SOUTH PASS (A STORIED HISTORY)

NOT FAR FROM LANDER, WHERE I SPENT MY BOYHOOD, IS SOUTH PASS. DISCOVERED  BY THE MOUNTAIN MEN IN THE EARLY 1800’S, IT BECAME THE HIGHWAY, SO TO SPEAK, FOR THE THOUSANDS OF PIONEERS THAT CROSSED THE PLAINS HEADED WEST. SOUTH PASS WAS THE WAY AROUND THE IMPOSING WIND RIVER MOUNTAINS.  IT WAS NO EASY CLIMB UP THE LONG TRAIL TO THE SUMMIT AND INVOLVED CROSSING SEVERAL STREAMS. MANY STORIES CAN BE TOLD OF THE COUNTLESS PIONEERS THAT CLIMBED UP THE LONG HILL TO THE SUMMIT OF SOUTH PASS.  I WILL WRITE A SHORT POST ABOUT ONE TRAGIC AND YET TRIUMPHANT  STORY  ABOUT A GROUP OF IMMIGRANT PIONEERS, MOST FROM ENGLAND AND SCANDINAVIA WHO WERE TRYING TO GET TO SALT LAKE TO JOIN THE MORMAN SETTLEMENTS.  

THE YEAR WAS 1857 WHEN TWO GROUPS OF PIONEERS GATHERED IN IOWA AT THE END OF THE RAILROAD TO BEGIN THEIR LONG JOURNEY OVERLAND TO SALT LAKE. IT WAS LATE IN THE SUMMER TO ATTEMPT SUCH A JOURNEY, BUT THE 1000 OR SO PEOPLE HAD NO PLACE TO STAY OVER A LONG WINTER, SO AGAINST THE ADVICE OF THE SEASONED GUIDES THE TWO GROUPS, THE WILLEY AND MARTIN COMPANIES, BEGIN TO PUSH THEIR TWO-WHEELED HANDCARTS ACROSS THE PLAINS. SUPPLIES WERE CARRIED IN A FEW WAGONS AND SOME LIVESTOCK TRAVELLED ALONG WITH THE PIONEERS. TROUBLE BEGAN NOT LONG AFTER THE PLAINS TURNED INTO THE MORE DIFFICULT TERRAIN IN WHAT IS NOW NEBRASKA AND WYOMING. A BAD STORM SPOOKED CATTLE AND THEY STAMPEDED AWAY AND SCATTERED. HAVING NO WAY TO PULL THE WAGONS, THE SUPPLIES REMAINING WERE LOADED ON THE HANDCARTS ADDING TO THE DIFFICULT TASK OF PUSHING THEM.  SICKNESS AND MEAGER RATIONS TOOK A TOLL AS WELL. 

IT SEEMED WAY TOO SOON, BUT SUDDENLY IT WAS OCTOBER AND THE NIGHTS WERE COLD AND STORMS CONTINUED.  AS THE WILLEY COMPANY APPROACHED NEAR TO SOUTH PASS, HAVING MADE A VERY DIFFICULT CROSSING OF THE PLATTE RIVER, NO SMALL STREAM, THE WEATHER TURNED VERY BAD. AS TEMPERATURES DROPPED, THE SNOW BEGAN TO FALL AND PILED UP TO AS MUCH AS TWO FEET WITH DEEPER DRIFTS. THERE WAS NO CHOICE BUT TO TRY TO WEATHER THE STORM BY STOPPING, AND NOT MAKING  ANY ATTEMPT TO CLIMB UP SOUTH PASS. BY THIS TIME MANY WERE SUFFERING AND THE DEATH TOLL CLIMBED QUICKLY TO MORE THAN 100.  THE STORIES OF THE BRAVERY OF SO MANY WHO SACRIFICED THEIR LIVES SO THAT OTHERS HAD A CHANCE TO LIVE ARE RECORDED IN THE PERSONAL DIARIES OF THE SURVIVORS AND IN THE HISTORY OF THE MORMON CHURCH. FINALLY THE TWO COMPANIES WERE RESCUED BY MANY WHO CAME WITH WAGONS, FOOD AND CLOTHING FOR THE BELEAGUERED  IMMIGRANTS. THE CLIMB UP SOUTH PASS WAS STILL AHEAD AND WAS A FINAL HURDLE FOR THE WEAKENED IMMIGRANTS. THE SURVIVAL OF SO MANY IS A STORY OF TRIUMPH OVER SEEMINGLY INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS AND IS AN INSPIRATION TO THOSE GENERATIONS THAT FOLLOWED.

