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.
I was filling my 1972 GMC pick-up at the Shell Station in Lusk one morning in June. That highway yellow, two-wheel drive beauty made me more money than all of the dozens of other vehicles I’ve owned combined. It was my work truck for over three decades.
That summer in the early 80s was my first as the owner of my own business. Roofing, painting, garages, pouring concrete it was all in a day’s work. I learned from the best as teenager and then 20-something working the trades for experienced professional craftsmen the decade before.
Next to me, that morning was a station wagon with New Jersey plates. A young family on vacation on their way to Yellowstone. You didn’t have to be an investigative reporter to see the telltale signs of Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and Flintstone Village among the chaos of a husband and wife with four kids on a cross country trek.
As I was scrubbing the bugs off my windshield, a familiar figure appeared near the post office and took a right turn onto US Highway 85. It was Dr. Carleton Huitt, the town physician. The old doc was driving his one-horse buggy to his office on the south edge of town.
Doc Huitt had the top down on the buggy that morning as the clip-clop of his horse’s hooves echoed off the walls of the Ranger Hotel across the street.
The New Jersey family stopped in stunned silence as they watched the buggy head down the highway.
“What was that about?” the dad asked me.
With a straight face, I said, “Looks like Doc Huitt is making a house call.”
They took it hook, line, and sinker. Somewhere in the Garden State that couple and their kids are probably still telling the story of how doctors make house calls with horse-drawn buggies out in the wild west we call home.
It’s all part of the charm of living in the Cowboy State.
As I drove to Worland last month to cover a track meet another reminder of the uniqueness of our way of life presented itself on a back road south of town.
I always take the Gooseberry Road exit east onto South Flat Road to the high school. You cross the Big Horn River then see the fertile fields of Washakie County as you wind your way to Warrior Gym or track.
As I crested a hill the road was filled with black baldy cows, maybe 800 of them. There was a pickup with its flashers on at the top of the hill and a half-dozen cowhands pushing the herd south to summer pastures.
I wasn’t in a hurry and just enjoyed the view as the cattle ambled past.
It reminded me of my friends, the Gardner family, as they used to drive cattle from Missouri Valley to summer pasture above Lysite each spring.
Dave, with his boys Greg, Bret, and Kelly along with a few friends, a hired man or two, and some grandkids would trail their herd on the highway from the valley, across the causeway, through Shoshoni to Moneta then north to the summer range.
I didn’t always catch them crossing the causeway to teach at Shoshoni, but when I did it was memorable. I often asked them if they had a spare horse and thought of taking a personal day to join in the drive, but I never did.
It was a touch of vanishing Americana you won’t find in many other places aside from Wyoming.
At the Shane Brock Memorial track meet in Lander last Saturday I spoke with Brock Baker, of Dubois as he helped Joe Motherway run the pole vault. I shot a few pictures of the kids having epic wrecks or cleanly clearing the bar and our conversation turned to fishing. What else is worth talking about on a gorgeous late spring day at the foot of the Wind Rivers?
Brock told me a calf moose was killed and eaten on the west edge of Dubois, within the city limits this spring. A grizzly had taken the calf right in his front yard.
As I related this story to my friend, Dubois head track coach David Trembly, he verified Brock’s tale and mentioned a similar incident early in his career as football, wrestling, and track coach for the Rams.
“It was one of my first practices as head coach and more than half of the team didn’t show up,” Dave said. “I was mad and ready to rip some kids for lack of dedication.”
His anger only lasted a few minutes until a Wyoming Game and Fish truck appeared at the practice field.
“I had to borrow a few of your boys to haze a grizzly into a trap,” the game biologist said.
They needed about 15 of the boys to grab garbage can lids, sticks, and other noise makers to get the misguided bruin running down an alley and into a waiting live catch trap.
Imagine somewhere else in America where teenagers chase the apex predator of the North American continent down side streets before football practice. There aren’t many.
It’s tempting to think that we’re the only decent people left in a world gone mad, but that’s just not true.
On a May night long ago, my friend Tom Massey of Lander and I were in charge of a chartered Washington D.C. tour bus we’d hired to take us to a baseball game in Baltimore between the Orioles and the Texas Rangers. Tom started with a rented van, but when other Close Up sponsors got wind of our scheme dozens of teachers joined us. We ended up talking one of the bus drivers into driving for us.
A three-hour rain delay had us enjoy ample quantities of Bohemian National beer. It was just a dollar for a pint, and we had a few bucks to spend waiting out the rain.
The game ended after midnight and our driver was nervous. After driving for a few minutes, he called Tom and me to the front and admitted he was lost.
Ahead we saw huddled figures standing around a garbage can fire. The driver stopped and Tom and I got out to approach the half-dozen young Black men huddled around the fire.
“Which way to the DC highway,” Tom asked.
We weren’t sure what was going to happen, but one of the guys answered immediately, “Three lights, then take a right, you can’t miss it.”
We said thanks and we were back on the way home in just a few minutes.
There are good people everywhere, but this little corner of the planet we call home is special. I can’t begin to express the joy I have as a grandpa spending time with Jayne and Norah when we’re in Pittsburgh, but it’s not home.
We may move somewhere else eventually, but the Wind River Valley, Fremont County, and the entire Cowboy State seem to bind me with unbreakable bonds.