Storm Coming

Today’s edition of Wyoming Fact and Fiction will be a bit of each, maybe more fiction than fact.

With a big storm heading our way, southeast Wyoming, depending on the area, is expecting anywhere from 4 to 20 plus inches of snow.
Remember that snowman who was always in trouble for telling too many tall tales?
That guy was a real Snow-Flake. J

I do like the look of things in nature covered in snow but anymore I am not real crazy about scooping it.

I remember one year we got about a foot of snow and like any good neighbor I got out as soon as possible and an hour of hard labor later, nice clean sidewalks. During the night, the wind came up and blew most of the snow back in place on the sidewalks. I shoveled again the next morning, this practice went on for several days. I shovel in the morning and the wind blew it back on my sidewalks during the night. The snow never did melt it just wore out from tumbling back and forth so many times. J

So how cold and snowy was it?

Most snow in one season, 491.6 inches --  Bechler River (Yellowstone)
Most snow in 24 hours, 41 inches --  Glenrock (Central Wyoming. and to think I used to live there)
Coldest temperature -63 --  Moran (North of Jackson Hole in the Grand Teton National Park)

Hope this storm doesn’t turn into one of those days. To think that two days ago I played 9 holes of golf and was quite comfortable by adding only a sweatshirt and a pair of golf gloves – didn’t play very well, too many boogies, but it was nice being out.
Golf course today after yesterday's dusting of snow - believe this gal is waiting to tee off
I have long wanted to own a personal home weather station. Well, guess what, I finally got mine. More and more people are getting them, I guess there is a way to put them online so that others can see what the weather is doing in your own little part of the world. So far I have not figured out how to get it online, but it doesn’t seem like it should be too difficult. If there were only, a USB cord attached!

Well, time to go out and find the snow shovel – looks like I may be needing it – Again.
I like winter but by February I start to think of Spring!

The Diet of a Mountain Man

We read and watch daily opinions about our overweight society, “Americans are too fat,” we are continually told. Maybe so, today anyway, but not always. I smile each time I remember the story of Jim Bridger making his own supper. He skinned and gutted a jack rabbit and a nice sized trout, skewered them and propped both over the fire for roasting. Once they were cooked to his taste, likely not long, he ate both quietly and drank an entire pot of boiled coffee to wash down the meat. No seasoning of any kind, maybe smoke flavor from the fire, but that’s it. This was not uncommon for early hunters/trappers in the American West. Meat and coffee. Surprising to some, that many of these men also drank a lot of tea, it was as popular as coffee for many of the early explorers.
Cooking in a Mountain Man Camp
It took several years before the diet in the west changed much. Changed, but it still remained monotonous, with western Americas often eating the same few things for days or weeks at a time.  Wild game, fruits, and wild onions, in season, and washed down with copious amounts of coffee and tea with little else. Meat could be preserved by smoking and drying and often was.
Wild fruits and berries were always a treat

Not until the Oregon Trail got busy and the railroad ran through the state did the variety of foods available start to change. With places like Fort Laramie, and a quarter of a century later railroad stops, getting regular shipments of foodstuffs it helped. Flour and cornmeal were generally available along with dried fruits (usually apples), sugar, rice, dried beans and peas. Not much but much better than it was.

Early food, including meats, were often boiled, unlike today’s diet, heavy with fried foods. There was not a lot of fried meats until bacon became a staple along the trail west, soup, and roasted meats were much more an everyday part of the diet than today.  

So there you have it roasted meats and a few boiled dried vegetables, day after day after day, guaranteed to keep one’s weight under control. But, be careful with the gravy, cornbread, and biscuits, all favorites when flour and cornmeal were readily available in the west.
Buffalo - Staple of the diet in the west for many years

Speaking of Politics

From July of 1868 to July of 1890 Wyoming was an officially recognized territory of the United States. General Ulysses S. Grant had been elected president, taking office in March of 1869. The time had come, but not until May when Grant got around to appointing a territorial governor. Like all presidents, past and present, political appointments where the rule of the day the first few months in office. The plum appointments were made first, Wyoming was not high on the list, too far away and too isolated for most of the east coast crowd. But, Grant still had a list of old pals, from the army and those who supported him politically clamoring for positions, even if they were in the west. His appointment to be Wyoming’s first governor was 33-year-old, John Allen Campbell.

 Campbell had served on the staff of Major General John Schofield during the Civil War. Campbell entered the war as a Lieutenant and left a breveted Brigadier General. After the war, he was part of the American reconstruction team in the south. His ties with Grant’s friend Schofield, and his work as a writer and officer in the war, of course on the Union side, led to his appointment.

