Friday, October 28, 2011

Elk in the corral!!

Those elk, always trying to pretend they're a cow... This is a vintage photo of our ranch in the 1960s.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Justice for Some. It depends, though.

This story shocked me not because of the murder of two white men by a "half-breed," but because I think any rapist deserves death. The author did not act shocked, nor did anyone involved in the story seem to feel for a moment merciful for the young man who was defending his mother and sister's honor. If your mother and sister were raped and left for dead, you can't honestly tell me you wouldn't shoot to kill when you met the perpetrators.

“…On October 27, 1870—John Boyer bid two local Six Mile customers farewell with a seven-dollar revolver. He fired one lead slug into William H. Lowry’s left breast and put a second round into the gut of James McClusky.
The trouble started when young John Boyer came home and found his widowed Sioux mother and sister tied and gagged. They had been raped by the two men, who were known to hang around Fort Fetterman. The next night, October 30, Boyer encountered the rapists at a dance that was held at the Six Mile ranch. He was unarmed, however, because the bartender had taken each patron’s weapons for safekeeping as he entered the hall.
Waiting until about 2 am, Boyer retrieved his pistols from the barkeep and left the building. Soon after, he mounted his horse and rode back to the entry where he called for McClusky and Lowry. He called them out saying, ‘he could whip them.’ As they appeared at the door, the twenty-six-year-old pulled his revolver and ‘deliberately, and without a moment’s warning, shot and killed them both.’ Boyer immediately fled—undeterred—and hid with a band of local Sioux. However, the Indians, fearing reprisals, turned him over to the authorities when they demanded his return.
While waiting for the First District Court, which had convened to decide his fate, Boyer threated to foil the noose when he escaped on or about March 30, 1871, from he Fort D.A. Russell guard house where he was kept pending his execution. The three-hundred-dollar reward that was offered for his capture was claimed several days later as he was arrested enroute back to Fort Laramie.
‘He was met on the road walking alone with his handcuffs off and fastened to his belt,’ witnesses reported. ‘Seeing the coach coming, he left the road and while the stage was passing a curve in the road, hiding him from view, he secreted himself under the bank of a ravine and was only discovered and recognized as the stage had passed his place of concealment.’ Fort Laramie officials quickly sent a ‘Captain Wilson’ and a detachment of Fifth Cavalry soldiers, who raced to the spot armed and ready. Boyer would not refuse the captain’s ‘invitation’ to join them for a trip back to Cheyenne. Authorities put him on the next stage to Cheyenne, where he arrived the next evening, April 2… The Evening Leader reported he went to meet his Maker on April 21, 1871, in an ‘old grout building, nearly in front of the jail,’ in Cheyenne with these words on his lips: ‘Look at me! I no cry, I no woman; I man. I die brave!’
Boyer had the ‘distinction’ of being the first of only seven persons to be legally hanged in the Wyoming Territory.”

(From The Hog Ranches of Wyoming, by Larry K. Brown)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Trophy Hunt

After downing his buck, the Might Hunter triumphantly returned home to enlist the help of his long-suffering girlfriend (we'll call her LSG) for help in packing out the meat. She considered wearing her trail runners, but remembering that rain seemed impending, she grabbed her rubber boots instead. They ventured out after dark, and LSG asked Mighty Hunter for his headlamp. However, he was hot on the trail and far too excited to pause to hand her the light, and so said, "Just stay right behind me. You'll be fine."

Stumbling along in the dark, LSG did as she was told. The sagebrush and buffalo berries made rough walking, and there were snakes in this country. With her next step, something moved. No, it didn't just move-- she stepped on it! Whatever she stepped on was moving! And now it was walking along next to her! This was just too much for LSG, who began screaming her head off. Mighty Hunter thought perhaps she'd been shot herself, and came running to her aid. She pointed and stuttered and screamed, and Mighty Hunter's light fell on a porcupine. LSG had stepped directly onto a live porcupine.

"Did it get me? Did it get me?" LSG wailed, eyes clenched shut. (In LSG's defense, she's quite a hunter herself. It was just the fright that caused her to whimper.) Thankfully, the only two quills the pair came up with were lodged firmly in the uppers of her rubber boots, far from any skin.

Mighty Hunter returned from the hunt with his trophy, and LSG with her trophy tale, so at the end of the night, all were satisfied.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Overland Journeys

With the first snowstorm of winter came the necessity of stocking up our supplies, lest we be snowed in at some point in the future. Every town with a grocery store is two hours from my mountain home, and so yesterday I set out in my modern covered wagon for Rawlins, Wyoming.

Rawlins is a funny little town- only 10,000 people, yet it feels like half that. Old buildings that have never been updated and trailer parks line the few streets, and there are no big box stores aside from Pamida (the poor man's K-mart, it's been jokingly referred to). Downtown was paused-- it appeared that once the railroad money left the original "Raw Town" near the turn of the century, things continued along with the only change being the position of the hands on the clock face. Perhaps even those stopped by 1950.

The thrift store was bustling, in an old general store with high windows and ceilings. The old floor-to-ceiling shelves still covered the walls. The patrons were self-important, and all knew one another, as they would've in 1910. The man who ran the Army Surplus was obviously an ex-Civil War soldier, and may have been an outlaw at one point as well. An incongruous bright spot lit Main Street, in a little home decorating store full of tasteful knick knacks that seemed far more appropriate to the Eastern Front than to the wild west.

The huge, Romanesque buildings of the Wyoming Frontier Prison loomed at the north end of town, presiding over all that lay below it. The buildings were grand, forbidding, stern, and utilitarian all at once. The prison was once known for its modern methods of reform: prisoners worked out on county projects, at a prison farm, and in a privately-owned shirt factory. By the 1950s, silence was the rule and reform was a thing of the past. The prisoners rioted, which brought about some change, but the facility was closed by the 1980s and moved to a modern building near the freeway.

The sleeting snow and oppressive grey clouds made imprisonment feel like the by word for a Wyoming winter. On the drive home, I watched a herd of wild horses near the Overland Trail and was thankful for my cabin in the unsettled country. I would willingly take my chances against the odds of a snowbound winter at 7000 feet, over the forced confinement of a city on the plains.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Our Panics

Financial panics come not here
Yet when the clouds and rains appear
The little creeks, so full of pranks,
Make a "run upon the banks."

(From the Hayden Pantagraph newspaper, approximately 1892)