until eight, the winner being determined by who killed the most buffalo. News of the coming contest brought a special train of fans to watch the action.

As you might have guessed, Cody won, killing 69 buffalo while Comstock killed a very respectable 46.
NOTE – Cody never referred to his breach loading buffalo rifle as a rifle or a gun, instead always as, “Lucretia Borgia,” might sound odd innless you already knew his horse’s name, “Old Brigham. He liked fancy names, as for me I once had a dog named Spot, my dog now is named Bear, think I will name my next one, “Old Brigham,” maybe not.

Wanted: Enterprising Young Men

To enterprising young men. The subscriber wishes to engage one hundred young men to ascend the Missouri River to its source, there to be employed for one two or three years. For particulars enquire of Major Andrew Henry near the lead mines in the county of Washington who will ascend with and command the party; or of the subscriber near St. Louis, signed William H. Ashley.

 The Missouri Republican, St. Louis Mo., March 20 1822

And so begin the tails of the great American West, set in the area of the Louisiana Purchase.

Brands and the West

Since the beginning of the cattle industry in Wyoming a rancher needed two things, a rope and a brand. Wyoming has a huge book of thousands of brands registered in the state. One iron brands were easy and it did not take long to reach a point where most, or all of the one iron, brands were used up. Then the ranchers got creative.

Simple letters and numbers were replaced by symbols such as letters and numbers: walking, running, flying, tilted, rocking and lazy. In early Wyoming cattle day’s two young Harvard grads came west to seek their fortune in the new cattle industry. The two registered the Duck Bar as their brand, yep, a duck with a bar under it.

Many picture brands came into being around that time, other than the duck, things like, fish, pots and pans, the pitchfork, scissors, cow horns, and in modern day goal posts have all been used as brands.

One of the most well known of picture brands, made famous by Owen Wister’s, The Virginian, was the goose egg.

Today Wyoming is still a brand state, not many left anymore. With the advent of ear tags and now ear tags with computer chips or implanted computer chips the brand my someday die out. As for me I still like to see branded cattle, I try to figure out the brand every time. Once in a while I am right.

The Strange Life and Death of Anna Richey

Anna Richey was the only women ever convicted of cattle rustling in Wyoming. She was a well read lady of culture who had once been married to a school teacher.

What did she do? She was accused, and later found guilty, of changing brands, eighth different ones. After being arrested no one was sure where to keep her, the local jail didn’t seem right for a women described as, “thirty, purty, and full of life.”

She was released to go home on bond to await trial. On her way to trial she was wounded by a hidden gunman. She recovered, stood trial, and was sentenced to six years but died under mysterious circumstance, (poisoned while out on bond) before ever going to prison.

Such was life in early day Wyoming and other parts of the old west.

We Need Snow Like it's 1886 Again

This winter has been so open in our part of Wyoming that it reminded me we are still in drought. We need snow, we’ll take rain, but we need snow. Hope the weather is not setting up for another disaster like the one in 1886. Won’t happen because we are better prepared today than the ranchers of more than a century ago, we hope.

The Wyoming summer of 1886 was hot and dry; cattle went into winter in less than perfect condition. In November heavy snow came and it stayed for two months. In late January the snows came again, snowing for four days and three nights before letting up. By spring the bad news was apparent, piles of dead cattle, many others were wobbling from starvation. Wyoming in 1886 proudly boasted of it being the greatest place on earth to raise livestock with over nine million cattle on the range. By 1895 only three million were left.

The main lessons learned from drought and blizzards were simple. Put up hay for winter feed and sell down when the grass is bad in the summer. Cattle once again cover the pasture lands of Wyoming, but never again will ranchers overdo like days past. We are getting better and proud of it. But we still need snow or rain.

How dry and warm has it been this winter? I have played 18 rounds of golf since the first of December, shouldn’t happen in Wyoming. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the golf, but right now I would rather go sledding, sit by the fire and sip hot chocolate.


Among the Shoshone and Bannock tribes of early day Wyoming the coyote was a revered animal.

Many early plains and mountain Indian cultures told stories with the coyote at the center. The coyote had great powers, often that no other animal had. In any given story he might be a hero, in others a fool or trickster, but the coyote is always, deep down, wise and all knowing.

