Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thomasson: The old days were really green; we just didn't know it | ScrippsNews

Thomasson: The old days were really green; we just didn't know it | ScrippsNews

I don't usually like Thomasson's columns all that well, but this one fits in, although I'm fairly convinced that he overheard conversation is an imagined literary vehicle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Some Gave All: Converse County War Memorial, Douglas Wyoming

Some Gave All: Converse County War Memorial, Douglas Wyoming: This the memorial to Converse County's war dead which is located in the Converse County Courthouse . Amongst the individuals whose are lis...

Today In Wyoming's History: November 28

Today In Wyoming's History: November 28: 1914 New Your Stock Exchange reopens for the first time since July, when the crises leading up to World War One caused its closer. 1916 ...

This is an interesting item. I hadn't realized that the New York Stock Exchange had been closed from some point in July, 1914, up until November 28, 1914. That's a long time for trading to be suspended.

This is undoubtedly an ignorant question, but if anyone should ever stop here (a rare occurrence, I know) and also be knowledgeable on the the stock exchanges of this period, how did they work? That is, if I was, say, in Casper Wyoming and I wanted to buy stock in a publicly traded company of that period, how would I do it? I presume that I'd need to find a stock broker, and place the order with him, but how we he do it? Telegraph? Telephone? Mail?


"Hero" is an overused word these days.  The entire concept has, unfortunately, become devalued to the point of being nearly meaningless.  No sports figure is a "hero" for being a sports figure. Not everyone who serves in the armed forces is a hero either, no matter how much we may value their service.  No heroes are rare by definition.

Which therefore should cause me to question using it in this post, where perhaps the word "mentor" would be better, but I just don't like the word, so hero it is.

So here is the topic.  Do you have personal heroes?  That is, heroes in your occupation, or even your life, that you hold up as a standard?

The reason I've started thinking of this is that, as I recently noted here, is that I've been doing a little reading on some of the State's Founding Fathers, and I'm not too sure I like them.  It leads me to question why that is.  A lot of them occupied the same professions as I do, some of them occupying both professions I do, and yet I can't find myself really liking them, even though I'd like to.  Perhaps that reflects s deficit of the right kind of ambition on my part. Cal Thomas recently quoted a famous person (I've forgotten who) to the effect that ambition was the "road" to success.  Perhaps it is, but I think that perhaps that fails to acknowledge that some types of ambition lead to pretty rocky, rural, roads.  Thomas quoted those for the proposition that anyone could become financially independent if they had ambition and were willing to work hard.  Perhaps.

Anyhow, what this has caused me to ponder is people in my fields who I admire as examples.  Surely, I thought, I'd be able to find some and hold them up as historical standards.  I'm having a tough time of it, to some degree, however.

With law and lawyers I'm finding it quite difficult.  Maybe that's because the type of people I might admire just don't fit well into the mold of lawyers we might know.  In thinking on it, I can really only think of a few examples.  Abraham Lincoln is one, but I probably admire him more for other reasons than his career as a lawyer.  John Adams is perhaps another, as a man who was able to mix a career as a farmer with that of a lawyer.  Indeed Adams is probably the only example I can really hold up.  There are other lawyers I can think of, but they did not distinguish themselves as such.  John J. Pershing had a law degree, but of course he never practiced law.  Thomas Jefferson I somewhat admire, but in terms of his legal practice, which was slight, he might actually define the wondering mind nature of many who enter the field, and he never actually liked the law, and didn't have to to practice due to his circumstances.

Of course, if I go way back, I can think of a few, but they are all highly admirable for a variety of other reasons. St. Thomas More is the greatest lawyer of all time, but because of his dedication to the Truth.  He would not be an example of worldly success, as his dedication to the Truth and Faith cost him his life.   That tends to be the sort of example I really admire, but obviously that's not going to really inspire me while writing a brief.  St. Augustine is another, but he fits in to a whole hosts of such examples of bright, highly intelligent men of Faith who were lawyers, and left the law due to their Faith.  The same talents that they had as lawyers were useful in their subsequent careers, but their success was due to their following their calling.

Some people I know will sometimes mention individual lawyer they know.  Old well respected lawyers, old judges, etc.  I guess those provide good personal examples, but I can't really think of any myself.

Agriculture is a bit different.  I can think of lots of farmers and ranchers, some of whom I know, and some who were  historical figures, that I really admire. But here too, I can't use them for personal inspiration at my desk, as they didn't work at desks.  If I ponder them I'm going to want to go outside, and I have indoor work to do that I cannot avoid.

I suppose in this later category I'd note Wendell Berry, who is a farmer and an English professor, a poet and an author.  I do admire his writings. But I'd note here too that Berrys' philosophy is the antithesis of what most hold up as a philosophy of success.

I don't know where any of this leads to.  Perhaps this. Do you have any personal heroes?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Food Network

What do people who watch all these cooking shows on television do with the information?

Unless we're becoming a secret nations of chefs, and I don't think we are, I think a lot of people are actually watching other people cook on television?  Why?

