A travelogue by Mark Leeper
Copyright 2008 Mark R. Leeper
This trip was sort of an add-on to out annual trip to the World Science Fiction Convention in Denver, Colorado. We have been in Wyoming before on a previous trip, but have never seen Southeast Wyoming. We are running out of areas of the West that we have not visited, but this is our first time in the Cheyenne area. We rented a P T Cruiser from Enterprise. One thing I like about this car is it allows for an auxiliary input to the sound system. I had been hoping it would. I have just recently gotten into iPod technology. We packed my iPod with music from western movies. With the input we can listen to the music while we drive.
I also put on complete runs of two of the better radio western series. Those are FORT LARAMIE and THE SIX-SHOOTER from around 1956. These are two series from the last days of popular radio. All the advertising revenue was going to television. The radio networks were trying to buck the trend by having their best talent concentrated on fewer programs. Each of these series went only for about 40 shows. THE SIX-SHOOTER on NBC starred Jimmy Stewart. FORT LARAMIE on CBS starred Raymond Burr and used a lot of the talent behind CBS's most popular western GUNSMOKE. SIX-SHOOTER has the bigger star, but FORT LARAMIE probably has more intelligent scripts. And all this Western music and all the radio programs are just a small part of what I can put on my iPod. The iPod cost me $160 and has 8 gigabytes of programs. I did not have an appreciation as to how much 8-gigabytes is. It is something like 240 hours of listening. 0The shows are available at archive.org.
After running around Denver for a few days and finding myself short of breath I felt good we were going to Cheyenne, which I figured was not so high. Silly me, Cheyenne is at about 6000 feet and Laramie is at 7000. Denver makes a big thing about how high it is at just about one mile. Wyoming is mostly higher; at least in the part we are visiting.
We had figured it was about a four-hour drive from Denver and it turned out it was less than half of that. We got to Cheyenne about 11:30, which was way too early to get into our room. The Triple-A book listed a museum in Wheatland. That is not too far away. We decided to check it out. This is a bit more than an hour's drive. We listened to Fort Laramie and I read Evelyn a long article about the radio program and their care for accuracy. On the way we checked out about the only town along the way, a place called Chugwater. They did not seem to have great restaurants, but they did have a soda fountain. I almost thought that term had gone out of usage. I have seen ice cream parlors, but rarely a place that calls itself a soda fountain.
There is a lot of prairie out there and a lot of sky over it. On one side of us it was clear but for some billowy white clouds. On the other side there were some great looking dark thunderheads and occasional flashes of lightning. I never think when I travel to take pictures of the weather. But the skies were dramatic and because Evelyn was driving I could get some dramatic pictures of the rocky cliffs and dramatic skies.
We got to Wheatland, a very small town, and discovered our GPS had the wrong map coordinates for the Laramie Peak Museum. This is just a collection of things (there is no more precise term) that local people had around that formed a link with the past. If somebody found some plumbers wrenches that his father had used forty years earlier they had a place in the museum. Frequently the rust was not even removed. There were old dolls, household appliances, radios, Dictaphones, a hospital incubator, a child's blackboard, and dresses. They had two things that I remembered from growing up. On was a sunbeam mixer just like the one my mother had. The other was a home ironing machine we called a "mangle." Admission was free (contribution recommended). We spent some time there looking at the exhibits and talking to the woman who managed it.
In the car on the way back we listened to most of a reading of "Call of C'thulu." To break up the trip we stopped at the soda fountain in Chugwater. This is the oldest soda fountain in Wyoming.
We went back to the room and worked on logs. About 7:30 we went to dinner.
American restaurants have two unfortunate trends. One is that they are raising the prices of their food when they feel they can. I cannot blame them for that. Perhaps they are not even keeping pace with inflation. But we do see the price going up. The other is they give massive portions. Now I have to admit that I tend to over indulge and finish what is on the plate. I just feel I am supposed to and the human body has an odd evolutionary trait that I would call "delayed satiation." You don't feel satiated at the meal, but you do twenty minutes later. There is an obvious evolutionary advantage to this phenomenon. When you have an unreliable food supply your body wants to be getting what nutrition it can when it can so it does not want to send signals to not eat when food is available. These days with more reliable food supplies that has a negative effect on people's health and comfort. But restaurants want to sell you more food at a higher price. They essentially sell each patron two meals for the price of two meals. When I remember to do so I try to share meals with Evelyn. That was the case at Guadalajara Mexican Restaurant.
I don't believe that this is authentic Mexican food. It is more just very good Tex-Mex. Evelyn and I shared a platter and each had plenty. Most Mexican restaurants lay out chips and salsa to eat while you wait. Here they also put out a warm bean dip. It was great.
I acknowledge that a lot of people have an aversion to Mexican food in general and to beans in particular. I don't. There are a lot of beans in Mexican food. But that just means that Mexicans are really expert at making beans taste good. I think just over the past year I discovered buying a can of refried beans, heating them in a microwave, wrapping them in tortillas as burritos (very easy, the secret is to fold the base, the two sides, and hold it closed for a few seconds), and garnishing with fat-free cheese, fat-free sour cream is 1) fast, 2) cheap, 3) nutritious, 4) filling, and 2) DARN GOOD. We in the US just do not make very good use of beans. I think we are also afraid of beans. In the hands of experts they can be very good.
