Casper

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My husband’s Uncle Eddie Hein was a man of integrity. He worked hard in everything he did. When he decided to take on a job, schooling, family and family projects, or anything he did for other people…he did it with integrity. People always knew they could count on Eddie to be there to help them out of any jam, or just when they need a little bit of assistance. Eddie built the additions to the family home, that gave it enough room for all of them.

Eddie lived most of his life in Forsyth, Montana, with the exception of the years he spent in Casper, Wyoming working at Rocky Mountain Pack and going to night classes at Casper College to get his degree in mechanics; and the years when he was in the US Army, where he served his country during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged in 1966. That was when he met his future wife, Pearl Krueger. They got married on July 15, 1967…the happiest day of their lives. Their marriage was blessed with two children, Larry Hein and Kim Arani. They also had three grandchildren, one of whom, Destiny Hein, was born on Eddie’s birthday, giving them a very special bond. They were best friends.

Eddie worked at the Forsyth Standard Station until he was hired at Peabody Coal on May 4th, 1970. He worked for Peabody Coal until 2005, then he went to work for Western Energy Coal Company, retiring in 2010. Eddie was a respected worker at all of his jobs, and I’m sure they were sorry to see him move on to other jobs. Uncle Eddie had a presence that made people feel good. He had a smile that made you smile too. Uncle Eddie was always a working man, and I know it was very hard when he had the stroke that really slowed him down. It was hard on him, Aunt Pearl, their kids, and grandkids. They worried about him and wondered if he was going to come out of this, but he did come out of it. He did walk again, and he was able to walk Kim down the “isle” on the beach, when she and her husband, Mike Arani were married. I suppose that it was his strength to come back from the stroke that made his heart attack, and subsequent passing on October 16, 2019, so hard to believe. I still can’t believe he is gone. Today would have been Uncle Eddie’s 77th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Eddie. We love and miss you very much.

Rain…most often a welcome sight, especially during the hot summer months, and sometimes early fall months too. The Casper, Wyoming area is not one to get a lot of rain, however. Nevertheless, the rain had been coming down heavily for a week, that late September of 1923. In fact there had been three straight days of downpour. The railroad personnel were keeping a close eye on the rivers, creeks, and bridges. They were concerned, but did not expect the volatile, and possibly catastrophic situation that could be heading their way. Cole Creek was reported to have less than 16 inches of rainwater in its bed and by 8pm on September 27th, and the bridge was believed secure. Hours later, the water level would reportedly rise two feet in half an hour.

On September 27, 1923, The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Number 30 passenger train left Casper for Denver at approximately 8:30pm with approximately 60-70 passengers on board. the exact number is unknown. The train reached Cole Creek by 9:15pm and approached the Cole Creek bridge shortly after. Unexpectedly, Number 30 attempted to slow, and eventually braked upon realizing the usually dry gully below was now a torrent of rushing water and vision was severely limited. It is unknown if the rushing water was unnerving or if they saw something of the impending disaster through the rain, but they did attempt to slow down. Unfortunately, the bridge’s trestle had already been washed out or badly weakened. The realization of the situation came too late for the crew of CBQ number 30.

The 100-ton locomotive engine and first five, of seven train cars plummeted into the sand and water below. Most of the passengers were in two of these cars. Ans the cars hit, metal crunched, windows and doors burst under flood of water, steam from the engine scalded passengers and worse, and it would take more than an hour for help to arrive, especially when the first call to the Casper dispatcher’s office didn’t come for 45 minutes. From that point, the city sprang into action. Emergency news alerts calling for doctors and volunteers flashed across movie screens in town. The residents first thought it was a refinery disaster…which was much more expected here than a train wreck. Instead, however, they were faced with the greatest train wreck in Wyoming’s history, as it would come to be known.

Try as they might, rescue crews could do very little until the following morning. At first, bodies were found washed down the North Platte River for hundreds of yards, but they would eventually reach miles down the river. The massive recovery efforts would continue for weeks. The cleanup ended October 15, still daily reports were provided by local newspapers and radio. There were still people missing, but winter was upon them, and anyone who lives near the Platte River, or it’s tributaries, knows that once the ice sets in, bodies remain hidden beneath the surface.

