Wyoming Wool Works. Wow! (Who Knew?)

I never even noticed this charming shop which would fare well on the streets of trendy Brooklyn. Why is it so invisible in Dubois?

wyowool10How could I have lived in Dubois for 8 years without even knowing about Wyoming Wool Works? Because it was in hiding.

A neighbor new to town diverted me into this charming shop on the way back from a hike in the badlands. I probably never would have gone in there otherwise, because I don’t knit or crochet.

Besides, it’s in a nondescript location: the block-like old Masonic Temple building, out beyond the main intersection on the way toward the town dump.

I stop all the time at the Opportunity Shop right next door, but I’ve never noticed Wyoming Wool Works. It has no display windows, and not even a real sign. The only clue that it is inside is a small text-only black and white placard on the stair rail.

We had to turn a corner into an office-like corridor to reach the shop door. And then: Oh, my goodness. I caught my breath.

wyowool2Wyoming Wool Works is no mere purveyor of yarns and crochet hooks (although you can buy those, including one made from a ram’s horn).

You can also buy hand-knitted woolen hats, sweaters, and jackets. Hand-painted aprons. Crocheted rugs. Delightful huge baskets made from large strips of felt. There are also a few antiques.

The proprietor’s excellent taste is unmistakeable. Given more visibility, this shop would stand up well on Madison Avenue or on the trendier streets of Brooklyn where I still spend a little time.

It’s a very high-end little treasure chest, curiously hidden from view.

“I get how to run a shop,” said Anita Thatcher, when I got up the nerve after a few days to ask why she keeps such a low profile. What I heard was a love story with some plot elements that are fairly familiar.

Anita started out in New York City. Sometime in the late 1980s (like me) she booked a vacation near Dubois, at what we now politely call a “guest ranch.”

During her visit, the cook quit, was fired, or fell ill — I don’t recall the details. Anita offered to help with the cooking. This is somewhat outré for a guest at what we called a dude ranch back then. But her offer was accepted. She returned the next summer, as the cook.

wyowool6Like me, she fell in love with the area.

Unlike me — but like many other wives I know here — she also fell in love with a cowboy. They bought a ranch in nearby Crowheart, where a neighbor woman, also from New York City, was raising sheep.

Thus began Anita’s love of all things wool (third chapter in this love story). Eventually she and two friends opened a yarn shop in Dubois. But her culinary skills were still in demand locally, and for several decades she has been catering events for hosts of distinction in Dubois.

wyowool1“My husband once asked me if I ever tried to relax,” she said. “I told him I don’t know how.”

Anita’s husband died a while ago. He went the way many cowboys go, she told me, taking too many knocks. She relocated from the Crowheart ranch to Lander and then to Dubois, where she opened Wyoming Wool Works in its current out-of-the-way location, serving a small clientele of local and mail-order customers and offering knitting and weaving classes.

Opening the shop only a few days a week, she admitted, has been one way of intentionally keeping it nearly invisible. A woman only has so much energy, after all. Anita still caters the weekly Kiwanis Club breakfast. She will always do catering for some longstanding clients, she told me, but “it’s time for me to stop carrying food all over the county.”

I’m watching now for the fourth chapter in this love story. At an age when Anita needs to slow down, and when many other women are playing golf or enjoying travel, it may be that she has decided to bring Wyoming Wool Works out of the shadows.

wyowool5“I thought for a while about only operating through the website,” she said. “But then I asked myself, what are you really doing here?”

For the love of Dubois! I do hope she devotes the same creative energies to the future of her delightful shop that she has lavished on her husband and her catering business.

wyowool8She told me with some delight about a recent phone call. A woman from Jackson wanted to bring a group of friends over here to go Christmas shopping. Would Anita open the shop for them?

“Would I?” she said with a chuckle. “I’d even serve scones and tea!”

What a day trip! Escape the crowds. Take a great hike in the morning, have lunch at the Nostalgia Bistro or the Cowboy Cafe. Then stop by that great little yarn shop to see what you can’t resist.

Shopping therapy is a time-honored restorative. In this location that offers respite to so many, I think Anita Thatcher is morally obligated not to keep denying her therapeutic skills to all those people who turn that corner in the middle of town, entirely unaware of what is only a block away.

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 #3: Best Internet Anywhere?

Only one highway runs through Dubois WY, and slowly. But another one, invisible, is very speedy. Accidents are exceedingly rare.

