Wyoming - The First Cattle

Living only a few blocks from the North Platte River, I often think about how important it once was. Not that it is unimportant today, supporting wildlife and providing power along with, much needed the past few days, irrigation water down stream and providing recreation for tens of thousands of people year round.
North Platte River in the Red Cliffs area a mile north of Guernsey, Wyoming

What I am talking about is how important, as a boundary, it once was.  When cattle were first brought into southeast Wyoming, all lands north of the river were Indian lands. Wandering, and often hostile bands of native warriors made sure the land would not be used for cattle grazing.
The first cattle in the northern part of the state were brought in by Nelson Story in 1866, who bought more than a thousand cattle in Texas for ten dollars a head and drove them to Wyoming. After reaching Fort Laramie, he took the herd up the Bozeman Trail to Fort Phil Kearny. Because of Indian problems in the area he was ordered to hold the cattle at the fort until something could be worked out. After a three week wait, Story became impatient and drove the cattle from the fort at night. The herd was soon located and drove off in all directions by area tribes, and in the days it took to round up the cattle more than 30 Indians were killed.
These Longhorns of today are a bit, okay, a lot, bigger than the 1866 version

Nelson Story went on to establish himself, and the cattle ranching business, near Bozeman, Montana, where he became both rich and influential.

Today more than one and a quarter million cattle can be found in Wyoming, and more than two and a half million in Montana. Guess story knew what he was doing. 

We took some friends from Texas out to the Ruts yesterday - always fun!

Hot Weather - The Rendezvous & Sitting in the Shade

What About this Heat?
It has ben hot the last couple of weeks. So hot that grass is turning brown fast, tough for ranchers and for city people who like a beautiful green lawn. Wyoming’s all-time record high was 115 degrees set in Basin in August of 1983. We have been over 100 but thankfully quite a few degrees from 115. Reminds me of the old Wyoming joke about the heat – “I watched a Coyote chasing a Jack Rabbit and it was so hot they were both walking.”

During these hot days of July, nothing beat sitting around in the shade, swapping stories, and in the case of many trappers, drinking, and overeating. Rendezvous took place this time of the year, July, a time when trappers really had nothing to do. Must have been quite a site, these Rendezvous, with boisterous talking, games, races, music, and dancing.  Trappers from big companies were joined by free trappers and Native Indians and salesmen with trade goods. The trade goods often include not only trapping supplies, but women for hire, and large quantities of bad whiskey. A few trappers brought in their wives and sometimes children. Some of the later rendezvous included tourists, newsmen, and artists, leaving behind a rich history. A history that is often fiction, as much as fact, interesting and colorful times they were indeed.

Enjoy the heat and remember it brings on, great gardens, baseball, barbecues and many other great summer activities.

Now I think I will go outside sit in the shade and read a good book.

Speaking of good books if you would like a bit of Wyoming fiction, you can see all my books here. Thanks for looking, all available in softcover or eBook.

Wyoming Wildlife Photography

One of my favorite activities in summer is to watch, and when I can, photograph, Wyoming wildlife.

Sometimes we take for granted what most only see on TV or in the movies.

In Wyoming, our wildlife is part of our everyday life.

Not sure I will ever take it for granted.

On today’s post are a few of the photos I have shot in the past month.

Nothing beats a chance to see nature up close.

On a side note, a big thank you to everyone who is purchasing my books the past few weeks – they are selling well, in fact, better than ever. – if you want to take a look click this link.

Coming Soon - A Visit to Fort Laramie - Again

Seems like my blogging has slowed significantly since the weather started to cooperate with my summer activities.
Summer means getting more time out with my camera
      Speaking of summer activities, I see that next Saturday, June 17, is one of my favorite summer events, Fur Trade Day at Fort Laramie. Over the years I have spent much time in the study of the Mountain Man era and loved teaching that part of the growing west in my history classes. Fur Trade Day is one event that really fits my interest. Over the past few years, we have made them all and found the reenactors to be knowledgeable, friendly and willing to answer any and all questions. In case any readers are thinking about going it takes place from 9:30 – 5:00 on that day. (Saturday, June 17)
My wife trying out a trapper recliner
I am the not so Mountain Man-ish one at Fur Trae Day last year

    Must be my preparation because I am presently re-reading, Donald Clayton Porter’s classic novel, Fort Laramie. I read this one so many years ago that it reads like a new story to me.
The Ruts south of Guernsey Wyoming
    We enjoy living only 13 miles from the Fort and less than a mile from the most famous ruts of the Oregon Trail. Life is good when it is summer in Wyoming.

For Your Enjoument - Fort Laramie Trivia 
 Answers under the last photo
1.    What two rivers come together near Fort Laramie?
2.    Which well known and now well-preserved building at the fort served as Officer Quarters and as the Post Headquarters?
3.    Where did Fort Laramie get its unique to Wyoming name?

