Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Best Post of the Week of November 24, 2013.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Women in the Workplace: It was Maytag that took Rosie the Riveter out of the domestic arena, not World War Two

A virtual icon of the liberated strong woman, Rosie the Riveter proclaimed "we can do it" to the nation and became a symbol of the working woman.  In reality, most Rosie's put the riveter down and actually did return to their prewar lives.  This image pales in comparison to Rockwell's stunning original version.
In the popular imagination, it was World War Two that took women out of the homes, and into careers.  Removed from the domestic scene for the first time by the necessity of the workplace in the greatest war in human history, the story goes, women realized that they could do a man's job and refused to return to their domestic roles.  It's a nice simple story.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Women in the Workplace: It was Maytag that took Rosie the Riveter out of the domestic arena, not World War Two

A virtual icon of the liberated strong woman, Rosie the Riveter proclaimed "we can do it" to the nation and became a symbol of the working woman.  In reality, most Rosie's put the riveter down and actually did return to their prewar lives.  This image pales in comparison to Rockwell's stunning original version.

In the popular imagination, it was World War Two that took women out of the homes, and into careers.  Removed from the domestic scene for the first time by the necessity of the workplace in the greatest war in human history, the story goes, women realized that they could do a man's job and refused to return to their domestic roles.  It's a nice simple story.

It also just isn't true.

 General motors worker, World War Two.

It wasn't beating the Axis that changed the domestic scene, it was the conquering of domestic chores by machines that changed things, and not all that rapidly at that.  Indeed, women didn't even experience the workplace in large numbers for their first time in World War Two.  They'd already been there during World War One.

Riveting is hard, dangerous work.  But dragging a plow in the absence of draft animals, is hard, dangerous, brutal work.  This World War One poster isn't a flight of fancy, it's actually an illustration of an actual photograph of three French farm women dragging an implement as they no longer have any draft animals on their farms, and they no longer have their husbands their to help.

It is, as is well known, very true that women picked up the laboring oar in the Allied countries, by choice and by necessity, during World War Two.  But they also had during World War One.  It was women who loaded the explosives in artillery shells in the Great War, at a time when that had not yet been automated.  The men who would have done it were largely in the service, and their smaller hands made it an easier thing for them to do. And women filled scores of other industrial roles as well.

 Women war workers in dormitory, 1917.

And they filled farming roles at a level which was not approached again, ever.  So many women were needed for agricultural roles that Canadian women were recruited to work as timber cruisers in Scotland.  Women plowed the fields and did the sowing in France, England and Germany.  And they also were pressed into that role in the US and Canada, although in smaller, but not insignificant, numbers.

Recruiting poster for the Women's Land Army.
 The YMCA also recruited for young women to work as farmers during World War One.

Indeed, in some warring nations the role of women was more significant in World War One, than it was in World War Two.  Women worked in every warring nation in both wars, in what had been men's roles, but the need for female heavy labor was greater in France and the UK in the Great War than it was in World War Two.  During World War Two, because of German occupation, French women did not find employment much outside their traditional roles, while in World War One they had been employed in heavy labor.  World War Two was a horrific nightmare for the UK, but it actually required less manpower than did the Great War, which was a British bloodbath.  Women were largely not employed in Germany, due to some strange Nazi revulsion against doing so, and a view of women that was rather creepy. 

And women entered military service for the first time in World War One, not World War Two. The U.S. Navy recruited "Yoemanettes," prior to WWII's "WAVES."  The British and Commonwealth forces used large numbers of female nurses, including tow of my mother's aunts, who traveled from Canada to France for the war.  British and Australian horsewomen broke horses for their respective armies.  Russian women found a place as theoretical combat troops for the first time in World War One, not World War Two, when the Imperial Russian Army rose a Women's Battalion of Death (it didn't see action).

So what changed?

Well, in one sense, not much. The concept that World War Two's working women stayed in the workplace is grossly exaggerated.  For the most part, they didn't.  Most in fact left their wartime employment and returned to domestic lives they'd hoped for, or at least expected, prior to the war.  Indeed, a lot of occupations did not open up for women for decades.  Lawyers I know, for example, who went to law school right after World War Two have related to me that it was extremely difficult for a woman to get through the schools as they were harassed, in part, by male professors (and students) who didn't feel they belonged there.  I know one woman who did go through law school in the 1940s, and was a highly respected lawyer, but she's an example of one. For the most part, women's occupations weren't a lot wider in variety after the war than they were before. A big exception was the role of secretary, which had become an exclusively female role by the 1940s, but then it was very much well on the way to that prior to World War Two.  And that role is telling as to the reason.  The reason women replaced men as secretaries (which was controversial at first) was due to a machine. . . the typewriter.

Manual typewriters, 1940s.

It was machines that changed the relationship of people to work, and by extension it was women who were most impacted.  For women, the machines that would have the greatest impact in their relationship to work were domestic machines.

Electric washing machine, with hand wringer, 1940s.

We've blogged about it here before, but it wasn't just women who had a different relationship with domestic chores.  Indeed, this is so much the case, that it's hard to appreciate it now. This impacted what men and women did, and had to do, on daily basis.

Most modern domestic machines are post World War Two inventions, or post War War Two perfections.  Consider, therefore what average conditions were like prior to the modern era.

There are certain things that everyone has to handle, in one way or another, every day.  We all need to eat, we all need to acquire food to eat, and we all need keep ourselves and our clothing decent in some fashion.  Seems simple enough, doesn't it. And, for us now, it really is.

For most of us, today, we can easily keep several days food in a refrigerator.  We can easily cook that food with a gas or electric, or microwave, stove everyday.  Most of us have clothing that is easily washable as well.  No big deal.  And when we go to clean our living quarters, that doesn't create much of a problem either.

Well, consider now the situation prior to World War One.  That's now a century ago, but it's part of our modern era.  Quite recognizable to most of us, and when presented in film seemingly a dressier, if somewhat different, version of our current era.

But in that recognizable era there was no domestic refrigeration.  People did preserve food in the house, but via an "ice box."  Indeed, my father had grown so accustomed to this term when he was young that he always called the refrigerator the "ice box" even though he'd probably not lived in a house that had one since he was a small child.  

Woman pouring mild for her son, kept cold in a trailer equipped with an ice box. This is a WWII vintage photo of a Defense War Worker trailer. The really telling thing depicted by this photo isn't the ice box, which was an old technology, but that the woman is dressed in shorts, which reflected a very recent change.  She could appear as modern in nearly every home today, which her World War One counterpart would not.

Folks who cooled food with an ice box, acquired food everyday. If you wanted fresh food, you bought it that day.  Many women went to the market for fresh meat everyday.  There was little choice but to do that.  And ice was delivered periodically also, by a horse drawn wagon.  Both of my parents had recollections of the ice wagon.

Cooking the food was a long precess also. Nothing existed that was already prepared.  People didn't have frozen food to prepare. Canned food, of course, did already exist.  But by and large people had to prepare everything that day, whatever meal was being considered.  And part of that was due to the fact that modern stoves were only coming in during this period.

