Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Telephone

Concerning changes between then and now, something that occurs to me is that those practicing a century ago were much less impacted, if impacted at all, by the telephone.

That may sound obvious, but the impact would be huge.

There are days that I hardly get off the phone. And as I try to take my phone calls, even if really busy, it means that the phone impacts the flow of my work a great deal. This would not have been the case at one time.

It's really difficult to imagine, actually. A day without phone calls and without email. Communications would come solely by mail or by direct contact. I suppose if people had a question, they dropped by to ask it or to make an appointment, and most contacts would have been very much local.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Slow medicine

Perhaps another example of how things once were in the early automobile, late horse, era:
Slow ambulance -- "Broke Her Arm.

"Mrs. Frank Jameson of Ervay was kicked on the left arm by a horse Sunday and sustained a fractured bone, and she passed through this city Monday on her way to the Douglas hospital, where she will have the fracture reduced. She was accompanied by her son Lawrence.
From the Casper Star Tribunes history column. The date was September 1909.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Speed of Cooking

I received an unexpected and surprising of how much things have changed even in my own lifetime this week, and in the kitchen at that.

Last week I happened to have to go to Safeway to buy some odds and ends, one of which was breakfast cereal. I'm bad about buying the same kinds again and again, so I decided to add some variety. It's been fall like here, so I decided to go with hot cereals for a change.

But not only did I decide to go with hot cereals, but I bought Cream of the West and Irish Oatmeal. That is, I did not buy instant Cream of Wheat, instant Oatmeal or quick oats.

Cream of the West is like old fashioned Cream of Wheat, except its whole wheat. Frankly, the taste is identical to "regular" Cream of Wheat. Irish Oatmeal, however, is really porridge, and it has to be cooked. It actually has to be cooked and allowed to stand, so it isn't speedy.

Anyhow, my kids have never had "regular" Cream of Wheat. They like "instant" Cream of Wheat, which has an odd texture and taste in my view. Sort of wall paper paste like. Anyhow, my son cooked some Cream of the West the first day I did, with us both using the microwave instructions.

He hated it. He's so acclimated to the pasty instant kind, he finds the cooked kind really bad.

Both kids found the porridge appalling. They're only familiar with instant oatmeal, and they porridge was not met with favor at all. I really liked it. It's a lot more favorable than even cooked oatmeal.

Anyhow, the point of all of this is that all this quick instant stuff is really recent, but we're really used to it. During the school year my wife makes sure the kids have a good breakfast every day, which she gets up and cooks for them. But it never really sank in for me how much our everyday cooking has benefited from "instant" and pre made. Even a thing like pancakes provides an example. My whole life if a person wanted pancakes, they had the benefit of mixes out of a box. More recently, for camping, there's a pre measured deal in a plastic bottle that I use, as you need only add water. A century ago, I suppose, you made the pancakes truly from scratch, which I'll bet hardly anyone does now.

A revolution in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Scenes from days gone by.

A building in Deadwood South Dakota that was once a Hudson and Terraplane dealer, two extinct brands of automobiles.

Interesting for a variety of reasons. One, the then existing variety of American automobiles. Two, that fairly small towns (although the area was fairly well populated, due to mining, at that time), with a fairly substantial automobile dealership.

Monday, July 20, 2009

More tiny, but viable, towns

The Casper Star Tribune ran an intersting article over the weekend about a town that's disappeared.

Commenting on this on SMH, I noted:

A Casper Star Tribune article that sort of sheds light on some of the topics discussed here: ... 0157b9.txt

This article discusses an entire town disappearing. But it misses part of the reason for that. The town was only a few miles from another, that being the town of Midwest. Midwest is just about four or five miles from another, Edgerton. And Midwest is only about 50 miles from Casper. So the town in the article was probably only about 30 or 40 miles from Casper.

When it was founded, travel conditions would have made the town probably both necessary and viable. But by the 30s, when it disappeared, it was really redundant and inefficient, it's role having been taken over by older and slightly larger Midwest.

