Butch the Bobcat – Steaks and $5000 Walleyes – Lakeside Resort

    It was a place out of time, a place more suited to the early days of automobile travel in the 1930s than the jet age 40 years later, but it was an icon.

    Lakeside was a name synonymous with Shoshoni and with its creator, Robert Dean Clark of Riverton.

    Dean Clark – h/t Clark family

    Bobby Dean, or simply Dean, as Clark was known, was a man of many talents, boundless energy, and the vision to create something where nothing had been before.

    Dean learned meat cutting as a kid from his parents Roy and Emaroy at the family business, Clark’s Meat House in Casper.

    On June 21, 1960, the Wyoming State Parks sold a lease agreement to Sam Stanbury, another enterprising Riverton businessman for 18 acres of land on the east shore of Boysen Reservoir. The lease was for 23 years with an option to renew the lease until 2022.

    Stanbury was an avid outdoorsman with a keen business sense. He opened Riverton Tire and Oil on Main Street before moving it to its present location on South Federal.

    The lease at Boysen changed hands a few times until Leroy’s Truckstop was built on the property.

    Eldonna Coleman, along with her sister and brother-in-law Florence and Dee Ence, took over running the truck stop café along with selling Chevron fuel and renting out the five motel units on Boysen before changing the name to Lakeside Truck Stop.

    Dean was selling insurance around Wyoming after divorcing his first wife Joan, in 1965.

    He met Eldonna, who divorced her husband Earl, and they were married on March 22, 1967.

    Lindy, Deana, Tanja, Westy, Troy, and Eldeana Christmas at the home attached to the motel units at Lakeside – h/t Lindy Brummond

    Dean had three children and Eldonna two girls, Jody, Carrie, Delinda (Lindy), Deana, and Weston. In 1970, their daughter Eldeana was born.

    In April 1967, they petitioned the Wyoming State Parks Commission to take over Stanbury’s lease and completely changed the property.

    They first changed the name from Leroy’s Truck Stop to Lakeside Truck Stop and in a few months changed the business to Lakeside Resort.

    Soon after taking over the lease, Lakeside expanded to 11 different businesses. The 18 acres contained a boat dock, bait shop, bar, a lower and upper restaurant, campground, motel, truck stop, liquor store, pontoon boat dealership, and a zoo.

    Dean Clair with Charles Crowell, Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioner at Boysen – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    The campsites provided electrical and water hookups. The front camping sites had grass, which cost more to rent. There was also a grassy area to pitch tents. Dean built two separate restrooms with showers for the campers. Soon, Dean was building cages for the wildlife he had been taking in from some of the locals. The first animal was a bobcat that the previous owners had de-clawed and de-fanged. Dean named the bobcat Butch. Butch was a bit of Houdini and would often find a way out of his chicken wire cage. 

    “Dad would come get us out of the bed in the early morning and say, ‘Come on kids, Butch is out,’” Lindy said. “We’d grab several big fish nets and start chasing Butch around the campgrounds, under the campers and so forth. Tourists just waking up would open up their camper door and see a bobcat go running by and us kids running after it with a big fish net. Dad had to build more cages with better systems to clean the cages.”

    Dean also owned the Lucky 5 bar in Shoshoni. The Lucky 5 was the location of many ideas presented by Clark to his friends Gayle and Bud Currah, along with Joe Highsmith the mayor of Shoshoni.

    The Lucky 5 – h/t Randy Tucker

    “It was all a group thing,” Lindy said. “Ideas over a glass of whisky after a chamber meeting.”

    Those impromptu meetings led to the Old Time Fiddler’s Contest, the Boysen Pike Derby, and the Highway 26 Association, all ways to bring money into Shoshoni.

    Dean was president of the Highway 26 Association, a group dedicated to routing traffic west toward Yellowstone instead of heading north to Cody to enter the park.

    “They got all us kids together and placed huge rocks by the highway fence,” Lindy said. “The kids had to paint all those rocks yellow. Their slogan was to “Follow the yellow stones to Yellowstone.”

    Eldonna made calls and mailed special flyers to school districts across Wyoming offering special prices to feed their teams as they traveled through the crossroads of Shoshoni.

    The Fishing Derby was a highlight of the summer for Dean, the family, and the entire Shoshoni community.

    Leaving the “Astrodome” to tag the winning fish 1972 – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    “What was really great was the week before the derby they had a huge party in what they called the Shoshoni Astrodome. Houston had just built the Astrodome,” Lindy said. “People would come from Casper with a big tent for a three-day event. They’d sell tickets to businesses to come to the tagging.”

