Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cheyenne, Wyoming

Sat. July 13th - Tue. July 16th
View along the way overlooking Goose Creek Valley in the Powder River Basin with views in the distance of Sheridan and the Bighorn Mountains.  Bozeman Trail was established through here in 1863 with three army forts established in 1866, which led to "Red Cloud's War" and three major battles lasting until 1868.  The tribes won and the forts were abandoned.  By 1875 with the discovery of gold in the Black Hills, the tribes were once again told to move.  General George Crook marched north to find the refusing Indians, who fought him to a standstill at the Battle of the Rosebud.  A week later Custer was defeated at the Little Bighorn.  But in the end they lost their open hunting grounds anyway.  In 1800 there were over 30 million bison on the Plains.  By 1890 there were just a few hundred left.  Now bison are in many parks and ranches and there are over 50,000 in the U.S.  The pronghorn is the most commonly seen big game in Wyoming and the fastest animal in North America, running up to 60 mph.  There are 750,000 of them in the U.S.  400,000 of them are in Wyoming.  Nearly 150,000 people hunt and fish each year in Wyoming.  20,612 elk were bagged in 1996, bringing in an average of $1,600 each to the state.  Fishing employed 4,670 people and brought in over $170 million that same year.  Photographers and wildlife watchers paid over $300 million to Wyoming businesses that year.  In 2007 visitors spent $2.7 billion ($7.4 million a day) creating over 30,000 jobs and $108 million in state and local tax revenue.  A few movies that have been filmed in Wyoming are Any Which Way You Can with Clyde the orangutan, Dances With Wolves, Rocky IV, Django Unchained and Close Encounters of a Third Kind. 
Arriving in downtown Cheyenne, the focal point is the fully restored 1887 Cheyenne Depot Museum with railroad history, visitor center and restaurant.  The Depot Plaza out front is used for festivals and concerts.   There are about eight museums in town with five that are free, so we skipped this one.   Historic, narrated 90-minute trolley tours of the city start here.  Lincoln Highway runs right through downtown here.  It was the first Transcontinental Highway from New York to San Francisco and is celebrating it's 100th anniversary this year.  Parts of it became U.S. Hwy 30 and parts were later incorporated into I-80.  Parts of it were used in the Great Race from New York to Paris in 1908.  In 1998 farms and ranches in Wyoming averaged 3,761 acres, the largest in the nation, over 8 times the national average.  Less than 5% is farmed.  Alfalfa is the largest crop, also sugar beets, barley, wheat, corn and beans.
There are 19 of these trademark cowboy boot sculptures around town.  Three are at the Depot Plaza and one is a block west where they have a gunslinger shootout five nights a week and noon on Saturdays all summer.  This boot is in front of the free State History Museum and is painted with old license plate designs.  The toe is made with layered mini license plates to look like alligator skin.   Wyoming is the 7th largest oil producer in the nation and 4th in natural gas.  But did you know that in the mid 1800s mountain man, Jim Bridger, sold Wyoming oil mixed with flour as axle grease to travelers on emigrant trails?  450,000 pioneers passed through Wyoming's South Pass from 1835 to 1870.  An estimated 20,000 died along the way.