The body of the train’s conductor, Guy Goff, was found seven months later, in May 1924, washed down the North Platte. Engineer, Ed Spangler, was discovered in January of the following year. In all, the cost of the wreck totaled close to a million dollars and 31 deaths are reported, although the final number remains uncertain because of the discrepancy in passenger numbers. The day after the wreck, a nine-year-old boy was seen searching for days for his father at the wreck site. No confirmation was received that the man was ever found.

My dad…when I think of him, I always feel such a sense of pride in who he was. He had lived so great a life, seen so many things, gone places, and while many people might not think his life was so grand, I did. My dad, Allen Spencer, was born on April 27, 1924 in Superior, Wisconsin, to Allen and Anna (Schumacher) Spencer. He was the third of their four children, and one of two rather mischievous boys. The family owned a farm, and the children helped with the chores there. His dad worked for the Great Northern Railroad as a carpenter, building and repairing the seats on the train, and any other carpentry work needed. That fact gave the children Laura, William (Bill), Allen (my dad), and Ruth, the unique privilege of having a pass to ride the train for free, as a dependent of their dad, making their trips to school easier, though not without adventure. As I said, the boys were mischievous, and boarding the train in the normal, everyday way was just too boring. They boys hopped on the moving train, every chance they got, always hoping not to be caught and scolded. They were told repeatedly not to hop on the train, because it was unsafe, but they were boys, and they liked the danger.

Growing up, the train adventures weren’t the only ones the boys had, and probably not the most dangerous either. When dad was about 15 and his brother, Uncle Bill about 17, the boys decided to take the summer and go look for work. They didn’t make reservations at hotels, or have previously lined up jobs, but rather hit the road and did odd jobs in the towns they came across. One time there was no room in the local hotel, so the local sheriff allowed them to sleep in the jail…the first and last time either of them was in jail, as far as I know. If I know my dad and my uncle, they thought it was a great adventure…even though their mother would have been appalled. Or maybe she would have been grateful to the sheriff for keeping her boys off the street.

When Dad was 17, he left home to go work at Douglas Aircraft Company in Santa Monica, California, building airplanes. I often wonder if it was his work there that made him a prime candidate for the position he held in World War II, as a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 based at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England. I don’t know his thoughts on being in one of the countries where his ancestors had hailed from, but to my genealogist’s eyes, it would have been the best gift ever given…had it not been for the war, of course. To find himself in the “old stomping grounds” of many of his ancestors…well, it would have been beyond awesome. Dad, decided that he didn’t need much, and so he sent most of his pay home to be put in saving, telling his mom, that if she needed it, she was to use it, because he could always get a job when he got home. In war, times are tough, and Dad wanted to make sure that his family, back home in Superior was well and had enough money to get by. During his R and R time, Dad spent time in Miami, Florida and Galveston, Texas, and of course his training for service had taken place on several air bases across the United States. Dad had always loved to travel, so I’m sure his wanderer’s heart took great pleasure in the many locations he found himself in.

It was, in fact, his wanderer’s heart that brought him across the path of my Aunt Virginia and her husband at the time. She later introduced him to her sister and his future wife, my mom, Collene Byer. Mom was totally smitten by Dad, immediately thinking that he was the most handsome man she had ever seen. Before long, she loved him immensely, but she was a school girl, and had to wait a while to actually marry him. As was more common in those days, my dad was twelve years older than my mom, but theirs was a love that would last until his passing in 2007. Even after his passing, Mom had no desire to see anyone else. She just couldn’t imagine it. He was the only love of her life.

Dad never lost the love of travel, though his married life settled him first for several years in Superior, Wisconsin, and the for the rest of his life in Casper, Wyoming. He wanted to show his family the places he loved, most importantly the United States. He often told us that this was a beautiful country, and not only should we try to see it, we should drive, because you could see much more from the ground than from a plane. Of course, for most of us time constraints don’t allow for cross country drives, but after the flight to get there, we try to see the area surrounding our destination. Dad, I’m certain, would have viewed that type of travel with a measure of skepticism. Still, he loved to hear about our travels. He always seemed to have a far away look on his face, because he could picture the same place in his mind…you see, he had most likely been there before, and he was so happy that we had followed in his footsteps. Today would have been my dad’s 96th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. I know you and Mom are having a wonderful time. We love and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you again.

