Wyoming - Cheyenne

by Kimp 1. November 2014 11:49

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Wyoming Today

More than 50% of Wyoming is owned by the Federal and State Government. It is the home of several large National Grasslands, National Forests, and National and State Parks. Wyoming is about becoming one with nature and leaving most of civilization behind. 

My favorite part is that it is nice and inexpensive. Lodging, food, museums and entertainment are about as low as I have ever paid for any tourist area.

Year after year, Wyoming remains one the most tax-friendly states in the United States. No state tax, no estate tax upon death, no state gas or food tax, no real estate sales tax, low property tax and dynasty trusts. In Wyoming, you can shield your real estate from federal estate taxes for up to 1,000 years through a dynasty trust. You can establish a trust in Wyoming for the benefit of your family or other beneficiaries.

I have often thought of retiring in or near Cheyenne. It is peaceful, inexpensive, open and free, and excellent health care is only about 45 minutes away in Fort Collins Colorado. But, I also never know where I am headed until that day comes, so I could end up anywhere. If my health holds out, I may never fully retire, in which case, having a homestead and hanging my hat there might not be a bad idea.

The Francis E Warren Air Force Base is located about 3 miles (5km) west of Cheyenne. It's one of the only Air Force Bases that doesn't have a runway. This Air Force doesn't use planes, it uses missile's. When the inbound missile detection alarm sounds, they are the one's who are responsible for figuring out what to do.

Forever West

Wyoming's motto is forever west and it starts as soon as we cross the border. It's amazing that Denver Colorado and Cheyenne Wyoming are only about 100 miles (180 km) apart in distance, but are two worlds apart in every other detail.

In Wyoming, the 1/2 ton pickup is the prevalent means of mechanized transportation. You won't see many SUV's, because you can't put bails of hay for your horse in the back of an SUV. You won't see a lot of frills. This isn't a place where people spend a lot of time shining up or fussing with their pickup's, its more about getting out on the open range with their horse and enjoying nature. The pickup is merely a means of transporting oneself and our supplies from town to country. Solid and durable are the prime adjectives in Wyoming.

My History

Of all of the places I have been in the world. There is one that has long held a special place in my mind and heart. Whenever anyone asks me the most beautiful place I have ever been in the world, my answer, without hesitation, is always the same, "The Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, along the Susquehanna river".

Gertrude of Wyoming

The Scottish Poet, Thomas Campbell, was of the same opinion in 1809 when he wrote the poem, "Gertrude of Wyoming; a Pennsylvania tale." 

"... So sweet a spot of earth, you might (I ween,)
Have guess'd some congregation of the elves,
To sport by summer moons, had shaped it for themselves ..."

"...O Love! in such a wilderness as this,
Where transport and security entwine,
Here is the empire of thy perfect bliss,
And here thou art a god indeed divine.
Here shall no forms abridge, no hours confine
The views, the walks, that boundless joy inspire!
Nor, blind with ecstacy's celestial fire,
Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time expire. ..."

This poem is long and centers on July 3, 1778. People meet in the Wyoming Valley, and destroyed the most beautiful place on earth. Their intent wasn't to destroy it, the destruction happened as a byproduct of an attempt to resolve a conflict of ideals. On one side were the American Revolutionaries and on the other side were American Loyalists. This battle wasn't about American's fighting the British over government, it was about American's fighting other American's over government. In the end, the Revolutionaries took heavy loses and it is alleged that several whom had surrendered were tortured until death. Their homestead's in the Wyoming valley were pillaged, burned and destroyed.

This poem was very powerful and popular in 1800's America.  

Wyoming History

Wyoming had the unfortunate geographical condition of being on the border of several conflicting territorial disputes. Over it's history,  it belonged to the independent states of Great Britain, France, Spain, Mexico, and Texas. Later as the territories of  Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Dakota, Nebraska and Utah were being formed, it meet that same fate, with several territories fighting for its land.

In 1865, to put an end to the dispute, a representative from Ohio, introduced a bill to congress to provide a temporary government for the territory of Wyoming. This area was called the Wyoming Territory before that bill, and It is thought that the name came from the poem "Gertrude of Wyoming".

