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How To Use This Site


This blog was updated on a daily basis for about two years, with those daily entries ceasing on December 31, 2013. The blog is still active, however, and we hope that people stopping in, who find something lacking, will add to the daily entries.

The blog still receives new posts as well, but now it receives them on items of Wyoming history. That has always been a feature of the blog, but Wyoming's history is rich and there are many items that are not fully covered here, if covered at all. Over time, we hope to remedy that.

You can obtain an entire month's listings by hitting on the appropriate month below, or an individual day by hitting on that calendar date.

We hope you enjoy this site.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26

1865  Companies A, C, F, and G of the 6th West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry arrived at Platte Bridge Station, Wyoming.  They were certainly very far from home.  Attribution:  On This Day.

1880  The Cheyenne Club incorporated.

The Cheyenne Club was a legendary early Cheyenne institution, with many significant Wyoming figures visiting the club, depicted here in as the second building from the right in the row of significant Cheyenne buildings.  It was ornately furnished and courtly conduct was expected within it.  By some accounts, plans for the Johnson County War were developed there, although that is not necessarily undisputed.

1889  Governor F. E. Warren addressed citizens in Lander on the topics of the constitution and citizenship.   Attribution:  Wyoming State Historical Society.

1942  The Torrington Post Office robbed. Attribution:  Wyoming State Historical Society.

1956  USS Crook County decommissioned.

1976   Yellowstone National Park was designated an International Biosphere Reserve.  Attribution:  On This Day.

1909  Frederic Remington died in Connecticut at age 48.

2010  It was reported that Wyoming mystery writer C. J. Box donated his papers to the University of Wyoming.

Charles James Box is fairly unusual for a widely popular "Wyoming" writer, in that he is actually from Wyoming, which most nationally read "Wyoming" authors have not been in recent years.  Box was born in 1967 and lives outside of Cheyenne.  He's the author over a dozen novels, most of which are in a series featuring a fictional Wyoming Game Warden, Joe Pickett, as the protagonist.  While I haven't read any of the novels, the choice of a Game Warden as the protagonist is an insight that would perhaps be unique to a Wyoming author.  Box worked a variety of jobs, including that of cowboy, correspondent, and columnist, before his novels allowed him to be a full time writer.

In contrast, the very widely popular "Wyoming" author Craig Johnson, who is also typically mentioned in that fashion, "Wyoming author", was actually born in Huntington, West Virginia and lived in a wide variety of places.  He's lived, however, in Ucross for the past 25 years, so he's been located in Wyoming for at least half of his life, however, and worked some iconic Western jobs in his youth, I believe.  Ironically, Johnson's series of novels based on the experiences of a fictional sheriff in a county loosely based on Johnson and Sheridan Counties, are more widely popular than Box's novels, which are written by an actual native Wyomingite.  Johnson's novels have recently been made into a television series which is popular with Wyomingites and one can even now observe election bumper stickers for the fictional sheriff of the fictional town.  According to some who have read them (which I have not) at least a few place names in the books are real.  One such place is the Busy  Bee cafe in Buffalo.

For a period of time Annie Proulx was cited as being a "Wyoming author", which is far from correct for the Norwich Connecticut born author of "The Shipping News", amongst other novels.  She has had a residence in Wyoming since 1994, however.  At one time she was indicating that she was going to relocate to New Mexico, although I do not know if she did, and she lives part of the year in Newfoundland.  Proulx made some comments noting that residents of Wyoming near her residence in Wyoming lacked in some degree of friendliness, and her novel "Brokeback Mountain" was not well received in Wyoming.  Proulx is perhaps unique in that early in her career she was frequently cited as being a "New England author" and then later as a "Wyoming author".

Another "Wyoming author", Alexandra Fuller, is actually a Zimbabwean ex-patriot, which her most significant work, "Don't Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight", would make plain, if her thick English like accent did not.  Fuller is the author of a book attempting to reflect the true story of a young man who died in the oilfield due to a tragic accident, but at least in my view, interviews of her tend to very much reflect an outisders view of her adopted state.  Fuller doesn't claim to be a Wyoming native by any means, but at least in the one book attempts to present insights on her adopted state. Here too, I haven't read the book.

Independent writer and author of a book generally critical of Wyoming's politics and economy ("Pushed Off The Mountain, Sold Down The River), Sam Western, likewise lives in Wyoming, but is not, I believe, from here.  Western is frequently quoted within Wyoming, but the author built his career as a magazine writer for a variety of magazines, including Sports Illustrated and The London Economist.  His book on Wyoming's economy brought him to the attention of Wyomingites, where he's remained, and is still frequently debated.  At least one insightful criticism of the book noted that the main point of the book seemed to be that Wyoming wasn't like every other US state in terms of its economy, which would be true, but which would raise more questions than it would answer.  I also haven't read this book.

This even extends to newspaper columnists, to a degree, although its easier to find Wyoming authors in the newspapers.  An example of the ex-patriot columnist, however, would be provided by the Casper Star Tribune's Mary Billiter, who is a relocated Californian.  Her columns (which I find to be repetitious and maudlin) have brought her enough attention that she was put on a board of some type by Governor Mead recently, although I don't recall the details.  She is also the author of a novel, although I know none of the details about it.  In spite of my criticism of her I'd note that she does not claim to be a Wyoming author.

Coming closer to home, author Linda Hasselstrom is sometimes noted as being a resident of the state, which she is, but she doesn't claim to be a Wyoming author. She's a South Dakotan who writes on ranch topics from a woman's prospective, which reflects her background.  I probably ought not to note her in this list, but her status is kind of interesting in that her youth and early adult years associated with ranching would be quite familiar to Wyomingites, and she has had long residence here, but she's mostly noted as being in another genre, which is "women ranching authors".