Today we have gas and electric stoves everywhere. But up to at least 1920, most people had wood or coal burning stoves for cooking.  They didn't heat the same way.  Cooking with a wood stove is slow.  It takes hours to cook anything with a wood stove, and those who typically cooked with them didn't cook with the same variety, or methods, we do now.  Boiling, the fastest method of food preparation, was popular.  People boiled everything.  Where we'd now roast a roast in the oven, a cook of that era would just as frequently boil it.  People boiled vegetables into oblivion.  My mother, who had learned to cook from her mother, who had learned how to cook in this era, used the boiling into oblivion method of cooking. She hated potatoes for this reason (I love them) but she'd invariable boil them into unrecognizable starch lumps.

Wood burning stove in Denver.  Typical pre 1920 stove.  Heck, typical pre 1930 stove.  Heck, typical pre 1940 stove.

Turn of century advertisement for stove polish.  Cleaning a wood burning stove would be no treat.

Even something as mundane as toast required more effort than it does not.  Toasters are an electric appliance that most homes have now, but they actually replaced a simple device.

 World War Two era propaganda photograph, trying to depict an inattentive woman letting toast burn, and therefore wasting resources.  Note how complicated this electric toaster is.

You'll still occasionally see old fashioned toasters in sheep and cattle camps, and probably elsewhere. They just hold the bread so that the toast can be toasted over a burner.  Pretty simple, and not much of a labor saving device, right? Well, consider the totality of it.  To toast you had to watch the toast, rather than just slip the bread down into the toaster.

For that matter, everything was relatively labor intensive save for boiling and roasting, which is probably why things tended to be boiled or roasted.

 Man cooking in a cow camp for cowboys.  He's using two cast iron dutch ovens (I still use one routinely) to cook over a fire.  This photo first appeared on this blog in 2009 in a very early entry on cooking changes.

Indeed, if you think of all the electric devices in your kitchen today, it's stunning.  Electric or gas stoves, electric blenders and mixers, microwaves, refrigerators.  Go back just a century and none of this would be in the average home.  And with the exception of canned goods, which dated back well into the 19th Century, nothing came in the form of prepared food either.  For that matter, even packaging was different at that time.  If you wanted steak for five, you went to the butcher, probably that day, and got steak for five.  If you wanted ground beef, you went to the butcher and got the quantity you wanted, and so on.

And such innovations weren't limited to kitchen and the laundry room but other devices entered the house that saved domestic labor in all sorts of ways.  For example, the vacuum cleaner came in.

Woman in Montana vacuuming in her home, about 1940.  Of note, the book case on the right is a barristers case, something normally associated with lawyers.  She's vacuuming a large rug on a wooden floor.

It might be easy to scoff at that, but it shouldn't be.  Homes built before the vacuum cleaner generally didn't have wall to wall carpeting, and for good reason, but people did have large area carpets in them, like the one if the photo above.  And they were cleaned by beating them.  For those with large area rugs, of course, that's still done today after a while, as they can't really be adequately cleaned simply by vacuuming, but you don't have to do it as often.

To beat a rug, what you do is roll it up and cart it out to the clothes line, a feature in the yard that's actually prohibited in many subdivisions today, and you whack it repeatedly until the dust quits flying out of it.  It's a two person job for a heavy rug.  

Of course, as noted, wall to wall carpeting was not the norm, as cleaning wouldn't allow for it, nearly anywhere.  What that meant is that people had to take on the rest of the cleaning of the floor by some other method.  The other flooring surfaces were wood and tile, with both being in most houses to some extent.  Tiles were cleaned as they still are, with mop, scrub brush, and sponge.  Wooden floors, however, were polished.  Floor wax is something most of us don't think about today, but they did then.  A wooden floor was damp mopped occasionally and then polished with floor wax.  In larger commercial buildings there came to be a machine for this, and there still is.  A floor polisher is a large machine with a circular disk that will do this. At Ft. Sill, where I went to Basic Training, we polished the floor every Sunday.  My father had a floor polisher for his office, so I knew how to operate that before I went to Basic.  Now, most folks don't have floor polishers.

Although, I'll  note as an aside, tile and wood floors have come roaring back into the use. They were always pretty, but when the machines came in, people went berserk with carpeting. All carpeting wears and becomes dirty, but people carpeted everything, including having carpet laid over the top of beautiful wood and tile floors.  By the 1970s carpet became shaggy, the way that the eras teenagers did, and sometimes came in hideous loud colors.  On odd occasion, if you can find an office or home that's never been updated, you can see the special in all of its bizarre glory.

Okay, so we now have a lot of appliances of all sorts. So what?  How can that support the thesis stated above.  Well, consider how things worked prior to these things started to really come in during the 1920s.

Let's start with a farm example. The US was much more rural a century ago than it is now, and many more men and women lived on them than do now.  Indeed, a fairly high percentage of the country did.  And lets take the example of a labor intensive time of the year, say harvesting.

Some years ago I saw a documentary which interviewed old men who had been boys in Wisconsin during the waning days of big horse farming.  One of them described very well how this worked, and serves as an excellent example.  Harvesting was communal in nature, just like branding remains here today.  So a collection of farmers worked on each other farms to get it done. And in order to get it done, the women started the day really early, about 4:00 a.m.  They started the day that early, as they pooled their labor in order to cook a large breakfast for the collection of men who would be harvesting.  That large breakfast was necessary as they were going to expend a lot of calories that day. All that cooking was done by hand, nothing was prepared in advance as nothing could be.  They fed the men about 5:00, who then went to work in the fields.  

That didn't mean a break for the women, however.  Immediately after breakfast they started cleaning, by hand (no dishwasher) the dishes and cooking implements.  That took some time, which left just enough time to start cooking a large noon meal, which they delivered to the fields. After that, they cleaned again, which left just enough time to cook a large dinner, following which the men worked until low light shut the day down.  The women, in turn, were kept working in that task until late.  It was a long, long, day for men and women, and labor intensive all the way around.

Okay, that's a farming example, but it'd be different for folks in town, right?  Well, not really.

Elsewhere on this blog I have Henry Fairlie's excellent essay "The Cow's Revenge" up somewhere.  In that, he ably describes life of a century ago in towns and cities, for the average working man.  They average blue collar worker walked to work an average distance of seven miles.  He worked about ten hours a day, and he obviously didn't go home at noon.  To support that, once again, he ate a pretty hardy breakfast and packed a pretty hardy lunch.  Many also packed the tools of their trade with them on a daily basis. And with all labor being more intensive at the time than it is now, he ate a pretty hardy dinner to replace the calories expended during they day.

If a man is working ten hours a day, six days a week, and if the preparation of food, the washing of clothing, and even just keeping the house was a full time job, he wasn't going to be able to do it himself, or at all.  

Indeed, for most white collar workers, a much smaller percentage of the population, the same was also true, even though their working conditions were very much different.  Consider doctors or lawyers.  This was before the pay bubble, now ending, in which these professions were high paying as a rule, so offices were modest or even inside of their homes.  But they still lacked the individual ability as a rule to prepare their own meals or take care of their homes, offices, clothing etc.  

In other words, there was just too much labor to go around.