On the grounds of Fort Laramie - July 4, 2016

1.    North Platte and Laramie
2.    Old Bedlam – May now be the oldest building in Wyoming
3.    Jacques La Ramie sometimes spelled Ramee - I prefer Ramie

Western Books

I have often read that Owen Wister's publishing of The Virginian, 115 years ago this week, on May 28, 1902, was the start of Westerns in America.  Nice that the setting was Wyoming, which was still pretty new and still a bit wild at that time. But that was not the first western, not even close. Long before the beginning of the 1900s were the Dime Novel Westerns, sometimes shortened to Dime Westerns.

Elk Mountain as seen from the town of Medicine Bow
the setting for the start of Wister's, The Virginian

The Dime Westerns became popular shortly after the Civil War spanning a time period of nearly 40 years before the publication of, The Virginian. The books were short, almost always less than 100 pages, and priced at a dime or 15 cents. These books centered on fictional escapades of real people, many of the settings were, Wyoming, Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Montana.  Mountain Men, Indians, Soldiers and Bad Guys of all kind made up the many characters of these books. Later, a smaller format, adopted for magazines became popular, these were all set to the standard length of 32 pages.

Today westerns make up less than one percent of the overall book market – so what happened? Maybe, not much. If a reader looks, it is easy to find westerns today, just not the old tired, fake Wild West type of story. 
This is my modern day, set in WyomingYoung Adult or Adult Western Mystery

Suspense-Thrillers and Mystery-Detective along with books classified as Young Adult dominate today's best seller lists. I write books I classify as western-mysteries, some set before 1900 and some in modern time. I still read westerns today, some are thrillers, some mysteries, and some suspense, but all are set in the west.

Guess the Western is not dead, it just lost its singular classification, maybe the old time shoot-um-ups died in the street with their boots on, but today great western stories can be found in just about any popular genre.

Here is a link to my books on Amazon – four of these books could fall into the western category. Click on any of the books and read a free sample.

The second of my Blade Holmes Westen Mysteries
Cover photo from Fort Laramie - each book has Fort Laramie settings.

Things To Do On A Wyoming Mothers Day

Seems to me that a good Wyoming Sunday afternoon drive cures most of my ailments.
Sometimes it is all about the view - this one from 25 miles west of town

It is always fun for Jan and me to see what wildlife are up and around, enjoying the day. 
Looks like a family outing

Wild Iris
This time of the year it is fun to what new wildflowers are blooming.
Indian Paintbrush - Wyoming State Flower
Today we took a drive to the west of town, not a long drive, only a total of about 75 miles and a couple of hours.
Prairie Dog calling out
 I thought that today I would post a few photos of our drive – it’s kind of what Wyoming is all about. 

Hope all of you enjoyed the day as much as we did.

Wyoming State Slogan

Wyoming State Slogan

If you are like me, not a good deal, you may not know that Wyoming has a state slogan.  Stop roaming; try Wyoming, healthy, wealthy, growing Wyoming.  Not very catchy in today’s world, much too old fashioned.

The slogan was picked as the winner of a contest in the Wyoming State Tribune, and the winning slogan was announced on February 20, 1917. The winner was actually submitted by two people. The first part was by Harry McCraken of Casper, and the last part was submitted by George Stough of Cheyenne. I am not sure how the judges called the winner after changing the entries to make one they liked.

Much like our own holiday, Wyoming Day, December 10 each year, the state slogan has been, pretty much forgotten.

In today’s world we are still all about branding, not sure the state slogan would fit into today’s version of Wyoming.

Speaking of branding. In 1936, Wyoming trademarked the bucking bronco logo for license plates. But that logo of the famed bucker Steamboat goes all the way back to the time of the state slogan, 1918. One of the reasons that today we are the Cowboy State today, instead of the Sagebrush State or the Equality State of 100 years ago, is that famous logo seen on Wyoming license plates. 

The Closing of Fort Laramie April 20, 1890

On April 20, 1890, the last soldiers left Fort Laramie.  127 years ago does not seem long ago as I have lived more than half those years.  The fort, once one of the most important along the Oregon Trail and for years a hotbed of activity for trappers, traders, travelers, tribes and the military was no longer needed – that’s progress.

I decided to go back and take a look at the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. The treaty is short, a bit over a thousand words (about four pages) and contains eight articles. Each article, when broken down in today’s world, looks to be something that would not work – and they didn’t.

ARTICLE 6. The parties to the second part of this treaty having selected principals or head-chiefs for their respective nations, through whom all national business will hereafter be conducted, do hereby bind themselves to sustain said chiefs and their successors during good behavior.

Here is what I wrote about the treaty and specifically. Article 6, a few years ago.

