Queen Of The Highways

A Pony Express stop for our time

In sunshine or darkness, good weather or bad, whether I’m wide awake or dead tired, the most beautiful roadside sight for me is a sign that says WE NEVER CLOSE . I have warm memories of such homes of 24-hour gasoline and coffee: in the Poconos on I-80; another in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania; Sandman Plaza in Bordentown, New Jersey; dines Corners on I-40 east of Albuquerque; at the Sacramento River crossing south of Redding, California; on I-90 west of Missoula; a handful on I-80 in Nebraska and Iowa.Read more »

Nicknames On The Land

A small but dependable pleasure of travel is encountering such blazons of civic pride as “Welcome to the City of Cheese, Chairs, Children, and Churches!”

Stephen Vincent Benét confessed that he had fallen in love with American placenames, and George R. Steward, author of the classic Names on the Land, wrote that he was born with rapturous feelings towards the names and cities that “lay thickly over the land.” Read more »

Powder River Country

THE MOVIES, THE WARS, AND THE TEAPOT DOME
A journey of a hundred miles on a Wyoming interstate turns up the true stories behind the powerful Western myths

My wife and I are on the inter-state, headed north toward Johnson County, Wyoming. Ten years ago I prowled this country doing research for a novel that used material from the Johnson County War of 1892, when powerful cattlemen—in what is called “the Invasion”—attacked hardscrabble newcomers who were threatening their hegemony. Ten years ago there was no interstate, and Highway 87 was the north-south artery, frequented by pickups with rifle racks in the rear windows, its blacktop notable for the amount of mashed wildlife displayed.Read more »

Boosting The West

The Wyoming photographer Joseph Stimson proudly portrayed his region in the years when it was emerging from rude frontier beginnings

In a career lasting almost sixty years, Joseph Stimson promoted Wyoming and other Western states in strong and spirited photographs. He was not the West’s first photographer, nor its most artistic, but his work perfectly expressed the optimism and belief in progress of this area in the early twentieth century. Read more »

It All Began In Wyoming

One day in 1869 the gentlemen of the territorial legislature amused themselves by enacting the first woman-suffrage law. They trusted in a veto from the governor

Wyoming. The name itself recalls the Old West, where a man was a man. The virile pioneer, eyes squinted against the prairie sun or mountain snowstorm, muscles tense, ready to overcome any human or elemental opposition. The rough, tough cowboy, drawing fast, drinking hard, dying young. Read more »

The Redskin Who Saved The White Man’s Hide

Chief Washakie earned his battle scars in the service of the Great White Father, who—for once at least—kept faith with an Indian

 

General George Crook, United States Army, angular and bearded, resisted the impulse to consult his watch again. From the opening of his tent he could have seen the wide stretch of sagebrush-covered hills to the west over the willow bottoms of Goose Creek, but he was tired of looking at it. Why didn’t Washakie come?

 
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Pioneers In Petticoats

Legend says the frontier was “hell on women,” but the ladies claim they had the time of their lives

I once had a conversation about the ways of the West with a wise and literate old man who had been a cowpuncher in Montana in the golden days of Charlie Russell and Teddy Blue. John R. Barrows was the author of a book called Ubet , describing the adventures of his parents who ran a stage station rejoicing in that typically jaunty frontier name. They had gone west with a wagon train from Wisconsin in 1879, taking several small children.