Incredible Opportunity in Dubois

A tribute to perhaps the finest establishment in Dubois, the Opportunity Shop, where commerce enhances community.

Dubois WY

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

The Lore of Lumber

Not many of these relics remain from the tie hacks, whose dangerous work helped to build the West but also, in a sense, the town of Dubois.

Flume1Near the bottom of a long series of switchbacks, hiking down from the top of a large overlook, we approached a stream running through the base of a canyon.

My hiking companion looked down from the last switchback. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to this structure.

I was relieved to find it still intact — not fallen down and washed away or, God forbid, pilfered. Few people know about this last remnant of a flume. There aren’t many of these relics left from the watercourses constructed more than a century ago by the tie hacks, whose highly dangerous work not only helped to build the railroads that made the West but also, in a sense, created the town of Dubois.

In the early days of the last century, the tie hacks cut lumber from these mountains and fed the logs via these flumes to the Wind River, where they were floated down to Riverton to be stacked and sent on by rail. All of the tie-hack work was demanding, and much of it was potentially deadly. (Read much more in Knights of the Broadax.)

The tie hacks lived in camps in the mountains above Dubois, using the long cold winters to fell the trees and the warmth of spring to direct the logs into the flumes and down toward the river. Their stories are the kind that make you marvel at those who built these communities. The tie hack villages and their stores and post office disappeared long ago, the community essentially relocated to Dubois.

One of the tie hacks, Fritz Stevens, was still alive to tell the story when I moved to Dubois. Their achievements and exploits still survive in exhibits at the Dubois Museum, in the annual Swedish Smorgasbord (celebrating dinners in the tie camps, many of whose residents were Scandinavian), MuseumDay2008_5_FritzStevens(seated)KnotTyingand in the surnames of many descendants who still live in town. In this picture you can see the late Fritz Stevens, sitting down with his cane and somewhat obscured by the shade, demonstrating knot-tying at a recent Museum Day.

I once heard Fritz tell of enduring a logging accident that sent a pole into his mouth, knocking out several teeth and letting loose lots of blood. There would be no talk of a trip to a medical clinic, of course: There was no medical clinic. He stopped the blood, took a rest, and got back to work.

The tie hacks are gone, but the lumbering goes on. Here’s the house my neighbor is building slowly, all by himself (with help from friends) with logs left over from his long life in the industry. His wife is Fritz Stevens’ neice. Although the couple grew up in this area, they spent several years in Alaska working for the timber industry, and they have some hair-raising stories to tell about the danger of that work. As I gaze at the huge logs that make up my own house, I think now of the perils that must have been involved in providing them.

Logger2 Logger1

It’s been many decades since the lumber mill, once the basis for Dubois’ economy, closed up shop. But logging trucks still rumble down the highway every day, and things are looking up: The US Forest Service recently reopened logging in the Shoshone National Forest, so that some of the many trees killed by pine bark beetles can be removed.

It’s been sad to see that forest graying and dying in patches, and good to know that the damaged lumber will come to some use (thereby reducing the risk of fire). Said a man hauling a load of wood I met at the end of a hike the other day: “It’s easy pickins.” They can’t take it away fast enough now.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

More to Love in Dubois: The Annual Quilt Show

You learn a great deal about the skill and patience behind this great art. Some are for sale, often for affordable prices.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.


© Lois Wingerson 2015

Dubois Love Letter #2: Living in a Postcard

“You come back,” said my new friend Jimmy. “And you come back.” It gets very difficult to resist. Then you decide to stay.

CAM00338“You come back,” said my new friend Jimmy the snowmobile repairman from Massachusetts, the guy on the next stool yesterday at happy hour. “And you come back.”

He paused. “And you come back.”

Later yesterday evening, as I served soft drinks during the weekly square dance, I met a man who said he had been coming back to the CM Ranch every year since 1988. I didn’t have time to ask why he hasn’t, like so many others, just seen the light and moved in here.

My family first came to the Lazy L&B guest ranch in about 1988. We came back. And we came back. And we came back.

It becomes very difficult to resist coming back, and eventually you ask yourself whether you have to leave at all.

You hear the same story over and over. People come to Dubois and they fall in love … with Dubois.

After all, as Jimmy so eloquently put it, you’re living in a postcard. The scenery is the catch, but that’s only the start of it, as I will explore in future love letters.

So watch out, new visitor Jerry Straussbaugh of Spring Hill, Kansas, who sent the love letter pictured above to the Dubois Frontier a few weeks ago. During a 3-day visit, he wrote, “I was able to pack in a lifetime of adventure. Words can’t express my feeling for your community and region.”