Among the Bannocks and Shoshone a tribal member would never purposely injure or kill a coyote. The coyote was blessed by the spirits and if anyone harmed or bothered it they could be overcome by evil spirits.

The night howl of the coyote was spiritual to many tribes who believed the howl was a mournful cry for all lost souls, not a simple warning of bad weather a belief held by modern non-Indian cultures.

I hope all of you have heard or will hear the mournful cry of the coyote. Every time I hear a coyote howl or the hoot of an owl I thank God for nature. It is truly all around us.


Hey There Tenderfoot

In 1830  William Sublette, one of the founders of Fort Laramie I posted about last week, brought five cattle into the Wind River area of Wyoming. These were the first cattle into the territory of Wyoming, maybe the first Wyoming rancher.

Local Indians were fascinated by the docile creatures, waiting their turn to let a cow lick their hand. Three years later Robert Campbell brought a few cattle to the Green River Rendezvous. The cattle had walked over 1400 miles and arrived with very sore feet. The cattle’s feet had became so bad, on the way west, that the men driving the cattle made shoes for them from raw buffalo hide. These footsore cattle spanned a new term for someone recently arriving in the west – tenderfoot.

Keeping a Campaign Promise – What !

 On a warm early fall day in 1869 Ester Morris of South Pass City Wyoming invited 40 friends to her home to listen to the first two candidates for Wyoming’s new territorial Legislature. Mrs. Morris who just a few weeks prior had listened to Susan B. Anthony and became a strong believer in giving women the right to vote.

Once the party goers were settled to listen to the candidates Mrs. Morris introduced them with the following words. “There are present two opposing candidates for the first legislature of our new territory, one of them which is sure to be elected, and we desire here and now to receive from them a public pledge that whichever one is elected will introduce and work for the passage of an act conferring upon the women of our new territory the right of suffrage.”

Well put on the spot in front of Ester Morris and her guests they made the promise. And Wyoming after much infighting in the new legislature, and some very cruel comments toward women, became the first to allow women suffrage.

Ester Morris went on to be appointed the first women, Justice of the Peace in America.

Wyoming the Leftover State

I remember reading once about Wyoming being a pass-through state. No one stopped, they just passed through. It might also have been the last of the west, everything left over from western expansion and settlement.

Wyoming was not only part of the Louisiana Purchase, a portion was part of Texas at one time and the south west a part of the Mexican Cession. Parts of Wyoming were in Oregon, Washington, Nebraska and Dakota at one time or another. It became so confusing that the famous camp at Fort Laramie was Fort Laramie, Nebraska, Idaho, and Dakota before it was Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

The east was settled, the west was settled, and the south and the upper Midwest settled long before there was a Wyoming. In 1854, travel on the Oregon Trail was heavy but travelers just kept passing through. Much of Wyoming is high desert climate, not suitable for agriculture and people wanting a new life, more often than not, were dependent on agriculture.

It took quite a while but here is how Wyoming became Wyoming.

Ø 1854- Northeast Wyoming belonged to Washington and eastern Wyoming was part of Nebraska

Ø 1861- Colorado territory was formed ending with its northern boundary, it would become Wyoming’s southern boundary

Ø 1861- Nebraska territory was divided and Dakota Territory was formed separated by the continental divide from Washington territory.

Ø 1863- Idaho Territory

Ø 1863- Wyoming Eastern boundary established

Ø Idaho Territory at this time would have been all of the present states of Idaho, Montana and a large part of Wyoming

Ø 1864- Montana Territory created

Ø 1865- Congress sets up a temporary government for the Territory of Wyoming-even though the territory had not yet been created

Ø 1867- Wyoming’s first county was created, Laramie (county seat Fort Sanders) later another county, Carter, was created – all would have been part of Dakota Territory at the time

Ø 1868- Government set up for Lincoln, later changed to Wyoming, this bill also added southwest Wyoming giving the state its four perfect corners.

