Wyoming

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My grandniece, Katy Herr has been living the dream lately…well, for the past several years really. Katy’s life did a complete 180° turn in 2019, when she met her future husband, Dylan Herr. Dylan was different than anyone else Katy had ever known. Dylan was her soulmate. Before Dylan, Katy really felt like life was passing her by. She wanted to be a wife and mother, and none of that was working out.

Today, Katy is married to Dylan, and they have a beautiful little boy named Max, who is almost two years old. Together, Katy’s men have made her life as close to perfect as it gets. To make life even better, Katy and Dylan recently bought a new house…their first together, and they just couldn’t be happier. They had moved from Brighton, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming to open a new store, Dylan and his family own and operate a number of Red Wing Shoe Stores. They will be stationed here, but Dylan will likely have to travel to the other stores periodically. That said, since they can, Katy and Max will probably go along, so they can all visit with Dylan’s family. Katy and Dylan are also enjoying their roles as community representatives. They are very active in fund raisers and other ways to make our community a better place to live. They rather love the dressing up for date night aspect of all that being community representative entails.

Katy is very much enjoying being a stay-at-home wife and mom, and Max keeps her very busy, as any two-year-old child will do. She also has a beautiful home that she is working on making their own. They also enjoy going to the lake. Katy pretty much grew up around Alcova Lake, because her grandparents, Chip and Trish Burgess had a cabin at the lake. I’m sure that Max will be as much a “fish” as Katy and her brother, Keifer were. Katy and Dylan also love to tour area gardens and parks. Max loves to be outside and to play in the grass and on the swings. The whole family enjoys their time together and with other family members. These days, things are going great for Katy, and I’m sure it will only get better. She has so much life to look forward too. Today is Katy’s birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It was inevitable really…the migration of the people of the United States to the west coast, in search of gold, adventure, and more land. The east was filling up, and there was no place else to go, but west. Of course, many people would either not make it all the way to the West; choosing rather to homestead along the way, die, or actually make it to the West, and then return to the East. Nevertheless, before anyone could find out is life on the west coast suited them or not, they had to get to the west coast, and on May 16, 1842, the first major wagon train to the northwest departed from Elm Grove. Missouri, on the Oregon Trail. This was a little bit of a risky move, because US sovereignty over the Oregon Territory was not clearly established until 1846.

Nevertheless, American fur trappers and missionary groups had been living in the region for decades, along with Indians who had settled the land centuries earlier. Of course, everyone out there had a story to tell, and there were dozens of books and lectures that proclaimed Oregon’s agricultural potential. You can’t tell a story without creating interest somewhere. Even a boring story is of interest to someone, and this was no boring story. With the books and lectures coming out of the West, the white American farmers were very interested. They saw a chance to make their fortune, or at least to become independent. The actual first overland immigrants to Oregon, intended to farm primarily. A small band of 70 pioneers left Independence, Missouri in 1841. The stories they had heard from the fur traders brought them along the same route the traders had blazed, taking them west along the Platte River through the Rocky Mountains via the easy South Pass in Wyoming and then northwest to the Columbia River…basically through some on my own stomping grounds. Eventually, the trail they took was renamed by the pioneers, who called it the Oregon Trail.

The migration, once started, had little chance of being stopped, and in 1842, a slightly larger group of 100 pioneers made the 2,000-mile journey to Oregon. With the success of these two groups, the inevitable happened, accelerated in a major way by the severe depression in the Midwest, combined with a flood of propaganda from fur traders, missionaries, and government officials extolling the virtues of the land. They may have had good intentions, but it is never a good idea to lie to the public. With the disinformation on their minds, farmers dissatisfied with their prospects in Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, hoped to find better lives in the supposed paradise of Oregon. With that another type of “rush” began. Much like the “gold rush” years, the farmers saw the land as their “gold” and headed west.