I suppose, if nothing else, perhaps its encouraging diversity in menus.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The CST gets testy

Casper's newspaper actually has an editorial today urging voters to kick everyone out of Congress.  They include our sitting Congresswoman and Senators.

This is amazing for a Wyoming editorial.  The Wyoming tradition is to re-elect people no matter what.  I'm fairly convinced that F. E. Warren, who has been dead for 90 years, could be reelected Senator today based on the fact that he was Senator from 1890 to 1929. Got that seniority thing going for him, you know.

Now, it's not really a logical argument that people should be booted out without even knowing who their opposition would be, and it isn't going to happen. And it probably shouldn't. At least Senator Enzi was in there pitching for a budget solution. But that a Wyoming  newspaper would urge voters to axe all sitting is remarkable.  People must actually be mad.

What happens when columnists don't live in the real world

Also in the Casper paper today is a column they ran by one Bonnie Erbe.  I don't know who she is, but she's apparently a political columnist.

She's horrified that Congress has reauthorized the slaughter of horses.  Based on her column, it's pretty clear that Ms. Erbe knows no more about horses than she learned when she had a My Pretty Pony. She insists they actually pack some of the horses alive, and that packing houses attract a criminal element, as that's the only person who would work in one.  Here's part of her bio:
Erbé was born in New York City, but moved to Washington D.C. after graduation from college to cover politics. She graduated from Barnard College in 1974, Columbia University with an M.S. in Journalism in 1975 and from Georgetown University Law Center with a J.D. cum laude in 1987.

Ms. Erbé is non partisan and toes no party line. She is not an affiliated Democrat or Republican, nor is she uniformly progressive or conservative. Labels of all types make her nervous. Ms. Erbé finds partisan politics tiresome and believes she represents the majority of Americans who think for themselves and do not subscribe to any partisan or ideologically-prescribed way of thinking. She believes the only people who think that way are either angling for political appointments or trying to impose their moral beliefs on the nation's laws.
She is, however, passionate about women's advancement in the U.S. and worldwide, about preserving green spaces and maintaining an environment that can support the human race and animal species for millennia to come. She is also a strong supporter limiting government spending and a proponent of individual and personal responsibility.

She's obviously stunningly ignorant of real horses and real packing houses.  If she'd like to actually get some green experience, she ought to herd sheep with a real horse for a year.  Then her opinions on an actual animal which is in overabundance and not a plush toy might be relevant to something.  Otherwise, the opinion of an urban lawyer aren't of much value.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ambition and Ambition

I've been doing a little reading recently about  the founding personalities of this state.  And I'm not too sure I like them.  And, given as I know why I'm not too sure, I'm not too sure what this says about me.

The early history of this state's politics is heavily, almost exclusively, marked by men of high personal ambition. But that's what bothers me, their ambition was so personal.  None of them were from here, but then we couldn't expect them to be either, given as the native population was either truly Native, and therefore not recognized as US Citizenry at the time, as well as being an oppressed class, or otherwise very small in numbers.  That we would have to take as a given.

But the founding fathers, if you will, of the state, or at least those who obtained high political office, seem to be marked by a singular story.  They were from back east, they were often lawyers, they saw Wyoming as a wide open place where a person, often a lawyer, could make it big really quickly, as there were so few people and so many opportunities, and they translated this into political power.  Sometimes they stuck around thereafter, but often they did not.

I may be misreading them, but to those people this state was nothing more than a vehicle to personal success.  The state probably meant nothing more to them than any other place, and their own personal "success" was the goal.  They were highly personally ambitious.

But what about that sort of ambition?  It certainly doesn't comport with what Wendell Berry calls "becoming native to this place", and it isn't the sort of ambition that I have, or most long term residents of this state have.  People who have stuck it out here in lean times (and aren't all that happy to see people moving in, in spite of the pathetic babblings of the Casper newspaper calling 70,000 new residents something to be thankful for. . .hardly).  People who are really from here, love the land as a rule, and while we don't all agree with what means, we can all agree we love the state.

I suppose this might mean that my personal ambition is pretty skewed, or at least not very American.  I really don't get the thinking of people who move all over to follow a career.  And that seems destructive to me on top of it.  Never living anywhere, really, they never value anything other than themselves.

Enough with the idiot turkey "pardoning" thing already

This year, as every Thanksgiving, we've been treated to the stupidity of a Presidential turkey pardoning, an annual ritual that shows how really disconnected from reality we've become.  Today, no doubt, the President will have turkey for Thanksgiving Dinner from some other less benighted bird, probably a hormone free green "Heritage" turkey.

This is just stupid.

It isn't stupid that the President has turkey for the traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner, like most Americans will save for Neo Pagans who will eat wheat grass or something, and then anemically proclaim their hatred of nature a love, and then go play the Xbox or something.  No, turkey is a fine meal. But this over sentimentality and anthropomorphism of a bird is really goofy.