Just a block away is the 1897 State Capitol with unusual statues out front of an Indian Chief and a woman.  Chief Washakie was born in 1798 and died in 1900.  In 1851 he led a band of Shoshone to the Treaty of Laramie and took part in many treaty negotiations, the last in 1896 (98 yrs. old) transferring the hot springs at Thermopolis to the state of Wyoming.  He was a friend of Brigham Young and helped delay military action against the Mormons in 1857.  He is the only American Indian to have a military fort named after him and received a full military funeral.  The woman walked 200 miles to convince the 1869 territorial legislature to pass a bill granting Wyoming women full rights to vote, own property and run for elected office.  They were the first state to pass Women's Suffrage, way ahead of most other states and fifty years ahead of the nation, thus the name, The Equality State.   At the time there were 5,000 men in Wyoming and only 1,000 women.  A population of 60,000 was required to apply for statehood, so they wanted women to come and homestead and populate the state.  The legislature later tried to repeal it, but they were one vote short of overriding the governor's veto.  In 1890 some U.S. Congressmen wanted them to repeal women's suffrage before they could become a state.  The response was, "We will remain out of the Union for another 100 years, rather than come into it without our women."  12% of their homesteaders that year were single women and they became a state that year. 
About six blocks away, we did the free tour of the 1905 Governor's Mansion and Carriage House (cost $33,253).  Teddy Roosevelt spent some time here in 1910 and Eleanor and FDR in 1936.  Nixon visited when he was vice-president and Harry Truman gave a radio speech from the porch in 1948.  They were the first state to have a woman governor in 1924.  In Cheyenne's early days, it was known as the "Paris of the West", because of all the wealthy investors from England, Scotland and the eastern U.S. who came here and started huge cattle ranches and built elegant mansions.  By the 1880s they had electricity, water service, telephones, public transportation, police and fire protection.  The five story Plains Hotel was the first hotel constructed west of the Mississippi with phone lines to every room.  Due to cattle shipping and cattle barons, the city developed rapidly into the wealthiest per capita town in the U.S. earning it the title of "The Magic City on the Plains".  In the severe winter of 1886-87 the ranchers suffered catastrophic cattle losses and many just left their homes and ranches to the bank to pay off their debts.  But those who stayed looked for a way to help the town's economy and held the first Frontier Days Rodeo in 1887, now 117 years old. 
Next we went to the beautiful Lion's Park area on the west side of town between the interstate and the airport, across the road from the famous rodeo grounds and near the Warren Air Force Base that serves as a command center for U.S. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and also has a museum, if you have a military pass to get on the base. 
This beautiful park area includes the free Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, Sloans Lake with fishing pier, swimming beach, biking paths, tennis, volleyball, basketball, baseball, swimming pool, splash park, horseshoes, miniature golf, amphitheater, many playgrounds and picnic areas and a golf course just across the road. 
These are Peach Leaf Willows on the Tree Walk along the fishing pier.  There were lots of people fishing off this pier earlier in the day and a few people kayaking.   
A retired Union Pacific Engineer of this locomotive and his wife often walked the original tracks (built 1867-68) between 1965 and 1975, from Pine Bluffs on the eastern border of Wyoming to Evanston on the western border.  They collected 100s of western relics and in 1970 began welding them into sections of fence to surround their home in Laramie.  The fence was donated to the gardens by their three sons and surrounds the locomotive.  
This archway in the gardens was made out of horseshoes welded together.  If one over your doorway is supposed to be good luck, standing under this archway should be really good luck!  Let's hope so, anyway. 
Beautiful Hibiscus!  A quote I liked, "What happens to the earth, happens to the children of the earth."  Chief Seattle