So, on this day in 1843, approximately 1,000 men, women, and children climbed aboard their wagons and steered their horses west out of the small town of Elm Grove, Missouri. It was the first real wagon train, comprised of more than 100 wagons with a herd of 5,000 oxen and cattle trailing behind. The train was led by Dr Elijah White, a Presbyterian missionary who had made the trip the year before. At first the trail was fairly easy, traveling over the flat lands of the Great Plains. There weren’t many obstacles in that area, and few river crossings, some of which could be dangerous for wagons. The bigger risk in the early days was the danger of Indian attacks, but they were still few and far between…at first anyway. The wagons were drawn into a circle at night to give the pioneers better protection from any attack that might come. They were very afraid of the Indians, who were enough different that they seemed deadly…to the pioneers anyway, and the Indians fear the White Man because of their weapons, and they were angry because the White Man wanted the land. In reality, the pioneers were far more in danger from seemingly mundane causes, like the accidental discharge of firearms, falling off mules or horses, drowning in river crossings, and disease. The trail became much more difficult, with steep ascents and descents over rocky terrain, after the train entered the mountains. The pioneers risked injury from overturned and runaway wagons.

Nevertheless, the wagon trains persevered, and the migrant movement continued until the West was populated. As for the 1,000-person party that made that original journey way back in 1843…the vast majority survived to reach their destination in the fertile, well-watered land of western Oregon. The next migration, in 1844 was smaller than that of the previous season, but in 1845 it jumped to nearly 3,000. Migration to the West was here to stay and the trains became an annual event, although the practice of traveling in giant convoys of wagons soon changed to many smaller bands of one or two-dozen wagons. The wagon trains really became a thing of the past in 1884, when the Union Pacific constructed a railway along the route.

Thermopolis, Wyoming…a favorite destination for my husband and me. We take a trip there every year for our anniversary. I suppose that for many people, Thermopolis would seem too quiet, too small, and too little to do, but for us it is just perfect. With its hot springs and river walk trail, it is just perfect for us, and the hot spring ponds filled with goldfish of a size you simply cannot imagine until you see them. I’ve been told that they came from people getting rid of the small goldfish, and the warm water, along with the pond size, allowed the smaller goldfish to grow quite large. Thermopolis also had a dinosaur museum, although we have never been there. We go to the area for the hot tub and the trail for sure.

While Thermopolis might seem like the safest little out of the way place, there was a time when it was actually a target for an attack. During World War II, the Japanese set their sights on Wyoming. It makes little sense to me, but it was the target they chose. During World War II, the Japanese were experimenting with a new kind of bomb. It really wasn’t the greatest idea, but they did send some of them out. The problem with balloons is that it’s difficult to control where it is going…especially when it is unmanned. It’s hard to say what the exact target was, but on December 5, 1944, coal miners outside of Thermopolis heard something from the skies above and saw an explosion streak across the dark sky. When the object landed, it was discovered to be a Japanese Fu-Go Balloon Bomb. Though the Japanese launched 9,300 of these bombs, only about 300 made it to land, and the Thermopolis bomb was the first one to reach the United States.

I find it hard to believe that the first Fu-Go Balloon Bomb made it all the way to Wyoming before exploding, when the only Fu-Go Balloon Bomb to actually kill anyone was one that landed near Bly, Oregon on May 5, 1945, that killed a pregnant woman and five children after they approached the unexploded balloon that had landed nearby. The balloon exploded as they investigated it. After that, the public was warned to stay away from the objects, but the news stories were still scarce. In fact, the Japanese only ever learned of the landing in Wyoming!! I have no idea how the media held themselves back.

Landing so many balloons in America was an impressive feat because the inter-continental attack was considered impossible at the time. Whatever the Japanese had hoped to gain by this relatively ineffective “bomb” is unknown, but it was a real failure. My guess is that most of them exploded over the ocean, doing no damage. Nevertheless, these massive balloons were a bit of a marvel…so to speak. They had to carry more than 1,000 pounds across the ocean, which was no easy task, especially for technology at the time. The fact that any of them made it here was impressive, I suppose. They were impressive balloons from a technologic standpoint. They were controlled by altimeters that kept the balloon in the newly discovered jet stream until it was over America, where it would fall to the ground and detonate…or so was the plan. The goal of the mission was to cause panic and fear in the United States, but a media blackout meant that these landings and explosions went unreported. A blackout was the only way.