The example of single men and women at the time is telling.  Young men in this era typically did two things when they were of working age, if not married. They lived at home, if they stayed where they were from, until they were married.  If they never married, they just kept living at home.  Presently there's a bit of a supposed mini crisis of adult children returning to their parent's homes, but if that is a new trend, it's only a return to a former condition, to a degree.  These men weren't exhibiting being tied to their mother's apron strings, they were acting in accordance with reality.  By staying home and contributing to the household, the things they couldn't do were being taken care of by their mothers and probably by their sisters.

The other common male option was to live in a boarding house.  Men who did that paid for these tasks to be taken care of as part of their lodging.  We don't have boarding houses much today, but they were common right through the 1940s.  Indeed, the soldiers' song still common in the 1940s, "Hard Tack and Bully Beef" is actually simply a variant of "There Is A Boarding House."
There is a boarding house, far, far away,
Where they have ham and eggs three times a day
O how them boarders yell
When they hear the dinner bell,
They give the landlord
Three times a day.
The fact that this was used as a soldiers song based on this says something about another young man's option.  We don't think of food and lodging being an incentive to joint the service today, but it provided one in part of that bygone era.  With the age old custom of soldiers' grousing, of course, the ham and eggs becomes hardtack and bully beef, with other sarcastic comments worked in.

Young man engaging in the dangerous endeavor of cooking dinner in an apartment over a Primus gas stove. These aren't meant for indoor use at all.

Of course, some men took apartments in towns and simply ate out every day, or resorted to less than desirable means of cooking.  Even now, quite a few men engaged in heavy labor hit a working man's restaurant early in the day, and pack a lunch of some sort with them for lunch.  The point is, however, that for most working men, the conditions of the day didn't give a great number of options in terms of getting food cooked, clothing washed, etc., and still allow them to work.

That work, that is the domestic work, fell to women, but not because of some societal conspiracy thought up by men so much as by necessity.  The were some female out of the house occupations, as noted, but they were generally few, and the women who occupied them tended to be just as oppressed by the needs of every day life as men.  When you look at old advertisements that seem quaint or even a bit odd now, in which some poor young woman is depicted as being in desperate straits as she's in her late 20s and not married, it should be kept in mind that for most women getting married did indeed improve their lot in life as they'd be taking care of their own household, rather than be auxiliary to somebody else s.

It was mechanization that changed all of this. With the introduction of domestic labor saving machinery, there was time in time in the household that didn't previously exist. With the extra time, came other options of filling it, in one way or another.  And with the machinery also came the option to look at a wider range of careers if they wanted.  The implications of that were and are vast, but the cause of it seems rather widely misunderstood.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


Today, November 22, is the Thanksgiving Holiday for 2012.  Thanksgiving remains one of the two really big holidays in the United States, although, as noted just below on this blog, it has now sufficiently diminished in importance that some major retailers are open today, trying to get a jump on Black Friday, the fairly recent introduction of a shopping bacchanalian event in anticipation of Christmas, sort of.  If we add Easter, it remains one of the three generally observed big Holidays in North American, with perhaps the 4th of July completing the series. Those four days are really the only days in the United States which most people have off.  Other days which were formerly commonly days off for most people, such as Memorial Day or Veterans' Day are less observed now.  I don't think anyone employed outside the Federal Government gets Veterans' Day off.

Thanksgiving's durability, up until now, is therefore worth noting.  There's something about it that keeps it going.

When we were kids were taught, back in the old days, that the holiday was thought up by the Pilgrims, those Puritan colonist who landed at Plymouth Rock, as an original day, celebrated with their Indian neighbors, to give thanks for their first harvest.  That's not really true.  I'm sure it's true that they celebrated a Thanksgiving, but then they would have for a variety of reasons. The most significant of those would have been that a Thanksgiving was the European norm.

Thanksgiving was a universally recognized religious celebration recognized in every European country.  The holiday gave thanks to God for the harvest.  At some point in Europe the celebration came to be formally recognized in the Catholic Church, centered date wise around the harvest in southern Europe, by a few days of fasting prior to the Church recognized holiday.  How the Reformation effected this I do not know, but I am certain that the Puritan colonists would have celebrated Thanksgiving in England and in Holland prior to every having celebrated it in the New World.  Indeed, as is sometimes missed, not all of the Mayflower passengers were Puritans by any means, and this is no less true for the other passengers on that vessel. They all would have come from a relatively rural English background and they all would have been familiar with a Thanksgiving Day.

Thanksgiving remained a generally recognized religious based holiday in North America well before it was established as a national holiday in the United States, and in Canada (on a different day).  In the United States, the first Federal recognition of the holiday came during the Civil War, during which time Abraham Lincoln sought fit to note it, in the context of the terrible national tragedy then ongoing.  While that may seem odd to us now, there were real efforts even while the war was raging to try to fit what was occurring into context, which would eventually lead to Decoration Day and Memorial Day (essentially the same holiday). During the war, noting what was occurring on Thanksgiving seemed fitting.  The holiday was seemingly moved around endlessly for many years, and even as late as Franklin Roosevelt's administration new dates for it were fixed, all generally in November. States got into the act too, such as Wyoming, with governors occasionally fixing the date.  The current date stems from a 1941 statutory provision.

 Family saying Grace prior to their Thanksgiving Day meal.

How the holiday has been celebrated has actually varied but little over the years, again up until recently.  A large family gathering has tended to be the norm. When turkey came in as the main meal, for most people, is unclear but it was a long time ago.  It's worth noting here that turkey and goose have been the big American festive meats for Christmas and Thanksgiving for a very long time, with goose again dating back to Europe.  Goose doesn't tend to appear on Thanksgiving tables, but it does remain on the Christmas dinner tables for some.

Lucky New Yorkers taking home live Thanksgiving turkeys.

It's interesting to note that up until the mid 20th Century the norm was to take a turkey home alive, and dispatch it at home.  This is rare now, as people have become somewhat delusional and wimpy about food, with some even going so far to believe that if they abstain from meat entirely, that they're not killing anything, a delusion which demonstrates a complete lack of knowledge of any kind of farming or food transportation (more animals die smacked by trucks on the road than most can begin to imagine).  That meant that the turkey was no doubt pretty darned fresh, as well as tasty.

Man bringing home Thanksgiving dinner.

Boy with plucked Thanksgiving dinner.

Connecticut farmer plucking turkey for sale.

Outside of a big gathering, for many people a church service was part of Thanksgiving, and for quite a few it still is.  Other than that, activities that occurred were, according to what I've read, games.  Various types of games seemed quite popular for such gatherings.  Thanksgiving football goes back amazingly far in the United States, and I've seen a poster advertising a college game that dates back to 1903.  If it dated back to 1903, I'd presume it went back somewhat further than that.

On Army posts, I'd note, this was also a date that was generally observed, and interesting records of food on hand, typically just what we'd now expect to appear on our tables, was common. Even late 19th Century Army posts in the American West made an effort to have appropriate food on hand for the holiday.

In a lot of rural areas this was also a day that men went hunting.  It still is in quite a bit of the rural West.  This had to be timed around the holiday meal, but morning hunts, often for waterfowl, were quite common.

