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1809 - The arrival of God`s Dog was huge for Indians

The two biggest effects on American Indian tribes caused by white Americans were disease epidemics and the use of the horse.

         The disease issue is so big it will be the topic of a future column. But the horse, oh my, how our Native American friends’ ancestors took to the horse!

         Called God’s Dog, it changed everything.

         Between the Medicine Wheel in the Big Horn Mountains and the Red Ochre potential world heritage site at Sunrise, Wyoming, Indian peoples roamed Wyoming for 13,000 years.

         And they did it on foot.  Their beasts of burden were dogs, pulling travois, which could slowly carry small loads. They traveled thousands of miles, following buffalo herds and moving to and from hunting grounds.

         Some amazing recent discoveries show that surprisingly, early Indian tribes in Wyoming spent a lot of time in the summer and fall at high altitudes, sometimes as high as 10,000 feet.

         But I digress. Let’s talk about horses.

         Horses first appeared in North America in 1540 when Spaniards Cortez, Coronado and DeSoto used them in present-day Florida and Mexico.  As the Conquistadors moved northward, the Plains Indian tribes, including the Shoshone and Arapaho of Wyoming, discovered this amazing creature and figured out its potential for their needs. First sightings of a Plains Indian tribe with horses were in 1745 in Kansas.

         The horse immediately became their mode of transportation, their beast of burden, and their animal of choice. Owning horses became the biggest symbol of individual wealth for Indians and for the tribes, themselves.

         I have been doing some research of early Indian times in Wyoming and there are some amazing statistics.

         Back in December, we visited Torrington with our tour guide Brian Heinz. We visited a location south of that town where a major meeting of Indian tribes was held near Horse Creek.  The site was moved from the historic Fort Laramie site for a logical reason that seems mind-boggling today: too many horses.

         Some context is needed here.  Many tribes like the Arapahos were hunter-gatherers and were nomadic.  They literally did not have a permanent defined home.  Everything they owned moved with them constantly.

         As much as they loved horses, moving horses became a big deal.

         The famous Fort Laramie treaty of 1851 between the U. S. government and the Arapaho, Shoshone, Cheyenne, Gros Ventre, Cheyenne, Crow, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribal nations, had to be moved from Fort Laramie to an area 30 miles south at Horse Creek.

         Just getting the tribes together was a herculean feat by Indian agents. Many tribes were traditional enemies. And one of their primary activities was stealing horses from each other. Without fences, keeping track of horses was a big deal.

         The numbers describing that 1851 council are huge. The U. S. government budgeted $100,000.  The council involved 1,500 Indian lodges and, astonishingly, included 45,000 horses. Seven years later in 1858, a census by a government agent listed 2,400 members of the Arapaho Tribe and listed among their possessions some 15,000 horses.

         The 1851 treaty was designed to compensate Indian tribes for the loss of some of their hunting grounds in exchange for allowing settlers to travel the Oregon Trail through their territory. 

Over the next 17 years, some 400,000 people would travel the various Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails.  This push to the Pacific Ocean was called “manifest destiny,” which described our nation’s desire to extend itself from sea to sea.  

         The great trek westward not only negatively affected the tribes’ ability to hunt buffalo, but also in one case, actually was one of the reasons there is now a Northern Arapaho Tribe in Wyoming and a Southern Arapaho Tribe in Oklahoma.

         The trails cut right smack through the historical hunting and camping grounds of the Arapaho tribe. As a result some preferred being south of the trail and some north of the trail, hence the historic split.

         The U. S. Senate ratified the 1851 treaty but reduced compensation to the tribes from 50 years to 10 years.  Some tribes did not receive anything at all.

         Through it all were the ubiquitous horses.  The Indians became expert horsemen and astute breeders. Rarely in history has such an effect been caused by the introduction of a new animal in the mix.

Some facts from Cheyenne’s Virginia Cole Trenholm’s excellent book, The Arapahoes, were used in compiling this column.

         Fort Laramie will be holding a 150th anniversary celebration in April celebrating another big treaty signed there, the treaty of 1868.



1808 - Funny stories about Wyoming high school days

Nicknames and mascots for schools in Evanston, Jackson, Gillette, Greybull and other places in the state provided some funny stories as a result of a recent column about school names.

         Lex Cornia says that Red Devils is an old railroad term for sparks that would fly out of the engine to the coal car. Thus, the sports teams in the long-time railroad town, Evanston, go by that nickname.

         Gillette goes by the name Camels and one local legend says that the petrified bones of a camel were found during the excavation of a building back in 1938, which helped give them their high school mascot.

         Most folks assume it is Camel because you pronounce their county name of Campbell as “camel,” occasionally.

         Tom Lubnau shares this story about playing for the Camels back in the day:

“I played on the second worse football team in Gillette history.   One game, against one of the big schools from Casper, the line coach came into the halftime locker room.   He gave us a pep talk to go out and rally so we would not continue to get killed on the football field.

         He said: “You are better than this.   You are tough.   You can compete.   You ARE Camels!  Go out there and [pregnant pause] spit on them!  It was at that point I knew the joy of having a camel as a mascot.”

