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    Wind

    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.

    One of the great aspects of growing up and living in Lander has always been the lack of wind. Of course, that is a general statement. This is Wyoming after all, and wind is a serious consideration when planning any outdoor activity anywhere in the state.

    But growing up on the mean streets of Lander, back in the 60’s and 70’s, we hardly gave the wind a second thought…just because it seemed back then there wasn’t much. I remember traveling to Encampment, Wyoming, where my family on both sides were rooted, and bragging about the lack of wind in Lander, that after a snow storm, the snow laid on the fences for days, where it was more likely to melt than to be blown away. 

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    Encampment has no shortage of wind according to my parents and older siblings. We moved to Fremont County in 1962 just before my fourth birthday. I remember our clothes washer was just an open tub over which a hand crank ringer was situated. I can’t remember if the tub agitated or not. I’m guessing it did, but I wasn’t the family member using it. I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a dryer.

    My mother commented several times as I grew older about the lack of wind in the Lander valley. She would dry clothes using what would be considered an antiquated contraption today: a clothes line. More than once, I heard her complain that when the clothes were dry in Lander, they seemed as stiff as cardboard. In great contrast, when she used the same method down in southern Carbon County, the wind would flap the clothes around, which apparently caused them to become softer, a natural fabric softener so to speak.

    As a side note, I hated that washer, the stuff of bad dreams for me. As a young boy of about 5 or 6, I plunged into the empty washer headfirst during a game of hide and seek with some visiting relatives of about my age and became stuck. As I was struggling to extricate myself, but becoming more stuck from the effort, all I could think about was how could I live the rest of my life in my family’s clothes washer. 

    My father was soon notified of my predicament, and in only a few seconds I found myself free of the washer, but shaken. I’ve never enjoyed tight places since, and I can’t understand folks who think mucking around in caves is in any way remotely satisfying.

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    One weekend in early March in the early 1970’s, my aunt and uncle from Encampment, Pete and Jeanette Romis, came to stay with us, as their son, Bill, several years my senior, was playing basketball in the state tournament. For reasons I cannot recall, the state basketball tournament was held in Lander for a year or two during that era.

    My older brother Bob and I had to give up our bedroom in the basement of our house for a couple of nights on Smith Court, so that our guests had a place to sleep. At night, we were placed out in our small camper trailer in the back yard with a couple of blankets and a couple of old pillows. I was still at an age when I could sleep anywhere through anything. 

    During one of those nights, the wind came up to what we would later be informed to be between 80 and 100 miles per hour. I’m sure that little camper, even though it was protected somewhat by our house, was being shaken about as one would expect with winds of that magnitude. 

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    My brother and I slept on. 

    Not long after it began, both my mother and father came out of the house, crossed the yard to wake us up and insisted that we come back inside the house and sleep on the living room floor. 

    In the morning, when the wind was completely calm, the trailer was still standing in the same spot as always. Not so lucky was a house on Fremont Street, just across from the end of 9th Street. The wind had removed it from its foundation, picked it up, and rotated it approximately 90 degrees and set it back down again.

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    That morning, my Aunt Jeanette sat at our kitchen table drinking coffee and had this to say to anyone within earshot, “After that wind last night, anyone who lives in this house better not try to tell me again how the wind never blows in Lander, because I’d just have to call you a liar.”

    In the early 1990’s, when my wife, young daughter, and I lived in Winnemucca, Nevada we experienced a phenomenon unlike anything I’d ever seen in Wyoming. We lived in a residential area about five miles south of town. Years before, the original private landowner had drilled a couple of water wells to about a depth of 300 feet to irrigate the whole area as alfalfa fields. 

    Being in the Great Divide Basin, all streams eventually sink into the earth and are no more, so most irrigation water comes from the aquifer. 

    After converting about half of his acreage to fields, the landowner decided that maybe more profit could be made from subdividing and selling the land as home sites, but to the west of the residential area and our home, the land was still being used for the growing of alfalfa. 

    Occasionally the fields were plowed, leaving bare ground to the elements. One late spring afternoon, during a completely cloudless day, the wind came up. Soon, the sun was blocked out by a huge cloud of dust picked up from a plowed field by an increasing wind to the west of our house. The wind carried the dust cloud over our neighborhood, where it collected in every nook and cranny, small and large, mostly outside, but some made its way inside our house, as well.

    The event reminded me, in miniscule form, what some Americans experienced during the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. During our five years in Nevada, other dust storms came up, but none as large as this one.

    This spring seems to be a particularly gusty season here in Wyoming. Before Memorial Day, when my wife and I would leave the house on one of our daily walks, we would often be wearing as many as three layers to maintain a pleasant body temperature. Walking past the high school in the afternoon during track practice, I often marveled at the resiliency of our teenage athletes to somehow become impervious to the sometimes brutal whims of our spring weather, which can include anything, but the wind is always present. That toughness is impressive.

    It should be no surprise that Wyoming has no monopoly on wind. My wife and I recently spent a few days on the road, traveling back and forth to Madison, Wisconsin to visit our older daughter and son-in-law. On the way back, we stopped briefly in Cheyenne to visit our younger daughter and her husband. The circular route included Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and then Wyoming again.

    During our drive through each state, the wind was always an annoying presence, particularly through Nebraska. We stopped at Cabelas in Sidney because we hadn’t for over twenty years, and the walk from the car to the entrance presented a slight challenge, even for two people used to the wind. 

    The store has changed a lot in the past two decades. I doubt we’ll be back.

    Now that the summer solstice is approaching, the temperatures are rising and the river is full, but the wind doesn’t seem to be changing; and I guess we shouldn’t expect it to. We might miss it if it did.

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