Connecticut bird hunters, 1940s, on Thanksgiving Day.

At any rate, even given the intrusion of the shopping culture into the day, this holiday remains remarkably unchanged over the decades.  Even, perhaps, the centuries.  So, Happy Thanksgiving.


This entry is a rerun, as it was originally first run last year. 

Le mirage de la Charte - L'actualité

Le mirage de la Charte - L'actualité

Another article from L'Actualite, this time on a legislative matter apparently pending in Quebec.  The proposal would establish a Quebecois Charter of Values. A sort of legislative decree as to what it means to be a French Canadian in Quebec..  L'Actualite opposes it.   I'm not going to comment on that, as I'm not Quebecois (although I'm descended, in part, from some who were). Rather, I'm commenting here at this brings up the topic of what happens to a people when they cease to adhere to the things that made them who they were.

The only reasons that there are French Canadians is that the English allowed them to keep their Faith, to the horror of many American colonist to their south, and the Priests urged them to remain rural, stay on the land, and stay away from politics. This they did. And by doing that, they preserved, long after it should have expired, a French Norman culture rooted in the values of the original Norman colonist.  This has made them Quebecois, not French, and it's the reason that they have a cutlure they are proud of today (but which isn't the same one in France, which the French at least are well aware of.

Cultures do change, there can be no doubt, although they do not change as much as it might be imagined.  Cultures also can be amazingly resilient and evolve, adapt, or even reemerge.  They can, however, also become absorbed or even cease to really be.  An interesting question exists here on the nature of cultures that are defined, in part, by religious values.  

Once these cultures cease to have widespread participation in the Church, they can cease being themselves and begin to wonder why.  Ireland is one such nation. Still overwhelmingly Catholic, it's less Catholic than it once was as that situation develops it starts to be less Irish.  Quebec is very much that way.  Once overwhelmingly rural, overwhelmingly agrarian, and overwhelmingly Catholic, as the Quebecois have shed all of that they're now distressed to find that you really can't define the culture by the language it speaks.  Lots of Moslem Algerians speak French every bit as well as the Qeubecois.  

To give a counter example, however, the Russians managed to be Russian even after Communism murderously suppressed the Russian Orthodox Church.  The lesson there, however, might not quite be what it seems as it proved to be the case that the Russian Orthodox Church retained a stronger pull on Russian culture than would have been guessed. Virtually defining part of that culture prior to the fall of the Empire, it seems to have remained fairly strong in spite of Communist suppression and has enormously reemerged after Communism's fall. 

It'll be interesting to see how this plays out in Quebec.  It's playing out in Ireland as well.  And in a lot of other cultures at the same time.  Not that this suggest things are hopeless by any means, as that simply wouldn't be true.  If the Quebecois are now pondering what makes them that, perhaps they ought to look at their Catholic, agrarian, past.  That doesn't necessarily mean a return to the past, and it doesn't even mean that everyone in Quebec must become a believer if they are not.  Rather, perhaps Quebec ought to acknowledge what the Russians seem to, in terms of culture, or what the Icelandic do, or what the Greeks do, which is that that certain influences, both agrarian and religious, defined them, and that without acknowledging that, they really aren't.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Filson

This is my Filson brief case.  Filson doesn't call it that, and during the 24 years I've owned this one, Filson has called t hem a variety of things. When I bought this one, 24 years ago, they called it the Bush Pilot's bag. That was an appealing thought, but I needed a brief case, which is what I bought it for.

I've put the Filson to really hard work.  It's gone everywhere with me in 24 years.  I've carried it to court an uncountable number of times.  It's rode around in pickup trucks, cars, and airplanes.  It's been overhead stored and under the seat stored.  It's gone on cattle trailing events and its been in courtroom trials.  The bag has been in almost every courthouse in the State of Wyoming including the courts of the Wind River Indian Reservation and the Wyoming Supreme Court.  And its been in courthouses in Colorado as well.

It's been revived on one earlier occasion. The bag pictured above is unique as it has a full saddle leather bottom. That wasn't part of the Filson design.  That was added by a saddlemaker locally when the bottom of the bag began to fail some years ago, after years of hard use.

But now the bag is showing its age and I need to retire it.  I'd hoped to avoid doing so, as I've used it so long, and to my surprise, it seems to attract the admiring attention of a fair number of people when they see it in use.

Indeed, I've mentioned to some of those folks that I need a new one, to which I almost always get the reply "no!"  But there's only so much a person can do.  I now have holes so large that I'm running the risk of loosing jump drives, something that didn't even exist when I bought it.  But a new Filson it'll be. Still, it's hard to justify replacing it, as a new one will likely be around longer than I will, so I keep holding off.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Holscher's Hub: The Plow

Holscher's Hub: The Plow

The light rail revival of Union Station.

One of the classic buildings in downtown Denver is Union Station.  The beautiful 1914 vintage terminal was truly a railroad union, uniting a whole host of area railroads in a single central location, so that passengers could transfer between the various rail lines.  The station was the center location of Denver's downtown as well, and, like most downtown railroad stations, commerce and lodging based on the railroads grew up near it.  These included everything from the massive Denver Seed Company seed warehouse to hotels, such as the century old Oxford Hotel.
Union Station, as viewed from in front of the Oxford Hotel in Denver, photo from Railhead.

Union Station remains, but as everyone well knows, the days of transferring from one rail line to another are long gone in the American west.  About the only thing that runs on most western lines today is freight of one kind or another.  This station, however, has been a bit of a slight exception in that Amtrak still uses the terminal (or will again soon, it's under massive reconstruction as detailed below).  And the terminal is also the hub for Denver's downtown light rail and trolley system.

Like most cities where the decline of passenger rail has occurred, the impact on the downtown has been noticeable.  Denver went from a rail served town to an automobile served town long ago.  In the early 1980s, like most towns with a large oil section economy, the town went into an economic downward spiral when the oil economy of the region collapsed.  Denver has come back, however, and with it the downtown came back as well, boosted, indeed revived, by the construction of the classically styled Coors Field downtown, the home of the Rockies.  

After Coors Field was built, the dilapidated downtown revived, with old run down buildings re-purposed and rebuilt.  The whole area is hip, trendy and hopping today. And with the revival of the downtown, and interesting revival of downtown rail is about to happen.

Denver is putting in a light rail system that will run to the distant airport.  Traveling in Denver has always been a bit of a headache, and has become particularly so since Denver International Airport was built, as unlike Stapelton Field, it's way out from the center of the town.  That was necessary, but it also means that anyone flying into Denver has a long distance to travel by car to get downtown, if that's where they are headed.

Well, the year after next they'll have another option, light rail. And that light rail will take passengers right downtown, as passenger rail once did (and with Amtrak still does).  Union Station is being rebuilt (and is hence temporarily closed) and part of that reconstruction will be the addition of a hotel to it.  

Interesting how that has gone.  Hotels were once built as near to it as possible, to catch rail passengers.  Now that's being done again.

Related Posts:

RailheadUnion Station, Denver Colorado.