Today, Midwest and Edgerton are sort of shadows of their former selves as well.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

1920, law, and the Geology Museum

I learned just the other day that the University of Wyoming College of Law was founded in 1920, and received ABA approval in 1923.

Shoot, that's a lot earlier than I thought. I had thought, for some reason, that the College of Law dated from after World War Two. It sort of redefines my concepts of what the university regarded as worthwhile or important early on. When the College of Law was founded, I think the school was about 30 years old.

In other new, the University has had to cut its budget fairly significantly due to the decline in mineral revenues. Nearly the entire state budget is funded through severance taxes, which have taken a real hit in the last year. The change in economic fortunes has been massive, due to the national slow down, and the regional decline in the value of natural gas. So, as a result, Gov. Freudenthal has ordered ever state agency to cut back, and also enacted a general hiring freeze.

The University has taken the ax to distance programs, I guess (I'm not really up on that). But as part of the cutbacks, the very old Geology Museum is being closed.

It's a shame. I'll admit that I find it sad as I'm a graduate of the Geology Department. I hate to see it close. I don't know how old it is, but it's real darned old. I don't disagree with the need to cut back, but I find it very difficult to accept that a cut back in a feature of a hard science department is academically sound.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Followup to the Combs murder, discussed below

The CST's history column follows up on the murder of attorney Combs.
Casper Tribune-Herald, 1934

Evidence piles up -- Throughout the week of June 15, excited headlines screamed of the presumed solution to the previous week's top story. "MRS. COMBS ARRESTED


"In a startling climax to investigation into the murder of S. S. Combs, his widow, Mrs. Hazel Combs, was placed under arrest. ... A warrant charging the first degree murder of the former (Casper) city attorney was served on the slight, steel-nerved woman. ...

"(Combs) had been shot five times at such close range that powder burns were left by some of the shots. ...

"Prisoner Visibly Shaken When Shown Weapon

"To the rear of the (Combs) cabin, about 50 feet distant, is the outhouse where an important discovery was made. Beneath fresh wood ashes ... was found the revolver with which, the officers said, the murder was committed. It contained six empty shells. ...



"Insurance Collection Is Held Motive

"... Mr. Combs was husband No. 4. ... He was an attorney who represented her in divorce proceedings against husband number 3. ... Harley Atwood, the second husband of Mrs. Combs, died ... from asphyxiation by gas, when a coffee pot boiled over on a gas stove in the room where he lay asleep on a couch

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Modern Transportation

Changes in transportation methods were brought home to me again this week.

On Tuesday of this past week I drove 140 miles to Rawlins Wyoming, worked all day, and returned home that evening. 140 miles isn't a long distance in modern terms. My route took me past Independence Rock, where I stopped at the rest station as I always do. Then, resuming travel, down the Oregon Trail a ways further, and then across some desert country to Ten Mile Hill, a huge topographic rise just outside of Rawlins. Then into Rawlins, whose Union Pacific station is depicted above.

I have no idea if this station is still there. A lot of Rawlin's older buildings are. Rawlins itself, still on the main line of the UP, has seen some very hard times in recent years, but it seems to be rebounding, it's recovery fueled, as it were by natural gas exploration, as well as some wind energy development.

When I wrapped up my work, I turned around and was home in the early evening. A typical day's work for a litigator in Wyoming. It was an enjoyable trip really. Armed with my company supplied Ipod, I finished the book on tape version of Alexander Hamilton for the third time, and listened to a selection of episodes of "The News From Lake Woebegone".

I was to return to Rawlins on Thursday. I didn't, as I came down with the flu. Before somebody asks, no I don't know if it was the "Swine Flu". Whatever it was, it was fast moving, and I am over it now. I crawled into work on Thursday, but a partner of mine very graciously volunteered to take my place, so he repeated by Tuesday travel on Thursday.