The turkey being "pardoned" isn't guilty of anything.  It's a bird that is food, one of God's gifts to his people.  It has no soul, and serves the function of being sustenance for other things.  If it were in a state of nature, and it didn't become food for a human, it would become food for a bobcat, coyote or bacteria.  Turkeys in nature do not go on to retire to Turkey retirement homes. They go on to become meat. Always, with no exceptions.  The lucky turkeys become meat for humans, the only animal that cares how a thing is killed.  The unlucky ones go on to become food for bobcats, which like to play with their mortally wounded food, or for bacteria, which make for a rather gross death.

By "pardoning" a turkey we playfully give rise to an idea that we kill our food as it is guilty of something.  Given as it is a Presidential pardon, apparently the turkey is guilty of treason or espionage, about the only things you can get the Federal death penalty for.  But killing a turkey in the real world is not an execution, it's what all humans, even vegans, do to survive.

Besides, they go on and eat turkey for dinner anyway, and the fact that they pardon one on one day and eat one on another, is used as some sort of rather pathetic argument by the Neo Pagans in advancement of their hatred of nature.

I know I won't see it, but I'd love to see a year when they bring the turkey out on the White House lawn and the President says "looks great!  Kill and and roast him up!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

That vaguely uncomfortable feeling

I am not an opponent of technology by any means, but I don't unthinkingly accept any new technological development as unquestionably good either.  Simply accepting any new thing seems to be the American way now days, and that isn't a good thing. Still, I've been an early adopter of many office electronic devices, and chances are that a lot of people inaccurately think I'm a techi.

But recently certain things have been giving me a vague feeling of discomfort.  Usually I analyze any such feelings to see if its simply my naturally conservative nature reacting to a changing circumstance or if my feeling is based on something genuine.  And on more than one occasion I have conceded something as an improvement, even if I don't really like it personally.  Here, however, I can't really define the sense of discomfort, or why it persists.

But it does.

To try to define it, for reasons I can't really adequately explain, I have the sense that technology is moving us so far from the real, and natural, world that it's a threat to us at a core level.  We're obviously fascinated with technology, and it seems most (but not all) human cultures continually adopt all things new no matter what the utility or costs.  Our electronic devices are, I fear, becoming so advanced and distracting that the risk permanently enslaving us in the world of the fake.

And it isn't just Ipods, Ipads, and computer, but other things as well.  In this season of poultry fueled bliss most Americans do not realize that turkeys, the national Holiday bird,  have been rendered so deformed as a domestic species of avian livestock that they can no longer breed. That's right. Turkey breasts have grown so huge, through breading, that turkeys are actually incapable of reproducing naturally, in the case of the production variety, so that artificial insemination is needed to reproduce them.  I can't really say why I find this horrific, but I do.  In order to get a turkey that's not a freak of production nature, you actually have to buy a "Heritage Turkey".  I'm not inclined to do that, but it's one more reason that a person, if they can, ought to just harvest one of the wild ones.

I know I sound like a Luddite in saying all of this. But we are what we are, and I don't really think we were meant to be a couch sitting, Ipod using, "consumer". But we risk taking the whole planet there.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Penn State and a lack of moral standards.

There's been a lot of commentary on the alleged horror of sexual crimes against children by a member of the Penn State football coaching staff.  Like any well publicized crime, everyone is going to get their two cents in by the end, with some demanding Federal action, and no doubt a host of psychological babblers seeking to explain it.

I wasn't inclined to comment myself, and frankly I don't know that any comments are not necessarily off the mark by a bit simply for the reason that individual crimes are individual crimes, and we can draw broader lessons that are learned in error for that reason.  Nonetheless, I was struck by a couple of the comments, including one on national television, that are highly insightful, and highly unusual.

First there is this comment by David Brooks, on Meet teh Press
MR. BROOKS: If you're alert to the sense of what evil is, what the evil is within yourself and what evil is in society, you have a script to follow. It's not a vague sense. You have a script to follow. And this is necessary because people do not intervene. If--there's been a ton of research on this. They say people, they ask people, "If you saw something cruel, if you saw racism and sexism, will you intervene?" Then they hire actors, and they put it right in front of them. People do not intervene. It's called the bystander effect. It happens again and again, people don't intervene. That's why we need these scripts to remind people how, how evil can be all around.
MR. BROOKS: Well, I think they obviously need to make the law more robust. But we can't rely on law and rules. It's up to personal discretion. We've taken a lot of moral decisions and tried to make them all legal based. But there has to be a sense of personal responsibility, regardless of what the rules are, "Here's what you do to stop it." And so if you try to make everything a matter of legalism and rules, you're going to get people doing the minimal, and you're going, going to have people thinking, "It's not my responsibility. It's, it's somehow lodged in the rules."
Brooks is, in my view, right on.  Frankly there are a large number of people in American, and Western, society who do not know what evil is, and beyond that do not even acknowledge it's existence.  Evil is. Some people are in evil's grip.  But you would not know that today if you listened to any popular media.  Sex crimes committed by adults upon one another are excused as "addictions", or the like.  And in the popular media it is now the in thing to popularize and glamorize the propagation of   sexual deviancy.  Homosexuality, which was defined as a mental illness up until the 1970s, is now hip, cool, and glamorous.  It's regarded as an unwarranted prejudice to even suggest that the existence of two genders with different reproductive origins might mean that sexual activity requires two sexes in order not to be deviant.