Anyway, we shared a combo with a tamale, an enchilada, and a chili relleno. We both were more than satisfied wit the portion size and it came to $12.50.
We stopped at a Wal-Mart on the way back we stopped at Wal-Mart and got some wheat-chex-like cereal for evening snacks in the room. Before bed we watched the commentary for the film PICTURE SNATCHER, a lesser-known Jimmy Cagney movie from 1933.
Breakfast at the Cheyenne La Quinta was modest, but they did have the pour-your-own waffles. Those go a long way to improve the breakfast. I had oatmeal and a banana also.
The museums did not open until 9 AM so we went to the room to read, to plan, and to write logs. About 9:30 we headed out and drove into the center of Cheyenne. The plan for the day was to see two so-called "museums." The first was worthy of the name, the second was really a more just a low-key store with some things that were there to see and not for sale.
First was the Nelson Museum of the West. This is a rather small museum with three levels. The main floor is about as big as the lower level and the upper level combined. It covers mostly the history of Euros in this part of Wyoming. The museum has recorded explanations that can be accessed by cell phone. However our cell phone plan charges by the minute making it more expensive than the museum itself.
They begin with massive saddles decorated with a great deal of silver. These were sort of status symbols. If you want to impress people you had a nice strong horse and a lot of silver on it. It was sort of the equivalent of having a Porsche. I assume the horse had to be strong because the saddles certainly looked heavy. What silver is to horse saddles, beadwork is to Native American artifacts and there is a display of those with beadwork. There is a large collection of taxidermized animal heads or whole bodies.
As an aside, there is a message throughout that is a defense of sport hunting. Even the brochure contains a quote from Theodore Roosevelt saying, "In civilized and cultivated country wild animals only continue to exist when preserved by sportsmen." And he goes on to say that sportsmen are the most important factor in keeping the larger animals from total extinction. He has a point, or did in his time. There were of course many species hunted to extinction. There probably would have been more but for the forbearance of some sportsmen to not "get them all." Still in our day I believe laws and preservationists as well as pressure groups of varying degrees of militancy--none of whom were around in Teddy's day--are a bigger factor than the sportsmen in preserving species. They are also more selfless. One must give the hunters the same credit one gives Stalin for not wiping out all the Ukrainians. Hunters should be congratulated that while they wiped out many species, they left many more still existing including many that are valuable on farms. Any animal alive today comes from a species that sportsmen did not hunt to extinction and for that I suppose they are to be applauded.
I have to admit that the most interesting exhibits for me were the film posters for old Western films. They had posters for films like TRIGGER LAW, AMBUSH TRAIL, and THE PHANTOM RANCHER. Cowboy stars like Hoot Gibson, Buster Crabbe, and Bob Steele. There is a display on gambling showing the little Derringer pistols that gamblers used. There was an up-the-sleeve device to hand the gambler an ace when he needs it. Also there were slot machines, dice, and a chuck-a-luck cage. There was some bar room art and a nice little diorama of a courtroom with figures carved from wood. There were nearby some gun paraphernalia and sets of brass knuckles. Well, you get the idea. And on the top floor there was a horse-drawn carriage, stuffed bears, cowboy spurs, that sort thing. The whole museum took us 80 minutes and we are generally slow in museums.
Across the street from where we initially parked there was in a store the Cowgirl Museum. We were planning to see that later. The street allowed only two-hour parking so we moved the car and dropped into a storefront flea market. Books were cheap and were got three collections of western stories as well as some gifts. Then we walked down to the Cowgirl Museum. It straddles the line between being a museum and a store. There are exhibits, items for sale, and exhibits for sale. I don't think anything was particularly authentic or intended to be. A lot was cowgirl dolls, little cute joke like a ceramic pot watcher. It was sort of a waste of time, but we had time to waste. We talked to the woman who ran it, mostly about her health problems.
From there we went to lunch. The guy who ran the first museum recommended Poor Richard's and tripadvisor.com had also. Poor Richard's is a nice restaurant. I had the Prime Rib Sandwich and Lasagna Soup. That latter was a lot like Beefaroni. Apparently they were down to the bottom of the pot and they had used up most of the broth. I had mostly solids.
We went back to the center of Cheyenne. While in the cowgirl museum I picked up a tourist booklet with a walking tour of the historic sites in the downtown of Cheyenne. You start at the Union Pacific Depot and walk 24 blocks. The booklet describes the buildings you pass and their history. The booklet lists 55 different sites, mostly buildings, and some of their history or their architecture. You pass buildings decorated in art deco, hotels, personal houses, and shops that have a long history. The Cheyenne Club was a private club for cattlemen. A large number of the building burned at some point. The tour took nearly two hours.
On the way back to the room we stopped for ice cream.