MY PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THIS STORY WAS THE CREATION OF A DVD CALLED “CAUGHT IN THE STORM” USING THE WONDERFUL ART OF JULIE ROGERS, A PROMINENT PAINTER OF THE MORMON PIONEERS. I HAVE INCLUDED ONE OF HER PAINTINGS OF THE TWO SISTERS THAT SURVIVED THE  JOURNEY IN SPITE OF THE SICKNESS OF ONE REQUIRING THE OTHER TO PUSH THE HANDCART ALONE OVER THE MANY, DIFFICULT MILES. IT HAS BEEN AN INSPIRATION TO ME AND I TOOK THE LIBERTY TO ADD A CAPION. PERHAPS YOU WILL BE INSPIRED AS I AM BY THE  COURAGE  OF THESE PIONEERS WHO LIKE SO MANY OTHERS CAME TO THE WEST AND MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR THOSE OF US WHO CAME MUCH LATER TO LIVE AND PROSPER.Poster

REMEMBERING THOSE SUMMER DAYS OF CHILDHOOD FREEDOM

MAYBE IT IS THE APPROACH OF SPRING HERE IN ST GEORGE, UT, OR MAYBE JUST SOME FOND MEMORIES THAT CREEP INTO ONE’S THOUGHTS SOMETIME, BUT TODAY I SEEM TO BE REMEMBERING THOSE CAREFREE DAYS OF SUMMER AS A BOY OF 10 LIVING IN LANDER. PERHAPS IT IS A LONGING FOR SOME OF THE FEELING OF FREEDOM TO JUST BE A BOY EXPERIENCING SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY.  FOR WHATEVER REASON MY THOUGHTS RETURNED TO MEMORIES OF RIDING A BIKE UP TOWARDS THE HIGH MOUNTAINS WITH MY 12 YEAR OLD FRIEND AND HIS DOG TO SPEND THE DAY EXPLORING THE CREEKS AND MEADOWS AND FISHING FOR THE BROWN TROUT THAT WERE HIDING UNDER THE BANKS OF HORNECKER CREEK. WE WERE FREE TO FOLLOW THE CREEK AS IT FLOWED TO THE RIVER AND FREE TO EXPLORE WHEREVER WE WISHED. EVEN THOUGH WWII WAS RAGING IT SEEMED FAR AWAY TO US. PERHAPS MORE REAL TO MY FRIEND WHOSE FATHER WAS SERVING IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC. 

THIS FEELING OF LONGING FOR THE FREEDOM OF THOSE DAYS PROMPTED ME TO WRITE THE STORY OF OUR ADVENTURES AND THOSE OF MY FRIEND’S DOG, WHO WAS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND ONE LATE AFTERNOON WHEN WE DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO RETURN DOWN THE DUSTY ROAD BACK TO TOWN AND OUR HOMES. I WROTE THE STORY OF THE BOY’S AND THE DOG’S ADVENTURES SOME TIME AGO AND CALLED IT “TWO BOYS AND A DOG”.  A PHOTO OF THE POPO AGIE RIVER TAKEN BY MY COUSIN MALCOLM BOORAM (SADLY NOW PASSED AWAY) IS ON THE COVER TO ILLUSTRATE THE BEAUTIFUL SCENERY WE HAD THE PRIVILEGE  OF VIRTUALLY LIVING IN DURING THOSE SUMMER DAYS. I WILL ALWAYS CHERISH THOSE DAYS AND THE LESSONS LEARNED, RELIANCE, PERSEVERANCE, APPRECIATION FOR THE LAND, THE STREAMS AND FOR THE WILDLIFE OF THE AREA.  PERHAPS YOU WOULD ENJOY READING ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO BE A BOY IN THOSE DAYS, A TIME WHEN THE COUNTRY WAS STRUGGLING TO SURVIVE A TERRIBLE WAR, RATIONING AND MANY OTHER SACRIFICES, INCLUDING THE LOSS OF THEIR LOVED ONESTwo boys collage. WE WERE CLEARLY PRIVILEGED TO HAVE THE FREEDOM TO ENJOY OUR BOYHOOD. I WILL ALWAYS BE THANKFUL FOR THOSE TIMES AND FOR THE LESSONS LEARNED WHILE JUST BEING A BOY.