Five years is such a long time, and yet such a short time. I simply can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven that long. The day she left us is still vivid in my memory files. It is a picture I will never get out of my head. There are a few scenes in my head that are that way. I try not to focus on them. They don’t need to be re-run to keep their memory alive. I try to focus on the happier past…the memories of the good times with my mom.

Collene Spencer was a bit of a shy girl, but she knew a good looking man when she saw one. For her, falling in love with my dad was like breathing…and she never looked back. Mom didn’t really like school, so that was not something that had any hold on her. She wanted to be married and have a family. I don’t really know if that had been her dream, before she met my dad, but it certainly was after that meeting. Their honeymoon was a move East to Superior, Wisconsin where Dad’s family was from and still lived. Mom’s family liked the idea too, because it gave them someplace to go visit. It was a beautiful place to visit too, so that was a plus. While mom eventually wanted to and did move back, her family wished she had stayed, so they could justify more visits.

After having their first two daughters, Cheryl Masterson, and me in Superior, Mom and Dad had the rest, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock here in Casper, Wyoming, where Mom’s family mostly lives. I have always thought we were very blessed to have so much family around us. That has never really been made so clear as when we became orphans. That’s when family really means a lot. My sisters, and our families first and foremost, of course, but aunts, uncles, and especially cousins have stepped in too…making us feel loved and comforted. I will always miss my parents…until the day I join them in Heaven. They taught us so many things, and it is because of their upbringing that we are the women we are today. The best we can do is make them proud of the people their children have become. I can’t believe that my mom has been in Heaven for five long years now. It seems an impossible number of years. While it seems just seconds ago to those who are there, mostly because that’s how eternity works, for the rest of us, the days feel much longer. We love and miss you Mom, and we can’t wait to see you again.

There are certain people who fit in your family from the moment they join it. My niece, Dustie Masterson, who married my nephew Rob Masterson on January 18, 2003 is one of those people. Rob and Dustie met when he was in the Army, and was in Louisiana. It didn’t take them very long to realize that they were in love and that they were perfect for each other. When they returned to Casper, Wyoming where Rob’s family all live, the family liked Dustie immediately. She was sweet, helpful, kind, and most of all, she was very much in love with and loyal to Rob. That goes a long way toward endearing a person to their spouse’s family.

Dustie and Rob’s favorite place to be was always together. It didn’t really matter where. That is such an interesting thought now, years later, when the two of them work together in different areas of the local Sam’s Club. Not everyone has the ability or the opportunity to work at the same place as their spouse, but Dustie and Rob even got hired at the same time. Now, they get to work together sometimes, and on opposite shifts at other times, but either way, they work at the same place, and are part of the same team. They are both supervisors in their areas now, and the people they work with count on them to keep things running smoothly.

Dustie and Rob have three children together, Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna, as well as Rob’s daughter from his first marriage, Christina. Their lives are so full of joy and happiness. They love their family, and their extended family. They are always willing to help others. Dustie stepped in during the years that we took care of our parents, and even though they were her grandparents by marriage, she loved them like they were her own. She ran errands for us, helped out with meals and care, and visited, which we all know is vital when it comes to helping people feel good about life. Dustie is such a pleasant person too. She is light-hearted and fun, and she doesn’t mind being a little bit silly sometimes. So, seriously, what’s better than that…let’s face it, nothing. That’s what I really like about Dustie. Her little bit sweet, little bit silly personality. Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Jim and Aunt Dixie have had a place on Squaw Creek Road on the western edge of Casper, Wyoming. Here they raised their kids, and had some chickens and such. Over the years they also ran a daycare, which took in mostly family members’ kids, giving the young parents in the family peace of mind. Of course, Uncle Jim worked outside of the daycare, but he made enough of an appearance, that the kids all knew and loved him. I can see that, because Uncle Jim is like a big teddy bear. I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t like my gentle uncle. He is a very loveable guy.