Cheyenne is a nice town, but I don't think I would want to live here. It is the sort of place where you here on the radio that the world changes every day and you have to know what is going on so you can change with it or you will be left behind. And coming up is an interview with the local high school wrestling coach.
In the evening we worked on logs and watched a commentary on an old Jimmy Cagney comedy from the early 30s, PICTURE SNATCHER.
Today the plan was to drive to Laramie for the first of two trips. We want to the Wyoming Territorial Prison. We had breakfast about a quarter to eight. The breakfast area was crowded with bikers on their way back to New York. We talked to them a little about the trip. They seemed nice enough. I think that a few bikers give the rest a bad name. At least if they are on the roads they are not using up a lot of gasoline. It is the SUV drivers who drive by themselves, burning fuel who are the problem these days. Of course we are doing a lot of driving this trip so are far from perfect.
Eventually we got out on the road. Now most of the countryside around here is flat fields with mountains in the distance. Vedauwoo is a park with some interesting sandstone rock formations. We were expecting to be able to stop and see some on the way. But the state has decided to try to make money off of the sights so you have to buy a day pass for more than we were willing to spend. Not that Vedauwoo was that expensive. It was $5/car/day. We had recently been to Southern Utah and these little sandstone features and boulders are but a pale echo of what we had seen recently.
You do see a lot of signs that say EAT WYOMING BEEF. I may eat some beef, but I rarely eat red meat at home.
We got to the Territorial Prison and it took about 150 minutes to see everything they had. It was used as a prison for only about 31 years, 1872-1903. In the early days the security was not good and there were many escapes. The prison was beefed up and expanded and its record improved. The original cells were 6'x6'x8'. The newer cells were 5'x5'x7'. Each held two inmates. Any small infraction could lead an inmate to be put into a totally black cell. The locals donated books and hoped that inmates would be reformed. However the reform rate was very low. Inmates were expected to bathe and change underwear once a week. Many protested. There are several case histories of inmates like the Chinese man who murdered his wife fore ruining his gun. The best-known inmate was Robert Leroy Parker, called Butch Cassidy. Only two inmates died. One died of heart problems and one of pneumonia. Prison industries included making bricks and brooms.
Only semi-relevant to the prison, they have built outside several other buildings relevant to the period. There are some typical rural buildings, including a windmill. There are some town-like buildings. Most of these may be open to visitors to explore inside, but they were all locked up on the day of our visit. I think they know they are not the main attraction. There is also a row of town-like buildings on a boardwalk, similarly locked up. There is also a hall with small exhibits on life at the time. It has the pieces of a broom factory and accounts of the first women jurors. I think in general people come to see the prison and have little interest in seeing the rest. There seem to be a lot of historical recreations in the world, villages you can walk through to see what life used to be like, and this is only a half-hearted attempt at that sort of attraction.
We had been told to allow four hours to for the prison. Well, we went slowly but it was more like two and a half hours. Four hours might have made it a full day with a stop at Vedauwoo, but we now found ourselves with spare time in Laramie. Well we were planning to come back to Laramie to see the art museum and the geology museum. That is about 43 miles each way, but it would be worth it for two museums. Still if we saw one museum we might be willing to sacrifice the other and not come all the way back.
We headed out for the geology museum. Both were on the grounds of the University of Wyoming. We drove to the geology museum. It is actually in the geology building. We followed the arrows and there after a walk through much of the building we got as near there as the locked door would allow. It seems it closes for the summer. OK, so we will do the prison and the art museum today. We went to see the art museum and there did not seem to be an art museum there. We did some searching and did not find it. We are so pleased we did not make a special trip to Laramie for two museums we could not see.
Lunch was at a recommended restaurant called Altitude. The implication is that either it is at a great altitude, which I suppose it is, or that this is where people come to get high. Anyway the food was decent but a little oily. I had Blackened Chicken Alfredo, and Evelyn had Medallions of Beef. Actually we each cut our food in half when it came so we each had a half-portion of each dish.
We visited some bookstores but found nothing. After one more attempt to find the art museum we headed back.
We got back, worked on our logs, et. al.
It is really hard to follow what is happening in the world. There is no NPR on the radio. We don't get a newspaper, and the TV has only CNN, which seems pretty worthless as a news source these days. It is all candy news and ads. They make it very difficult to get any news of substance.
Breakfast was crowded but did not meet anybody unusual.
We thought we would take a look at the library. There were two addresses listed so we went to the nearer. It turned out that this library was closed permanently. It had moved to another location. OK, so we went to the other location and found it in a large building for a library. It had big letters out front saying "2008 National Library of the Year." It also said that it would not open until 10AM, which was longer than we wanted to wait.
So we postponed our visit and went to the Wyoming State Museum. This is a decent-sized museum dedicated to Wyoming history, natural history, and prehistory. We got there and the woman told us they were all out of museum maps, but we were free to just wander. There is an audio tour if you want to use your cell phone time.
