Gale McGee and the Archives

By Rodger McDaniel

The wonderful thing about choosing to write the biography of a historian is that historians do what they do. They leave behind so much material with which to work. 

Gale McGee left thousands of files in hundreds of Banker’s boxes filled with speeches, letters, and personal reminiscences spanning his lifetime. When I first looked over the mountain of paper I thought to myself, “I’m sure I won’t need to scrutinize every piece of paper in every one of those folders.” Wrong!

Early on, I pulled a folder from a box, labeled “McGee Memoirs.” Inside was another file marked “Diabetes.” The former Senator was plagued by the disease his entire life. I opened the file thinking I’d find personal reflections on what it was like to be diabetic. What I found, instead, was a never before told story about the most prominent Senate spokesperson for the war in Vietnam. McGee served as U.S. senator from Wyoming from 1959 through 1977.

In a Bronco with Geologist Dave Love

By Rebecca Hein

At the beginning of John McPhee’s fascinating 1986 book, Rising from the Plains, the author introduces geologist David Love, a great talker and thinker who spent a long, Laramie-based career with the U.S. Geological Survey. McPhee also introduces us to Love’s mother, Ethel Waxham Love and to Wyoming geology in general. Ethel Waxham was still single in October 1905 when she traveled from Denver by train and stagecoach to teach a winter term of school in Fremont County, about 30 miles south of Lander. McPhee weaves in background on David’s childhood and early education after Ethel married sheep rancher John Love, a Scot, in June 1910 and they made a home on Muskrat Creek, near the bone-dry center of the state.

Early in the narrative—geared for the lay reader—the author and David Love, about 70 at the time, are driving around in a Bronco and camping out a lot. Stopping near Rawlins, they get out to look at the rocks. Love says, “The rock that outcrop[s] around Rawlins …  contain[s] a greater spread of time than any other suite of exposed rocks along Interstate 80 between New York and San Francisco.”

Hemingway in Wyoming

Ernest Hemingway, if you haven’t noticed, is back in the news. Ken Burns’s and Lyn Novick’s new, six-hour documentary about the writer and his life debuts this week on PBS.

Given to broad, brief statements, Hemingway supposedly told Elsa Spear Byron of the Spear-O-Wigwam dude ranch in the Bighorns, “There are two places I love—Africa and Wyoming.”

Hemingway visited Wyoming many times, often for months at a stretch. He came to Wyoming to fish, hunt and write. But he never made a life here, or in Africa, either, for that matter. In fact, unlike other great writers of his time, writers with whom he’s often spoken of in a single sentence—Pound, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf, Fitzgerald—Hemingway seems always to have been on the move. His life was full of travel, elation, work, drink, wrecks, despair and a great, sad love for the physical world as it is—or as he thought it was, or as close as he could make it in his paragraphs.

Wyoming’s Chinese Massacre

In Wyoming, with our small minority populations, it’s easy to feel morally distant from events like the Asian-spa shootings in Atlanta last week. Whatever mix of religion, armament, opportunity and virulent misogyny motivated the shooter, race hatred was in there, too.

Surely something like that wouldn’t happen here, right?  

Maybe. Still, this seems a good time to remember two events from Wyoming’s past.

Utes in Wyoming Newspapers, 1906

By Tom Rea
(Editor’s note: Tom Rea’s article “The Flight of the Utes,” was published this week on

The past may seem dusty, distant, even irrelevant at times, until you hear the voices of people who lived through it. Fortunately, those tones survive in the things people wrote down. Personal letters are full of the tones of people’s voices but so, sometimes, are more formal documents, even government reports—and so are newspapers.

In the last decade or two, thanks to publicly funded, state-level efforts like the Wyoming Digital Newspapers Collection and private subscription efforts like, scholars and the public now have huge resources available to them, and can find in a day or two sources that earlier would have taken weeks of time and miles of travel to access in far-flung archives. It makes a big difference in the history that gets written.

A couple of years ago, Greg Nickerson, who has written for on a variety of Native American topics, mentioned to me a story I’d never heard of: A band of several hundred Ute Indians with a large horse herd left their reservation in Utah and came across Wyoming in 1906. They hoped to find welcome and a better life on the Crow, Cheyenne or Sioux reservations of Montana and South Dakota. Greg didn’t have time to research the topic further, but he did steer me to an article about it from the Utah Historical Quarterly in 1968. I thought, well, with that plus what we can now find in newspaper databases, maybe we could bring something new to a topic that still was not well known.