11th Field Artillery Brigade in Hawai'i

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Bad Camp Tender:

From Lemos v. Madden, et al, 28 Wyo. 1 (1921)


For the sake of brevity, the plaintiff in error will be referred to as plaintiff or appellant, and the defendants in error as defendants or appellees. The appellant, plaintiff below, a demurrer to the original petition by him filed having been sustained, filed an amended petition alleging, in substance: That defendants Madden and Graham were owners of a band of sheep, located near Moneta, Fremont county; defendant Murray being in charge of the sheep as camp-mover and agent; that on November 4, 1916. Murray, as such agent, hired plaintiff to take charge of the sheep as herder; that it is the duty of a camp mover to provide fuel for the herder at his camp, sufficient to protect from the cold and to cook meals, and to see that all provisions and things necessary for the comfort and protection of the herder are furnished; that the duty of the owners is to provide a competent camp mover, and to see that the herder provides the things above mentioned; that it is the further duty of the camp mover to visit the sheep camp once in every three or four days, and see that everything for the comfort and safety of the herder is provided; that in case of storm he must immediately go to the sheep camp to render such assistance as may be necessary to the herder, and see that the herder is provided for and protected, and that the sheep are cared for; that the duties mentioned were the duties of the owners and camp mover, respectively, in this case; that defendants well knew that plaintiff himself could not furnish the things mentioned; that all said duties are well established by custom of long usage in the business of raising sheep on the range of Wyoming and other states; that on November 10, 1916, a severe storm arose, and the weather became severely cold; that plaintiff was compelled to herd his flock at night to keep them from straying away and becoming lost; that defendants had wholly failed to provide the necessary fuel; that all the fuel available was used up in the early part of the night; that plaintiff became so overcome with cold and the effects of the storm, and, having no fuel with which to keep up the fire, was compelled to go to bed to keep from freezing, and his flock strayed away before morning; that the following morning the storm was still raging and the weather severely cold; and no fuel at the camp to cook breakfast; that plaintiff started after his flock, relying on defendants coming to his aid, as he had a right to expect and it was their duty to do ; that it was late in the day before he got his flock gathered, and he was unable to get back to his camp that night, but was compelled to stay out all night, and only reached help late the day following, when he found the camp of one Evans; that plaintiff’s feet were severely frozen; that he was helped by Evans and taken to Shoshoni for treatment; that during this time Murray was drunk at Shoshoni; that plaintiff acted with care; that his injuries were sustained by the careless, willful, and negligent acts of defendants; that he is 51 years of age, and can never permanently recover from his injuries; that said Murray had had a habit for years of getting drunk and neglecting his duties to the knowledge of said owners, but of which plaintiff did not know. He asks damages of $10,000. A demurrer to the amended petition on the ground that it failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action was sustained; and, plaintiff standing on said amended petition, judgment was entered for defendants. The case is here on petition in error.

Jeepers, that is one bad camp tender.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Corco Highways

Corco Highways

One of the odder websites I've run across, dedicated to highway signs.

Surprising Ethnic Neighborhoods

Back in March, 2011, I posted an item here on The Distance of Things and Self Segregation.  That post was inspired by my having recently been in a certain neighborhood in Denver which had a tight series of churches that was somewhat revealing on that topic.

I was recently back in that neighborhood, and then up in Laramie, and it caused me to ponder the surprising ethnic neighborhoods of the relatively recent past. Today we still have ethnic neighborhoods.  Indeed, the area of Denver I was writing about then, and now, is a Hispanic neighborhood today, which makes for an odd juxtaposition of things as part of the ethnic nature of the old still hangs on there.

That particular north Denver neighborhood must have been very much one of distinct ethnicities at one time.  Holy Rosary Catholic Church was built to serve the Catholics in the neighborhood but, as previously noted, the Polish population there wanted their own church and they received it, St. Josephs.  The Polish population also wanted, and received, a parish school.  It still functions today, and it still teaches in English and Polish.  That there's enough of a demand for Polish language instruction today in Denver amazes me.  Also amazing is the fact that the Russian Orthodox Holy Transfiguration of Christ Cathedral stands nearby.  The neighborhood must have been strongly Slavic at one time.  And the Poles and Russians, two separate people, with separate religious identities, but both of which had been subject to the Russian Empire, chose to live side by side.  It must have been an interesting neighborhood to walk through in its day.

Another surprise of this type I received in Laramie.  One of the older churches in Laramie is St. Paul's. The church has changed denominations over the years and started off as Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Paulus Gemeinde, that is St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church.  It isn't a big structure, but what's notable is that German Lutherans in Laramie had their own German speaking church at one time.  Apparently services were conducted in German up until the early 1930s, in spite of a strong nationwide anti German sentiment that broke out during World War One.

That there'd ever been enough Germans in Laramie to have a church, even a small one, that was German speaking is a surprise.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bond Issue — NCSD Transform

Bond Issue — NCSD Transform

Bond issues haven't done well here recently, except those associated with Casper College.  I 'm hoping that this one proves to be an exception, however, and passes.  The facilities associated with NCHS and Kelly Walsh are, in my view, necessities or near necessities.

I particularly hope that NC gets its new swimming pool.  The old one is simply ancient and completely inadequate.  A new one is really needed.  Teaching students to swim is wisely mandated by the State, and there's really no other realistic way to do that but to have a pool there.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Holscher's Hub: Sinclair Cannons

Holscher's Hub: Sinclair Cannons: These cannons in Sinclair, Wyoming are proclaimed to be Civil War era cannons which were used by the Sinclair Refinery as safety ca...

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Golden Era of Classic Hotels: Parco

The Parco Hotel.

If you try to book a room in the Parco Hotel today, you won't be able to.  Indeed, you won't even be able to find Parco. But the classic building is still there, in another use, and the town is still there, under another name. 

Parco was a company town started by the Producers & Refiners Corporation to house their operations and workers in Carbon County Wyoming.  It was built in 1925.  It says something, perhaps, about the nature of transportation at the time that the company undertook this, as the existing town of Rawlins was very well established by that time and quite nearby.  I estimate Rawlins to be a mere seven miles distant, and the Wyoming Highway Department places it at three miles.  Not much.  But ParCo chose to build its refinery distant from the Union Pacific railroad town and county seat for some reason.

 Spanish architecture buildings in Sinclair.

That wasn't the only (perhaps) unusual thing ParCo did. It also hired an architect to design the company town with a distinct architectural style and to include a very distinct hotel.  The town was not only on the Union Pacific, a necessity for a Carbon County refinery, but it was also on the Lincoln Highway.  ParCo was apparently run by a type of visionary, who saw that at least travelers heading west from Laramie and who passed by Medicine Bow might be looking for attractive lodging for the night.

So the company built the Parco Hotel.  Covering an entire city block, the Spanish architecture hotel featured 60 rooms and had two bell towers.  It was quite the hotel.  ParCo, however, didn't survive the  Great Depression and sold out to Sinclair in 1934.  In the 1940s, the town, still owned by the main employer, with that employer being Sinclair, changed its name to Sinclair.  In the 1960s Sinclair sold the town's buildings to its residents.