Not having maps did not make a lot of difference since we were seeing the entire museum. There were the usual stuffed animals. (This time nobody explained or apologized.) They start with arms like the bow and arrow and the sharps rifle. There is a stuffed animal diorama to show the local wildlife. There is a big sculptured map that shows information like where the trappers hunted and where there were battles with the Native Americans. Though the display said that most Native Americans were not killed in battle. Most were deprived of necessities until starvation forced them to the reservation. I don't think that is true. Actually the European invaders accidentally did what many of them would have done intentionally given the chance. The Europeans had just lived closer to a wider variety of animals than the Native Americans did. They carried and were immune to animal diseases having built that immunity slowly over long periods of time. Without realizing what they were doing they slammed all these microbes into North America in one short period. Nothing else they could have done intentionally would have been as deadly.
There was a section on mining & minerals. Wyoming is a major source of trine, a mineral that is a major constituent of baking soda. Wyoming produces 90 percent of the world's trona.
The exhibit asks "How many pieces of Wyoming do you use every day?" My guess is a lot less than I use from China. It is what happens in a global economy that you use lots of things that come from other places. It does not prove anything special about Wyoming.
The mining exhibits give way to dinosaurs. They have fossils found in the state including a skeleton of pachycephalosaurus, an animal with a big hard growth of bone on its head. They had firearms including a rifle captured from a Native American illegally hunting in Yellowstone. I guess he did not understand it was our Yellowstone now and not his. And there are histories of mountain men.
They have some information about the Johnson County War, an incident I find particularly interesting. This conflict was the basis of two different films. One was the notorious Hollywood flop HEAVEN'S GATE and another was a made for TV film called THE JOHNSON COUNTY WAR. The state had cattle barons who grazed their animals on the wide plains, which they did not own. They grew rich and had a great deal of political power in the state. Their politics was very Republican. A big threat to them as they saw it were the homesteaders who claimed the land and set up farms, fencing off parcels of the territory. The cattlemen saw this as a threat to their access to water. There were more homesteaders than cattlemen, but the cattlemen had the money to support the Republicans who in turn made the law favor the cattlemen. But it was not so much that the cattlemen had everything their own way. The cattlemen formed a private interest group, The Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
In 1892 things came to a head near Buffalo, Wyoming. The cattlemen confiscated a large number of homesteader cattle claiming without proof that it had been rustled. They complained to the government that the homesteaders were stealing the open range cattle.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association hired a small army of 26 mercenaries, dubbed the Invaders, from Texas to get rid of the most vociferous leaders of the homesteaders. Two of the leading homesteaders Nick Ray and Nate Champion were tracked the K C ranch and were trapped in the ranch house. It should have been a simple job to finish them off. It wasn't. The trapped men were good shots and the mercenaries were not willing to die for their wages. The fight turned into a siege. Other homesteaders went to the law and insisted what was happening was illegal and had to be broken up. But the corrupt authorities sided with the cattle interests. They had a responsibility to stop the carnage, but nobody said they had a responsibility to rush. However word had reached town that the siege was happening. 200 angry and armed residents and the sheriff decided he had to do something. So the law finally stepped in, but not before Nick Ray was shot. Nate Champion had held off regulators all day until building he was fighting from was burned. The fire flushed Champion from the house where he was shot. Only then did the law officials and the angry citizens and federal troops called in by the Governor step in and arrest the Invaders. (So ends the film THE JOHNSON COUNTY WAR.)
But the cattle interests were too strong and the Invaders were all released without being charged the next day. They returned to Texas. This proved that there was no justice for the homesteader cause in Wyoming. (So ends the film HEAVEN'S GATE.) But the Johnson County War became a major state scandal. The political power of the cattlemen was clearly above the law and scared a lot of people in Wyoming including a lot of voting fence sitters. The state went Democrat in a big way. The cattle interests lost a lot of their power. The Johnson County War became a rallying cry for the Democrats for many years to come.
The Lincoln Highway was a muddy, dusty, dangerous dirt road that cut east to west across the state and was the forerunner of the Interstate. There was a short film of people's experiences on the Lincoln highway. The type of thing was that travel books then gave bad instructions. They would say, "turn right after the yellow house." People would get horribly lost. Then it would turn out that the owner of the yellow house did not like motorists and so painted his house green.
They showed some military uniforms of the time including kepis. What is a kepi? It is a hat that you see a lot of in the Civil War uniforms. Imagine a cylindrical hat, put a small brim on it, and then crush the front against the brim. That is a kepi. It did little to protect the wearer from the elements like sun or rain. They were even nicknamed "sun burners." It also is very hard to keep it from falling off. Its shortcomings almost certainly cost lives. Why were they part of uniforms? Someone in the war department liked how they looked. And it is the soldiers' job to follow orders. Soldiers do not get a vote. Soldiers do what they are told to do or they are guilty of insubordination. End of argument.