    A $5000 prize was offered for anyone catching a specially tagged walleye.

    The first Derby was in 1969. There were smaller cash prizes for catching other tagged fish and cash awards for the largest walleye, perch, and trout caught during the event.

    In 1971, Wyoming governor Stan Hathaway tagged the $5000 fish.

    Hathaway was a frequent visitor to Fremont County, meeting often with Riverton Ranger co-publisher Roy Peck, who was also the director of the Wyoming Department of Economic Planning and a three-term state senator.

    Hathaway flew into Riverton at 8 a.m. on July 22, was picked up by Peck, and the duo, along with his pilot Roger Armstrong, headed straight to Lakeside, where Dean was waiting with a 31-foot pontoon boat.

    Junior Division Pike Derby Winners – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    At 11:38 am, Hathaway hooked a four-pound walleye about 1,000 yards west of Poison Creek. The governor battled the big fish for 10 minutes before Gayle Currah tried to net it. Just as Currah lifted the fish it flipped the lure out of its mouth, but Currah was able to snatch the fish as it nearly flipped away. They tagged and released the pike.

    “This is the biggest fish I have caught this year,” Hathaway said.

    The prize money was insured by the Security Bank and Trust and Parrish Agency of Casper and underwritten by Lloyd’s of London.

    They needed the insurance that summer. An estimated 8,000 anglers lined the shore with hundreds of boats out on the lake.

    “If you caught the fish you had to bring it to a couple of places, the bait shop, or the Shoshoni garage. That was the only time it was ever caught,” Lindy said. “Right before the 5 p.m. cutoff, Dad said, ‘I think somebody caught the $5000 fish.’ They were all excited.

    When they gave that guy his money, he had to pay taxes on it. It was all about catching the $5000 fish. They had bands, cooked every meal there, and took people out. Dad had boats for people to fish, with a huge list of people every year.”

    The Boysen Pike Derby was a big money maker for Shoshoni – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    Lakeside was a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation year-round.

    “The poor old cooks would have to come off from cooking to sell minnows,” Lindy said.

    While the Derby was exciting and brought huge numbers of people to Fremont County, the business operated all year.

    A fire in August 1971 led to a remodel of the restaurant with the addition of a second-level dining room called the Skyroom.

    A highlight of Lakeside was the restaurant, and the Skyroom on the second floor provided excellent views of the lake and the Owl Creek Mountains.

    Dean was regarded as an excellent steak cook. Eldonna ran the front end of the restaurant, making work schedules, hiring, and training the wait staff, and setting up parties.

    Shoshoni resident David Manchester recalled Dean’s cooking talent.

    “According to my brother-in-law, Dean is the one who showed him how to cook a delicious steak in a cast iron skillet,” Manchester said.

    People who were children when Lakeside was in its prime have fond memories of the place.

    “My Dad would take us out there on Saturday mornings for breakfast and I’d buy a comic book,” former Riverton resident Craig Blumenshine said.

    Dean Clark with the 1971 prize money – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    One thing many youngsters from that era remember is the Lakeside Zoo.

    “We had weasels, badgers, raccoons, and foxes,” Lindy said.

    The animals were sometimes fed the byproducts of Dean’s promotion for a 97-cent chicken dinner.

    “Eldonna wrote all the high schools and told them they could get special prices for pre-ordered meals. They’d get two pieces of fried chicken, one white and one dark, wrapped in waxed paper,” Lindy said. “We fed the zoo animals the livers and gizzards from the bulk chicken orders.”

    Schools didn’t pay sales tax on meals, but everyone else did and with the three percent sales tax at the time, you could get a chicken dinner for an even dollar.

    The steaks were top-notch, purchased by Dean from Clark’s Meat House in Riverton.

    The chicken fried steak was a favorite for basketball and football teams traveling through Shoshoni.

    The campground just off the highway was popular too, as was the boat dock.

    “A lot of people parked their trailers and left them,” Lindy said. “We watched a car go through the ice with 8-track tapes floating in the water.”

    Lindy was a rare kid in the 70s, getting paid to clean her room, or almost.

    “I started 7th grade in Shoshoni,” she said. “They cut a hole through the wall to make the house bigger by putting doors between the motel units. I was paid $1.75 to clean each of the motel rooms.”

    The boat business had its own interesting stories.

    “Dad sold pontoon boats, Rivera Cruiser Boats. He sold Neil McMillan a 31-footer,” Lindy said. “Eldeana was a baby, maybe two or three. They tied a rope around her waist and tied her to the boat.”