And that turned out to be the case.

Two Writing Ranchwomen

By Rebecca Hein

Living on a ranch before ranches had electricity or mechanized equipment is not something people often think about now. But these on-the-spot records from just a century ago remind us how much things have changed—how hard, especially, these people had to work—and what we can learn from the past.

Two ranchwomen writers have left clear descriptions of their lives and daily routines, including the hardships they and their families endured. Both also wrote about people and events in the area, going beyond their own home lives.

Lester "Buddy" Hunt, Jr.—the Rest of the Story

By Rodger McDaniel
(Editor’s note: Rodger McDaniel’s article, “Baseball, Politics, Triumph and Tragedy: The Career of Lester Hunt,” was published this month on

It was April of 2011. Out of the blue, I received a Facebook friend request from Lester Hunt, Jr. I’d begun writing a column for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. A mutual friend sent copies to Mr. Hunt. He wanted to open a dialogue.  

I called him. During the conversation, I said, “Your father’s story needs to be told. Someone needs to write his biography.” Buddy said, “Why don’t you do that?” We set a date to meet. I flew to Chicago, spending a week with the namesake of the Wyoming senator who took his own life in June of 1954.

'Come brother, let us ramble o'er the Black and Yellow Trail…'

By Robert and Elizabeth Rosenberg
(Editors’ note: The Rosenbergs are authors of “Let Us Ramble: Exploring the Black and Yellow Trail in Wyoming,” recently published on

For almost 40 years, we have made our living as historical consultants in Wyoming. Because the state is rich in trail history, we have recorded many segments of routes from the earliest emigrant roads to the first auto roads. Historic trails generally bring to mind prairie schooners bound for Oregon and California; in addition to the famous Oregon Trail, emigrants crossed the state by way of the Overland Trail, the Bozeman Trail and the Bridger Trail. Today, one can still find remnants of these trails -- wagon ruts, rock inscriptions, and emigrant graves. 

The earliest interstate roads also crossed Wyoming: the Lincoln Highway (the first east-west interstate highway), the Yellowstone Highway (connecting Denver to Yellowstone and other National Parks) and the lesser known Black and Yellow Trail. This road was developed in the 1910s so that tourists could jump in their new cars and follow a good road from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park, enjoying the Black Hills, Devils Tower and the Bighorn Mountains along the way. The name of the new road reflected the major attractions as well as the black and yellow-banded posts that would mark the route.  

Beethoven, My Cello and a Wildfire

By Rebecca Hein
Editor’s note: Rebecca Hein’s article, “Beethoven’s Birthday in Wyoming,” about two concerts celebrating the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth, was published on this week.

December 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. Wyoming orchestras planned celebrations this year, but they were disrupted by COVID-19. The (Casper) Wyoming Symphony and Cheyenne Symphony both programmed a Beethoven work for every concert, but many had to be canceled or delayed. The Powder River Symphony, in Gillette, attempting to present live performances, could not put a full orchestra on stage. On the 200th anniversary in 1970, however, two civic orchestras performed Beethoven.

Growing up in Wyoming, I had few chances to attend professional concerts in Casper, but by 15, I was playing in the Casper Civic Symphony and Casper Youth Symphony. Beethoven’s music was a magnet pulling me into the practice room, two to six hours a day from ages 16 to 27. Later, I confined my reduced practice hours to my schedule as a professional cello teacher and performer.

Thanksgiving, a pandemic and some rumors

In the fall of 1918, Wyoming, like the rest of the United States, experienced the deadliest two months yet of the influenza pandemic then sweeping the world. From October 1918 through January 1919, 780 people in Wyoming died either of the flu or a combination of the flu and pneumonia. For weeks, newspapers across the state ran front-page obituaries of local people. The peak came during the first two weeks of November; by Thanksgiving, the onslaught of new cases and deaths seemed to be tapering off slightly—in some towns at least.

“Thanksgiving Day in Buffalo this year was observed,” the Buffalo Bulletin reported, “but in a very quiet manner, prevalence of the flu making it entirely out of the question to hold any public gatherings. A number of small dinner parties among friends and neighbors were given, so that a spirit of thanksgiving prevailed in the city to a certain extent.” That caution, the wariness in the tone of “to a certain extent,” seems particularly familiar now. It runs through all the Wyoming papers we browsed recently to find out what was up during Thanksgiving week, 1918.