Another local notorious (perhaps), was Tom Horn. Tom was a Pinkerton man hired as a strong arm for the local cattle interests. He was paid to control the cattle rustlers and supposedly was good at his job. There are more questions than answers about Horn. He may have killed many suspected rustlers for his bosses. Or maybe not. If he did they might have been real criminals he killed. Or maybe not. Then Willie Nickell, a 13-year-old boy was found shot to death. While drunk Horn claimed credit, saying it was a great shot but a terrible thing he had done. When he was sober again he was charged with the murder though he denied it. On very little evidence he was convicted and executed by hanging. Nobody knows if he killed Nickell. Nobody knows if he murdered several other men. If he did nobody knows if he was following someone else's orders. There is still a lot of controversy about whether he was really guilty. I have not seen the movie TOM HORN with Steve McQueen, but I will.
Our next stop was the Governors' Mansion. Now it is a museum, but it was built in 1904, and used from 1905 to 1976. While in use it had guests like Vice President Richard Nixon stayed there. Now it has been restored to different eras. One room will be like it would have been in 1935, another from 1967. I will not say much since mansions are not really a matter of much interest to me. I will note that the first woman governor of any state in the US lived there. Nellie %%% Ross had been the wife of a Governor who died in office. She was asked to run for the office herself. She refused to campaign but said she was willing to serve. And she did. I have not a lot to say about the mansion. I am not the most knowledgeable person about architectural splendor. Our house still has the same UGLY carpeting it had 30 years ago. But then so does the Governors Mansion.
Lunch was at Sanford's Grub and Pub. It is a local favorite with a lot of fun decor. You can't eat decor. They wouldn't let you. The food was mediocre to poor. The Cajun Clam Chowder turned out to be decent cream of potato soup with some cayenne pepper on top. There was a bit of clam toward the top but it did not go all the way to the bottom. We shared an order of barbecue ribs. The barbecue sauce was bland and was strictly on top of the meat. It neither suffused nor sufficed. Under the surface the meat was white and had no barbecue flavor. It was also dry.
From there we went to see the State Capital building. Compared to some state capital buildings, this one is really rather sparse. It is a fancy building but there is not a lot of art. Highlights are a stuffed bison, a shot film on the launching of the USS Wyoming. There is a Lincoln head sculpture used as the model for a bigger monument on the road to Laramie. The nickname of Wyoming is the State of Equality. That can be read multiple ways. It did have the first female trial jurors and the first female governor. It also was a state of multiple equalities. The Cattlemen were all equal. The homesteaders had a different level of equality.
From there we went to the library. It is an impressive structure for a library. We probably looked a bit strange since we were clearly tourists. The library was three stories with an elevator glassed on one side. Sadly that side looked only at a stairway. I like our library in New Jersey, but this is much nicer. We looked at the library activities and it said that evening it would be showing a film called THE BEAT GENERATION. They were having a book discussion series on Kerouac and the beat generation so they got the film. I knew the film by title only so we looked it up on the library computers. Apparently the script was co-written by Richard Matheson whom I like very much as a writer. We decided to go. That left us with some spare time so we went back to our room and passed time until the movie. At 6:30 we returned. This was a really nice program. They served refreshments and showed one of the outlandish films I can remember seeing.
THE BEAT GENERATION
After the film we talked to another couple about the film and traveling for a while then headed back to the room. We watched a film commentary for a while before bead.
The weather seems to have taken a cold and cloudy snap. We are down into the 50s. I put on an undershirt, though I probably will not need it for long.
The site for today is Douglas. It was a supply point for cattlemen and the cavalry. There is snow on the ground on I-25 south of Chugwater. It sure wasn't there a couple of days ago. It is snowing here in mid-August, though Douglas may be the lowest point of the trip at 4815 feet above sea level.
Our intent was to go to the %mus. It is located on the fairgrounds in Douglas, Wyoming. Triple-A calls it a gem and it is even free. It was about a 105-minute drive to Douglas. The town seemed kind of quiet. The movie theater said, "Closed until after the fair." Oh, they are having a fair and we will be going to the fairgrounds for the Pioneer Museum. I have a bad feeling about this. We got to the fairground and found it fairly packed. We parked and went to the entrance. USUALLY the museum is free. Today the admission is $5 and includes the fair. Really it is $5 admission to the grounds.
Well, we had never been to a state fair. We had no idea what there was to see, but it had been almost a two hour drive, since everything in Wyoming is fairly stretched out, so we were not about to just turn around and go back. We paid and went in. The first thing we noticed was a voice on the loudspeakers a little far away for us to hear. We went toward it and found ourselves at the heifer show. This was as we had guessed just people, mostly kids, showing off the heifers they had raised. Which means you see about six kids, each leading around what must be about a thousand pounds. I would say that the kid had about 10% of the muscle and the heifer had the rest. But most heifers are not looking for trouble. They just do what their masters want. Maybe about one in four decides, "Hey, I don't know this place and I don't like it." Then the kid has trouble holding the animal. Most have a little; some have a lot. I don't think anybody gets hurt but some heifers decide they want to bellow and pull. A few just want to unload from behind.
Most cattle assume that because the little monkey gives food and a place to stay and lets them eat grass, then the little monkey must be nice and benevolent. Perhaps he even decides that what the human wants is really a virtue and he "should" do what the monkey wants. He thinks that his whole life long and just at the end he realizes there was a whole other dimension to the relationship. That last few minutes everything goes incredibly sour.