It's also now supposed to be the case that we're not to point out that the serial polygamy culture of the day, in which mating couples do not stick with each other for long, produces a horrific domestic situation for children.  Anyone hanging out at court for any length of time would realize that a very high percentage of violence in the home, including sexual violence, that is committed by adults is committed by an adult who shares no DNA with the child, but lives there.  I've never seen statistics on it, but based on observation I'd guess that the percentage of that feature of those crimes is well over 50%.  Simply put, the "boyfriend" (a term that ought not to apply to anyone over 25 years old) is typically the offender against a child he is not related to.  This is extremely, extremely, common.  But we are not to acknowledge it.  The "father", for that matter, simply moves on, without shame, and women will have multiple children by multiple fathers, as if this does not create a set of rather obvious problems.  In a prior era, this would have been regarded as a moral depravity, because it is a moral depravity, but those living it do not even know that now, as to mention it will provoke an active response from those whose only standards are the lack of standards of relativism. 

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas added this commentary in a column that's running this week which makes much the same point as Brooks did, but in an expanded form.  He starts off by aptly noting
Baseball may still be called the national pastime, but football has become the national religion. College football is played on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, while professional football is mostly played on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Fans of both often express themselves in ways that are more vocal than the wildest Pentecostal preacher. 
While denouncing what is alleged to have happened at Penn State as repugnant, we would do well to examine the reasons behind such things. Yes, it begins with human nature, but society — buttressed by religion — once did a better job of keeping human nature in check. 
Since the free-loving ’60s, we seem to have taken a wrecking ball to social mores. Today, anyone appealing to such a standard is denounced and stamped with the label of the day, usually ending in the suffix, “-phobe.”
This is exactly correct, and I'd note was the opinion of such widely ranging people as Thomas Jefferson, who is sometimes regarded as religiously eclectic, Theodore Roosevelt, who moved through a couple of Protestant religions during his lifetime, and Winston Churchill, who was born into the Church of England but whom rarely attended.  That is, they all felt that without the foundation of religious morality, no society would survive.  Right now we're running a big test to see if that's true, and so far the results do not look good.

Thomas goes on to note:
The medical and psychological professions have aided and abetted the cultural rot. Doctors once took an oath to “never do harm,” accompanied by a pledge never to assist in an abortion. Now the official position of the American Medical association’s “code of ethics” is this: “The principles of medical ethics of the AMA do not prohibit a physician from performing an abortion in accordance with good medical practice and under circumstances that do not violate law.” 
Doctors once led, now they follow cultural trends. 
On its website, the American Psychological Association brags, “Since 1975, the American Psychological Association has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations.” It once considered such behavior otherwise and while even most conservatives no longer regard homosexuality as a mental illness, many still regard it as sinful. That theological diagnosis, too, has been discarded in our increasingly secular and anomalous society where everything is to be tolerated except those people who assert that, according to a standard higher than opinion polls, some things remain intolerable.
Again, he's quite correct.  Indeed, it's worth nothing that the ground breaking paper that lead the APA to change its mind on homosexuality was written by a homosexual, hardly a disinterested person in such a debate.  It may or may not be a mental illness, but it is certainly a deviance, in the context of deviating from the norm.  Now, however, a person is not even supposed to state that, as neutral as it is.

Thomas also goes on to state
What changed? Pressure groups aided by secular education and the entertainment industry. 
Last week, an episode of “Glee” featured two couples — one straight, one gay — “losing their virginity.” The show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy, told Bravo’s “Sex in the Box”: “Hopefully I have made it possible for somebody on broadcast television to do a rear-entry scene in three years. Maybe that will be my legacy.” Some legacy.
Indeed, not only is Murphy likely to make sodomy and buggery  fare for children through television, but moral depravity already dominates on television.  The popular sitcom "Friends" has serial illicit sex as a routine topic, arguing that it was the cultural norm and to be admired.  The HBO show Sex and the City was a monument to immoral narcissistic behavior.  HBO followed upon this with what amounted to a campaign for polygamy, a cause with has now been taken up by "Sister Wives", a show on some other network, in which a strange acting fellow with a Cheshire Cat grin promotes his "marriage" to three women at one time.  It can be expected that polygamy will soon join with homosexuality in a campaign to dilute the meaning of marriage.

Does all this have something to do with Penn State?  Yes it does.  In a society in which there is no moral standard, and in which the popular media insists that serial sex is good, that homosexual sex is good, and which plural marriages are nifty, can such conduct as occurred at Penn State appear to be far more deviant that what the medial claims to be the norms?  Apparently it can be, according to the media, and we all should know that it is wrong. But by the same token, a society in which right and wrong is so debased as a standards will see many more such horrors.  Indeed, they've been going on for some time, and this one has only hit the news because football is such a big deal in our society.  At our current state, standards are only applied when they're applied to the nationally known.  Plural marriages are okay, but affairs by politicians are not, for example.