Cheyenne - Magic Town

On July 5, 1867 the crew surveying the transcontinental railroad placed a stake in the ground where the railroad was to cross Crow Creek. Crow creek is the point where the great planes end and the ascent into the Rocky Mountains begins. 

At this time, there weren't any major cities in Wyoming and Denver had been lobbying to have Denver, an established city, be the train station where the plains met the Rocky's.   But Cheyenne was chosen, because it has a much more gradual ascent into the Rocky Mountains.

In those day's, trains ran on steam and it was known that the Cheyenne train station would be one of the most significant in the transcontinental railroad. All trains would have to stop in Cheyenne to take on water and fuel before traversing the Rocky Mountains. Cheyenne  would be a place where people from the East would want to visit, to see the Great West, so many stage and supply lines traversed Cheyenne. It was an important railroad hub housing lots of maintenance facilities and highly paid railroad workers.

Transcontinental Telegraph lines ran along the rail lines as well, making Cheyenne an important communication hub.

President Lincoln recognized the importance of Cheyenne to the growth of America and he commissioned the US Army to build Fort Russell nearby to protect the town of Cheyenne and the railroad workers.    

With Cheyenne being a safe haven and place of unlimited possibilities, it grew so fast, that people gave it the name of Magic City. Within 3 months of driving that stake, a town of 4,000 people had appeared out of nowhere, that continued its quick growth.

Speculators flourished to Cheyenne to take advantage of the transcontinental railroad for the transport of cattle. In those days a beef cow in Texas sold for $5 per head, and in New York for $50 a head. Wyoming was wide open range land, so cattle barons could raise the cattle right next to the transcontinental railroad, and ship it at a low cost to the big markets in the East.

Cheyenne became one of the wealthiest cities per capita in the United States. It included a large development of competing mansions, high end apartment complexes, a huge shopping complex (mall), an Opera House, a theater showcasing the world's best talent, three horse drawn street car lines, lots of socialites, and big time finance (banking).

The banking industry grew out of the need to transport money. In those days, America was a cash based society and money needed to be moved to support the economy.

When telephone's became available, the telephone industry boomed here, because of all of the businessmen needing quick communications to places far away from Cheyenne.

As a byproduct of their wealth, the cattle barons controlled all of the politics in Wyoming. They controlled the cattle rules and the railroad shipment schedule, giving them the power to extort more money from outside parties wanting the use the railroad for cattle shipments. Something to the effect of, "Sure we'll ship those Texas long horn cattle that you drove up from Texas, but you'll need to pay to store them in our stables and buy your hay from our suppliers while waiting on the shipment. Then there is a surcharge on each head shipped and also a small state transportation and handling fee that needs to be paid in advance. We only accept cash. Any questions???"

Cattle barons would also lobby for power causing big time disputes over cattle and land, which weren't always dealt with in a civil manner. One of the biggest fears they had was cattle rustling. To the point that there where several innocent people lynched for suspected rustling. 

Cattle barons had an abundance of money, influence, and power until the winter of 1887. That was a very long and severe winter killing about 90% of the cattle. All of the cattle barons went bust and fled town. By that time, there were other railroad options in the West and Cheyenne never recovered the wealth it had lost in 1887.

Today, it is probably a better place for having lost all of its wealth.

Outlaws

If you have ever heard the term "The Hole in the Wall Gang.". That wasn't one gang, is was a consortium of gangs who all used the same home base as a hide out. The Hole in the Wall Pass in Johnson County Wyoming geographically had all the advantages needed for a gang hideout. Impossible for lawmen to enter without detection and easy to defend.

The gangs didn't intermingle in crime, they only intermingled as neighbors, and they were good neighbors. Each gang had their own structures and stockpiled their own supplies; food, livestock, and horses. Each gang honored the other gangs belongings and no one gang nor person was in charge.

It was a safe haven, where they went when they no longer wanted to practice their criminal ways or they wanted to wait out a harsh winter. 

The were also, somewhat protected by the people of Wyoming. These criminals weren't stealing from or causing havoc in Wyoming. They were stealing from other places and bringing the loot back into Wyoming, buying supplies and spending money in the local economy, helping its economical growth.    

Cheyenne Frontier Days

A rodeo is a sporting competition that centers around the use of animals and the skills needed to herd cattle and work on a ranch.