I was very grateful for this, as I had a motion hearing in Douglas Wyoming, fifty miles a way, on Friday. I went home on Thursday and slept most of the day. The next day, however, I was back on the road to Douglas.

The courthouse depicted above is no longer in use, and I don't even know where it was. Douglas has a nice new courthouse, built, I think, in the 1970s, or maybe 80s.

This trip too was pleasant and uneventful, except for loosing my motion (rats). On the way to Douglas, I listed to an Ipod interview of H. W. Brands, speaking about Franklin Roosevelt. On the way back, I finished up the last downloaded News From Lake Woebegone I had.

What's the point of this? Modern easy of travel.

Could I have done this a century ago? I doubt it. Even had I owned a car in 1909, there's no way that I could have traveled to Rawlins and back in a day. I wouldn't have tried. It would have been much more likely that, if I had to do that, I would have taken the train from Casper to North Platte NE, and then switched on to the UP line and rode to Rawlins on Monday. I'd have stayed over in Rawlins Tuesday evening. I wouldn't have been able to have a back to back event in Rawlins and Douglas, in all likelihood.

But what does that mean? In part, it probably means that a lawyer, in this context, a century ago, would have gone to Rawlins on a Monday, and came back on a Friday. On Wednesday, he probably wouldn't have had much to do. Perhaps, were it me, I would have gone down to Parco for amusement. If I had to go to Douglas for Friday, I would have had to catch a night train.

What about, say 1939. I could have driven then, road travel was much improved. Even so, it would have been a bit of a brutal trip.

I suspect this also shows that, while travel is easier, life is faster paced. Probably nobody would have tried to schedule back to back travel plans like this "back in the day". Now, I'll often travel up to 600 miles in a day. If something is no further than 300 miles away, I don't stay, usually. That certainly wasn't the case at one time.

History of Natrona County

I'm surprised to find that A. J. Mockler's History of Natrona County is on line.

Granted, it is one of the dullest books ever written. But what an amazing tribute to the internet in that what is truly a rare book is so easily available in this form.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Dual Careered lawyer

Here's an interesting item from today's CST history column. I'm afraid that I'm interested in it for the wrong reasons.
"Three Wounds in Head and Two in Body of S. S. Combs"

Recently retired Casper City Attorney Sewell Stanley Combs, 50, was found shot to death in his car June 10 at his ranch near Granite Canyon.

"The bullets that literally riddled his body were fired by a 'cowardly murderer' who shot the unsuspecting victim in the back of the head and body," a sheriff said.

Combs' widow, Hazel, "(h)er face ... drawn by grief, her eyes tortured by unshed tears and sleeplessness ... seemed overnight to have aged many years. She was haunted by the knowledge that while she lay asleep in their ranch home between Alcova and Leo, ... her husband was brutally murdered in his car--not a quarter of a mile away! ...

"The position of the body and other details indicated ... that Combs had been ... unaware of the menace hovering over his life when the assailant, in the back seat, shot him through the head, then emptying the gun as the man's body slumped over. ...

"Credence was ... given today to the theory that he was slain by an assailant harboring a bitter, personal grudge. ... This theory was a source of mystification, ... it being heard on every side: 'We didn't know Stan Combs had an enemy in the world.' ... Rumor was rife today that the trail of the murderer had led to Casper.
What's interesting here to me, I'm afraid, is that this lawyer apparently had a ranch way out of town. The location mentioned here is a pretty good trip out of Casper now, but in 1934, it was a very good trip indeed.

Lawyers coming from ranch families was common in Natrona County as recently as 20 or so years ago. In other counties, it remains common. But combining the professions is not common any longer. I wonder if it was at that time, and if so, how common.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Casper, Natrona County, 1909

Another interesting item about transportation a century ago. From a recent Casper Star Tribune article, quoting the Natrona County Tribune of 1909.

"A Dozen Will be in Service During This Summer.