I think the greatest lesson Uncle Jim ever taught his kids, and any other kids around him is to have values and to live up to those values. Always do the right thing, and you will never have to live with regret. I think one of the greatest testaments to the nature of a man is the amount of respect given to them by those around them. Uncle Jim is a man of deep core values, and that is very likely why everyone has such great respect for him. He always makes sure that he does the right things. His core beliefs wouldn’t let him do otherwise.

Among those values, and probably at the top of the list…family comes first. Whether it was his family, his parents and siblings families, or his in-laws families, family is everything. If your family has a need, you do your best to help fill it…no matter what it is, from a place to live, to fixing something that is broken. Sometimes the greatest need someone has is simply a need for words of wisdom or kindness. Uncle Jim has always been quick to offer those words too…not in a pushy way, but rather just helpful words, when asked. Uncle Jim was and is a man people can count on, and that says a lot about a man. Today is Uncle Jim’s birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Jason Sawdon, is a decorated patrolman for the Wyoming Highway Patrol. It is a position to be very proud of, and while he would never say that he is proud of himself, because he is not that kind of man, we are all proud of him and his work. Still, it is not his position as a patrolman that has endeared Jason to his family.

Jason is a wonderful husband to my niece, Jessi and an amazing daddy to their daughter, Adelaide. He has such a soft heart when it comes to his girls, and he would gladly give them the moon…if he could reach it. I love seeing him with his girls, because the love he feels for them is evidenced on his face. There is a look that you see on a man’s face when he has found that his life’s dream is sitting right there beside him. It’s as if he almost can’t believe how very blessed his life has become. Of course, his girls feel the same way about Jason. They know that when God gave them Jason, He gave them the best He had. That’s how a match made in Heaven works. God gives each party the person that is the very best for them.

Jason has a great sense of humor and brings much fun and laughter into their home. And of course, his good nature and that of my niece, have made their little Adelaide into a bit of a comic in her own right, With parents like hers, what else would she be. She has learned from two of the best comics I know.

All humor aside though, I can honestly say that Jason and Jessi are two people who I feel very blessed to know. They are hard working, talented people, who live life to the fullest. They are involved with their community, and work to make it a better place to live. They aren’t afraid of hard work, and they have made their home a sweet place to raise their family. They love to go camping and hang out with family and friends…especially at the Hadlock place on Casper Mountain. And they love to head back to Michigan to visit Jason’s family there, because family is what it’s all about. Today is Jason’s birthday. Happy birthday Jason!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand-niece, Hattie Parmely is the second child of my nephew, Eric Parmely and his wife, Ashley. They live on a farm outside of Casper, where Hattie and her siblings Reagan, Bowen, and Maeve are learning the ropes of taking care of farm animals. They have chickens, goats, cows, dogs, cats, and horses. Hattie and her siblings have no qualms about helping out. They get right in there and help clean out stalls, feed the animals, and of course, love on the new babies as they come along. They totally love their fur babies.

Hattie has mastered her bicycle now, and is becoming quite the equestrian. She looks so cute riding her little pony. She can’t get up by herself yet, but that will come as she gets taller. Hattie has grown up around these horses, so she has learned to make them comfortable with her. It’s strange to see this little girl standing in the midst of great big horses. Yet she is not afraid, and they aren’t either.

Hattie, along with big sister Reagan, are their parents big helpers. With a little brother and a new little sister, there is lots to do. Hattie is learning all the things that she can do to help her parents around the house, and she stubbornly sticks to things until she has mastered them. Hattie is in the unique position of the two girls, because she has a big sister to show her the ropes. Reagan loves her little sister. The two girls are very close, and very good friends. I find that siblings who live in the country tend to be good friends. Maybe it is the distance from other playmates, or maybe it is a mutual love that comes from learning to cooperate to get anything done. Whatever the case may be, these two girls are the best of friends. Of course, they both love their younger siblings too. Hattie is a very caring girl who often puts the needs of others ahead of herself. Kindness and compassion are traits that will carry her all her life. Today is Hattie’s 5th birthday. Happy birthday Hattie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Those of us who live in Casper, Wyoming know about Garden Creek and Garden Creek Falls. It is a beautiful area, filled with trees and picnic tables. Hiking trails take off from the area, some of which follow the creek. Rotary Park is often full of picnickers and hikers. Everyone is out to have a great time. The Garden Creek area was a much different place in 1891, however. What we know as a day picnic area was a resort area and was lined with camps. A hotel was located at the head of Garden Creek and was a loved summer resort, frequented by local picnic parties. It was frequented by families from near and far.