Any society that doesn't know right from wrong will see its debasement hurt the weakest first.  And all it takes for evil to prevail, as Neimoller noted, is for good men to do nothing.  In this case, good men and women have to say what they believe publicly.  It's time for that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Courthouses of the West: Federal Courthouse, Sheridan Wyoming

Here's an another example of a disappearing Federal Courthouse presence. Courthouses of the West: Federal Courthouse, Sheridan Wyoming.

This topic, i.e., the construction, and then the abandonment, of Federal Courthouses in Wyoming was addressed here a bit earlier.

It's hard not to notice how nice two out of the three abandoned Wyoming Federal Courthouses are (I haven't seen the third, that I know of, so it may be just as nice, it's used as a library today). I'm sure the courtrooms were very small, and probably they'd be regarded as inadequate for most Federal courtroom usages today, but still, it's hard to understand why the Federal government would have abandoned such nice structures, and not preserved them for their intended use.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Today In Wyoming's History: November 13

Today In Wyoming's History: November 13:

1933 "(MONDAY) UNITED STATES: The first dust storm of the great dust bowl era of the 1930s occurs. The dust storm, which has spread from Montana to the Ohio Valley yesterday, prevails from Georgia to Maine resulting in a black rain over New York and a brown snow in Vermont. Parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa reported zero visibility yesterday. Today, dust reduces the visibility to half a mile (805 meters) in Tennessee. (Jack McKillop)" Attribution: The WWII History List.

Old Picture of the Day: Old Prospector

The Old Picture blog is having a week dedicated to prospectors. I've linked in one photo already, and here's another.

My great grandfather Hennessy was briefly a gold miner in Leadville, Colorado, in the 19th Century. Only briefly, however. He opened up a general store there, and then occupied that occupation.

Old Picture of the Day: Old Prospector: It is a been a while since we have visited the men of the rugged outdoors, so I think it is time we have an Old Prospectors week. We start ...

Old Picture of the Day: Prospecting for Gold

Old Picture of the Day: Prospecting for Gold: Today's picture was taken ni 1889 and it shows some Old Timers mining for gold. The picture was taken near Rockerville in the Dakota Terri...

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Why is it:

1.  That television advertisements, and "entertainment news" think it's neat to have pitchmen/babblers with thick Cockney accents?  How did that happen?

2.  That soap operas pitched at teenagers, and twenty somethings holding on to their teen years in an undignified manner, like to feature male and female characters who appear to be well fed, well clothed, and good looking, who do nothing but mope?  If I didn't have to work, had lots of stuff, and was really good looking (okay, I am stunningly good looking) I wouldn't run around moping.  I'd probably buy cattle and work, but I wouldn't mope.

Heck, I don't have a lot of money, and most of the time I'm not moping. What's up with that?

3.  That television associated Italian men and French men with sophistication, beauty, and libertine, apparently sterile, sex?  I've seen, and even met, real French and Italian people. They're fine, really, other than a different standard of bathing (why doesn't tv associate them with that) but they're no more beautiful than anyone else, quite frankly. They're not as chubby as we Americans, but then who is?

4.  Why is that people (well, really mostly women) like to watch television dramas that are all about turgid messed up family relationships?  Do people like turgid messed up family relationships?  If so, why don't they just hang out at divorce court, where things are even more turgid and icky.

5.  That people with serial bad relationships seem to think that launching into another is a good idea?  Maybe they ought to just cool it and try hanging out with themselves.

6.  That people regard the opinion of any entertainment figure as relevant to anything?  After all, if you are in the entertainment industry, you make your living by putting yourself on display.  "Hey!  Look at me!"  If you make your living that way, that doesn't make you a great intellect by any means, and it doesn't qualify you to venture an opinion on diddly.

This is so much the case that I don't grasp it as to anything.  I don't care what Lady GaGa feels about homosexuality, and I don't care what Charlton Heston thought about guns.  Betty White's opinion on animals is meaningless as far as I'm concerned, and I don't care what any actor or singer has to say about any politician.  I'll give a rare pass to anyone who seems to be engaged in serious thought for a prolonged period of time, but in that industry, it has to be pretty demonstrated to bother with.

Friday, November 11, 2011

British Airways - Our advert 2011: To Fly. To Serve.

Normally I wouldn't post an advertisement, but this one is just so well done.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 11. Veterans Day

On Today In Wyoming's History: November 11. Veterans Day: we take a look at various things that World War One caused to occur globally, and locally, some of them relate closely to the theme of this page. Particularly those items that discuss the massive expansion of the state's oil industry, and the agricultural boom that World War One caused in the state and nation.

I don't want to really repeat those themes in their entirety here, but anyone who has lived in Casper Wyoming for example, or indeed Wyoming in general, has to be aware of the very significant presence of the oil and gas industry in the state. It's been a fairly significant factor from some point early in the 20th Century, and oil exploration was going on around Casper as early as the 1890s. Oil refining had made its appearance prior to World War One.

But World War One caused oil to be significant in a way it never had been before. The United States was an oil exporter in that era. Mechanization had started to make its appearance in various armies about this time, but it was navies that really used the oil in that period. The Royal Navy, for instance, converted from coal to oil just prior to the war.