Meanwhile the guy on the mike tell us all what he liked about certain heifers and what was not as good. Mostly the judge waxes eloquent on virtues of certain heifers. Actually for the number of people there is not a big crowd. Officially the cattle shows are the main reason for the fair, I think. But there are many activities going at once. There are big enclosures where people set up like hucksters at a convention. They may be selling massage chairs, selling homemade toys, selling insurance. There are conservationist organizations reminding people how important it is in Wyoming to save water.
One exhibit was a display on the evils of abortion with a Catholic priest on videotape explaining what a bad place we have fallen into when choice is considered the greatest moral virtue.
Nearby they had the hay exhibit and contest. People's hay is judged much like their cattle is. Of course blocks of hay and a little more cooperative. Blocks of hay are judged for their relative forage quality, relative feed value, crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, total digestible nutrient, and percent moisture.
The longhorn judging was much like the heifer judging. But a longhorn steer is an impressive thing to see. We talked to a boy, about 10, who was there with his family. The family's pride was a steer named Hoss. Hoss had a horn spread of 60 inches. That is almost my height. They can get a spread so wide that they cannot fit into a trailer. Evelyn suggested they can stick their horns out holes ones loaded, but that is not a good thing to do. They can damage their horns on passing trucks.
From there we walked around and passed by the food concession area. There were prosaic thing sold like corndogs. They also had exotic things like fried Milky Way bars, fried Snickers bars, and fried Pepsi. What is fried Pepsi? Apparently it is funnel cake made with Pepsi. We decided to share an "Indian" Taco. We had great Navajo Taco at the Cameron Trading Post on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. It was huge and terrific. We did not expect them to be as good here. A Navajo Taco is a taco sort of filling on Indian fry bread. Evelyn went to sit down as it was cooked up since it was starting to rain. When it came up it was not as good as Arizona, but still it looked good. A woman asked me was it the Indian Taco. I said it was. Of the people who were sitting down before us nobody was eating the Indian Taco. But four or five people came away with Indian Tacos in the next few minutes. Apparently people had to see one to realize that it was good. I was a little sorry we did not order the barbecue ribs, which looked good but were more than we wanted to eat.
The weather had turned cold and rainy. The venders are complaining that this is not a very good day.
Rather than get wet we went to the Mustang Challenge In Hand and Performance. In other words it was a horse show. The trailer entry competition is all about trust. A trailer is backed into the arena that no competing horses have seen before. The horses are judged on their trust in their trainer who wants them to climb into this unfamiliar place. Each horse knows that the entry is pointless since the last horse left as soon as he entered. On the other hand these horses have reason to fear unfamiliar places. They are geldings. But it is fascinating to see the indifferent posture of the horses unsure they want to trust this strange enclosure. But the hose feel the same emotions you or I do facing dental surgery.
The next completion includes many subservience tasks like running around cones, standing in a rectangle of longs, climbing in the trailer, and lifting each of his four feet for his trainer. In general horses are supposed to be paragons of submissiveness and servility.
There were a lot of mustangs so the show was fairly repetitive. It was made somewhat better because a girl sat near me holding a small dachshund named Scooter. Both were very cute, but the dog much more so. There was a torrent of rain. We still had the museum to see, but we waited until the rain slowed down.
The Pioneer Museum was the real reason we had driven two hours each direction. It is a good thing there was a fair since it would take a much better museum to be worth the drive. The highpoint was some guns and shells from the Johnson County War. You do see a lot of artifacts from the pioneer days. Guns, musical instruments, World War I and II artifacts, saddles, patent medicine, medical instruments, a mauser and a luger, etc.
The next room reflected more civilized living with clothing, dolls, plates, fans, toy trains and cars. I suppose if I were really interested in history this would be as engaging as the previous room. Somehow it just is not about what I think of as the interesting history. Dishes and furniture of the people who were well off enough to be isolated from the adventure of the time is just not as engaging.
A room that was less emphasized, even to the point of being under-lit had two roulette tables, a bar (which I told Evelyn was still in working order) and other gambling paraphernalia.
One final room mostly showed Native American workmanship. Included were beadwork, pottery, moccasins, and leather goods. A teepee was there. In the back of the room they broke theme and had several carriages and wagons. It is not clear if these were really displayed since they were so densely packed it was hard to walk between them.
Dinner was at La Costa, a Mexican restaurant. I don't remember it as being outstanding, but I think all the Mexican restaurants are pretty good.
From there it was a long two-hour drive back to Cheyenne.
The day was rainy and wet putting a damper on any outdoor pans we had. At breakfast we talked to a woman who was a grandmother traveling with her son and his family. Most of the rest of here family struck me as fairly typical, but the grandmother was someone who had some interest in literature and writing and wrote some article herself for the local publications. She still took courses at the local college. We had some connection to her since she had lived in Amherst just a little after we did. But living in farming country there was not as much as she would have liked. I was telling her about how with the computer there was opening new opportunities. There had for a long time been the courses of The Teaching Company, but they were a little bit of a luxury because of the price. But they are available on eBay much cheaper. And there are sources for free education over the computer.