Another view of the Parco Hotel.

When the Parco Hotel ceased to be a hotel, I have no idea, but it was long ago.  In some ways, it's almost a shock to think of there being a near luxury hotel in its current location, with the larger town of Sinclair so close, and the main employer in Parco being the refinery, which continues on in operation to this day.

Towns separated by only a few miles are unusual in Wyoming's interior. There are some other examples, but not many.  That Parco came about with Rawlins so close is a bit of a surprise, and a luxury hotel in Parco is an even greater surprise. But perhaps that says something about transpiration at the time.  Even at three miles, in 1925, could have been rough traveling in in the winter, and perhaps for refinery operations you need the workers right there.  If the refiner wasn't going to build in Rawlins, it perhaps had to have a company town where it built.  And town it built had nice buildings. That they thought of a hotel where they did, perhaps reflected the nature of travel on the early Lincoln Highway.  The trip by interstate highway from Laramie to Sinclair is 93 miles today. If a person is driving from Cheyenne its 142 miles. But on the Lincoln Highway those miles were longer, and harder.  I'd guess that the distance on the Lincoln Highway was more like 110 to 120 miles from Laramie, with an added 50 if you came from Cheyenne.  By the time you traveled that distance, in 1925, you were likely ready for a stop. Rawlins was only another few miles, but that few miles probably seemed like an unwelcome few miles in 1925.  Rawlins was, no doubt, catching all of the train travelers.  But Parco probably caught quite a few of the motorists.

UW's President Sternberg Resigns

After a couple of weeks with seemingly endless headlines regarding the growing controversy over changes at the University of Wyoming, President Sternberg has chosen to resign.

Well, resign probably to avoid being terminated by the Trustees. The Trustees met for nine hours yesterday and then Sternberg turned into his resignation in part, he stated, so that they would not have to vote on removing him.  The Trustees announced, through one of their members, his resignation.  He didn't speak at that function, but he did email the Casper Star Tribune, with which he seemingly had a good relationship, on his decision.  He stated that he felt the Trustees had lost confidence in him.

I only know what I've been reading and hearing, but this causes me to loose a bit of confidence in the Trustees.  It seems Sternberg's main faults, if they were faults, was that he had a strong commitment to his idea of what UW should be and was determined to act on it. Not everyone at the school, indeed it would seem a majority, perhaps, of faculty, supported his vision.  He also did, at least in regards to the law school, seem willing to charge ahead rapidly without involving the department in his initial decisions, but I don't know that he was entirely incorrect in that approach.

I fear that the very long term of the prior president has acclimated the departments to a certain culture of independence and now, effectively, they've won that fight.  Some faculty (but not the law school) have almost been expressing a "m'eh" type of culture in regards to their departments. Good enough is good enough, so to speak.  The law school has, as I've blogged about down below, moved towards the concept that it's a regional school which is separating it from the non lawyers of the state and their occupations.

Well, the critics of Sternberg won, but did the university?  Hard to say. Whoever follows will inherit this mess, with some departments in seeming rebellion, a law school that seems headed towards increasing irrelevance and a president that was forced out.  That's a tough task to take on.  I don't doubt that somebody can to it, but now the Trustees, who seem to have at least partially dropped their support of Sternberg, will have to find that man in this context.  That's a tough thing to do.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Land Grant University Enabling Statute

7 USC Sec 304:

All moneys derived from the sale of lands as provided in section 302 of this title by the States to which lands are apportioned and from the sales of land scrip provided for in said section shall be invested in bonds of the United States or of the States or some other safe bonds; or the same may be invested by the States having no State bonds, in any manner after the legislatures of such States shall have assented thereto and engaged that such funds shall yield a fair and reasonable rate of return, to be fixed by the State legislatures, and that the principal thereof shall forever remain unimpaired: Provided, That the moneys so invested or loaned shall constitute a perpetual fund, the capital of which shall remain forever undiminished (except so far as may be provided in section 305 of this title), and the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated, by each State which may take and claim the benefit of this subchapter, to the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. 

The University of Wyoming's Geology Building, circa 1986.

Lex Anteinternet: Dean Easton Resigns

When the letter noted here; Lex Anteinternet: Dean Easton Resigns: came in yesterday, most of the lawyers I know were pretty surprised. We all had the "what's up" reaction.  A story in today's Casper Star Tribune makes that a little more clear.  The new UW President has created a task force, without the Dean's input, to look into the whether the school is responsive to Wyoming's needs.  According to the paper:
He cited a new law school task force being assembled by UW President Bob Sternberg and the university's Board of Trustees as a reason why he resigned.
The decision to assemble the task force, intended to evaluate the university's College of Law, was made without asking the college's opinion on whether the task force was necessary or who should lead it, he said.
"Recent events cause me concern in this regard," Easton wrote in an Thursday email to colleagues in which he announced his resignation. "I cannot continue to serve as your dean while critical decisions are made about the College of Law without the input of the administration and faculty of the College."
Sternberg said Thursday the task force will evaluate how UW serves the state in areas including energy, natural resources, water and environmental law. It will be strictly advisory, he said, and he is accepting nominations for private- and public-sector stakeholders to fill it.
The task force will include people from Wyoming and regional legal communities, the UW Faculty Senate, representatives from the College of Law and other stakeholders, Sternberg said in a news release. Its chairman will be Cheyenne attorney Larry Wolfe, Sternberg said.
The College of Law was not involved in the decision to call a task force, or in the negotiations regarding who would be task force chairman, Sternberg said.
Easton told the Star-Tribune that "difficulties in communication with President Sternberg and the absences of communication from President Sternberg to the College of Law" prompted his resignation. He cited the task force as a specific concern.
Well, I'm probably in the minority, but while I understand Easton being miffed (and similar reactions have broken out in other departments, only two of the Deans remain from the seven or so that were in place when Sternberg took his position, due to similar concerns in their departments), I think an review of this type is overdue and, frankly, perhaps necessary.

Moreover, I don't really blame Sternberg for not including the Dean.

Here's why.

While I've met the Dean and like him, and even served on a committee he was associated with but I think a review will serve the law school well.  Frankly, this event was somewhat predicted right here on this blog months ago when I blogged about the Uniform Bar Exam.  The two events aren't directly related, but this has a certain "chickens coming home to roost" feel to it, probably just coincidentally.

But a review is needed, in my view, and I frankly don't know that the College of Law can be too involved itself.  The reasons are these.

The University of Wyoming is a land grant college, which President Sternberg has rightly been emphasizing since he came on board.  It's almost as if he's the first person at UW to remember that in quite some time. And, as a land grant college, it's mission is to serve the state, which he's also rightly been emphasizing.  This has made him, seemingly, a bit unpopular in some quarters, but it should be welcomed by the residents of the state.

The law school, part of that land grant institution, has in recent years steadily moved away from teaching Wyoming's law.  According to the more recent graduates that I've spoken to, right now it almost doesn't teach any at all, and indeed one recent graduate I know told me that students were actually told that the school didn't and wouldn't teach it.  Pretty shocking, really, for a school th at is supported by a state with such a small population.