P.S.  THE BOOK IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE, iPAD, NOOK, ETC.  

A PERSONAL POST (CARS FOR FUN)

image1-11image1-7image1 copyIMG_0546I USUALLY TRY NOT TO MAKE THIS BLOG TOO PERSONAL, THAT IS BESIDE THE STORIES OF MY HIGH SCHOOL DAYS, JOBS, ETC., BUT THIS TIME I HAVE MADE A PURCHASE THAT IS SO MUCH FUN I CAN NOT HELP BUT WRITE ABOUT IT. 

I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A “CAR NUT”, THAT IS WHEN I COULD AFFORD TO BUY SOMETHING THAT WAS FUN. IT ALL STARTED WHEN I WAS WORKING ON MY PH. D IN CALIFORNIA AND I HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO BUY AN MG TD.  CUTE LITTLE UNDERPOWERED CAR, BUT FUN TO DRIVE IN THE HILLS ACROSS THE BAY FROM SAN FRANCISCO. THAT WAS THE EARLY 60’S SO THE MG ONLY COST $600. I KEPT THAT CAR FOR ABOUT 6 YEARS AND HAD A LOT OF FUN WITH IT AS DID THE BOYS IN THE BACK SEAT.  NEXT CAME THE JAG XKE COUPE, TWO SEATER. IN SPITE OF SOME PROBLEMS, THAT CAR WAS AS FUN TO DRIVE AS ANY I HAVE EVER HAD. LATER YEARS THE FUN CARS (NOT THE FAMILY SEDANS) INCLUDED THE MERCEDES 19O SL PICTURED AND SEVERAL JAG SEDANS. I SUSPECT MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS THOUGHT I WAS A BIT CRAZY, BUT I ALWAYS HAD A GREAT TIME WITH EACH CAR THAT CAME ALONG.

THIS TIME I FOUND THIS FLAMENCO RED JEWEL IN PHOENIX AND AFTER A FLYING TRIP TO PURCHASE IT I RETURNED TO ST GEORGE BY WAY OF VEGAS. EXCITING TO SAY THE LEAST.  WELL, NOW THIS 1993 JAG CONVERTIBLE IS PARKING IN MY GARAGE, ALL SHINEY LIKE A NEW CAR WITH LESS THAN 50000 MILES ON THE ODOMETER. SOMEONE TOOK GREAT CARE OF THIS ONE AND I AM LUCKY TO HAVE FOUND IT. LOOK FORWARD TO TOP-DOWN TRIPS THROUGH ZION NATIONAL PARK AND OTHER GREAT LOCATIONS NEAR TO ST GEORGE.  

HOPE YOU ENJOY THE  PHOTOS OF SOME OF THE CARS I HAD OVER THE YEARS. SOMEHOW THE GUY IN THE PHOTOS HAS AGED??

I HOPE YOUR NEW YEAR IS WONDERFUL AND YOUR DREAMS COME TRUE AS WELL.   

SPEBSQSA (THE DERBY FOUR)

Derby FourWell I am betting that most of you might not know what SPEBSQSA means. The legend is that the creator of this alphabet soup deliberately made up a long string of letters in response to the Roosevelt’s New Deal creations of WPA, etc.  Anyway not to belabor the point, the string of letters translates to: The Society for the Preservation  and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America.  Perhaps the short version is just Barbershop Singing. Barbershop Singing in its true form is a quartet of four voices, Tenor, Lead, Baritone and Bass.  The Barbershop form of singing is still popular around the world and contests are held to determine the best quartets and choruses of men and women. 