Ø 1869- Finally – The Territory of Wyoming

Ø 1890- Statehood




Falling Leaf

The following song was written by an unknown soldier sometime in 1869 at Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory. Makes one wonder what a talented poet/songwriter was doing so far away from a place where his skills may have been truly appreciated. But a new song would have been a welcome addition in lonely forts like Laramie. Was the writer running from something, on an adventure, or just a lonely soldier with a gift for words? Guess we will never know—enjoy.

Far beyond the rolling prairie, where the noble forest lies,
Dwelt the fairest Indian maiden ever seen by mortal eyes,
She had eyes bright as sunshine; daughter of the warrior chief,
Came to bless their home in autumn, and they called her Falling Leaf.

 Falling Leaf the breezes whispered of thy spirit’s early flight,
And within that Indian wigwam there is grief and woe tonight.


Through the depths of tangled forest, all on one summer day
Came a hunter worn and weary from his long and lonely way,

Weeks went by and still he lingered. “Gentle Falling Leaf,” he cried,
And he wooed and won her for his fair and lovely bride.

One bright day this hunter wandered through the prairie wastes alone.
Long she watched and long she waited, but his fate was never known.

With the autumn days she lingered, and with the autumn leaves she died,
And she closed her eyes in slumber by the Laramie River’s side.


*Song reprinted from –“Wyoming Pageant,” by Virginia Cole Trenholm and Maurine Carley  © 1946

The Indians Wars in the West Didn’t Last Long



Starting with the 1854 Grattan Massacre, and ending with the terrible slaughter at Wounded Knee in 1890, Wyoming and the west are full of stories of the Indian battles.

 Authors and film makers have written thousands of stories, made dozens of movies and hundreds of Television shows from this, much shorter than a life time, 36 year span.

Sure there were battles before 1854 and a few spirited fights after 1890, but the majority of the Indian Wars were finished as: farmers, ranchers, squatters, prospectors, herders, shop keepers and peddlers pushed eastern civilization westward.

With the Indian wars over there was no longer a need for forts in the west. Only Fort Washakie remained. This fort stayed open until 1909. Forts: Laramie, Bridger, Fetterman, and Kearny, were long gone by 1890 as a new era pushed out the old west.

Custer, Smoke Signals and Hollywood

At the time of the massacre of Custer and the 7th Frank Grouard read smoke signals in the sky and reported a battle was going on and the Indians were winning.

General Crook had sent Lt. F. W. Sibley and twenty-five men to locate the Indians. Frank Grouard and Big Bat Puerrier led the troopers. Sibley, recently out of West Point, was told by Crook  to do whatever Grouard said, but Sibley still would not believe a group of Indians could win a battle against the army.

So did Smoke Signals really convey messages or was it something Hollywood made up?

Maybe more Hollywood than fact. But if you can see much smoke from an Indian campfire it would indicate they were not worried about anyone seeing it-therefore all is well. I have books in my personal library that explain how to build a smoke signal box to send real, American Indian smoke signals. I think this may be more modern day Boy Scouts than Indians. Smoke may have been used as a predetermined signal, such as, If you see smoke keep away or come on in, but I doubt any tribes had any real Morse code of smoke signals.

This means when Grouard saw the big smoke he knew the Indians were celebrating, a guess, maybe, but an educated and correct one by a truly great scout.


The Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother


Sounds like a very unusual name for an important battle with the Sioux under Crazy Horse allied with warriors of the Cheyenne under Little Hawk. This strong group was involved in an ongoing series of battles with the famous General George Crook during the Indian Campaign of 1876.  This encounter, which history books call, “Battle of the Rosebud, Montana,” was one of these fights.

One of the Indian leaders, Two Moons was heading a group of about 200 warriors and one women, Buffalo-calf-Road-Women, who refused to let her brother, an under chief named, Comes-In-Sight, go to battle alone. When Comes-In-Sight’s horse was shot from under him, Buffalo-Calf-Road-Women, rushed to the rescue. Riding her pony into the battle she scooped up her brother, saving him.

Eight days later, and not far away, Custer and his men of the 7th were wiped out near the Little Big Horn River in present day Montana.





The Three Williams, John and a Fort Called Laramie

The famous Fort Laramie of the west was once Fort William. In June of 1834 the foundation log was laid at the fort on the North Platte and Laramie Rivers. William Anderson and William Sublette got into a gentlemen’s argument over what the fort should be named. Anderson wanted to name it Fort Sublette and you guessed it, Sublette thought Fort Anderson sounded like pure poetry on the plains. Anderson even offered a bottle of champagne (likely the only one for miles around) to sway Sublette.