    “When Bobby Dean and Eldona had it, it was a going concern,” said Dave Becker, a Riverton accountant. “Dean was a mover and a shaker for sure.”

    Dave frequented the place. “I went out every Sunday for steak and lobster,” he said.

    “The bar was upstairs. Dad was an entertainer. You’d have to divide what dad said by half, and then by half again, he embellished,” Lindy said. “If a waitress didn’t show up I worked a double shift.”

    Linda, Scott and Jaime Hagar – h/t Linda Moench

    Linda Kobel worked at Lakeside after graduating from Riverton High School.

    Linda married Max Hagar in 1976. His parents, John Hagar and Geraldine Hagar, purchased Lakeside from the Clarks on July 28, 1975.

    “We moved onto the place in 1975,” Linda said.

    Linda had two children, Greg and Jaime. Max adopted both of them.  

    Lakeside began to deteriorate under the Hagars’ ownership.

    “They bought it and then all six kids, my stepdad Max was the oldest, moved in with them,” Jaime said. “They all played in a band at the steakhouse. We all lived in single-wide trailers on the property. Crazy family, but it was a lot of fun growing up on the lake.”

    An icon blazing in the night 1980 – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    Linda and Max separated after a few years and were formally divorced in 1983.

    The situation became much more complex legally when Hagars sold the property to William and Joyce Mobley in 1979. Hagars claimed Lakeside was clearing $50 to $60,000 annually in net profits, which proved later on to be fraudulent.

    A fire broke out around 12:30 am on January 30, 1980, that destroyed the entire facility. Temperatures of 26 below zero hampered firemen from around Fremont County as they responded to the fire call.

    A hole was chopped through the ice of Boysen Reservoir and water was pumped 800 feet to the fire using a pair of tanker trucks, but the inferno was too intense for anything to be saved.

    Firemen battled 26 below zero weather at the Lakeside fire – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    “Every fire department in the county was there,” Jaime said. “There was nothing they could do except keep it from spreading to the grass.”

    Mobleys had insurance on the property, and their insurance company issued a check for $76,000 in damages, though they claimed the property was worth $250,000.

    The claims ended up in court with Clarks, who still owned the property after selling via owner financing to the Hagars, eventually receiving the settlement after it was determined by the court that Hagars had sold the property fraudulently.

    In testimony given in a Wyoming Supreme Court appeal in the fall of 1980 after Lakeside had been destroyed by fire, Dean responded to a question on how the place was being destroyed.

    Fireman battling the blaze at Lakeside – h/t Riverton Ranger / Wyomedia

    “The lawn was dead. There were paint signs on the building. The fences were lying down. The trees were dying. Planters were being torn down. The inside of the building was in disarray. The carpet was full of grease. The kitchen was filthy. The lights were unreplaced. The zoo, the doors fell out of the cages. The animals were dead or gone. Trash and weeds were cumulating in the pond area. Electrical wiring was showing. There had been electrical hookup stalls knocked over and left lay, bare wires were exposed,” Dean testified.

    In the end, Dean paid off the bank and went off to other ventures after he and Eldonna had divorced a few years earlier.

    Eldonna received the Broker Restaurant in Riverton as part of the divorce proceedings.

    “Dad got the house, Eldonna got the Broker,” Lindy said. “The court order was he couldn’t cook a steak within 200 miles of Riverton.”

    Denied his livelihood by the proceedings, Dean made the proverbial lemonade from the lemons in the settlement.

    The secret to his popular steaks was part his skill as a chef, but also his choice of spices. Dean decided to market his spice and created Hi Mountain Jerky in Riverton, now Hi Mountain Seasonings.

    Started by Dean Clark – Hi Mountain Seasonings is now one of the largest wild game spice producers in the world – h/t Hi Mountain Seasonings

    “When Dad was with Keith Spencer, Keith helped him quite a bit with marketing, “Lindy said. “It was the pre-internet days. Dad did sales with QVC and that’s what took their business over the top. The steak seasoning we had at Lakeside was the first seasoning at Hi Mountain.”

    In 2003, Dean sold Hi Mountain to Hans and Kim Hummel and began a well-earned retirement.

    Dean passed away in 2022, leaving a legacy of businesses across Fremont County. All that remains of Lakeside are a few telltale concrete foundations. The area has been converted to a rest stop by the Wyoming State Parks.

    “When I drive by and only see a rest stop now it’s very sad,” Jaime said. “It used to be THE PLACE.”

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