This Angel's Trumpet Tree was in the hot house.  Teens have heard the plant can get you high and don't realize it's impossible to get high without being poisoned.  The effects of a single dose of tea made from it can occur within hours or take up to two weeks to manifest, causing paralysis, brain damage and/or heart damage.  Two each have died in Texas and Florida.  

Across the parking lot is the Paul Smith Children's Village with all kinds of learning stuff like a water wheel and windmill, sustainable gardening, art work, learning lab, etc.  Kids are allowed to wade with parental supervision. 

This dog house shows how you can insulate a home by growing herbs, flowers and such on the roof, like the old sod huts the pioneers had. 

Just across the road is the Old West Museum on the Cheyenne Frontier Days rodeo grounds.  Here we are letting the nice old man in the museum take our picture.   They claim to have one of the biggest carriage collections in the country.  Carriages were first imported from England and France.  Carriage making in the U.S. did not start until 1740.  By the late 1800s the U.S. was the world's leading producer.  The Studebaker plant in West Bend, Indiana covered 20 acres.  In 1875 they turned out a finished vehicle every seven minutes.  Horse-drawn vehicles peaked in 1905 when 8,000 builders produced 930,000.  Cheyenne had five carriage makers.
This is a U.S. Army Dougherty.  It was multi-functional and used as an ambulance, mail carrier and army transport.  It has unique seats that fold down to make into a bed.  General Custer's wife used one as her personal RV to follow the marches of her husband.  She said, "It was quite a complete house of itself." 
Sixteen Yellowstone touring coaches like this one, 9 tourist camping wagons and one cavalryman left Old Faithful Inn early on Aug. 24, 1908.  At 8:30 AM, after letting 8 coaches and the cavalryman pass, a lone gunman ordered the rest of the column to halt.  He then threatened to kill one of the passengers from the remaining 17 vehicles.  While the robber took only $2,094.20, the number of vehicles and people involved make this event one of the most successful robberies in modern times.  He was never caught.  In 1877 George and Emma Cowan were members of a group exploring America's new Yellowstone Park.  A large party of Indians was also moving through the park, closely pursued by the U.S. Army.  George was shot several times and Emma was kidnapped.  George lived to tell the story and Emma was later released unharmed.  Now we just have to beware of the bears. 
When we finished in the museum, we walked over to watch a little of the barrel racing competition at the rodeo arena.  This was Tuesday morning and the rodeo doesn't start until Friday night, but they have so many entrants, they have to start the qualifying rounds early.  One of the young women we watched had already earned $180,000 this summer and I think they said she was in fifth place so far!  One of the riders was from Napoleon, ND. where we always stop on our way through to stock up on the awesome breakfast sausage at the local meat market.  Cheyenne Frontier Days (The Daddy of 'Em All), started in 1897, is ten days long and is the world's largest outdoor rodeo and western celebration.  In 1899 the first Ladies Cowpony races were the earliest rodeo events for women, some of the first professional women athletes in the world.  In the beginning women rode broncos and bulls and participated in all the competitions.  In 1915 it was starting to look like it might be possible for a woman to win the championship, so the next year the rules changed to make their competitions separate from the men's.  After a woman was killed in the arena in 1929, they were banned from riding rough stock.  
These guys were just lazing about, waiting their chance to put on a show.   They have four parades during Frontier Days, a big name concert most nights, free entertainment stages daily, Wildhorse Gulch shopping alley, carnival rides and free Indian Village.   A favorite of mine, Chris LeDoux, was a concert headliner five times.  He moved here from Texas and went to high school here.  In 1974 he missed the bareback championship by one point.  In 1976 he won the PRCA World Championship Bareback Bronc title and his songs are mostly about his times on the rodeo circuit.   From here we went back downtown to the free Cowgirls Museum.  Women rode side-saddle as early as the 1300s to protect the virginity of potential royal brides and for the need to secure a male heir.  In the 1600s it was not considered ladylike to ride astride.  By the 1800s laws were enacted to force women to ride side-saddle. The Victorian attitude was still prevalent in 1905 when an L.A. newspaper said that women riding astride "....profane the grace of femininity, violate laws of good taste, dignity, elegance and poise."  Women weren't allowed to wear long pants?  My how times have changed!
This is what you call "Rodeoing in Style"!  There was a big slideout on the back side where the living quarters are and I'm sure they could haul at least four horses.  There were horse trailers and campers everywhere.  I can't imagine where they park all the cars when the fans show up to watch.  They claim to have 200,000 people over the ten days.  
I liked this poem.  I don't know how the pioneers managed to survive and build this country, but thank goodness they did.  Did you know that when there were separate outhouses for men and women, a crescent moon shape cut in the door was for women and a sun shape cut in the door was for men?  In the early 1800s top hats made from beaver fur were very popular.  Trappers known as mountain men traded their furs at the annual rendezvous for 15 years (11 of them in SW Wyoming).  Fortunately, the fashion changed to silk hats in the 1840s, as the beaver population was becoming depleted.  Anyway, the hat maker compressed the fine under fur of the beaver into a felt and dipped the felt in mercury to make it easier to work with.  Over exposure to the mercury resulted in nerve and brain damage, which led to the expression "mad as a hatter".   More coal is mined here than anywhere else in the U.S.  A volcanic eruption in Idaho 120 million years ago left a thick layer of ash across northern Wyoming.  Over time it turned into a clay called bentonite which is used in many things, including crayons, kitty litter, insulation, paint, medicines, to filter beer and even ice cream!  A lake covering 20,000 square miles in southwest Wyoming evaporated 46 million years ago and left 100 billion tons of a mineral called trona used by many industries.  Wyoming produces 90% of the world's supply.  It is used to produce soda ash which is used in baking soda, paper, glass, soap, detergent and many other things.  Miners remove it from a network of tunnels 1/4 mile below ground.  There is enough in the state to meet the world's current demand for 3,000 years. 
Heading for Nebraska on Wednesday.

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