Laramie Peak


Laramie Peak the highest mountain in the Laramie Range of the Rocky Mountains stands 10,276 feet above sea level. The Peak, as we locals call it, doesn’t sound too impressive until you look at the land around it. Only a few miles away the land is 5,000 feet lower. This makes Laramie Peak more than a mile high from the surrounding area, now that’s impressive.

Easily seen for more than 100 miles, travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails watched it for more than a week, wondering if they would ever reach it. Laramie Peak let voyagers know that they had reached the mountains, a place on the trail they had waited many months to reach.

Mark Twain in his famous western journey, Roughing It, wrote of the peak. We passed Fort Laramie in the night, and on the seventh morning out we found ourselves in the Black Hills, with Laramie Peak at our elbow (apparently) looming vast and solitary--a deep, dark, rich indigo blue in hue, so portentously did the old colossus frown under his beetling brows of storm-cloud. He was thirty or forty miles away, in reality, but he only seemed removed a little beyond the low ridge at our right.”

We live in a beautiful area between Fort Laramie (13 miles east) and Laramie Peak, (35 miles west)The North Platte River, Oregon and Mormon trails are less than a half mile away. We take a look at the peak every day, if the top has cloud cover the wind will blow, if the top is visible, mild weather and its never wrong.

I took these photos of Laramie Peak last week, one from atop Spotted Tail Mountain in Guernsey State Park and the small one on the right from west of town.


A Farm Wife's Nebraska Journal 1938-1960

I have been interested the past few weeks as two of the blogs that I follow are doing one sentence journals. I really enjoy reading these and it struck me that this was much like keeping an old time daily diary. Our family is lucky in that one of my Grandmothers kept a journal. Many years after she had passed a cousin typed and made a hard copy and an electronic copy available for all the grandkids.

Her diary pages (from her life on a Northeast Nebraska farm) start January 1, 1938 and end with her last entry, Christmas Day 1960. From 1938 through 1951 the diaries are very complete with postings all but a few days. As she got older and her health started to fail she posted fewer times and by 1960 she only wrote 18 entries.

But what she left behind is fascinating. She leaves quite a glance into rural life and likely the life of farm wives all over America. From the diaries I know she loved movies, playing cards, quilting and embodying. She worked hard every day and relaxed in the evening listening to Lux Radio Theater.

 I marvel at the amount of work she did each day. She was born in 1885 and died in 1969 and paints a remarkable story of her life for the middle and latter part of that time period. With only a sentence or two, every day, she left an indelible print of the life she lived.

My next post will give you an idea of what her life was like for a January week in 1938. Her one sentence journals -

Tim McCoy

Tim McCoy’s, 1938 version of a Wild West show didn’t last long, bankrupt in less than a month. McCoy’s version was more of an anthropological look at the way the west once was, instead of a Wild West thrill show. With Buffalo Bill, whose show went bankrupt in 1913 after a 25 year run, and others long gone, McCoy had hoped to get Americans and then Europeans interested in the old west once again. But moving pictures and by 1938, talking ones, were enough to satisfy people’s old west cravings. McCoy seemed to be the old, too little, too late.
McCoy grew up in the east but moved to Wyoming and became a cowboy as a young man. He joined the Army during WW1 and again in WW2. He rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army Air Corps and Army Air Force. He was the Adjutant General for the state of Wyoming between the wars and given the brevet rank of Brigadier General at age 28. At the time he was the youngest Brigadier General in the history of the U.S. Army.
In 1942, McCoy ran for the Republican nomination for the open US Senate Seat from Wyoming. He lost in the primary and immediately entered the army again.
McCoy became an honorary member of the Arapaho tribe and was given the name of, High Eagle, by the tribe on the Wind River Reservation.
Tim McCoy continued making movies and touring with other wild west shows after the war ended but never had either the money or the inclination to try his own Wild West show again.