Oil production received a huge boost due to the war, resulting in a boom in Wyoming's oil provinces of that era. Casper, for example, saw the construction of its first "skyscraper", the Oil Exchange Building, in 1917.
The building is still there, still in use, as the Consolidated Royalty Building. It was oil, as the name would imply, that caused it to be constructed as the headquarters for a local oil exploration and production company.

It wasn't just oil, however, that was booming in Wyoming. Agriculture was as well. A boom in the horse market had started in 1914, as British remount agents combed the United States for military horses. Wyoming provided a fair number of remounts to the British in that era, as did the other Western states. When the United States began to prepare for war horse production switched over to American needs. The boom lasted throughout the war.

Agriculture of other types also boomed in these years. Food production was a desperate matter during the First World War, and Wyoming was primarily agricultural in those days. The era was good for farmers, and the largest single year for homesteading in the United States came just at the end of the war, 1919, which was also the last year in US history in which farmers had economic parity with city dwellers.

Indeed, post war the state would see a new influx of homesteading that was directly the result of the war. The government operated to create some special homesteading programs for returning veterans, to help them get a start in farming or ranching, and have a place of their own. I personally knew one such homesteader many years ago.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Justice James Barrett

Justice Barret of the Tenth Circuit passes on.

This is outside the scope of our usual musings here, but his obituary is an interesting one. Son of the late Frank Barrett, who as born on this day in 1882, Justice Barrett grew up in, and practiced law in, the small town of Lusk, where his father, a former Senator, Congressman, and Governor, is memorialized by way of a bronze plaque in the courthouse. Frank Barrett, his father, is an interesting man in his own right, having chosen to locate in Lusk following his service in World War One, and therefore following a bit of the same career path as the Congressman discussed here just the other day, Vincent Carter. Indeed, they were co-religious, which is an interesting fact as well. Justice Barrett served in the Second World War before entering into practice in Lusk, where he practiced for 18 years before events launched him on the path that would lead to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he served for many years.

I don't know that further comments would be very insightful, but it is an interesting look at one lawyer's practice in Wyoming from the mid 20th Century to the early 21st, and by extension, looking at his father, the life of another in the mid 20th Century.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Hot and Cold

Awhile back columnist Reg Henry had an amusing article about air conditioning.  It was really funny, and I wish I'd linked it in here.

I suppose the reason I found it funny, as I share one of Reg's apparent attributes.  I never get so hot that I appreciate air conditioning, and my wife is just the opposite.

Every summer I suffer in our house, as my wife turns on the swamp cooler.  I've never turned on the swamp cooler for myself ever.  I hate it.  I never lived in a house with air conditioning until I was married, and I never get so hot that I feel I need it.  Rather, I just freeze in the house, in summer.

Indeed, she'll keep it going until late Summer, when it isn't hot by anyone's defintion.  She's just always hot.

Now the reverse is the case, as it is every winter.  It's already winter here, but there are entire rooms in the house where we'll go through an entire winter and almost never turn on the heat, including our bedroom.  I just freeze, but she just refuses to believe that its really cold in the house.  It only really changes when everyone in the house starts protesting about how cold it is.

Funny thing is, I really like winter, and like being outdoors in winter, although I'm frequently freezing when I am out there.

Awweewanna Wuffington

Can anyone explain to me why anyone takes Ariana Huffington seriously?

And what country's accents includes all Ws the way Awweewanna Wuffington's does?  I've heard it claimed that she's Greek, but I know Greeks and they don't seem to have a plethora of Ws in their speech.

And, to extend out, while I know it sounds nativist, and is, what can somebody who is so patently obviously from somewhere else tell us about running our own country?  And if she's an expert on running stuff, and Greek. . . .well. . . .

The horror of it all.

Putting walnuts in to chocolate chip cookies should be a crime.

Just saying.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The ignorance of vegetarians

One of the real negative impacts, indeed dangers, in the increasing urbanization of the Western World's population is that it has given rise to a sanctimonious myths based on wholesale ignorance of food production and nature.  One of the biggest of these is that it's "green" or "kind" to be a vegetarian, or beyond that a "vegan".

In actuality, the opposite is quite true.  If a person really wanted to be kind to the planet, and still eat, what they'd be is a hunter,  not a vegetarian, and certainly not a vegan.  Or they'd hunt, gather, and plant a little garden. That's about as green as you can get.

The basis for the vegan myth is apparently a view that vegetable farming is kind to the land, and that by being a vegetarian you are not responsible for the deaths of any animals. 

Taking the latter part of that first, that's far, far, from the truth.  In fact, all farmers kill animals, and all farming kills animals.  It is not possible to be a farmer without killing something, even by accident.  Tractors combine through snakes, birds and deer, just to give one example.  Vermin are killed by necessity, sometimes through the agents of another animals.  And things get killed hauling things to and fro.  Indeed, while I don't know for certain, I'd wager that farmers, kill far, far, far more animals than hunters do every year.  No farmer, of any kind, doesn't kill something, and probably a fair number of somethings.

