Guest Posts on County 10 are provided by contributors and the opinions, thoughts, and comments within are their own and may not necessarily reflect those of County 10.
There are a couple of sayings that permeate our collective existence here in Fremont County. The first is friendly advice mixed with a bit of menace, “Welcome, we don’t care how you did it back home.”
That takes care of those who offer unsolicited advice on how we’re doing things wrong. “Sure, it’s always better from where you came from, why don’t you go back there” is often the response this comment generates back to newbies in our community.
It’s not that there aren’t great ideas outside Jeffrey City, Crowheart, and Lysite, but just because you did it that way doesn’t mean we have to.
Another common saying isn’t a saying at all but a measurement.
When we vacationed for a week in Puerto Rico a few years ago I was intrigued by their highway signs. They measured the speed limit in miles per hour, but the distances were metric, measured in kilometers. When I asked a couple of locals about it, they shrugged and said, “It’s Puerto Rico.”
That was explanation enough for this short-term visitor.
We measure distances in time, rather than miles. No, it’s not light years, but it is hours or minutes. This practice often generates comments from friends and family arriving from other states, but it has a purpose.
If you were to tell someone it’s just six miles from the bridge at the base of the switchbacks in Sinks Canyon to Worthen Meadows that would be true. Those six miles are vastly different than telling the same person it’s only six miles to the Waltman rest stop on the Shoshoni/Casper highway. Yes, they’re both the same distance, but even if you’re observing the speed limit, it’s only about five minutes to the rest area from east or west. Those five minutes climbing the switchbacks from the base of Sinks Canyon to Worthen seem a lot farther and will take at least four times as long.
That’s why we measure distance in time. If you’re flying down the highway at 80 mph from Cheyenne to Casper in July, time melts away. If you’re taking the same stretch of road in a January snowstorm with the wind howling out of Sybille Canyon at 75 mph time doesn’t melt. Like the conditions themselves, time tends to freeze and matches the whiteness of your knuckles on the steering wheel.
A trend unique to Fremont County is having just enough gas or diesel in the tank to make it Casper, Worland, Rawlins, Rock Springs, or even Jackson Hole.
If you do it right, the “Low Fuel” warning light pops up on the dashboard as you see the tower of Natrona County Airport in the distance or pass under the power lines north of Reliance on the way to the Rock.
Why you might ask? If you’re a local you know why. The price for gas or diesel is at least 20 cents cheaper in every other county in the state, and if you make it as far as Cheyenne or Laramie, it’s often 50 cents less. That’s why we play the “just enough to get there game.” You can save ten to twenty dollars filling up if you arrive at any other town in the state outside Fremont County with an empty tank.
The quest for fairly priced fuel is just one of the many things we accept as part of everyday life across the county since it’s been going on for decades.
Open gates are often grounds for a range war, and new arrivals need to learn the basics of gate management. The rule is to leave a gate as you found it. If it’s open and it’s not yours, leave it open. If it’s closed, open it to drive through then close it behind you. No matter how short your stay may be, close the gate.
When my sister Susie and my late brother-in-law Matt sold our family farm back in 2004 the first buyer immediately put a padlocked gate across the entrance to the place.
The lane to the house came off Summerhill Road and since 1971 when my parents purchased the farm it was wide-open without a gate.
We had a friendly relationship with our neighbors, an unwritten one, that allowed us to borrow one of their trucks, trailers, or tractors without notice, we offered ours to them as well. Many times, the only way you knew someone had taken out a truck or tractor was by the fuel tank, it always came back filled up completely.
The new owner was from Colorado, and I ran into him one day in Pavillion. He approached me and asked a few questions about how we had irrigated the place. As I explained how my dad and Matt moved water he was attentive.
After he had a grip on the pumps, pipes, and ditches he asked me about the strange grass growing southwest of the house. It was Garrison Foxtail, a water-loving grass that drains wet areas and produces outstanding forage.
All the “Greenie” heard was foxtail. He poisoned the eight acres my dad had so carefully groomed into production and the following year, it was a white, mucky alkali pit once again.
Before we parted, I asked him why he put a gate across the lane and had it padlocked all the time.
“You can’t trust people,” was his response.
I described how for generations we shared equipment with neighbors in emergency situations, but he heard nothing.
I finally told him that a locked gate is just a sign that you have something worth stealing. He didn’t buy that either.
He was gone within two years, just a blip on the land’s radar.
My father told me long ago to not trust the guy who has a huge keyring on his belt and that locks everything that he owns. I now know that as “projecting.”
If you need to lock things up and fear sharing with others, you have criminal instincts at heart.
I prefer the old western method of helping neighbors in need, and they helping you in turn.
As the great Yogi Berra once said, “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they might not come to yours.”
Now that’s good advice wherever you’re from.