         A fellow named Wesley Kempton wrote in a 2014 blog that the new high school in Gillette should use Frackers as their mascot. 

         So what does a borough of New York City have to do with Jackson Hole?

         Centuries ago, a part of the future New York City was settled by Dutch folks named Bronck. Ultimately that place became known as the Bronx.

         When Brad Mead was playing for the Jackson Broncs, they ordered new uniforms from some outfit back east. The Jackson team ended up playing the entire season as the Jackson Bronx.

         Julia Stuble writes: "I always felt out of place as a Green River Wolf. Today, we think of wolves as mountain animals, though the pioneers trekking across Wyoming`s plains in the 19th century identified them as scavengers of those unfortunate folks who didn`t survive the perils of wagon train or handcart travel.

“I doubt the school district was making a political commentary about wolf re-introduction or re-placing the wolf as a predator of our sage hills. Anyway, I always thought the Green River mascot should be the Engineers, or the Calciners (after the equipment that processes trona), or maybe the Brakemen and Brakewomen. Mascots should strive for gender neutrality.

 “To be kind, today it would be fitting to call the Rock Springs players ‘Roustabouts’ after that essential, doughty, and resourceful oil and gas field contractor. I really wanted to be a Calciner—it would have made my dad proud." 

The Greybull Junior High team was known as the Dinosaurs. From a former Greybull Dinosaurs cheerleader Diana Schutte Dowling: “Rumor was they changed our mascot name when none of us dinosaurs could any longer spell it - long after my time. Don`t remember what they changed it to, but come to think of it the Junior High is no more either - now that we have middle schools. The students of which will never be able to read cursive!

“Oh my gosh.  After 55 years the Junior High Fight Cheer going through my head, at least the first couple of lines:

         The Dinosaurs are hard to beat; they`re just a 100 per from head to feet!

Jim Hicks reported the following: “Some 50 years ago Buffalo and Gillette were about the same size and had a good ongoing rivalry. The late Duane Waggoner was quick on his feet and managed to steal the ball from opposing players with some degree of regularity.  In one game he made two steals but got turned around and drove for perfect lay-ups.

“Problem was that both times he scored at the wrong end of the court, hence the nick-name Wrong Way Waggoner stuck for quite a while.”

Retired UW professor Ken Smith is a former Green River publisher and writes about a conversation he had with fellow prof Eric Wiltsie while driving through Rock Springs around the year 2000: “Eric and I had this discussion a number of years ago when driving through Rock Springs. We questioned why Rock Springs would call themselves the Tigers, not exactly local beasts. Eric thought they should be called the Doublewides.”

1807 - Around Wyoming plus Leslie`s long reach

Here is a follow-up to some previous columns concerning interesting happenings around the state:


         REUNIONS ARE BIG. Today all across Wyoming energetic local leaders are planning one of the year’s biggest events in their town – the annual class reunion for the schools.

         As time passes, some of the more progressive towns are holding all-class reunions where a multitude of classes can get together.

         Debbie Hammons, formerly of Worland, feels this is a wonderful opportunity for local chambers of commerce and economic development groups to sell and re-sell their towns to former residents. She says:

         “Every Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development office in Wyoming should see our aging American population as an economic opportunity. 

“Hosting a fantastic Class Reunion shows former residents what they are missing with small town living — many towns in other states have figured this out. Former residents who return to class reunions are seeking good memories, and they just might be interested in relocating to easier, cheaper, more meaningful and more fun living. Live your golden years in Wyoming and spend your gold here!  

“Towns like Evanston, Worland, Powell, Sheridan, Lander, Riverton, Rawlins and other similar places are the perfect towns to do it — walkable old parts of town, charming shops already there, close to easy hiking and fishing, good restaurants and a good proximity to an airport. Plus these towns have an interesting mix of people and activities!”


         WHAT A SKY! What a year for sky-watchers in Wyoming!  Last August we were the best place in America to watch the Solar Eclipse.  And five months later on Jan. 31, we had the best seat in the house to watch a Lunar Eclipse, which featured a Super Moon, a Blue Moon and a Blood Moon. Whew!

         The Super Moon refers to when the moon is closest to the earth and is 16 percent brighter than normal.  The Blue Moon means the second full moon during a month.  A Blood Moon refers to how the moon turns red during the period of totality.

         The crisp winter weather was perfect in the Lander area with winds calm just eight hours after massive winds of 86 mph blew through town. 

         And then there was the launch of the huge Falcon Heavy SpaceX rocket Feb. 6.  The rocket’s secondary burn in orbit was visible from locations in Wyoming’s clear winter sky.

         Literally the best example of cross promotion in history occurred when SpaceX owner Elon Musk launched one of his Tesla sports cars into orbit on top of the giant rocket.


BREADBOARD MILESTONE. Back in December, folks in Buffalo were celebrating that Greg Born opened his sandwich shop 35-years ago. Local columnist Sagebrush Sven (who gets help from Jim Hicks every so often) wrote: 

“He was bragging about that last week and said that if laid all the sandwiches he has served in those 35 years ‘end-to-end’ they would reach all the way to Cheyenne from Buffalo. 