These attacks were actually quite amazing, because they were the longest ranged assaults in the history of warfare. It wasn’t until 1982 (during the Falkland Islands War) that the distance was topped. Today, the story of the Fu-Go Balloon Bombing is rarely told in Wyoming outside of Thermopolis, where it has supposedly become local folklore. Strange that I have never heard of it, even with the many years we have been spending our anniversary there. I will most definitely have to ask about it the next time we go.

My niece, Machelle Moore has been looking at a different kind of future these days. As a mom, I know that the years of her children’s childhood have flown past with unbelievable speed. Her eldest son, Weston moved to Butte, Montana from their home in Powell, Wyoming this past year, and while that isn’t a cross country move, it does leave Machelle’s home with three people instead of four. Now, her youngest son, Easton is going to be graduating from high school, and the inevitable time when he will also leave home is just around the corner. Easton hasn’t specifically made plans to move out or away, but Weston hadn’t either…until he did. Most parents will face the empty nest moment at some point in their life, and it is not an easy one.

Machelle and her husband, Steve have been happily married since August 14, 1999, but when their boys are both out of the house, that inevitable feeling of a “too quiet house” will creep in. They will have to learn to find new hobbies, new activities, and new ways to spend their evenings. The good news is that Machelle and Steve have a great marriage. They love to do lots of things together, like camping, hiking and exploring, and their favorite…rock hunting. I know that like every “empty nester” among us has found, life does go on and it’s even good, whether our children live at home or not. And eventually, the grandchildren start to come, and the home is filled with new life. You never know whan that will start, however, so Machelle and Steve will have lots of good times in the meantime.

For now, Machell and Steve are busy with all the senior year activities that Easton has going on, like prom and Easton’s dating and working life. There are lots of exciting things happening during a kid’s senior year, like senior pictures, and soon graduation planning and rehearsals. The only problem with all that activity is that it only serves to make the year go by faster…rather defeating the whole idea of “putting the brakes” on the year. Well, as we all know, it just doesn’t work that way. Nevertheless, Machelle and Steve will survive the empty nest, whenever it arrives, just like the rest of the parents in the world have done. For now, I pray the time slows down just a bit before that fateful day arrives. Today is Machelle’s birthday. Happy birthday Machelle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Uncle Eddie Hein was a soft-spoken man, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t a funny man. He loved to laugh, and he had a great laugh too. That is probably one of the things I miss most about Uncle Eddie…that and the great smile that went with the great laugh. He loved practical jokes…like pretending to give my husband, Bob Schulenberg, his nephew, a buzzcut in the 70s, when long hair was the style. I think Bob knew that the clippers weren’t plugged in, but he went along with the joke anyway. It is my guess that my in-laws, Walt and Joann Schulenberg put Eddie up to the joke, almost hoping he would actually cut Bob’s hair. Of course, Eddie would never have done that, but it was a funny thought anyway. It was a typical kind of joke Eddie would pull on people.

Eddie is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s half brother, and so it was an annual trip from Casper, Wyoming to Forsyth, Montana that the Schulenberg’s took each year, to keep the family close to the aunt, uncles, and cousins that lived there, as well as to my father-in-law’s mom, Vina Hein, and step-dad, Walt Hein. When Bob and I got married, we wanted to continue that tradition, and I have always been glad we did. My girls had the privilege of knowing some of the most amazing people through those trips. I have always believed in the importance of family, and have hopefully instilled those same traditions on my kids and grandkids.

Eddie was a hard-working man, who worked hard in the coal mines, and then came home to work hard around the home he shared with his wife, Pearl, and children, Larry and Kim. He turned their smaller mobile home into a very nice house, with plenty of room for the whole family. He and Pearl also raised a wonderful garden, and canned lots and lots of vegetables. That garden saved the family lots of money in grocery bills. Canning I could do, but gardening…not so much, so I don’t mind telling you that I was a little bit jealous of those who can grow gardens, vegetable or flower.