How does this relate to Wild and Wonderful Wyoming? Well, four of us in high school were inspired by records and perhaps by the rather famous quartet called the Boomerangs who toured Wyoming. The Boomerangs were winners of several contests if my memory serves me right.  So Russ, Bill, Jack and I decided we should learn some barbershop songs and with the aid of some published music for quartets we begin to practice at noon hour and whenever we could. We decided it would be cool (in those days) to wear Derby hats and call ourselves the Derby Four (photo shows left to right, Russ, Bill, Jack and Jim)

Soon folks heard about the new quartet in our home town of Riverton. Suddenly we were singing our songs for every group gathering, or at least it seemed that way. After we gained some confidence in our ability to sing our barbershop songs we worked up our courage to extend performances outside of town. I am not clear how it came to pass that we were invited by other high schools to perform at an assembly of all their students. Our most noteworthy performance was at Worland High School, a school we considered to be at least our equal in those days. So, at least a bit nervous, we showed up on the stage at Worland HS to perform before the entire HS body of students. How would this go over we wondered?  Would we be booed off the stage, probably not since students were very well-behaved for the most part in those days.  So the performance began with some trepidation on our part.

Once we got started it seemed to go well. In between our list of songs, Russ played the piano, a skill he had to the degree he could play seriously difficult classical music. All in all we relaxed and had fun and the nice reception by the students of Worland HS was exciting and gratifying. 

The Derby Four was a fun and happy part of our HS experience. Something to remember with joy. Singing has always been a part of my life, even if confined to the shower these days. I hope SPEBSQSA never dies and this part of the American experience will live long into the future. 

AXE SAFTEY

CATHEDRAL LAKE (1)
This is a story about the unexpected that happens at the wrong time in the wrong place. It starts out as a lark, a three day hike into the wilderness of the Wind River Mountains to one of the most beautiful places on this planet. The four of us, me, two HS friends and my father, strike out on the trail that begins high above Ft. Washakie at a mountain meadow called Dickinson Park. It is a long hike of about eight miles if I remember correctly. Most of hike is uphill as we head towards our destination, Cathedral Lake (see photo by Tom 
Rudkin).  We make the hike in good shape and the first order of business is to get in some fishing. 

Early the next morning Bill and I strike out to do some serious fishing and plan to stay until later in the afternoon. Bob decides to stay not too far from camp along with my father.  Sometime, I think in the early afternoon, my father decides we need some firewood for cooking and staying warm as night falls. So, out comes the big axe and he begins to chop a dead  tree to make smaller pieces for the fire. Then the trouble happens! While hacking at the dead tree, the axe slips off and ends up buried into my fathers instep. Wow!  Bob must have been close enough to hear my father call for help and returned to the camp to help as best he could. We were not well-prepared for an accident of this magnitude and the limited first aid stuff we had did not include anything to help with the pain and possible infection such a serious wound might cause.  

Bill and I returned to camp about 4 PM to find out what has happened while we were away fishing. So, here we are more than 6 miles from any kind of help. There were no cell phones, radios, etc to call for help, so what to do?  We held a council among the four of us to try to figure out what we could do.  After some deliberation it was decided two of us must go back to Dickinson Park and seek some assistance there. We knew there was a ranch there and they had horses to rent so perhaps that was a possible way to get my wounded father back out to our car and then to emergency assistance. So, Bill and I headed out on the trail back to Dickinson Park, some eight miles or more. By the time we started it was already late afternoon and we knew we had to hurry or it would be dark before we could get all the way out to the ranch. Fortunately we were in reasonable shape after football and basketball so we literally ran down the trail as fast and as far as we could go with a brief rest now and then. By the time we got to the trail head it was dark but we were able to get down the dirt road to the ranch. 

In the meantime, my father and poor Bob were having a very, very bad night. In addition to the pain of the wound my father was beset by mosquitos all night and there was little or no sleeping for him or Bob that very long night. It was clearly imperative that somehow Bill and I get back as soon as possible to try to get my father out of the wilderness and to some assistance soon.

The folks at the Gustin ranch were very helpful. They put Bill and I in a bunkhouse for the night and we rented a horse by first light the next morning. We made a quick trip back to Cathedral Lake, taking turns riding and running along side. We got there sometime in the late morning to find things were getting worse with time. My father had ridden horses many times so he was able to ride the rented horse with no problems. Bill, Bob and I loaded up all the camping gear and we headed back out to Dickinson Park. By late evening we were able to get back to Riverton where the doctor took care of the axe wound as best he could. ln those days the remedy for such wounds (a method used extensively in WWII) was to load the wound with sulfur to try to stop infection. Fortunately after some convalescence my father did not suffer any permanent disability due to the axe wound. All in all an unfortunate end to what should have been a wonderful time in the high country of the Wind River Mountains.  My bucket list includes one more trip to Cathedral Lake, a beautiful place indeed.

