Wyoming Fact and Fiction: Wyoming Winter has an interesting post on winter, and dwellings in this part of the country in the past. It's an interesting topic, and another one of those things we don't think a great deal about, but which reflect a real change in people's daily lives.
Today, when I got up, the temperature was -18F. That's really cold. And it's emphasized all the more as I'm enduring the cold in an old fashioned way. The batteries (plural) of my diesel truck died the first morning of the cold snap, and I haven't been able to replace them. The hood of the truck is frozen shut, from the snow on the first day. I haven't had a car battery die due to cold weather in ages, although the batteries in this case are seven years old and have seen a lot of hard use.
But, while -18F is cold, it isn't unusual for this part of the country. Psychologists say that people's weather memory is only about three years in extent, and that must be true, because there's all sorts of people saying "this isn't normal" for this region. Oh. . yes it is. This is the norm. Winter here used to typically arrive no later than October and as early as September. When I was a kid I distinctly recall that I always worried it would arrive the week of sage chicken season, which is the second week of September, as we couldn't get up to the high country if it did. And that worry was fairly frequently realized. Arctic Novembers were quite common when I was a kid, as were very snowy ones. That people think they are unusual shows how things have been different recently.
The news media, on the other hand, should know better. Even in places like snowy Colorado they seem surprised by winter. How a state that depends on winter ski tourist can be baffled by snow is beyond me.
Anyhow, it's worth doing what Neal has done in his post, and ponder heating of the past. I've lived in gas and electrically heated houses my entire life, but coal for heat wasn't unusual in this part of the country prior to World War Two. Indeed, just recently a post on the conversion of the Shoreham Hotel from gas to coal, during World War Two, has been very popular here, showing how that was still done fairly late, and also that people are looking into that topic for some reason. Still, that's heat. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, plenty of people here, in this wood scarce region, were heating with wood, which is not terribly efficient when simply burned in a stove, or a fire place. You'd want to be pretty near the stove or that fireplace.
And the houses were poorly insulated in many instances too.
This doesn't even begin to consider how aboriginal people endured, but they did. Nights in teepees in weather like this must have been pretty long ones, and you'd certainly learn how to bring in adequate fuel, or have it close at hand, so that it was readily available.