It's all the more shocking if you consider that at one time one of the primary reasons to go to the University of Wyoming's College of Law was to position yourself to practice in Wyoming.  But now, with the Uniform Bar Exam, and a College of Law that doesn't teach Wyoming's law, that's not really true any more.  Indeed, as I warned earlier, there's almost no reason for the state to have a College of Law now.  Costs provide the only real reason. That is, it's cheaper for a person to attend the College of Law here, rather than elsewhere.

A state doesn't need to have a College of Law at all.  Alaska, whose legal problems are similar to Wyoming's, does not.  Having a College of Law is a great thing for the state, if the school does something that's focused on the state. That is, if the Wyoming school is grooming Wyoming students to be Wyoming lawyers and judges, that's fantastic.  If its just one more law school, however, in an era when there's an overabundance of new graduates, that's simply redundant and the state is entitled to examine the school and see what purpose it actually serves for the state.

The College of Law isn't going to do that, however.  I'm sure the College thinks its doing just fine. And the College supported the UBE, as we earlier noted, which does help its students a bit while hurting lawyers in the state in general and leading to an erosion of early knowledge on the topic of the law.

Given all of that, it's time for the State to take a look at the College of Law.  My hope is that the College will be reminded that it's a Wyoming school, in existence since 1920, with the goal of serving the State's population.


The Casper Star Tribune reports today that forty law school students have signed a letter in support of Dean Easton.  Essentially, they defended him and the statements in his letter (if I understand it correctly, the paper didn't print their letter) and agree with his complaints against the new UW President.

Well, good for them.  But I don't agree with them. Frankly, students are fairly poorly situated  to assess the quality or even the applicability of the education they receive. That knowledge comes after they graduate, when they find out if they learned what they needed to learn, or not.  Some of that knowledge will come very quickly, and some will be years in the making.  But it will come. They don't have it right now.

But that doesn't mean that they don't have good points and they should raise them.  Of the issues cited by the Tribune as a concern of theirs one certainly has merit in my mind, that being that this process should have been started after the ABA issues its current review of the school. Retaining ABA accreditation is absolutely critical for the school, and it won't be around long without it.

Of interest, apparently the letter cited the value to the State of the school, which is the same concern the President is citing. Dean Easton has created, as his letter below cites,  a number of programs which should be of great interest to the state's businesses, and he is to be applauded for that.  The President, on the other hand, has now stated that he's hearing concerns from the State's industry's that students are not well prepared.  The fact that there's no strong required focus on Wyoming's law would raise that concern with me as well.

Perhaps in some ways what this is really about is what the nature of this State's law school is to be.  For generations, it was a State school with a focus on the State.  The overwhelming majority of the State's lawyers were graduates of the School, as were the overwhelming majority of the Judges.  Many legislators were school graduates.  In recent years the school has tried to broaden itself into being a regional school, but that comes at the same time that there's an oversupply of lawyers in the country.  And the Dean supported the UBE, which pulls a leg out from underneath the UW Law School stool.  At that point, the school becomes just one more choice with its arguments being only the quality of the education, which is unlikely to be that much better than other regional schools, if as good (it's certainly on par) and the costs. Costs are advantageous, it cannot be doubted.

Perhaps the President should have involved the College in the process more, but I tend to think not.  The State's lawyers were not really in support of the UBE, in so far as the concerns I heard can tell, but the Dean backed that without consulting us.  Now if the Law School is getting reviewed, for advisory purposes, without its consent, in some ways perhaps that's a lesson in what effects such actions can have.  I simply wonder if its too late.  The school may be a strong regional school, but in order to do so it's really going to have to make that its main focus.  The fact that persons who wanted to take the Wyoming Bar Exam got an advantage by going there is now dead.

Postscript II

Jacquelyn Bridgeman has been named the Interim Dean of the law school, indicating that this process is moving along and Easton will not be returning to his position.  That may seem to be an odd comment, but I've heard speculation on that point.

I don't know the Interim Dean, but then I hardly know who any of the current professors are either.  Her UW bio indicates she has a BA from Standford (1996), with Honors, and a JD from the University of Chicago (1999). According to the Casper Star Tribune she is a Laramie native.

The law school actually had an Interim Dean when I entered the school as well, although I believe he'd been the full Dean at some prior point in time.  They were searching for a Dean at that time, and ultimately hired Dead Gaudio from the University of New Mexico for that position.  Interesting, a cousin of mine had him as a professor while attending the University of New Mexico's law school.

Postscript III

I haven't seen a lot of commentary in the Tribune on the part of letter writers on this story, although there have been a few.  Showing that my view is not universal by any means, the two letters have been supportive of the Dean and not the President.  I don't think I'm unsupportive of the Dean but I'm also supportive of the President, rather obviously.  Anyhow, a letter today was co-authored by a retired Judge who is supportive, in the letter, of Dean Easton.

One of the points advanced in that letter is that the writers interpret the President's efforts as one to create a focus on certain Wyoming industries, mineral development being one. That might be right.  They raise the point there that they feel that the number of UW graduates who obtain law practices in these industries is slight, and those who do only do with big firms.  That may or may not be correct, but risks becoming correct due to the UBE.  It's not a bad point, however.  It'd be a better point, in my view, if the law school was otherwise working hard to give the students an education in Wyoming topics, which no longer appears to be the case.

Even at that, however, I can't help but recall that I can think off hand of at least five lawyers who had prior experience in the oil and gas industry.  I've known lawyers who had been petroleum engineers, geophysicists, or geologist. All of those lawyers, saved one, have in fact worked in practices than involved oil and gas topics, with some of them having very extensive practices in that area.  And, as is almost  a practicing lawyer's standard joke, it's common for law students to focus on one anticipated practice area and end up in something else anyhow, with no ill effect on their later careers.

Postscript IV

On a related noted, somebody whose department has received an unfavorable review at UW who isn't taking the Easton approach is the head of the athletics department.  He's neither resigned, nor accepted the negative review. Rather, he's fighting back in the press, defending his actions and those of his department.

It's interesting how this works.  Here the new President hired an outside consultant to conduct the review, who did it in record time, and who reported back that the department has a culture that accepts defeat, basically. A "good enough" type of culture.  Not so says the department head, citing examples.

Which approach, I wonder, is better. To resign when you disagree, or to fight back citing examples?

Postscript V

Well, based upon the Casper Star Tribune's headline article of today, Dean Easton is no longer taking his own appraoch.