THE ULTIMATE IRONY OF THE WHOLE THING WAS THAT MY FATHER WAS THE TEACHER OF AXE SAFETY FOR MANY BOY SCOUT CAMPS IN WYOMING!!

A BAD IDEA

The big football game between our rival Lander and Riverton was coming up soon. A bunch of us decided we should do something to show our loyalty and to vex our rivals over in Lander. So on the spur of the moment we decided we should paint the big L on the side of the hill above Lander. That is we decided to paint it red, our HS color. 

Painting a very large L on the side of a rather steep hill in the dark of the night is very large undertaking. We did not do much real planning for such an endeavor unfortunately. We gathered together a few gallons of paint and some mops or something to spread the paint over the rocks that formed the L. Our plan lacked much real thinking and was really just a lark, but a lark entered into with much excitement. Looking back, it was an example of mob action, a lot of enthusiasm but not well thought out that was for sure.

So, as darkness came, we gathered together and loaded several cars with excited HS students and drove the 25 miles to Lander. Once there we tried to sneak through the town to park where we could climb up the hill and do our dastardly deed.  To see where we were going we had to shine some flashlights, a bad idea.  We arrived at the top of the hill where the L was and dumped some paint on some rocks. It was soon clear that we did have nearly enough paint so it turned out to be mostly a token effort. 

As we turned to start down the hill we could see the lights of many cars headed to the bottom of the hill! We had been discovered and the HS students from Lander were not about the let someone attack their L without retaliation. By the time we were part way down the hill the two gangs met. It seemed there was going to be a serious rumble and people would get hurt. Well, one of the boys of our gang did get hurt by getting hit in the forehead by a rather large rock thrown by one of the Lander gang. Blood streamed down his face and we called out that one of our gang was seriously hurt. Well, that incident seemed to scare both the Lander and Riverton students and cooler heads prevailed as we trudged back to our cars without any more violence by either side.

By the time we got to our cars the police had arrived. We were told all of us from Riveton were required to come to the police station. They did allow our injured student to get some medical help. It turned out the head wound was not too serious thankfully. So we all went to the police station. It turned out we were strongly lectured and told not to do something like this again. However, we were released without charges, I think in part because the couple of policemen at the station were overwhelmed by all these kids and did not know what to do with us.

So, we finally headed back home after a night we will never forget. There we several repercussions, such as the football players being required to run extra laps to atone for our sins. Our parents were not happy either and all in all it was a very bad idea. A lesson learned not to allow oneself to easily get caught up in a mob action that has not been carefully evaluated as to the consequences.  

 

ARMISTICE DAY HS FOOTBALL

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.

LOST CABIN GOLD

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.

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SUMMERTIME AND CHRISTMAS BREAK (AND THE LIVING WAS NOT ALWAYS EASY)

School is out and it is time to get to work. Fortunately we were usually able to find jobs if we were not too picky what kind of job. There were few, if any, rules about teenagers working, no age restrictions and thus freedom to work at any job you could get that someone thought you could do. We knew we needed a job, one that started the Monday following the ending of the school term. Our parents struggled to provide our board and room and the money we thought we needed  beyond that was our responsibility. Money for movies, after dance burgers and fries, letter sweaters and maybe some special clothing we thought we needed, had to come from what we could save over the summer and by working during the Christmas break.  We were not too choosy about the jobs we took and grabbed the first job we could find. Looking back, we worked very hard for the 40 or 50 cents an hour, or maybe less.

So, to set the stage for a couple of stories about the jobs I had as a teenager and during the summer while in college, I have provided a table (see below) of all the types of jobs involved. It seems quite a collection as I reflect on those times. To simplify I have classified the jobs as Good, Bad and Ugly. I will not try to describe every job in the lists in this short blog, but I will tell you a couple of stories about the job situation that existed for young folks in the 1950’s. I feel that this diverse collection of jobs was a vital part of my education about the world of that time, while growing up in a small town in Wyoming.  Lessons were learned, mistakes made and ideas about life’s goals changed while working on these jobs. It seems, reflecting today, that these wide ranges of experience, the disciplines learned, and the skills developed were a real privilege for those of us growing up in those days. We did not have our hands out for a gift, we just wanted the opportunity to work and earn our way, to hold our heads up high and say, “I did that” and if I can do that, I can do whatever I need to do in my life.