By most accounts Campbell was a popular governor, part of that was because of the appointments he made to complete the territorial government. The new Territorial Secretary was Edward Merwin Lee, a former prisoner of war, Union General. He went on to found the Wyoming Tribune in Cheyenne. Campbell also appointed Benjamin Gallagher as the Auditor. Cheyenne banker John W. Donnellan was appointed treasurer. Donnellan came to Cheyenne after serving as a Colonel in the Union Army.
Wonder if those easterners knew Wyoming looked like this?

Campbell was reappointed in 1873 later became assistant sec of state and then American consul in Switzerland in 1877 where he served until 1880 when he returned to the United States, where he died later that year at age 44.

Butch Cassidy is Free

On January 19, 1896, Butch Cassidy was released from prison in Laramie. His release came after serving 18 months of a two-year sentence for horse thieving. Reportedly the horse he was caught with was valued at five dollars.  Looks like the courts really were serious about stealing horses in the old days.
Butch Cassidy
Wyoming Governor William Richards freed and pardoned Cassidy after talking with the outlaw in Laramie. The people of Fremont County were afraid Cassidy, who may have been running an illegal protection racket there, might come back. They convinced the governor that a pardon might keep Cassidy on the up and up.  Governor Richards said that Cassidy, "told me that he’d had enough of Penitentiary life, and intended to conduct himself in such a way as to not again lay himself liable to arrest."
Governor Richards Thought it Sounded Like a Good Deal

Later many locals joked that he may have meant that he intended to become a better criminal and would not get caught again.
Not a Single $5.00 Horse Here

Wyoming’s Great Arrow

West of Meeteetse in the Greybull River Valley lies a magnificent arrow made of meticulously laid rocks. It is fifty-eight feet long and about five feet wide. Much like the Medicine Wheel that it points to, the arrow is of unknown origin. 

The Medicine Wheel, in the Big Horn Mountains, 100 miles away is built in a similar form of piled rock. Although only speculation, it is believed to have been built to show the way for ancient tribes to the Medicine Wheel.  The great arrow is not the only such arrow in the Big Horn’s but it is by far the largest and most impressive.
The Great Arrow
 Early Indians of Wyoming left an impressive amount of their history and culture behind. From arrow and spearheads to tepee rings, medicine wheels and pointing arrows there is still much to be discovered as to the what and why. Fun to speculate.
Medicine Wheel of the Big Horns

It has been too long since I posted Wyoming Trivia. Here today, are three questions dealing with some of the first Indians who inhabited the state. 

Answers under the photo

1.     What tribe was known as the Snakes?
2.     Who was the Sioux war chief that led the Fetterman Massacre
3.     What incredible Wyoming landmark was called “Tso-as,” by the early Kiowa of Wyoming

-Answers to Today’s Trivia-
1.     Shoshones – Because their name in sign looked like someone portraying a snake moving through the grass
2.     Red Cloud

3.     Devil’s Tower – “Tso-as,” meant Tree Rock in Kiowa

The Ashley-Henry Party Opening the West

In 1822,  General William H.Ashley organized the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. Of all the famous mountain men that books and movies were made about, it seems most of them were part of this first group of mountain men. Ashley along with his partner Andrew Henry put together this group of hardy, explorers, trappers and traders. The group included Jim Bridger, William Sublette, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Robert Campbell, Jim Beckwourth, Mosses (Black) Harris, Hugh Glass, Jedediah Smith, Etienne Provost and David E. Jackson.
Off to the mountains, they headed to make a fortune and some did,
 but about half never made it back
Bridger became one of the greatest of all mountain men and, without a doubt, the best story teller. He along with Fitzpatrick, Provost, and The Stuart party are given the credit for discovering South Pass. I have always enjoyed the stories of Jim Bridger and enjoyed re-telling his tall tales to my students. I blog about him every few months, one of my favorites can be found here.

William Sublette established Fort Laramie, first named Fort William and later was credited with creating an 80-mile cut-off which was then named after him, the Sublette Cut-off.
On the grounds of Fort Laramie, looking north

Fitzpatrick, the famed, Broken-Hand of the Rockies, had a long and distinguished career as an explorer, trailblazer, guide and Indian agent, instrumental in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851.
Robert Campbell made enough money from the fur trade to become successful businessmen, outfitting John C. Fremont for his western expedition.

Jim Beckwourth was born a slave in Virgina. After he was freed, he soon found his way west. In 1856 a book was published about his life in the mountains, the book, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians. The book sold well enough to be printed in Europe as well as the United States.

Mosses (Black) Harris after his initial time as a trader/trapper became one of the most famous of all wagon guides on the trails west.
Jedediah Smith is commonly referred to as the greatest mountain man that ever lived.