“One of his customers asked if that was in ‘road miles or as the crow flies.’ Greg had no more explained it was road miles than another customer said:  ‘And he did all that with only one roll of bologna.’

“Got to hand it to Greg, he can handle a little teasing as well as he can dish it out. Fact of the matter is we do like the creations at the Bread Board, and the entertainment that goes with each order if he’s behind the counter.”

The Born family has four Bread Board locations around the state, also in Lander, Cody and Riverton.

One of the original ones is in Lander where Bob Born is the boss. For years, we have purchased his 12-foot versions for parties and family gatherings.


LESLIE BLYTHE.  Back on Jan. 5, we reported on the death from the flu from our great friend, who was just 58.

My brother Tom in Columbia, SC told me that he saw her mentioned on NBC TV nightly news on Feb. 5.  Seems that one of Leslie’s great friends was Karen Sullivan, who writes a health column in the Butte, MT newspaper. She mentioned the loss of Leslie in her column, which was picked up by the NBC national network news.

Leslie was always just about the best person on the planet at generating publicity and I found it both typical and ironic that she even was garnering such press time even after her death.

It is still stunning to think that she is gone.  Godspeed.

1806 - School mascot names tell stories about towns

You would think that high school mascot names would not be that big a deal.  But they are.

         In towns big and small, school names help identify a town.

         Especially in smaller towns, it is powerful stuff.

         It has always frustrated me that high schools in my hometown in Iowa and here in Lander have used Tigers as their mascots.  Now a tiger is ferocious, brave and tough animal, but what the heck does that animal mean to towns in Wyoming mountains or back in the cornfields of Iowa?

         Riverton athletes are the Wolverines, which at least is a local Wyoming animal.

         Wyoming Indian High School uses Chiefs, which is perfect. Dubois Rams accurately describe that town’s poster animal.

         In Newcastle, they go nuts over their Dogies, which works well for folks along the Texas trail where millions of cows (and get along, little dogie) were trailed back in the day. Lingle goes a little further with the Doggers.

         Torrington sits on the Oregon Trail, hence the Trailblazers. Laramie dominates the high plains, hence the Plainsmen.

         Rawlins players are called the Outlaws, which has nothing to do with its location as site of the State Prison.  By definition, an “outlaw” is an old western term for an ornery horse.  Their logo is a nasty bronc. Thanks Rob Black for this information

         Two out-of-state mascot names, which I always loved, are the Belfry Bats in Montana and the Sturgis, South Dakota Scoopers. Not sure what they scooped? Another South Dakota high school is Mitchell where the Kernels play, based on the famed Corn Palace there.

         Bruce Pozzi up in Anchorage referred me to the Aniak Halfbreeds.  Not exactly political correct but yes, that is their nickname.

         On a college level, the UW Cowboys mascot name is perfect.

My local college growing up was the Upper Iowa University Peacocks. Huh?

         Love the idea of colleges taking their state’s historical mottos like Oklahoma Sooners, Indiana’s Hoosiers, Iowa’s Hawkeyes and Ohio State’s Buckeyes.

         But back to Wyoming.

         Here in Lander, I always thought we should be the Mountaineers or the Pathfinders. When your hometown school has been the Tigers or the Lions or the Panthers for decades, such things are slow to change, if ever.

         Wind River Cougars and Pinedale Wranglers are good historical names as are the Kemmerer Rangers.  Or the Big Piney Punchers, the Greybull Buffaloes and the Buffalo Bison. I like the Worland Warriors name because they are in a county named after Chief Washakie.

         Veteran Wyoming sports writer Patrick Schmiedt wrote a blog back in 2011 where he cussed and discussed various school names.

         His friends thought the Gillette Camels, in Campbell County, to be the worst nickname in the state, but it rolls nicely off the tongue.  Not sure where the Evanston Devils came from.

         Once upon a time, the biggest mine in Wyoming was at the little town of Sunrise, hence the Guernsey-Sunrise Vikings, which came from the Miners from Sunrise and the Longhorns from Guernsey. This somehow turns out to be Vikings who are those folks with big horns sticking out of their caps. Okay?  I guess it works for them so that’s good.

         Players of the new Thunder Basin High School in Gillette call themselves the Bolts, I assume because that area generates one heckuva lot of electricity for Wyoming and the rest of the country. It must have been an interesting process coming up with a mascot for an entirely new school. I like (Thunder) Bolts.

         Schmiedt wrote about an interesting situation where the new Tongue River school combined the Dayton Elks and the Ranchester Rustlers. He hated to see them give up their wonderful mascot names to adopt The Eagles, which is already used in 1,200 high schools across the country. It is the most common mascot name. He thought Tongue River players should call themselves the Elk Rustlers!

         His favorite mascot is at little Eden-Farson, which are the Pronghorns.  He said that school is the only high school in the country that uses that nickname.  He thought the Carpenter Coyotes were bold to pick a mascot for which there is a bounty for folks who can find them and shoot them and collect a few bucks along the way.

         Several friends sent me hilarious experiences they endured concerning their local schools’ mascots. I would like to invite readers to please email me your funniest stories. Thanks in advance. I will publish a future column featuring all these funny stories.