Even such legendary (at least at one time) figures such as Peggy Simpson Curry, who occupied the position of Wyoming's Poet Laureate, are not actually Wyomingites by birth.   Curry was born in Scotland, but she grew up in North Park Colorado, where her father worked for a ranch.  She did live, however, in Casper for many years, and on Casper Mountain as well.  As a slight aside, I recall Curry reciting poetry at Garfield Elementary School in Casper when I was a child, where she was introduced as the state Poet Laureate. She scared me to death, as she had a sort of odd high pitched matronly voice and recited her poetry very loudly.  From a child's prospective, that didn't work well.  Curry was also celebrated in Walden Colorado, where she grew up, and is noted as a Western author, which reflects her overall life.

A more recent Poet Laureate, Charles Levendosky was born in the Bronx and moved to the state to work for the Casper Star Tribune when he was in his 30s.  Governor Sullivan, also from Casper, made the appointment and Levendosky was well known in Wyoming academic circles at the time.  He was a pretty powerful columnist for the Star Tribune at a time in which they had some very respected columnists, a status which, in my view, they no longer occupy as strongly.  In the same era the Tribune had a well respected local physician, Dr. Joseph Murphy, who doubled as a columnist. Dr. Murphy was indeed not only from Wyoming, but from Casper.

The point of all of this, if there is one, is not to suggest that only Wyomingites can write about Wyoming.  But, rather, to point out an odd phenomenon regarding written works and the American West in general, and more particularly Wyoming.  It's been long the case that many widely read authors on Western topics are either arrivals to the region, or emigrants from it who no longer reside there.  Mari Sandoz, for example, was a Nebraska native, but left the state and then wrote about it.  Wila Cather is likewise associated with Nebraska, but spent her adult years outside of the state.   Aldo Leopold grew famous with "A Sand Country Almanac", which remains a classic, but Leopold was from the Midwest, not New Mexico. Wyoming has produced one notable fiction writer in recent years, C. J. Box, but oddly he's the least widely read of authors sometimes cites as being "Wyoming authors", with most of the other individuals who are referred to in that fashion having ties to other regions.

What does this mean, if anything?  Well, it might not mean anything at all.  American society is highly mobile, far higher than most others.  We'd expect a German author, for example, to have been born and raised in Germany, or an Irish author to have been born and raised in Ireland.  But Americans are nomadic.  For that reason, perhaps, we shouldn't really be surprised by this phenomenon.  

It might also mean something a bit deeper.  Perhaps those who come from the outside are particularly attuned to the nuances of anyone culture.  That is, perhaps, things that are really unique to many people are not to people living an experience.  It's often been noted, for example, that one of the best (supposedly) anti-war books is The Red Badge of Courage, even though the author had not experienced war at the time he wrote.  Maybe a really experienced person can no longer note what's unique about his experience, although plenty of books in that same arena, such as Leckie's "A Helmet For My Pillow" or even Maldin's "Up Front" would suggest otherwise.  Having said that, I think I've come to that conclusion with historical novels, one of which I've been trying to write.  After really studying it, I'm fairly certain that many of the routine things a person would experience in any one era of history are novel to people in later eras.  It's hard for the writers to note those, however, because unless they've experienced them in a non routine fashion, they won't even know about them.  That's what caused me to create my Lex Anteinternet blog, in an effort to learn and explore those details.

However, if there's an element of truth in that, it certainly isn't universal.  Texas has produced a large number of writers over the decades that had a deep understanding of that state, or the West in general.  J. Frank Dobie, for example, was a Texan and his work "The Voice of the Coyote" remains an absolute classic.  Larry McMurtry, perhaps best known for his novel "Lonseome Dove", wrote what may bet he most insightful and accurate novel of modern ranch life ever written, "Horseman, Pass By" (the basis for the movie "Hud").  University of Nebraska professor and Nebraskan author Roger Welsch has written a series of brillian entertaining books on Nebraska themes.  So clearly a local observant writer can indeed write insightful works of great merit.

I guess, in the end, that's the point of this long entry.  Not to criticize outside authors, resident or note, who have written on the state, but rather to point out there are not doubt some great authors from here, many probably slaving away, who, hopefully, will have their works see the light of day, or at least the black of print.


4 comments:

  1. I failed to note it, but the Cheyenne Club was also the comedic focus of a movie starring Jimmy Stewart, The Cheyenne Social Club. The film only leans on the name, not the actual nature of the club.

    The film sort of fits into a genre of film that was once common, but now is entirely gone, the light comedic Western. These seem to have been a feature of the late 1950s and early 1960s. A great example of the same is The Rounders, starring Glenn Ford, Henry Fonda, and Chill Wills. Anyone whose been around modern ranching will recognize the characters in The Rounders.

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  2. I'd recommend Jamie Forbes's novel Unbroken: http://amzn.to/S3vH5d She grew up near Laramie.

    Also Mark Spragg (An Unfinished Life and others http://amzn.to/RpoVrW) who grew up near Cody.

    My own stories, in the collection Western Electric (http://bitly.com/TKB6E2), often use incidents from the history of Wyoming as a jumping-off point. I grew up in Laramie.

    Enjoy your blog very much.

    Don Zancanella

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  3. By odd coincidence, An Unfinished Life, the film was on television this morning. I'd forgotten that I'd seen it before. Sad film in some ways.

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