Didn’t work, they continued the argument while downing the champagne. Tired of listening to the argument, although he did get a fair share of the champagne, William Patton offered a suggestion, “Let’s call it Fort William, all of our first names.” The name stuck and Fort William It was.

By 1841 the fort was named after John Sarpy a fur trader at the fort. By Gold Rush time it was Fort Laramie a three year old military post. The new name was given to it by mistake in Saint Louis when a not very efficient clerk, addressed something to Fort Laramie instead of Fort William on the Laramie. And that name stuck.

Wyoming Humor - Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye

Like all states Wyoming has had its share of colorful characters, none more colorful than Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye. Nye came west to Wyoming in 1876 and stayed seven years until 1883. He settled in Laramie and found his true passion and maybe what he was put on this earth to do – writing humor.

Nye practiced law, became postmaster of Laramie and worked for the local paper before started his own, The Laramie Boomerang,  (still a six day a week paper) his newspaper columns became so popular that they were reprinted far from the small town in Southeast Wyoming being picked up by papers all over America and reprinted by more than a dozen newspapers in Europe.

Nye was indeed a first rate humorist, one of the best of his time, later in life he often shared the stage, and equal billing with Mark Twain. Unfortunately Nye’s humor has not been as lasting as Twain’s but in the last quarter of the 1800s he was one funny guy.

One of my favorite excerpts from his writing follows. This writing explains his resignation as Laramie’s Postmaster.

 It is a full newspaper column I have reduced to only four of the thirteen paragraphs.


                                                                        Postoffice, Divan, Laramie City, W.T.


I beg leave at this time to officially tender my resignation as postmaster at this place, and in due form to deliver the great seal and the key to the front door of the office. The safe combination is set on the numbers 33, 66 and 99, though I do not remember at this moment which comes first, or how many times you revolve the knob, or which direction you should turn it at first in order to make it operate.

You will find the postal cards that have not been used under the distributing table, and the coal down in the cellar. If the stove draws too hard, close the damper in the pipe and shut the general delivery window.

Tears are unavailing. I once more become a private citizen, clothed only with the right to read such postal cards as may be addressed to me personally, and to curse the inefficiency of the postoffice department. I believe the voting class to be divided into two parties, viz: Those who are in the postal service, and those who are mad because they cannot receive a registered letter every fifteen minutes of each day, including Sunday.

Mr. President, as an official of this Government I now retire. My term of office would not expire until 1886. I must, therefore, beg pardon for my eccentricity in resigning. It will be best, perhaps, to keep the heart-breaking news from the ears of European powers until the dangers of a financial panic are fully past. Then hurl it broadcast with a sickening thud. *

*Excerpt taken from—Bill Nye’s  Western Humor

                                                        Selected and with an Introduction

                                                        By T. A. Larson

                                                       University of Nebraska Press

                                                      Lincoln, NE  1968

If you would like to see the letter in its entirety you can find it here-

Good Ol' Cowboy Food

So what did cowboys eat? Well it depended on who was doing the cooking. If it was the cowboy doing the cooking most meals were the same, the three Bs, bacon, biscuits and beans, washed down strong coffee. If it was ranch cooking or trail drive food it was much more varied and likely tastier.

Here is what you might find in a well stocked kitchen or chuck wagon in the days of the Old West

·        Flour

·        Coffee

·        Tea

·        Salt pork

·        Bacon

·        Dried fruit

·        Beans

·        Rice

·        Dried peas

·        Canned tomatoes

·        Canned peaches

·        Condensed milk

·        Corn meal and dried corn

·        Sugar

·        Molasses

·        Vinegar

·        Onion/garlic powder

·        Black pepper

·        Eggs

·        Potatoes

·        Chickens - around the ranch house and even on the trail

·        Other spices such as ginger

·        And of course the ranch always had beef and wild game when they could find it. Many ranches also raised a few, eatin’ hogs, even if they did not like to admit it.
Looks pretty good to me.