Eddie was a mechanic by trade, and never really wanted to be a rancher, although he could do that work too. I think Eddie could do anything he put his mind to. He was a very talented Jack of all Trades. The Forsyth area is abundant in river rock, because of the Yellowstone River that flows through town. Eddie built a beautiful fireplace in their home out of that river rock. It was just stunning, and one of my favorite parts of the home he built. It not only heated the home, but it made it look amazing too. Eddie also helped my father-in-law when he was building the house he built in the Casper area.

Eddie went home to be with the Lord on October 16, 2019, and we all miss him very much. In my mind’s eye, I can still visualize his smiling face and his great laugh. Today would have been Uncle Eddies 78th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

I have lived in Wyoming since I was three years old, and so sometimes it’s easy for me to forget some of the places that have great historical value, but they are not as well known as some of the other places, like Yellowstone National Park. Register Cliff is one such landmark that I don’t often think about, although I have been there, and it really is a cool place.

Register Cliff is a sandstone cliff, that is located on the Oregon Trail. The cliff is a soft, chalky, limestone wall rising more than 100 feet above the North Platte River. When my sisters and I were kids, our parents would take us on trips, and point out every (and I mean every) Oregon Trail marker that we passed. In Wyoming, that is a lot of markers. As the emigrants made their way on the Oregon Trail, searching for a better life in the west, they came upon this cliff and chiseled the names of their families on the soft stones of the cliff. It was one of the key checkpoint landmarks for parties heading west along the Platte River valley west of Fort John, Wyoming which allowed travelers to verify they were on the correct path up to South Pass and not moving into impassable mountain terrains. Geographically, it is on the eastern ascent of the Continental divide leading upward out of the great plains in the eastern part of Wyoming.

As more and more people “registered” on the cliff, word started to get around about this notable historic landmark. People quickly began to see the value of the cliff. Besides knowing that they were going the right direction, the emigrants realized that they were a part of history. Their names would forever be carved in the stone of the cliff, stating that they were among the brave people who moved to the west to settle the land.

The practice soon became the custom of the day, and the other northern Emigrant Trails that split off farther west such as the California Trail and Mormon Trail began to follow the custom too, inscribing their names on its rocks during the western migrations of the 19th century. It is estimated that 500,000 emigrants used these trails from 1843–1869. Unfortunately, up to one-tenth of the emigrants died along the way, usually due to disease and other hazards. Nevertheless, those who made it this far were forever known to those who stop by. Register Cliff is the easternmost of the three prominent emigrant “recording areas” located within Wyoming. The other two are Independence Rock and Names Hill. The site was where emigrants camped on their first night west of Fort Laramie. The property was donated by Henry Frederick to the state of Wyoming, to be preserved. Register Cliff was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

Andrew Carnegie is a name most people have heard of, at least when you think of places like Carnegie Hall, but that isn’t something that has much in common with places like Wyoming…or does it? Andrew Carnegie was born to Margaret Morrison Carnegie and William Carnegie in Dunfermline, Scotland. The family lived in a typical weaver’s cottage with only one main room, consisting of half the ground floor, which was shared with the neighboring weaver’s family. It was here in very humble beginnings that Andrew Carnegie made his debut. When Carnegie was 12, his father had fallen on very hard times as a handloom weaver. To add to the family’s predicament, the country was in starvation. His mother helped support the family by assisting her brother and by selling potted meats at her “sweetie shop,” making her the primary income in the family. The family was struggling to make ends meet and they knew they weren’t going to make it…at least not in Scotland. The Carnegies then decided to borrow money from George Lauder, Sr and move to Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in the United States in 1848 for the prospect of a better life. In September 1848, Carnegie arrived with his family in Allegheny. That was not the end of their struggles, however. Carnegie’s father struggled to sell his product on his own, but eventually father and son both received job offers at the same Scottish-owned cotton mill, Anchor Cotton Mills. At least they had some income, meager as it was.

Young Andrew Carnegie was destined for better things, however. In his adult life, Andrew Carnegie enjoyed success in businesses ranging from oil to railroads to steel, Carnegie became one of the wealthiest Americans of his era. After selling off his businesses and retiring in the early part of the 20th-century, Carnegie spent the remainder of his life giving away much of his enormous wealth. It was this portion of Carnegie’s life that would forever tie him to Casper, Wyoming, and to many other towns across the country. Casper’s connection to one of America’s most generous philanthropists can be found right on the corner of Durbin and Second Street downtown…the Natrona County Public Library.

