The First on a Crowded Trail

    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.

    The very human tendency, especially among the young, to think you are the only one to ever have a unique thought or experience is common. It’s tempting to believe you are the first to do something, to walk a ridge, slide down an embankment to a stream or simply to sit on a hillside and watch the clouds come across the valley on a warm summer afternoon.

    As often as we slip into this line of consciousness, we’re often jerked back to reality, sometimes by the simplest of things. This bits of reality tell us no, we are not the first.


    The series I’ve been researching and writing on country stores, and iconic businesses that no longer exist in our fair county have been the culmination of a long career.

    I knew of some of these as a kid and heard of many more from older family members and friends.

    Thankfully there are still people with vivid memories who recall eating a “Sagebrush Ham” sandwich prepared by Betty Evanson at the “Bright Spot” in Hiland, or who remember buying clothes from the Hays Store on Main Street in Riverton.

    My friend Bill Sedlacek has been a welcome critic, reviewer, and source of a lot of information from the generation that precedes mine. It’s been a pleasure to spot Bill in the stands at games in Ethete, Pavillion, Shoshoni, or Riverton and grab the seat next to him after I shoot a few photographs of the boys and girls playing basketball below.


    Bill and I have always talked about sports, whether at the baseball diamond, the basketball court, or the football field over the last couple of decades. This new genre of businesses, personalities, and trends offers an even wider scope of conversation.

    Many other people have provided unique information and stories that have never been told and will never be told if someone (me at the present time) doesn’t take the time to interview them, gather a few old photographs, and write their stories.

    It is an exhilarating process.


    Whether I’m digging into a story about Hells Half Acre, the Casper Army Air Force Base, the wool barns at Arminto, or one of my favorites, the Basketeria in Pavillion, a few key names always seem to be associated with each of them or are floating nearby, just outside the focus of my research.

    I’ll toss a few names out and see if you recognize them. J.B. Oakie, Jacob Delfelder, Charles King, and Worden P. Noble spring back to life when you start digging through the archives at the Riverton Museum or open the file cabinet at the Pioneer Museum in Lander. Interspersed with the names of these businessmen is that of the Great Chief of the Shoshones, Washakie.

    Chief Washakie was deeply involved in many of these early enterprises.


    These men were as influential in our little corner of paradise as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Heinz, George Westinghouse, and Andrew Mellon were during the same era in Pittsburgh.

    Oakie is famous for the mansion he built at Lost Cabin, in anticipation of the arrival of the Burlington Northern railroad in the early days of the 20th century. The BN came through a few miles away in Lysite, and being the businessman he was, he just moved his store to match the rails. But there was much more that he brought to close and distant communities.

    Charles King was “the man” in Shoshoni in the early days. If you’re old enough to remember a milkshake on a 100+ degree July afternoon at the Yellowstone Drug, you were in one of King’s earliest buildings.

    Hotels that remain with us are associated with these men as well. The Noble in Lander, the building that is now the location of the National Outdoor Leadership School on Main Street was named after the Noble family. Worden Noble came to Atlantic City in search of gold in 1868 but found gold and silver in the freight business. Before he was finished he owned tens of thousands of head of sheep and cattle on land stretching from the top of South Pass to Ten Sleep and from Ft. Washakie to Muddy Gap.

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the sections of land he once controlled, and as a young man fancied myself the first person to ever walk those sagebrush hills, and mountain valleys only to realize years later that there were once superhighways on the road to what would become Fremont County.

    Jacob Delfelder is a fading memory for generations of school children and later 4H Club members who took lessons or attended meetings in the Delfelder School before it became a private residence.

    Delfelder came to Riverton in 1912, was quickly elected mayor and within seven years had organized investors and built a first-class four-story hotel with a restaurant, bar, and a coffee shop. He named it the Teton Hotel and we still call it that today.

    I found a brass rimfire shell casing one afternoon while fishing the Sweetwater near Split Rock. I thought it was a 50-70 Government rimfire cartridge at first but was longer than the cartridge book’s dimensions. The hammer strike on the base of the cartridge was off-center.

    It made me wonder if someone had taken a shot at a bison, an elk, or maybe a raiding party with this dull bit of brass. Your mind will do that when you can escape the trappings of civilization and just walk under the glorious blue summer skies.

    Another time I was crossing Badwater near Lysite in search of mule deer when I looked down in the shallow water and spotted the business end of a kerosene lamp. The glass was long gone, and so was the wick, but the brass knob turned with a little effort and the stays for the globe were mostly still in place.

    Fat chance I’d been the first man in either locale with that type of evidence.

    Mountain bison used to roam the Wind River Mountains but they’ve long since vanished. In 1980 as I trekked towards Lost Lake on Union Pass I spotted a weathered bison horn at the base of a gnarled pine. I put the horn on one of the uprights on my pack and carried it for three days of wilderness adventure before returning to civilization.

    It rests on a bookshelf in my overcrowded, messy office, but serves as a mental escape and a motivational tool all in one when I glance up at it.

    Over the decades, chippings, broken arrowheads, those bright blue beads that Native Americans traded for with coastal tribes long before the arrival of the White man, and scads of spent 50 caliber rounds from gunner training in the Gas Hills during World War II have all appeared at my feet.

    No, I was not the first to walk these trails, and hopefully, I won’t be the last. It’s just a blast to be able to interview and record the stories of those a few feet ahead of me on the trail of life.


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