Eat your whole natural wheat bagel and imagine otherwise, but there's some dead deer DNA in there somewhere.  Probably some dead rabbit dna, some mice dna, and a few bird dnas as well.

Nor is farming environmentally benign.  Some farming improves the land, some does the opposite, but it is not possible to raise a crop without altering it.  One of the prime alterations is that the surface of the land isn't what it once was, so whatever animal once lived there probably doesn't the same way.  Farming increases forage for some things, and decreases it for others, but it doesn't leave things in a state of nature.

Now, I'm not dissing farmers by mentioning this, they know it.  It's the ignorant self satisfied person eating a bowl of all natural oats that I'm laughing at?  Natural?  Was it wild and picked up by a gatherer?  No.  Did something die to get it to you.  Undoubtedly yes.  It is natural in that man is a natural farmer, but it also wasn't raised fee of any animal deaths, and if it was grown by somebody you didn't see grow it, fossil fuels were used to get it and produce it.

Of all farming, I'd note, it's animal farming, ie., ranching, that has the smallest environmental impact, as all it does is put large animals out where there were otherwise large animals.  They probably aren't the same, to be sure, but there's no plowing or reaping involved.  There may be haying, but that's relatively benign, but not purely so, as well.

Again, I'm not criticizing farmers and ranchers, and I am one.  But I am amazed by the extent to which certain people think they're morally superior because they don't eat meat.  They actually do eat meat, they just don't realize it's in there. And they're causing greater acreage per man to be tilled to feed them personally.  They don't know that, as they're ignorant.  And they're ignorant, as their exposure to the real world is lacking.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


From today's Reading, Wisdom, Chapter 6
Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 6: Vincent Michael Carter

Also on today's Today In Wyoming's History: November 6: is an item noting the birth of Vincent Michael Carter, who was Wyoming's Congressman from 1929 to 1935.

The item noted:
1891 Vincent Michael Carter, U.S. Representative for Wyoming from 1929-1935, born in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of Catholic University and a World War One Marine Corps officer. He set up his law practice in Casper Wyoming in 1919, and then relocated it to Kemmerer Wyoming prior to becoming the Republican Congressman from Wyoming in 1929.
I'll freely confess that I've never heard of Mr. Carter. In looking him up, all I could really find was the Wikipedia entry on him, which noted that he had graduated from Catholic University in Washington D. C. in 1915, served in World War One in the Marine Corps. Perhaps his Marine Corps service was natural, as he'd gone to the U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School before law school, and had also attended Fordham. The USNAPS is usually something that only those who wished to compete for the Naval Academy attended, and usually they had a very good chance at attendance. The Wikipedia article notes that after his discharge from the Marine Corps, he started a law practice in Casper, but only practiced here until 1929, when he moved to Kemmerer, on the far western edge of the state. He served in the Wyoming National Guard from 1919 until 1921, was deputy attorney general from 1919 to 1923, which means that he occupied his deputyship as part of his legal practice, and served as State Auditor from 1923 to 1929, which would suggest that he really left Casper no later than 1923. It would also suggest that he was either extremely lucky or well connected, or perhaps just very impressive, given his rise from out of state novice attorney in 1919 to State Auditor in 1923. He'd just practiced four years at that time.

He tried to run for the Senate in 1935, but was not elected, which is why he left the House about that time. He resumed the practice of law in 1935, but in Cheyenne. He retired in 1965 to New Mexico. There's no indication of World War Two service, so presumably he practiced throughout World War Two as a civilian lawyer in Cheyenne.

This tells us a lot, but at the same time almost nothing at all. For instance, why was an Eastern educated lawyer with an interest in the Navy relocating to Wyoming? Perhaps that isn't as odd as it might seem, as the legal practice in Wyoming was dominated by those who were born outside the state (as was nearly every other aspect of business) up until at least the 1930s. If we read between the lines, a lot of these people were highly ambitious, and Wyoming was merely a wide open opportunity at the time. The early history of the state is full of such examples. We are left, really, with the impression that any venue would have served, had it provided equal opportunities, and sometimes the careers of these early legal and business pioneers are not all that tasteful to those of us who have come up from here, or who came here for other reasons.

Was Carter one of these? We have no way knowing really, based upon what little we know of him. The Wikipedia article does not even provide a photograph of him, and there isn't one available on the Library of Congress' website. He seems to have moved to locations that were perhaps active at the time. Casper was very active due to oil activity around World War One. Was Kemmerer that way a decade later?

Still, he came back in 1935, and practiced law another 30 years. He's proof, in a way, that lawyers tend to only be really well known in their own times, and not thereafter, as we can presume that a World War One Marine Corps officer, a successful lawyer from 1919 to 1929, and a Congressman, was a well known man. Too bad we don't know more.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 6. Myth, reality, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

In today's Today In Wyoming's History: November 6: there's an item about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meeting their demise in Bolivia in 1908. In spite of what romantics may wish, all the evidence is that the criminal pair bit the dust at the hands of Bolivian cavalry on November 6, 1908, in San Valentia Bolivia.