In an incredible display of generosity, Andrew Carnegie’s library foundation helped build over 1,700 public libraries around the country. As word got out, in 1905, Casper mayor Wilson Kimball wrote to the Carnegie Foundation hoping to secure a grant to start a library in his dusty, rapidly growing town. His letter read, in part, “We have a town here of at the present time about 1,500 population and there is probably not a more cosmopolitan town, of its size, in the United States. A Carnegie Library here would benefit a class that are seldom benefited by such institutions, and would afford a quiet, wholesome and instructive resort of character that are too scarce in these western range towns.” The Carnegie Foundation agreed to gift Casper, Wyoming a $10,000 grant. Land for the library was donated to the cause. The small, yet elegant design for the building ended up coming in over budget. The Carnegie Foundation was a bit frustrated, but with a few concessions from Casper, the foundation agreed to another $3,000 to help finish the project. By 1910 at the edge of town, Casper’s library was completed. The building with its classical design, high quality masonry and three domes stood out in the town. Casper was basically still a prairie, with muddy streets and stick buildings in 1910.

Before long, the library was obviously to small, and in the early 1920s a new design was seamlessly integrated into the original building, adding much needed space for events and collections. After the World Wars, Casper began to grow rapidly, and a prosperous Casper, added a modern addition which opened in 1952. By the late 1960s, the original sections of the Carnegie building had become obsolete and fallen into disrepair. A good portion of the old building had been relegated to storage. Sadly, in 1970, the original building was demolished and the final addition we have today was built. It was the end of the visible Carnegie connection to Casper. In all, Wyoming built a total of 16 Carnegie libraries. Ten remain.

My grand-niece, Katy Balcerzak’s fiancé, Dylan Herr is co-owner, with his dad, Robert Herr, of Red Wing Shoes. They have stores in Casper, Wyoming; Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Brighton, Colorado. Recently Dylan, Katy, and their precious son, Max moved from Brighton to Casper to run the new store here. The only bad thing about that is that, at least for now, Dylan is working 7 days a week, and periodically traveling to Cheyenne and Brighton to check on things there. The Herr family has owned a Red Wing Shoe Stores franchise for three generations. They continue to expand and grow in sales.

Dylan and Katy recently bought their first house here in Casper, and he has become quite the handyman. He put together a swing set for Max, which as we all know, is not the easiest of projects. He has also completely transformed the yard at the house, which needed a lot of work to take it from dead weeds to green grass. Being a homeowner is, as most of us know or find out quickly, a rather large and never ending job. Houses, while wonderful to have, are always in need of some kind of work. Dylan seems to have a knack for that kind of thing, so I’m sure those little projects are really rather fun. It’s always exciting to put your own stamp on your new home, and to show your unique style. Dylan and Katy have been doing just that since they moved back to Casper. 

Dylan is a very patient and kind person. That is truly what made Katy love him so, and why Max thinks he is the greatest daddy on Earth. Having moved to Casper, Dylan misses his parents, Robert and Dee Dee Herr, and his brother Tyler Herr and his wife, Amber, and they miss him, Katy, and Max very much. They are all a close family, including the grandparents, and that makes a move hard. It’s always hard to live far from your kids…especially when the grandchildren begin to show up. Dylan’s parent and brother are all very close to Dylan’s little family, and it makes it hard, but thankfully it isn’t too far away. they can get up for weekends and such once in a while, and that helps a lot. Dylan and Katy are starting this new adventure in her home town, and we are very happy for them. Today is Dylan’s birthday. Happy birthday Dylan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-nephew, James Renville met the love of his life, Manuela Ortiz a couple of years ago, and from that point forward, they knew that it was love. Theirs was not the easiest of courtships, because Manuela worked in New Jersey, and James lives in Casper, Wyoming. That was not a deterrent for James, however, because when it comes to the perfect one…love will find a way. The good news is that James loves to travel, so traveling to see this girl who has captured his heart was no hardship at all. The only hardship was leaving her to come back home.