On, July 31, 1891, a cloudburst occurred over Casper Mountain, right about the area of the head of Garden Creek. The creek is about seven miles long from mouth to source, and it was lined with camps. The heavy rains triggered a flash flood. The swollen creek rushed down the mountainside. The first thing the flood waters reached was the resort at the head of Garden Creek. The buildings were crushed and swept away, and the original site of the hotel was buried beneath wreckage twenty or more feet deep. The rushing floodwaters followed the creek on down the mountain, sweeping away anything in its path. Water marks indicate a volume of water 40 feet high and 495 feet wide must have passed through a narrow area about 2 miles form the mountain proper.

As the water rushed down the side of the mountain, it crashed down upon many campers up and down the creek. Many were either sleeping or just about ready to go to bed for the night. Campers, the Newby family, were sleeping when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by water. Newby heard his wife scream for help, grabbed for her, but missed, and in the next second he found himself being carried off by the rushing water. He never saw his wife or baby son alive again. Newby caught the limbs of a floating tree, He was carried about 200 yards, before he was thrown onto a bank. The body of Mrs Newby was found the next morning beneath a pile of rubble, but the Newby’s baby boy was never found. Near the Newby camp was the camp of Samuel Harrison of Alliance, Nebraska. Harrison’s two children were caught in the flood, and carried away. The bodies of the children were recovered the next morning. The tents and wagons of all the campers up and down the creek were destroyed, and at least fifty persons escaped with nothing but their pajamas. The citizens of Casper quickly stepped forward to bring food, clothing, and comfort to the survivors.

The quick response of the citizens of Casper doesn’t surprise me, because this is a city that often steps up in the face of tragedy. The flooded creek doesn’t surprise me either, because I have seen first hand just how quickly a rain storm on Casper mountain can result in a flood…even in the city proper. All that water has to go somewhere, and Sage Creek near my house is often the recipient of a large portion of that water. Thankfully it quickly drains into the Platte River, and the area returns to normal. Our mostly dry climate helps too, I suppose. The thirsty ground absorbs the water quickly. Still, it shocks me…not that Garden Creek flooded, but more, the vast difference in that area between 1891 and 2019.

My aunt, Jeanette Byer is a sweet, loving person, who is also very strong and independent. She and my uncle, Larry Byer married on February 11, 1956, just 2½ months before I was born, so she has been my aunt for my entire life. She has always been a blessing in our lives. She never says an unkind word, and she is always very encouraging to everyone around her. Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry raised two children, Larry Byer and Tina Grosvenor. Then their lives were blessed with grandchildren…(Twins) Melissa and Melinda Grosvenor, Adam Byer, Matthew Grosvenor, Travis Byer, and Melodie Grosvenor. Their lives were further blessed with several great grandchildren. Uncle Larry passed away on December 22, 2011, after 55 years of marriage. Aunt Jeanette carries on in good health and enjoys her ever growing family, but always missing Uncle Larry.

Years ago, Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette set up a mobile home on their land east of Casper, and inside it she had a family ceramic shop. She didn’t sell ceramics or anything, but it was a place where that family could go and make ceramics for gifts, to sell, or just for themselves. My grandparents, George and Harriet Byer were some of the main visitors at the little ceramic shop, and the things they made were beautiful. They blessed many people in the family with the ceramics they were able to make at Aunt Jeanette’s shop. I can picture it now. The good times they all head there…working on ceramics, while talking and laughing…just enjoying each other’s company. I’m sure Aunt Jeanette misses that a lot. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 83rd birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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