The story of Harry Lonabaugh and Robert LeRoy Parker, Butch and Sundance's real names, tell us a lot about myth and reality. This is so much the case that they've inspired at least two movies, one bad television series, and countless Butch survived myths.

One illuminating thing about them, in terms of this blog, is how late in history their story is. Their glory years, if that's what we'd consider them, fell between 1896 and 1901, so they're 19th and 20th Century criminals. As much time passed between the first crimes of the James Gang and the Wild Bunch as passed between the Wild Bunch and the famous gangs of Prohibition. The Wild Bunch's criminal depredations came in the early era of the automobile and concluded just before the Wright Brother's first flight. They are, in some ways, nearly of our own era.

But at the same time, they obviously lived in a Wyoming that was still so remote, and still so much of the horse era, that they were able to fairly openly used The Hole In The Wall of Johnson County as a hideout. That could only have occurred in the less mobile horse era. A few years later, the criminal Durrant, the Tarzan of the Tetons, was only able to hide for a few days, as opposed to Butch and Sundance's several years. Wyoming of 1908 was still very easy to disappear in.

The ongoing fascination with them also says something, I suppose, about ourselves. According to the Pinkertons, the Wild Bunch was the only criminal gang of the West that came close to meeting its public image, but none the less the gang killed in pursuit of its criminal objective of staying free after theft. That Lonabaugh and Parker did not is somewhat besides the point, as their gang was an armed gang that did use violence to remain free.

It was the public image that resulted in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which remains a Western classic, and their real nature which lead to another classic, The Wild Bunch. In spite of its name, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch is not really directly about the Wyoming gang, and isn't even set in Wyoming, but Peckinpah made the movie as a counter to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the name of his film probably wasn't an accident. Peckinpah's film, sent on the border with Mexico in about 1915, depicts a different region, but arguably it portrays the fin de cicle nature of the West at that time more accurately than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the misunderstood Peckinpah film certainly more accurately depicts the "glamour of evil" that actually attracts people's attention to crimals and their gangs than the charming Butch and Sundance film does.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Nowhere to run

For whatever reason, it occurred to me that one of the big differences between our country now, as opposed to a century ago, or even a half century ago, is that there is really no longer a place for most people to run.

By that, what I mean is that,  like it or not, to some degree the United States proved to be such a huge success as it was ideal for quitters.  Sounds  harsh, in no small part because of our "never say die" public attitude, but it's true.

Most people in the country today descend from people who quit whole countries. Germans, Irish, whatever, who picked up, said of their native land "I quit", and left.  Suire, a lot of that still goes on today, but an awful lot of immigration today is of the "I must leave", or "I can make a better buck", variety. That's been the case since the immigration reforms of the 70s. And that element was always a strong aspect of immigration. But there was also a lot of "I don't like England anymore. . .", or the like, in it also.

And within our own country quitting a region, picking up, and starting over was very common.  The entire State of Texas, in terms of its early history, seems to have been populated by titanic quitters.

All this sounds really harsh, but quitting is often the simple acknowledgment of a mistake.  Things are working out, people thought, so I'll hitch up the mule and move over the divide, or the next one, or whatever.

Now, you can move, but you really can't quit.  Your credentials follow you everywhere, and determine what you can do, and you can do what you've been doing.  No quitting.

Perhaps that's inevitable for a country as densely populated as ours is now.  Quitting was greatly aided by available land.  You needed no qualifications, and not all that much cash, to quit your job as a bank clerk and homestead. Sure, you might fail, but then you could always pull over the next ridge, or quit that and go on to something else.

No. longer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Funding Failure II

A very interesting NPR Talk of the Nation episode on Student Loans.

What is so interesting about this, I think, is that there's at least one caller who emails in with complaints about how the burden of loans caused her to take a career she didn't want, Wildlife Management, over one she did, Veterinary school, as she couldn't afford the loans.  She then goes on to blame the burden of servicing her loans for living far from her family, and for not having any children.

The other thing that is is ineresting is that a few callers have no sympathy at all with those complaining about their loans.

I'm afraid I'm in that camp, the one without sympathy. Choosing a career you don't want, just because the loans are cheaper, is stupid.  Beyond that, avoiding real life, to service loans, is as well.

This probably says something, however, about the current nature of our societal view towards education. Why must we go this route?  We don't have to, we're choosing too.  And now, a large section of the population views paying for the loans they obtained for their education as unfair, when nobody asked them to get the loans in the first place.

Not that society cannot be blamed to some degree.  We've created a culture where we now view manual labor as demeaning, and teach our middle class children that.  The grandsons of machinist and tool and die makers feel they must go to college, and indeed they must as we sent the tool and die work to China, more or less intentionally.  So we're now all over-educated, and can't pay for it with the jobs we retained. And we encourage this to continue on by giving loans for educational pursuits we know will never pay off.

Today In Wyoming's History: November 1

Today In Wyoming's History: November 1: 1886 First snowfall of what would prove to be a disastrous winter. Attribution. Wyoming State Archives.