James and Manuela longed for the day when they would no longer have to be separated by the miles between their jobs. When love is real, you never want to be so far apart. Your hearts are as one, and you know that it is time to begin to build your own life together. That is exactly how James and Manuela felt. While their relationship began with distance making things difficult, it did not stop love from growing, and now they can put those miles behind them, and go forward as one. Their families are so excited for them to become man and wife.

A short time ago, in October, James popped the question, and Manuela said yes. With that one little word, James’ life suddenly felt complete. Manuela was the girl of his dreams, and the one his mother had been praying for to complete her son. In fact, Manuela is so sweet, that our whole family loves her dearly, and we can’t wait to make her a part of our family. Well, today is that day. James and Manuela have chosen Bear Trap Meadow as the site for their wedding, and they really couldn’t have picked a prettier site. The excitement is building, and we can’t wait to watch this beautiful wedding take place. Love is truly in the air, and love has found a way for these two precious people. Congratulations as you go forward in marriage, James and Manuela. We love you both very much, and wish for you two, the greatest blessings that God has to give.

Moving away from family is both exciting and hard. Sometimes the people you thought would never move are the ones that end up moving, and with that move comes a bit of a shock for the family left behind. That is the situation, my sister, Allyn Hadlock and her husband, Chris, and their family, find themselves in today. After knowing it was coming for several months, their daughter, Jessi Sawdon; her husband Jason; daughter, Adelaide; and their dog, Daisy; are moving from Casper, Wyoming to Cheyenne, Wyoming today. It isn’t a great distance, just a little over two hours away, but our hearts still feel like that is so far away. the good news is that Jessi and Jason will now be just 52 minutes from doorstep to doorstep from her sister, Lindsay Moore, her husband, Shannon, and daughter, Mackenzie. It has been many years since anyone lived that close to Lindsay and Shannon.

Jessi and Jason would not be moving, but Jason has been promoted to a Sergeant’s position within the Wyoming Highway Patrol!! This is a wonderful event in their lives. Not only is Jason being promoted, but with his new rank, comes a new position. It also bring a change to no more shift work. Jason will work days, and have nights, weekends, and holidays off. What a wonderful change for them. Jessi works from home, so this will be an amazing change for their family, and while we will miss them, we are very, very happy for them.

This has been just as bittersweet for Jessi and Jason as it has for the rest of the family. They loved living in Casper and they love their house here. God has been dealing with their hearts, to encourage them to explore Cheyenne and the surrounding area. Jessi said, “I believe we will find many exciting places to explore there.” One of the big things is Cheyenne Frontier Days, which several of our family members love to attend. Now they will also be able to spend time with Jessi, Jason, and Adelaide too. When Jessi mentioned that they plan to explore the area, I decided to see what there is to explore there. I was rather surprised at just how much there is. When I have got through Cheyenne, it is usually the pit stop between Casper and Denver. Among the things I found in Cheyenne, I found the Wyoming State Museum and the Cheyenne Depot Museum, the Terry Bison Ranch (they also raise camels), the Curt Gowdy State Park (which has a number of hiking trails, lakes, and even play areas for Adelaide), Big Boy Steam Engine (Old Number 4004, which has been retired), Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, the famous Cheyenne Big Boots (giant Cowboy boots), the Historic Governors’ Mansion (which you can tour), Happy Jack Drive (a scenic drive), the Wyoming National Guard Museum, and many more exciting places. I am excited for the Sawdon family, because it looks like there is something for each of them.

It is Jessi and Jason’s intentions to come back to Casper at some point. They are keeping their house in Casper, so that one day, they can return. They really love that house too, and it is where they want to be. They love their neighbors and the house, and are not ready to sell…yet. I suppose that could change if they find that they love Cheyenne more, and it could happen. There would be nothing wrong with that, except that the family would love to have them back home. I am glad they didn’t move far away, and I know we will see tham as often as they can make it. Plus, when we go to Denver now, we can stop for lundh with them, so that will be cool too. Jessi, Jason, Adelaide, and Daisy, we love you all, we will miss you, but we wish you the very best in this wonderful new adventure.

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