I was lucky for the most part to have mostly decent jobs. Things like digging a deep ditch, so deep we had to throw the dirt high in the air as we dug, are clearly on my Ugly list. We were lucky the ditch did not cave in on top of us as the soil we were digging in was not very stable.  So, for now I will tell a true story about an Ugly Job and another story about a Good Job. Those listed as Bad were mostly just hard jobs involving tough physical labor, but were not really that bad, just hard.

First I will relate the story of my very short career as a welder’s helper, clearly one of the really ugly jobs as it turned out and potentially very dangerous. This job was a fill-in between other jobs and was supposed to pay well. The welder I was supposed to be helping picked me up in his truck and we drove for about two hours to finally reach the top of a large hill between Lander and Rawlins. The site was an oil camp with some active wells. The welder’s job was to weld pieces of metal together, I have no idea for what purpose. My job was to hold the two pieces together so he could do the welding. We were working inside of a metal hut, so at best the light was dim. So all afternoon he welded and I held the pieces as instructed. The intense light from the welding seemed to grow more intense as the day wore on and I noticed that my eyes were beginning to hurt. BY SUPPERTIME I WAS BLIND!  All that time while the welding was going on I had tried to look away, but I could not hold the pieces together well if I could not look at them. NO EYE PROTECTION WHATSOEVER!  My eyes felt like someone had thrown sharp sand into them and that it had stayed there.  Well, the welder seemed to blame me, it was my fault. Now he would have to drive me back to Riverton to see an eye doctor and he would lose money and time in the process. In my mind I was calling him a host of bad names, but I knew I had to rely on him to get me back home. I had no idea if I was going to be blind the rest of my life. It was the most miserable night I can remember. We finally headed towards Riverton early the next morning.  Things were not much better by morning. A very  long and sullen trip did not help. We finally arrived in Riverton and my folks hurried me to the eye doctor. The doctor examined my eyes and proclaimed that I was lucky that I had not continued exposure to the welding flashes much longer or I might have sustained serious permanent damage. By late that afternoon I began to get some sight back. So, after some time my vision cleared up and the pain subsided. All in all a miserable experience and an unnecessary happening. Ugly Job in spades for sure!

I do not want to end this blog on such a sour note, but it does illustrate the way some people behaved in those days. The second job story I want to relate is taken from the Good list and clearly was the happiest and most fun job I had as a teenager. This job is listed as working for the Geological Survey whose local office was in the basement of the Post Office in Riverton. This group of Geological Survey engineers were working on issues related to irrigation practices in the area and the resulting runoff water that often had a high concentration of silt that ended up moving down the streams towards the new reservoir below. Boysen Dam had just recently been constructed to dam up the Wind River just before the canyon. The concern was that the muddy water runoff would fill up the reservoir over time. My job was to collect water samples at several locations along the creeks that emptied into the reservoir. I called it the “milk route”. Each morning I headed out some 20 miles from Riverton to go to each station along the creeks and collect my samples. My transportation was an older pickup truck. This job sounds boring, but it wasn’t really. I had lots of time to think and to enjoy the summer weather and to sometimes chase the pronghorn antelope down the dirt roads. Racing with antelope was especially fun when the young ones were running with their mothers, and can they ever run. I lost my brakes once and had a wild ride down a steep hill. But, all in all it was a fun job with no pressure as long as I could complete the “milk route” each day.

The routine of the “milk route” was broken by other events now and again. One of these is my favorite work story. One of the full-time staff was required to make the trip to Bull Lake Creek to measure the flow above the large reservoir. There was no access road to the river above the reservoir so to get there one had to hike a couple of miles on a trail that was mostly just a cow path. To get to the site of the measuring equipment it was a hike on a winding trail down a steep hill.  My job was to tag along with the professional as a safety measure, just in case one of us fell or was somehow injured there would be another person to hike out to get help. Once we arrived at the river, my job was done until it was time to hike back out again. So as I was taught as a Boy Scout to always be prepared, I had my fly rod and a small red and white daredevil spinner in hand and began casting in a likely spot hoping that some large rainbow would hit the spinner. BANG! A very large rainbow hit the spinner like a ton of bricks and proceeded to fight his way downstream. It was a struggle that lasted for about 15 minutes. To me a fight that seemed to last forever. The rainbow finally became tired and I was able to land it.  A trophy for sure at over 6 lbs even at the end of the day when it could be weighed.  I have never forgotten catching a trophy trout and getting paid for working at the same time. Talk about a boondoggle, well perhaps not too big  boondoggle anyway. All in all a wonderful part of a great summer job, the best I ever had.

