In those days not so long after WWII, the big rival HS football game between Riverton and Lander was always played on Armistice Day. Since Lander was our arch rival in those days, the success of our HS football team was measured by the results of the Lander-Riverton game. Even though Lander was a smaller town they always seemed to have good teams. So the traditional game was held on November 11 each year, on what was called Armistice Day after the end of WWI when an armistice was finally reached. Often it was cold by then and game was not always much fun for the players, especially considering the pressure to win seemed of extra importance for that rival game.
So, early on Armistice Day the recent veterans of WWII would gather in the VFW Hall and elsewhere to begin a day of celebration fueled by what we now call adult beverages. By game time it seemed that many of these celebrants were pretty far along the path to alcoholic bliss on what they considered to be their day of celebration. Obviously, most of the town’s people were sympathetic the right of those war heroes to have a day of celebration as long as there was nothing being done that would harm anyone. Mostly the veteran’s celebrations were boisterous, happy events.
So, by 2:00 PM it was time of the big game, the game of the year. This year the game was being played on the field in Lander. Lander’s field was not sunken like Riverton’s, just a completely level area with parking all around the field and some bleachers on both sides for the rivals from each town. The game begin and the high school teams were moving up and down the field as usual. However, there was another game getting going on the field besides the HS game. It seems the veterans are bored with the HS game or maybe just looking for something fun to do along with their alcohol-induced happy spirits, so they decide to have a game of their own. Their game was mostly contained in the end zone, but as time progressed it moved out onto the playing field. Before too long the two games get mixed up and if the HS players had not have had uniforms it might have been hard to tell which game was which. Some happy vets seemed to want to join in on the HS game and lined up on the line of scrimmage with us. Well, after some time order was restored and the HS game was completed. All in all it was a happy time and it seemed the rivalry game took second place to our feelings about the vets and the sacrifices they made fighting all over Europe and the Far East.
The thoughts of WWII were still very much in our minds in those days and it did not seem much time had passed since the end of the war. Even trivial things such as remembering the day when bananas returned to the grocery store were still strong in our minds. Those Armistice Day games were a highlight of the football season, not only for us as players, but certainly for small-town Wyoming still seeking some diversion from the difficult times of the long, hard depression and a brutal world war.
One of the most interesting fables about Wild Wyoming is the story of the Lost Cabin Gold Mine. No one today knows the location of this famous mine, even after 150 years of rumors and searches. Perhaps it still exists somewhere in the Big Horn or Owl Creek Mountains.
The story goes something like this, I say “something like” as it seems the stories vary or perhaps they have been exaggerated in the retelling so many times. In 1919 the Wyoming Historical Society published an account of the story that seems to be the most reliable of the many stories that have been told. In the fall of 1865 seven men started out from the Black Hills area (now mostly in South Dakota) with pack animals and tools seeking a place to mine for gold. They traveled south along the foothills of the Black Hills looking for a likely site that might have gold. They came upon an open area in the timber with a stream running through and not too far downstream the small stream joined a larger stream. After digging down a few feet they hit bedrock and found signs of gold, lots of gold. The men camped and proceeded to build a rough cabin and a flume for working the stream for gold. All seemed to be well and the men were able to take out enough gold in just a few days to later be valued at about $7000, a small fortune in those days. Unfortunately, Indians attacked the miners after only about three days of working the mining operation. Five of the men were killed in the fighting leaving two men who had retreated to the cabin and held off the Indians until nightfall. When darkness came they loaded the gold onto their shoulders and slipped away from the site. After some three days of hiding by day and hiking by night they managed to get to Fort Reno. The site of Fort Reno, one of the earliest forts along the Bozeman Trail, is near the small town of Sussex, not far from I-25 and near Kaycee. They soon left Fort Reno to spend the winter at Fort Laramie.
In the spring the two men were determined to return to the site of their mine. They formed a new party of about 10 men and again started out from the Black Hills to try to trace their path to the gold. Again the bitter struggle between the white man settlers, miners and the Indians, who considered the area of the Black Hills to be theirs, erupted and legend has it that all the members of the new party were killed in a fight. Since the area was deemed unsafe for travel for a number of years after the mid 1860’s, no further attempts were made for several years to find the Lost Cabin Mine. Some have claimed to have found the site much later, but it seems those attempts either failed or were keep secret by those that may have found the lost mine.
Later, in about 1900, in a location not too far from Shoshoni and a couple of miles or so from Lysite, an enterprising gentleman named John Okie created an empire of a huge size and local importance. Once a penniless cowboy, Okie worked hard operating a local mercantile and then becoming the so-called Sheep King. As many as 30,000 sheep were a part of Okie’s empire as they grazed on his vast land and the nearby open space. The location of his magnificent home and ranch property was called Lost Cabin after the famed lost mine of the 1860’s. It is said he spent $30,000 building his mansion that included marble fireplaces, Persian rugs and Asian chandeliers. The house still stands today and can be viewed from the nearby road to the property.
The area around Shoshoni and Moneta was famous for many years as the sheep capital of the state and perhaps a rival for the largest collective sheep operation in the world. Huge sheep shearing operations, considered then to be the largest in the world, were conducted every year in Moneta. All a part of the history of Wild and Wonderful Wyoming.