Fun at the Rendezvous

The Rendezvous was a place for the trappers to let off a little steam, all right, in some cases a lot of steam. Because of the over abundance of whiskey, surprisingly, some trappers made poor decisions. People were shot, bones were broken, and fortunes (at least by mountain man standards) were made and lost. Only the first Rendezvous had no whiskey, it also had no fights and no duels; it was also the shortest of the 16 rendezvous.
The trade whiskey that became such a big part of the other Rendezvous was often a wild concoction of whiskey, creek water, tobacco and hot peppers, some traders used other, secret, ingredients but these were the basics.
Even Kit Carson was dragged into a wild, Knight like, duel on horseback by a drunk trapper who wouldn’t  leave Carson’s Indian girlfriend, Grass Singing, (who Carson married within a year) alone. Both combatants were wounded, neither seriously. Carson went on to fame and the French Canadian trapper he dueled with, Shunar, was never heard of again.
So what other supplies were surprisingly popular, and expensive, at the Rendezvous.
·        Coffee –maybe not surprising
·        Tobacco—sold in twists (chew, smoke or trade)
·        Tea—yep, mountain men drank tea, and liked it
·        Peppermint candy—sweet tooth mountain men, still my favorite
·        Ginger candy—not for me, but popular in its day
·        Sugar –often poured into coffee and tea
·        Books—even those who didn’t read often bought books and paid someone to read aloud
·        Wool shirts—and we thought they all wore only buckskins
NOTE- of the 16 Rocky Mountain Rendezvous, 12 were held within the boundaries of what is today Wyoming. The majority of the fur trade and with it the mountain man era lasted only twenty years, 1820-1840, the Rendezvous started in 1824 and ended in 1840.

Pony Express and the Price of Stamps

The first Pony Express rider reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming Territory, on April 6, 1860. It had taken only three days from St. Joe, Missouri to reach Fort Laramie at the confluence of the North Platte and Laramie rivers. The trip would continue, following the approximate path of the Oregon Trail, for another ten days, reaching San Francisco on the Pacific coast. This was a pretty remarkable feat, Saint Joseph Missouri to San Francisco, California in a day under two weeks. Sending a letter was expensive, five dollars for a half ounce of letter. Even the Government thought this was too much; lowering the price, via government subsides, to one dollar for a half ounce in July of 1861. The Express would last only another six months, ending in late October of 1861. But, hey, it was fun for a while!
-Meanwhile -  The United States Postal Service announced proposed price changes, including an increase in the price of a First-Class Mail single-piece letter from 46 cents to 49 cents. The proposed changes, went into effect January 1, 2014.
Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents

James Clyman - Mountain Man

To casual readers of the early American west the name James Clyman may not be known. But it is because of Clyman that we know as much as we do about the mountain man period. Clyman kept journals and many years later wrote the story of his time in the Rocky Mountain West. Clyman had what he called, “a smattering of education,” but from the mountains, at that time, he was well educated.

Clyman was born in Virginia in 1792, grew up to be a farmer, fought in the war of 1812, later worked as a store keeper and surveyor in Indiana and Illinois. In 1823, at the end of a surveying job, he found himself, at age 31, unemployed and unmarried in Saint Louis where he met William Ashley, a meeting that changed his life. 

Clyman joined the Ashley party, became a mountain man and stayed with Ashley until 1827. During this time he fought the Arikara, saved the life of two famous mountain men, Jed Smith and Sublette, and walked 600 miles across Wyoming and Nebraska, packing a rifle and only 11 bullets. The long walk must have been enough for Clyman. He moved back to Illinois and set up a store in late 1827 or early 1828. When the Blackhawk War broke out in 1832 he joined up.

The war may have whetted his appetite for adventure or danger and he soon went back west. This time he lasted three years before moving far west and settling permanently in the Napa Valley in 1845. Clyman lived another 36 years, passing away in 1881 at the age of 88.

James Clyman’s book, Journal Of A Mountain Man, edited by Linda Hasselstrom and reprinted in Win Blevins, Classics of the fur Trade Series, is an invaluable read for those looking for fur trade information. There are so many terrific stories of mountain man life in this book, I wish I could tell them all, and in this book the truth is stranger, and a great deal more exciting, than fiction.