PS  My career direction, that of choosing an education as a Civil Engineer, was greatly influenced by the example of those working for the Geological Survey. A group of seemingly happy people, dedicated to solving problems to benefit  people were a positive role model to a high school teenager trying to sort out the future. Ironically, the engineer-in-charge of the office in Riverton some 7 years later became a colleague at Colorado State University. 

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SATURDAY FOOTBALL PRACTICE (OR NEVER MAKE YOUR COACH MAD)

img042Saturday seemed to come very early that day in October. After the home football game we all went to the usual Friday night dance and then on to the Rainbow for burgers and coke.  By the time all of this transpired it was close to midnight. We were told by Coach after the game that we had better show up for football practice at 8:00 AM Saturday morning and be dressed in our practice uniforms. That seemed strange at the time, even though the Coach had chewed us out with some very choice words, some of which cannot be related in this post, for sure! We were just ready for the usual Friday night fun after the game and did not think too much about the fact that Coach seemed unusually unhappy with us. So off we went to have fun even though we had a bad taste in our mouths over our loss to a team we were supposed to beat.

I managed to get up just before 7:30 so I did not have time for breakfast. I grabbed a piece of toast and hurried to the locker room to get dressed for the Saturday morning practice. None of us could understand why we were supposed to wear our uniforms since Saturday practices usually involved warm up, stretching and running some drills. Well, this was no usual Saturday practice!

Once on the field Coach called us together and again reamed us out for our poor play the night before. It seemed he was still mad or maybe even more so. He said, this morning we are going to find out which ones of you lazy guys really want to play on this team. So, give me 50 (yes 50!) laps around the outside of the football field and while you are running and sweating think about what a lousy job you did last night. OMG, 50 laps, we were sure we would all be dead before we made it 50 times around the outside of the field.

So we started out. If we were going too slowly Coach would let us know. Each of us begin counting, realizing that this was no idle threat, but punishment for the way we played or at least for the way the Coach thought we played. At first our overall conditioning worked pretty well, but by about lap 25 we began to come unglued. Their was lots of retching of the pancakes and syrup some players had for breakfast. Those of us who did not get breakfast may have been the lucky ones as we did not get sick, we just totally ran out of energy sometime just after lap 25. Around and around we went, each lap taking a toll one way or the other. About 2 hours passed, the fast runners were done and trying to recuperate on the sidelines while the rest of us plodded along hoping some how this torture would end soon. Finally, some folks just quit and most of us finished by cutting the corners whenever the Coach was not watching. We were sitting on the sidelines trying to get some breath when Coach hit us with the final blow, TIME TO SCRIMMAGE!!

We could not believe our ears, scrimmage?  What was the Coach thinking of, was he kidding. No, we were supposed to line up to scrimmage. We somehow picked ourselves up from the grass and lined up. One team running the offense and the other trying to stop them. Over and over it seemed we scrimmaged until almost noon. It was ugly, brutal, dirty, bloody, sweaty and just plain unnatural. Bloody noses were common in those days as our helmets had no face guards. This seemed to especially true on this terrible Saturday as tempers were on short fuse and there were some fights as well. Sometimes we wondered if Coach liked the sight of blood, if so, we spilled plenty that morning. Finally it was over. We limped back to the locker room, stripped off our uniforms, some took showers and some just left as fast as they could. I remember lying on the floor when I reached home with my face under the couch for the rest of the day. I think I went to sleep, but I do not remember much of the rest of that day or the night that followed. They say, “that which does not kill you will make you stronger”, not sure about that saying as I remember that day. High School football in Wild and Wonderful Wyoming in those days was not the well-run, well-coached endeavor it is in most places today, that is for sure!  How about that funny photo??