"... J. P. Cantillon, superintendent of the Wyoming & Northwestern railroad company, ... was the first of Casper's citizens to start the fashion. Mr. Cantillon owns a Pope-Toledo, 20 horse power. ... (T)o its use is due the fact that very few of the ranchers about here now have any teams that are afraid to meet an auto in the road. ...

"C. M. Elgin ... has a Chalmers-Detroit 30-horse power," which he drove to Casper after purchase. "The time made on the trip ... (was) eighteen hours and forty-five minutes from Denver.

" ... M. N. Castle (Shorty) owns a 20-horse power Reo . ... (He) deserves credit for a new mixture ... for fuel for his machine, but he only used it once, and says that he will never do so again if he can help it. ... (H)e ran out of gasoline and could procure no more, but the ranch where he stopped had plenty of coal oil. Shorty tanked up with the coal oil and the mixture ... sufficed to run him into town, a distance of twelve miles."

The Reo in question appears here.

J. V. Puleo, on this topic on the Society of the Military Horse website, posted an interesting photograph of a little newer Reo here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Transportation, Early 20th Century

Natrona County Tribune, 1909 A trip to write about -- "AN auto-stage line is to be established between Shoshoni and Thermopolis in the near future, and every editor in the state is hoping that the gasoline wagon will be in operation before the meeting of the Press association."

An item noted in today's Casper Star Tribune.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Best Post of the Week of April 27, 2009

Lex Anteinternet?

Niobrara County Courthouse

This is the Niobrara County Courthouse, one of the oldest courthouses still in use here. Perhaps its the oldest one still in use. Anyhow, this is an example of how they used to be.



Perhaps simply because this is one of the first posts that I did on this blog it has remained, for some reason, one of the consistently most viewed.  Anyhow, in checking back on it, I realized that I didn't post a link to the photo of this courthouse up on Courthouses of the West, our companion blog, in the main thread, although I did add it in a comment.

Also, since posting this, I've learned that at the time I posted this photo there were at least two, and probably three, courthouses then in use that are older than this one.  One of those, the Johnson County Courthouse, just went out of use, as a new courthouse has been built.  Another one, however, in Uinta County is much older than this one, having been actually built in the 1870s.

Transportation, late 19th Century

A modern highway map shows as distance of 211 miles from Worland, in the southern half of the basin, to Rawlins, and 293 miles from Cody to Green River, but modern transportation systems are not remotely like those of 1879. In practical terms, Green River and Rawlins were further from the Big Horn Basin in 1879 than they are now from Outer Mongolia, and criminal prosecution was nearly impossible.

There were no roads leading south from the basin, only trails. At least one yearly trip to the Union Pacific had to be made, though, because in the early 1880s this was the nearest railhead, the only real opening to a market to sell cattle and get supplies. E. W. Copps declared that the cattle drive from Buffalo to Rawlins, a trip that did not require a traverse of mountains, took eighteen days. Coming from the basin, however, a cattle owner first had to get out, and any exit required going over an 8,000-foot pass, such as Birdseye Pass or Cottonwood Pass; thus, David John Wasden's estimate of six weeks for a round trip seems about right. Of course, the return trip, when cattle were not being driven, did not take as long but was still arduous. Owen Wister describes a 263 mile excursion from Medicine Bow "deep into cattle land," a trip taking several days by wagon, while "swallowed in a vast solitude." His description sounds like a journey north into the Big Horn Basin.
Goodbye Judge Lynch, by John W. Davis.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lex Anteinternet?

The Consolidated Royalty Building, where I work, back when it was new.

What the heck is this blog about?

The intent of this blog is to try to explore and learn a few things about the practice of law prior to the current era. That is, prior to the internet, prior to easy roads, and the like. How did it work, how regional was it, how did lawyers perceive their roles, and how were they perceived?

Part of the reason for this, quite frankly, has something to do with minor research for a very slow moving book I've been pondering. And part of it is just because I'm curious. Hopefully it'll generate enough minor interest so that anyone who stops by might find something of interest, once it begins to develop a bit.