We left about 10:30 to go to the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum. This was about the last museum in the area. It took its name from the local annual rodeo. We did not know if the concentration was on history in general or specifically in the rodeo. The latter would have been of less interest to us. In fact it proved to be the latter.
The first thing one sees in the museum is carriages. There is a room displaying horse-drawn carriages of the past.
My father-in-law says that he would have wanted to live in an earlier age when life was simpler. This came to me as I read the page of instructions of how to put up a Landau roof on a coach. This is a convertible roof so you can ride with the roof up or down. You just have to put in the twenty minutes or so to put up or take down the roof. But this was the convertible of its day. Another coach is likened to the SUV of its day. SUVs are as popular in Wyoming as they are in New Jersey. I wonder how the rise in prices of petroleum is going to affect Wyoming. This area is pretty sparsely populated. It is at least a half hour drive to get to Chugwater and it costs a substantial amount of gasoline. And then where are you? In Chugwater where life seems to be about what you would expect in a place called Chugwater. A water shortage and really expensive petroleum is going to his Wyoming very badly. Like pretty much everywhere else people are not reading what I see as the writing on the wall.
Rodeo is a sport that first came from the West. I mean the Far West. And by that, of course, I mean Hawaii. Hawaii? Yes, in 1793 Captain General George Vancouver of Britain gave cattle as a gift to Kamehameha I, King of Hawaii. For anyone but the King there was a sort of hands off policy. The cattle were the king's property. And they got a little out of hand. By 1832 Kamehameha III decided that the cattle were getting out of hand. Mexican vaqueros were brought in to manage the cattle. They were called Paniolos, a corruption of espanoles. It was they who first made a competition out of cattle managing. This was the first of the rodeo. But in the Americas the rodeo also developed. Wyoming had the rodeo nicknamed "the daddy of them all," the Cheyenne Frontier Days.
In 1908 the Paniolas came to the Frontier Days in Cheyenne and did really well. Apparently the event is still commemorated.
I am not going to describe this museum in great detail since I am not a big sports fan and I just do not have a great deal of interest in rodeo so I probably cannot appreciate the best parts or wax enthusiastic.
On display are trophies, statues, pictures of rodeo stars, garish outfits for "the queen of the rodeo," etc. There are all sorts of events adapted to the rodeo with thin excuses. Everything from baking competitions to singing contests are included. I'm waiting for the rawhide origami championship. Some of the competitions look rather silly like dressing up in Roman armor and standing on the back of a pair of horses, one foot on each horse. This is supposedly Roman riding.
Anything else we would have done that day would have been outdoor activity done in a pouring rain. I hate to admit it but we retreated to the room and watched films.
Dinner was back at Guadalajara since we were running out of good restaurants.
Today's destination is Fort Laramie. It is about a two-hour drive in each direction. But we have episodes of the radio program supposedly about the fort. I do have to say that radio and TV programs about the old west usually are a long way from being very accurate. But Fort Laramie was one of the best radio programs. It was made in the final days of radio drama and had some of the best writing available at the time. Fort Laramie was a sister program for Gunsmoke, the great classic radio Western. Even if it were not historically accurate, we might have listened to it to create a mood, but its historical accuracy was a plus. And they do mention places that were really in the area like Chugwater. That much I can vouch for.
This entire trip we have been listening to episodes of Fort Laramie, and as sort of the highpoint of the trip we are visiting the actual Fort. When we picture Western forts we think of a big log stockade. However the fort itself was never attacked and there was no stockade at all. It is more like an old Army base. There had been an existing crumbling adobe stockade when the land was purchased. When the fort was built in 1849 and that was removed.
This location at the confluence of the Laramie and Platte Rivers had been a meeting place for 500 years, most of that time for the Native Americans. It had been a fortified fur trading post called Fort William for 15 years before the army bought it for a military fort. Officially it was renamed Fort John, not Fort Laramie, but it was more commonly called Fort Laramie. It was located both in the middle of the Sioux nation and on the Oregon Trail where it moderated Native American and the Anglo relations for about 40 years.
Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho all came in contact with the fort. The settlers on traveling the Oregon Trail needed protection from what they called the "hostiles." The military negotiated with the locals for safe-conduct for the for the travelers who made for a flood of immigrants and the military made annual payments to the tribes to remain peaceful as their land was slowly taken away. Most soldiers never really saw any hostile Indians, but the threat was there. Less than one soldier in fifty was killed in the conflict with the natives, even in the later and less peaceful times.
Of course "hostile" as applied to the Native Americans is a relative term. If Canada built a fort in Wyoming to moderate relations amongst Natives, Canadians, and United States people, we might be a little hostile ourselves. As the Natives saw more and more people pouring into their land and their own condition not improving a few began to prey on the wagon trains. It was the responsibility of the soldiers to protect those endangered wagon trains. When peace agreements were struck the fort was also a meeting place where negotiations and treaty-signings took place. It had additional responsibilities. The overland stage and Pony Express used the fort as a stop. It also was a supply point for the various Indian War campaigns in the area including Custer's campaigns.