Although the government meant well, a lack of understanding of Indian culture and governing policies likely doomed the treaty from the start.  The government idea of assigning each tribe a certain area, as if each was a state or county within a state was a foreign idea to the tribes and likely not understood. Also, the idea of one man as a head chief for each tribe did not work. Within the Indian culture, if an important matter was to be decided anyone in the tribe had a say.

Fort Laramie and the end of its day’s 127 years ago Thursday, April 20.

Some of My Favorite Wyoming People

Today I thought that I might write a piece on famous people from Wyoming. Looks like I may need to put that off. Why? Too much research. I looked at famous writers, but many of the famous writers from Wyoming were not born here or did not live here for any significant time. I don’t care if they were not born here for my list of famous people from Wyoming but am not sure, as I read in other sources, that claiming a town in Wyoming is a favorite place or vacation living, part time, in a Wyoming Yurt qualifies as Wyoming.

Guess I was not sure what I was looking for. Jim Bridger is near the top of many lists for famous Wyomingites but was not born here. He did spend many years here, and that’s enough for me. Fourteen years ago, maybe it was 15, I ran for a statewide political office (if you have never tried this I would not recommend it) several times I was put down by an opponent because I was not born here. Living here for nearly two decades didn’t count in his book – I thought that should be enough. Now I have spent more than three decades in Wyoming and might qualify. I am, of course, speaking with tongue in cheek but I do believe that to be a famous Wyoming person that a few years in the state should be a qualifier.
If I listed my favorites most would be Mountainmen or Native Indians

Here are ten people that I researched for posts in the past year, all famous and very interesting.  Not my top 10, just 10 people that everyone in Wyoming should know more about.

Note – I purposely did not say anything about them, take the time to Google – fun stuff. Sorry, it must be the old teacher in me.


Maxwell Struthers Burt
Nellie Tayloe Ross
Edgar Wilson Nye
Annie Proulx
Chris LeDoux
Curt Gowdy
Jackson Pollock
Velma Linford
Robert LeRoy Parker – Butch Cassidy
John B. Kendrick

In other news, I am happy to say I, at last, got out my second book in the Blade Holmes western mysteries published. This one entitled, The Ghost Dance, follows Marshall Holmes from Fort Robinson, Nebraska to Nevada and back to the Sioux Reservations of Southern South Dakota.  The book centers on the famous circle dance of the white shirted dancers, the Ghost Dance. This one has lots of authentic western history and is a very nice follow up to, Commitment, the first Blade Holmes historic novel.

Spring and Bluebirds in Wyoming

A Sunday Drive

Working on a re-do of how this site looks. So far, a lot of do-overs, but I will get there soon.   

We took an enjoyable drive yesterday and were once again reminded of how beautiful Wyoming can be. To some it looks terribly empty, to others, there is too much to see. 
Playing with the colors a bit
Snow in the mountains
If this one is blurry, they were in an all out run - 55, or so MPH

All of the photos are from that two hour and ten-minute drive. 
Young Mule Deer
Horses enjoying the new growth grass

A Few Thoughts on History – From an Old History Teacher

I mentioned, in a speaking engagement a week ago, that new history consistently replaces older history. Things that happened in the past few years seem bigger than they are and replace significant events from the past. That is one of the reasons that new history affords more words to social history, and less to major events from the past.
On the grounds of Fort Laramie
Once one of the most famous forts  in the west,
 now, but a few words in a textbook at best

History textbooks are usually the biggest, heaviest book a high school student will see, but history continues to get newer. Not many years ago it took an entire year for a history class to go from early colonization to the Civil War, that same class today will go to WW1 or WW2 in that same year. The second year of American history might today start in the 1950s and the Korean War.  History is ever-evolving tossing out what becomes less important for the newer more relevant events of the modern world.
New dig site at Sunrise

Even in a small state like Wyoming history can be forgotten. One case in point would be the ancient Sheep Eaters tribe. We know very little about them but even what we know is not passed on in many books. I hear some lamenting about Europe, and how their history is so much older than ours. What? It may be different, but older, I would beg to differ. Aboriginal or prehistoric quarries are found in many places around where I live in southeast Wyoming, the Spanish Diggings, Hell Gap, and Sunrise are among the best known.

Sitting on a pile of worked rock at the Spanish Diggings
All of it worked with stone tools

Seems hard as I grow older seeing social media and the internet telling us what is important and what is not. A wise man, my dad, once told me that the older we get, the less willing we are to accept what is new. History continues to change, and I only wish we could save more from the past for future generations to learn from.

I used to tell my students that history is simple – stories passed on from generation to generation. Looking back at events from the past. Whether we learn from it or not is up to us. 

For those with an interest in Guernsey State Park

The Dam at Guernsey is empty as work continues on the large
gate on the left of the photo - the dam is about to reach 90
years of age and is aging well. Should be full, with the road
across the dam, open once again in early May.