“I don’t think I have ever visited a place where I have felt more immediately welcome,” he concluded.

Come back, Mr. Straussbaugh. Do come back. This is not a dream, and it’s not a postcard.

This is the life.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

Be There or Be Square Dance Night

It’s the place to be on Tuesday summer evenings, even for local adolescents. Good clean chaotic fun. Experience not required!

SquareDanceGals You just gotta love it: This is the place to be for many adolescents on summer Tuesdays in Dubois, at the square dance in the back room at the Rustic Pine Tavern. At the start, just after 8 PM, the girls often hang together separate from the guys, as you can see here.SquareDanceGuys

But square dancing is all about partners, and sooner or later they begin to mingle. It’s wonderful to behold how expert these young dancers are who have come every week, perhaps for almost as long as they remember.

From my vantage point behind the soft-drink bar, it’s great fun to watch the teens laughing, bragging, whispering secrets.

Meanwhile the caller, who has been doing this for decades, tries to lure the more timid tourists who hang on the sidelines: “We need another couple here! Don’t worry! Nobody else knows how to do it either!” (Not quite true…)

SquareDance1As the minutes pass, visitors from guest ranches begin to “get” the moves.  This is silly stuff, actually, but great exercise and entirely wholesome fun. Some of the most enthusiastic participants are the young children.SquareDance3SquareDance5

Every once in a while, of course, order deteriorates into a certain degree of mayhem, as here. The natural reaction is to laugh.SquareDance6

The Episcopal Womens Guild of St. Thomas Church has been sponsoring the square dances for many decades in Dubois. Like almost all entertainment here, the proceeds go to a charitable cause. SquareDance7

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

Lewis and Clark (and Me)

Lewis and Clark
Lewis and Clark

“The valley along which we passed today, and through which the river winds it’s meandering course… ascends gradually on either side of the river to the bases of two ranges of high mountains. the tops of these mountains are yet covered partially with snow, while we in the valley are nearly suffocated with the intense heat of the mid-day sun; the nights are so cold that two blankets are not more than sufficient covering.”

So wrote Meriwether Lewis from the headwaters of the Missouri River on August 2, 1805 — exactly 210 years ago today.

On that day Lewis and Clark were about 150 miles north of where I hiked today, but the words still ring true. These mountains too bear snow even in August, and I indeed need a blanket or two at night (even indoors). Given global warming, it’s interesting that they also found it very hot on this date.

I set out today up a logging road about 20 minutes’ drive west of home, with the dog beside me. He hung back at first, panting, until I made it clear I would not head back.

I’ve been reading Lewis and Clark’s journals just now, and as I walked I kept thinking of the two diarists, of their guides Sacajawea and Charbonneau and the rest of the party — their exhaustion from hauling log-built canoes always upstream, the sprains and blisters and tender feet from clambering over rocky streambeds, the digestive problems from tainted water, the constant search for game to eat, the harrowing losses of tomahawks and compasses, the uncertainty about where they were headed, what lay ahead, and the odds of survival.

080215trailLewis wrote with wonder that the local natives, Sacajawea’s mountain Shoshone relatives, could survive at all in this environment. How much we owe to those natives’ kindness to the first Europeans, to the courage and stamina of the explorers and Mountain Men themselves, to the fortitude of the first European settlers who opened this wonderful land for the rest of us.

The dog and I trudged up a very rutted dirt road, through a pine forest that didn’t offer much shade. I didn’t need to carry much: A bear bell, bear spray, a water bottle.

Our trail led to a T-junction, and I chose the right turn, towards a place where the trees were thicker, offering more shade.

We scared up a grouse.

The pine grove opened into a wider meadow, covered with tall browning grass and some wild flowers still blossoming late in the season.

The road curved. What lay ahead?

I can rarely turn back when a slope or a bend beckons with the possibility of a new vista.

And there it was, just a few steps later:080215mountains

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.

© Lois Wingerson 2015

Shakespeare in the Winds

Shakespeare returned to the Wind River Valley last night, with a riotously engaging performance of Taming of The Shrew at Dubois’ Dennison Lodge.
Petruchio arrived in this attire, more a cowboy than a count. He did, of course, get his gal.
Directed by Diane Springford, the production by the Wyoming Shakespeare Festival Company was supported by the Wyoming Arts Council and presented by Friends of the Library. It’s been several years since the company has come to Dubois. We were very glad to have them back.

Want to read more about living in Dubois WY? You can read weekly updates via email using the link at the top of the right column.
© Lois Wingerson 2015