Apparently yesterday the President decided to hold an open forum with students. Former Dean Easton was in attendance and it turned into a real scrap. In an article headlined "Chaos in the College" the Tribune reports that the following exchange was had:
University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg explained recent resignations of university administrators to about 100 law students, faculty and alumni. Sternberg took the helm of UW on July 1. Since then, the provost, three associate provosts and four deans have resigned. Sternberg explained to students that some were asked to resign.
But then one of those administrators stood up and protested.
“I’m prepared to lay out my case as to why you have not treated this law school ethically," said Stephen Easton to Sternberg.
Sternberg's treatment "unethical"?  Pretty strong words.  But they apparently grew stronger.  Sternberg accused Easton of hijacking the meeting, and the interim vice president of academic affairs had to intervene.  Apparently a major point of contention was how the meeting would be conducted.  Sternberg wanted a town hall type meeting, but Easton claimed he wanted a trial type setting, with the students in the audience to act as the jury.  The issue apparently boils down, according to the Tribune, to this:
Shortly after moving to Wyoming, Sternberg began traveling around the state and meeting with people. He began to hear critiques of the law school.
“I know you want me to be straight and I’ll be straight,” he said, explaining that people told him that UW’s law school used to be top in the country in energy, natural resources, water and environmental law.
“Some people said we are not at the top,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s true.”
The task force will look at that, he said.
The students in the audience apparently supported Easton, with those quoted indicating that they didn't want the school to become energy law centric, as that would ignore the needs of those who intended to enter general practice.

Well, what of all of this?

First of all, this development is not a surprise here at all, and folks who read this blog (darned few though they are) shouldn't be surprised.  I predicted this development months ago.  The opinions of students aside (which will be addressed below) the reduction in the focus on Wyoming law at the law school, combined with the adoption of the UBE, made questioning the relevance of the law school inevitable.

At one time, those who attended the law school were largely destined for Wyoming practice and they knew what topics were going to be on the Wyoming section of the bar exam.  For that reason, students took classes like Oil and Gas, as the law of the state was covered in those classes, and you were prepared for the exam. But when Wyoming's law becomes less emphasized, and the UBE doesn't even test on it, there really isn't much of a reason for Wyoming to even have a law school, save for cost and convenience.  I noted this earlier, and wondered when State industry and more importantly the Legislature would begin to wonder about this. That day arrived a lot quicker than I supposed it would.  Sternberg is doing the right thing by commissioning a study on this, before the law school is completely irrelevant.

Well, why not include Easton?  I don't know that I would.  The law school has developed in this direction under his leadership.  If that's going in the wrong direction, can we expect him to realize that?  I doubt it.

This isn't to say that the conclusion is foreordained.  Nor is it to say he's done a bad job. This might all amount to nothing at all. But to look at it objectively, it's going to have to be an outside review.

And, frankly, if the Tribune's account of this is correct I have to say that I've lost a lot of respect for Easton for suggesting a trial setting.  A trial setting is a setting in which something is tried to an outside jury, irrespective of the "jury of peers" language we use for that, and under a controlled set of rules (the Rules of Evidence combined with the Rules of Civil Procedure or the Rules of Criminal Procedure).  We trial lawyers use a process called voir dire to specifically choose an unbaised jury.  Easton knows that.  A jury of law school students isn't that jury.  Easton knows that too.  I suppose he conceived of this as a trial in front of the immediate stakeholders whose education will be impacted, but his actions in arguing for a trial, which Sternberg agreed to conduct later, are in my view rather childish. For that matter, as the law school professors aren't in the practicing lawyer class, and as at least Easton supported the UBE which hurts Wyoming lawyers, and which wasn't popular with all of them to be sure, I'd somewhat question if the school is necessarily completely tuned into the views of what practicing lawyers may presently think, although I'm not that attuned to what goes on at the law school, so I may be off base.

Some of the comments of law students, I'd note, were well placed. But I'd also note that law students aren't the best judges of the practices they will ultimately have.  Some lawyers enter into the exact practice they imagine immediately after law school, but many do not. And, moreover, in Wyoming every lawyer needs to know something of the topics that are important to the state.  One student noted that some wish only to do divorce litigation, rather than oil and gas.  But what about that divorce client with oil and gas interest?  Once you take that on, you are doing oil and gas.  And some wish to only be prosecutors. But what if the prosecution arises in an oil and gas context?  Better to know that law.  Or what if you just find you like mineral law more than something else?

Students may need to learn these things, and the State bar should test on them.  The State bar isn't, and that's letting future lawyers and the citizens of the State down.  It's worth at least looking at the law school and seeing if its meeting the needs also.  It may be, but resisting looking won't help get us where we should be going, or let us know if we are there.

Postscript VI.

This story has managed to hit the front page of the Casper Star Tribune for two days in a row now, as Dean Easton is shown with Sternberg in the background at the recent forum that was held. The story itself is about all the turnover at UW, which is apparently not that unusual in context (new President) although it may be unusually rapid.

Somewhat to my surprise, the Tribune's editorial today supports President Sternberg, noting that he has a right to make changes consistent with his vision.

Postscript VII

The Casper Star Tribune has a new editor, and so far I have to say that it's been an improvement in the paper.  The editorials have improved, and the wishy washy personal column from the editor the last editor ran are now gone.  This has showed itself in two recent editorials regarding President Sternberg, one of which ran in the paper today.

This one, headlined; "Sternberg's view: doing what he was hired to do" nicely sets out the paper's view and Sternbergs. This frankly isn't what I would have expected out of the Tribune, as I would have expected it to be wishy washy but leaning towards Easton.  Not at all here.  In fact the paper commented:
Sternberg felt ambushed when he arrived at a meeting with students and the freshly resigned dean of the College of Law. He said he has been meeting with different colleges and groups of the university, and the law school appearance was arranged as a town hall meeting well before Stephen Easton resigned after announcement of a task force to review the college.
“I didn’t agree to a quasi-judicial meeting,” Sternberg said. And when the dean insisted on what he called a “trial-like format” to decide if the new president had treated the law school ethically, Sternberg considered it inappropriate.
So do we.
We think it was Easton who lost credibility. The dean led an attack that wasn’t seeking answers. It amounted to exactly what he accused Sternberg of doing to the law school — talking instead of listening.
I also agree that Easton has lost a credibility, and stated that in one of my earlier entries above.  Indeed, I think the fact that he even attempted to take on this topic in this fashion, with a law school audience, shows how insular things might have become at the law school. This debate is being played out state wide, even nation wide, so pitching an appeal to a student audience was rather naive on Easton's part. It's particularly naive as the continued existence of the law school doesn't depend on the tuition payments of the current students, but the good graces of future legislatures and, quite frankly, the tolerance the parents of future potential students may have for what's going on and agreement with where the school is headed academically.

The paper went on to note:.
We heartily support the belief that accountability is important and we want to see an improved university.
The next time Sternberg comes to a student meeting, it’s our hope that they hear what he is saying and that he is able to bring them into his vision. Looking for areas that can be better is a positive move and Sternberg says it is why he was hired.
He was blunt about what the Board of Trustees expects from him, insisting “I am doing exactly what they hired me to do.”
This followed comments by the paper to the effect that part of the upheaval is because the school had grown use to the prior long term leadership and was now having a reaction to change.  I think that's likely the case too.   It's ironic that some of the reaction has been expressed as outright opposition to Sterberg's comments that he wants UW to be the nation's "best" land grant university.  There's been one editorial by a UW faculty member and a letter to the editor attacking that recently, which I think is telling.  Normally, that kind of language would have been expected from UW. That faculty members are reacting to it is pretty amazing.  It suggests the motto of UW should be "Okay is good enough."  That's pretty sad.  Even if they don't become the "best" land grant college, whatever that is, they ought to be striving for it.