Etienne Provost became an important figure in the fur trade of the American southwest, headquartering out of Taos New Mexico.

The city of Jackson Wyoming and the area, Jackson Hole were named after David E. Jackson. Jackson started as a clerk with the Ashley-Henry party but later became a full partner.
Not a bad place to have named after you
Huge Glass’s greatest claim to fame may be that he was attacked by a grizzly bear and lived to tell the story. Several documentaries and movies have been made about Glass and the incident. The newest, Revenant, has just been released to theaters.
Bison covered the plains and foothills when the first trapper/traders came west

Doris Shannon Garst - Wyoming Writer

With the dreary weather and snow in the forecast, I spent the morning looking through a few old Wyoming reference books. It’s always fun to see how the stories of Wyoming change from one generation to another. Some accounts from the past become more important and others less so.

 I spent an hour or more paging through, and reading parts that struck me, a Wyoming History book that I believe was used for eight grade classes. I base this assumption on the fact that there is a name written in pencil on the first page followed by, 8 grade, and 1948-46. (In my years of teaching I numbered books by year, and then numbered them consecutively, so this made sense to me – Purchased in 1948, book number 46)

The Book, The Story of Wyoming And Its Constitution and Government, was written by Doris Shannon Garst was published in 1938, and printed by the Douglas Enterprise. It is a slim volume of 179 pages and is somewhat unusual in size, especially for a textbook, at 5 X 7.
Doris Shannon Garst
According to Garst’s, Wyoming Authors Wiki page, she was a teacher and principal but became a full-time writer after publishing her Wyoming History book. The Wiki site relates that she was told she would not be taken seriously because no one would read a western book by a woman. The settled by dropping the Doris and publishing the original as by, Shannon Garst. My copy, probably new, when numbered in 1948, does have her name as Doris Shannon Garst.

I think the writing and storytelling in this one holds up pretty well for being 78 years old. The beginning of each chapter is a bit more folksy and personal than I see in today’s texts, but I liked it. Here is an example, one I think students today would enjoy reading.
In fact, the mountain men got so that they weren’t at all particular about what they ate. Joe Meek, one of the famous trappers says: “I have held my hand in an ant hill until they were covered with the ants then greedily licked them off. I have taken the sole off my moccasins, crisped them in the fire and eaten them . . . the black crickets which are found in the country were considered game. We use to take a kettle of hot water, catch the crickets and throw them in, and when they stopped kicking, eat them.”

Ms. Garst, who spent the rest of her live in Douglas, went on to write many more books after her successful Wyoming Text Book. Amazon lists over 90 titles, some with co-authors and many are still available from used book stores. 

I found Doris Shannon Garst,  to be such an interesting person one that I plan to write another in another post –Coming soon!
Winter - A Great time to sit back in my recliner and read

Wyoming Newspapers

Wyoming’s first newspaper was published in 1863 in Fort Bridger. The paper, the Daily Telegraph, was one small sheet, two columns printed on one side. The paper printed on 6 ½ by 10 ½, a bit smaller than most of today’s 9 by 11 computer stock paper, contained mostly news of the great war in the east.

Hiram Brundage was the editor, writer, owner and likely also the printer of the one-sheet newspaper.  According to Douglas McMurtrie’s, Pioneer Printing in Wyoming, there was only one advertisement which read, “Job work of all kinds done at this office.” A job advertising the newspapers, job printing, availability to the locals.
Douglas McMurtrie

Within four years, six more newspapers were started in what would become Wyoming, three in Cheyenne. By the time statehood reached Wyoming in 1890, dozens of newspapers had start-ups in the state. Many were short-lived, others combined forces and a few continued for years. But it was not until Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye arrived that the Wyoming newspaper business took off.

Nye had read for the law before and after reaching Cheyenne in 1876, but it took his friend and mentor in law John Jenkins, the United States attorney for Wyoming Territory, to get Nye into his true calling, the newspaper business. Jenkins sent Bill Nye over the hill to Laramie, and as I hope they never say in the Newspaper business, the rest is history.

Bill Nye went to work for Laramie’s morning newspaper, The Sentinel, as an editor for $12 a week. According to Nye, “We printed it before sundown and distributed it before breakfast, thus it had the appearance of extreme freshness and dampness.” After five years, Nye left the Sentinel and started his own paper, The Boomerang, still going strong today
Nye named the paper after his mule, Boomerang, and started the paper in the loft of a livery barn. Nye hand painted a sign, placing it at the bottom of the stairs leading to his office and the press upstairs, it read, “Twist the gray Mule’s tail and take the elevator.” The first issue came out on March 11, 1882, and the rest, well, the rest really is history.