Living in one of the most remote towns in the United States has many advantages. One of them, incredible as it may seem, is virtually flawless Internet service. Here’s why.Dubois broadband

The picture at right shows Michael Kenney’s whimsical clothesline, made from really old telephone poles and transformers. It’s funny because Michael, who is the head of our local telephone company (DTE, for Dubois Telephone Exchange), is one of the most forward-thinking and progressive people I’ve ever met. In charge of a rural phone company, he long ago began to see beyond telephones.

Michael has been a prime mover in the national effort to bring broadband to rural areas. The golden thread I’m using to transmit these words right now is a shining example of his success.

The Internet service here is fast and reliable. We watch movies on Netflix all the time, virtually without interruption. I can’t remember when I last lost service while working on a website.

Before my retirement last June, I telecommuted from Dubois and from my home in New York City for 8 years. Working in the city was a nightmare, even though we used one of the largest Internet service providers, Time Warner Cable. Service would wink out unpredictably, and customer service reps (who obviously didn’t know Brooklyn from the Bronx from Bangalore) would apologize incessantly and ineffectively. They hadn’t a clue. I became a regular at the library and at Starbucks.

Dubois broadbandHere in Dubois, one Friday evening several years ago I ran into Michael at happy hour at the Rustic Pine Tavern. I mentioned to him that my Internet service had stopped at about 3:30 (no problem, because I worked on Eastern time and that was the end of the work week back in Norwalk).

“A backhoe ran over a cable in Cody,” Michael said. “It will be fixed in 3 hours.”

Michael’s minions spent last summer laying fiber optic cable over the pass, working right past our house. Now there are multiple redundancies, Michael told me recently. If our line fails, another one will kick in. These days, the Internet never kicks out.

By the way, DTE has been running a webcam for many years at the spot in the middle of Dubois where the highway hangs a right-angle turn. This is an easy way to get a quick feel for the other kind of traffic that passes through here (much more slowly). You can watch it at http://webcam.rangefamily.net/~dubois/ .

 

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 Farmers Market

Another charitable venture, the farmers market offers nothing but the best from midsummer, and usually draws a crowd …

Granted, the high mountain desert of the upper Wind River Valley is not the most fertile ecosystem on the planet. We are fairly well supplied with produce FarmersMarket2_080615by the supermarket, and some residents keep their own greenhouses. But when the weekly Farmers Market opens at 5 PM Thursday a long line builds quickly at the checkout.

Volunteers manage the farmers market. The office manager of St. Thomas’ church drives to Jackson and back early Thursday morning, bringing back farm-fresh delights from as far away as Utah and Oregon. Later in the season she drives the same distance in the other direction to Riverton, after the local growing season kicks in there.

A small, jam-packed and well-tended garden beside the church provides fresh greens and some vegetables, picked on the spot for farmers market customers. Look at the crazy carrot someone pulled last week!Carrot

Below you see my haul from last Thursday’s market — or part of it, anyway. We’ve enjoyed several peaches and quite a few greens over the weekend.

The farmers market is another mission of St. Thomas Episcopal Church. As usual in Dubois, the proceeds from our pleasures go to charity. In this case, cash profits go to the local food bank. Most unsold produce goes to the food bank or the senior center.FarmersMarketHaulWant 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

Dubois Love Letter #1: A Study in Contrasts

cropped-petesgate.jpg Fifteen minutes’ drive west of Dubois, you are hiking in high alpine forest.

The scent of sage mixes with the fragrance of pine. The air is so cool you may need an extra layer in midsummer.

Your eyes behold the most beautiful color combination in nature: sagebrush and lupine.

You’re only a few miles from the Continental Divide here.

Just a mile or two east of this spot the spectacular red-rock badlands begin. They rise stunningly over the center of town, and continue to a long distance to the the east, standing above the valley like a vast array of monuments.

hikers_072215From a distance they look like solid rock, but up close you find that they are slowly dissolving sand. My husband calls them “melting ice-cream,” in geologic terms.

These hikers have just completed a hot and dry hike up Mason’s Draw and back, stopping often to give the dogs (and themselves) a drink of water.

Where they turned back at the top of the draw, it seemed as silent as the back side of the moon, except for the breeze.

Here you see the kinds of flowers that dominate in one landscape (left) and the other, just a short drive away (right).

RocksNFlowers2

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