The Grattan Incident was a serious breach of the peace. August 18, 1854 an ox owned by a Mormon from a wagon train was shot with an arrow by the Sioux warrior High Forehead. When word got back to the fort and the settlers insisted on repayment for the ox a soldier named Lieutenant John L. Grattan was dispatched to take 30 men and two cannons to parlay insisting on payment for the cow. Presumably Grattan was less tactful than was required and his demands angered the Sioux. When Grattan saw he needed something more convincing he opened fire on the natives with a cannon, killing the Sioux chief Brave Bear. The Sioux then proceeded to kill all the soldiers but one. He died shortly after reporting what happened to the fort. The secretary of war, one Jefferson Davis, sent a hawkish general to prosecute the conflict. Brave Bear's successor was Little Thunder who did not formulate an attack on the soldiers but waited with dignity to negotiate. The result was a massacre with 85 of the Sioux killed and 70 women and children taken captive. Later there were disagreements that led to war over the use of the Bozeman Trail, the road that went from the North Platte River with the Montana mines. Chief Red Cloud tried to negotiate the closing of the trail and he was at Fort Laramie, troops arrived to build new forts to defend the trail. This led to war. Red Cloud's best-known leader was Crazy Horse who in one battle killed eighty soldiers.
For about 18 months the Pony Express used fort as a stop. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 created a reservation for the Sioux, but there was little security for the Natives in treaties. In 1876 President Grant ordered all the Natives to reservations in 1876. Treaty protected the Sioux's land in the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, but no treaty was strong enough to stop the invaders when gold was discovered. This also led to conflicts. Conflicts were not usual, but they did happen and the later years the frequency went up. Still as time went by the local native population was eventually pacified. Other forts including Fort Robinson took up some of the responsibilities that Fort Laramie had previously had and in 1890 the fort was decommissioned and abandoned. The land was sold at public auction.
We saw drilling and cannon demonstrations and walked around to see the post buildings. The fort itself is a large oval parade ground with buildings around it. Some of the buildings have been restored and the rest sit in ruins. Around the parade ground you see the old commissary, now a souvenir store. On the walk around you see guardhouses, barracks, the administrative building and the Captain's Quarters, the Stuller's store. (A sutler is a trader.)
During the day there are several demonstrations showing a cannon firing, a horse demonstration, soldiers firing guns of the period, etc.
In the nearby town of Guernsey are two historic sites associated with the Oregon Trail and in both cases how it defaced the land. The Oregon Trail Ruts State Historic Site is a site where you can see ruts in stone worn by the wheels of the wagons that went over that point of the trail. There was a narrow bottleneck in the Oregon Trail. So many wagons rolled over it that they wore deep ruts in the stone
Registry Cliff State Historic Site is a rock that the wagons passed on the Oregon Trail. Many of the wagons passing by carved their name and year into the rock. Sadly while the signatures once were easy to find they are no longer since nobody was able to guard the wall. So the majority of entries we see have dates less than ten years old. I suspect today more than half of the signatures are from people who do not even know what the Oregon Trail was.
After that we drove back to Cheyenne hoping to find a good dinner first at Chugwater and when it was closed we hoped to find one in Cheyenne. That restaurant was closed on this Sunday also. We ended us with burgers from a Carl's Jr. restaurant.
There is now real reason to talk much about the remainder of the trip. We had breakfast, checked out, and hit the road back to Denver. On the outskirts of Denver we stopped at Dinosaur Ridge as small area with shale in which you can see dinosaur footprints and dinosaur bones. These two sites are not very far apart. A short walk will bring you to both sites in turn. There is a trail that is about a mile each direction, mostly uphill on the way, though not at a very steep grade. I guess it was formerly a road, since the trail is paved in blacktop with a lane going in each direction. It is now blocked off so you can walk a paved road. I guess I had assumed that at some point would decide that it was too much, but we walked the road to the end and back.
It turned out that last stop was not far from Denver. We drove into town and passed and Ethiopian. That is an unusual cuisine. The food is mostly vegetables much like (Asian) Indian, but it is served on top of spongy gray bread with a sour flavor. You also get a plate of rolled bread. You tear off pieces of the bread and use it to keep your hand clean as you pinch food with the bread and bring it to your mouth.
From there we went to the motel, a Comfort Inn near the airport. Evelyn then returned the car and took shuttles to the airport and from the airport to the motel.
The flight home was uneventful. It is only about four hours in the air. I sat next to a mother and a two-year-old son who were on their first leg of a trip to Sikkim. I was reading a US News and World Report. When I finished it I tore pages out and folded origami for the boy to keep him amused. He had a long way to go yet.
There was a great deal of confusion getting our pickup at the airport. We told the driver we would be on the lower level of our terminal. Little did we realize that we were on the middle level and there was a level lower.
We got home to find that our PC had died and could not be brought back to life. This was a big, but not entirely unexpected, loss. We were somewhat prepared. The following day we bought a Mac and now have to learn the Mac environment.