Monday, February 13, 2017

We made that. And surprises.

Wyoming Lard Can, Fort Casper Museum.  I was surprised to see it. I wish we had a can of it still.  I used to have some stationary, but now I don't even have that.

Wyoming Lard.

We, that is my family, made that.

From about 1940, when my grandfather acquired the local packing plant, until his death, which was in the late 40s.  The packing plant was sold at that time.  My father had graduated high school, but was still a teenager at the time. So, suffice it to say, his future (he was in Casper College at the time, studying engineering) underwent a big change.

My father, because he was in Casper College at the time, must have had at least some plan to pursue engineering.  He never spoke about that much and indeed I don't recall him speaking about it ever, actually.  I knew that from my mother.  When my grandfather died he went to work for the Post Office and the packing plant was sold.  He liked the Post Office and planned on staying there but my grandmother would have none of that and insisted that he go on in his education. That was, I think, a very common view at that time, the late 1940s.

And so he did.  He changed from engineering to dentistry at some point, and again, I don't know when.  He was shortly in the University of Nebraska where he graduated in the early 1950s.  He entered the Air Force after that and then came back to Casper.

He would speak about the packing house and working there, which he'd done as a teenager.  My grandfather, who had quit school at age 13, wanted everyone to know what "real work" was like.  Frankly, dentistry in the era when he did it was "real work" as well, and indeed it remains so.  There's a common concept in the world that being a dentists means you don't work and you are rich, much like people think about being a lawyer. The opposite is very true, and in the era in which he practiced it was particularly true.  Most of the dentists around here seemed displaced from agriculture in one way or another and they all had strong rural roots.  When they gathered, they hardly ever spoke about dentistry.  Indeed, I can recall a few conversations in which they did, even so many decades later, as they were that unusual.

Anyhow, it's interesting to see how things can take a sudden change.  As my uncle has told me, at the time of his death, the packing house "was dong really well".  It was making money, the family had sold the creamery which really didn't, and things were going fine.  Then death intervened.

I doubt, had my grandfather lived, that my father would have become a dentist.  I don't know what would have occurred.  My grandfather was only his his 40s when he died.  Would my father have gone to work there later?  Maybe.  He always fondly recalled the packing house and the work there.   He was also frank, however, that the margins in the packing industry were, at that time, slim.  That he knew that shows that he knew some of the business aspects of it even though he was a teenager at the time of his father's death.  Over time, most of these smaller packing houses have gone away, including this one, which kept on into the 1970s when it finally closed.  It was used as a welding shop after that, and then a big fire took it down in the 1980s or 1990s.

And so things go.  Death intervenes and sends everyone into a new direction.

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