The 1920's are called the Golden Age of the Rodeo's. Cheyenne still upholds that era with a week long festival (ten days centered around the last full week in July) dedicated to rodeo's. There is a rodeo there every night hosting the biggest talent in the rodeo industry.

Frontier Days started in 1897 but didn't become popular until two people glamorized it to the United States. Tim McCoy was in Cheyenne for two years before he moved to Hollywood to become a consultant for the movie industry. T. Joe Cahill was a hometown boy from Cheyenne,  who became a promoter for Tex Rickards rodeo's in New York. While in New York he never missed an opportunity to also promote Cheyenne Frontier Days saying that it was the "daddy of 'em all".  

Stetson Hats

Now a days, when a women wants to feel successful, she goes out and purchases a high end hand bag or shoes. In the early 1900's every man wore a hat, and when a man wanted to feel successful, he purchased a high end hat.

John B Stetson was the son of a New York hat maker, but his health was not good. He worked in the family business, until he was old enough to move to the fresh air West, which he thought would improve his health. In those days western hats were made of leather and not of the best quality craftsmanship.

Stetson, changed the western hat industry,  when he figured out how to make felt out of thick beaver fur. It was quicker then tanning leather, always of high quality, and it was water proof. He then studied the features that were needed for a western hat. Wide brim to fight the elements (sun, sand, dirt), and a tall head section to keep the heat in at night when the temperature sharply drops. This tall head section also doubled as a bucket for carrying water. Stetson also knew how to make high quality hats that looked stylish, but were functional and durable.

In 1865, his health improved and he moved back east, to Philadelphia to start the Stetson hat company, which quickly grew in size. By 1897 the Stetson hat factory was a massive 9 acres in size producing 2,000,000 hats per year. Today, it still produces the premium western hat.

In my youth, I was fascinated with hats. In high school I had several hats that I would wear, my favorite being a derby. In early adulthood, I had amassed a fairly large hat collection (close to 50 hats) including a stylish Stetson and a purple cowboy hat (my personality used to be kind of colorful). Tired of carting the collection around and never wearing them, because I always had a full head of hair, I got rid of all of them at the same time. As with all things in life, tastes change over time. 

Glamorization of the West

In the early 1900's, William S. Hart was a Shakespearian actor on Broadway and also touring on stages in the United States and England.

He was successful and could have lively comfortably doing that, but his fascination was with the West.  He bought "Billy the Kid's" six shooters and befriended the legendary lawman Bat Masterson who was now in New York City.

In his late 40's he headed west, at the dawn of motion picture industry, to become a motion picture pioneer in California in the area of western films. At some point in his travels out west, he befriended another legendary lawman, named Wyatt Earp. Between the stories of Earp and Masterson, William had acquired a vast knowledge of the real West.

In the motion picture industry William was know for his realistic costumes and props, and for making movies with good morale plots. In addition to acting, he went on to write screen plays, direct and produce westerns that American's loved. 

In the 1920's people wanted more flash, boom, and bang in their movies. Enter action hero, Tom Mix. Tom's movies were full of expensive suits, big bright oversized overcoats, shiny cowboy boots and huge hats. He popularized the 10 gallon hat. His movies weren't very authentic and were always quick to bring in the action and keep the action coming. The fascination of the west was transformed into the glamorization and fantasy of the west. Tom paved the way for many of the western stars who followed his lead.       


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Comments (4) -

JImmer
11/2/2014 10:35:30 PM #

i always enjoy Craig's travelogue and history lesson.  I have granddad's Stetson hat and original box probably made in the 1940's but it is not a cowboy hat.  It is a gray hat with a black band that looks like what gangsters wore, it is very high quality.

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Craig
11/3/2014 8:22:31 PM #

Awesome. Maybe your granddad was a gangster at one time Smile  Did he give you the tommy gun too?

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Kirk
12/29/2014 10:34:28 AM #

Craig, quite late reading this, but wanted to commend you on the awesome description of Cheyenne.  I have very close ties to this town; my Mom is from Cheyenne, my Dad served at Warren Air base, and my Grandpa worked at the now defunct Union Pacific terminal.  Reading your post created a lot of images past and present, thanks for putting it together.

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Craig Kimpel
12/30/2014 12:28:56 AM #

Always great to hear from you kirk.

Thanks for the feedback.

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