For Our Eyes Only: Dubois April Art Show

Not too crowded at this off-season exhibit. Lucky us.

EmptyCowboyWell, that headline isn’t entirely true. Unlike some of the paintings on display, the three-man art show held last Sunday evening at a local church was not exactly invitation-only.

However, not too many outsiders are likely to turn up at an art show in Dubois this time of year, as you can see from this picture I took the following Friday morning in the Cowboy Cafe.

We’re hoping someday to see those tables just as occupied in the early spring as they will be a few months later, when we’re lucky to get a seat.

Meanwhile, feast your eyes below on a poor rendition of one of the paintings I saw last Sunday. Artist Greg Beecham calls the painting “Tween Dreams and Waking.”

That’s a good metaphor for the vision some local people have about the future of this equally beautiful valley. Things have turned down since the 2008 recession, but I think they’re looking up these days.

This swan is one of four wildlife paintings by Beecham that will be featured this summer in the invitation-only Prix de West exhibition at the National Cowboy Heritage and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. All four (including a grizzly, a wolf, and a falcon) were on view last Sunday.

Beecham_Swan

This is the third year that Greg has sponsored an exhibition of works by local painters in April, the quietest month in Dubois. They call it a gift to the community. It’s a chance for us to see some of the best art by our neighbors, up close and personal, at at time when we’re not all going loopy trying to serve the needs of our visitors.

Starting in about a month, the town will explode with returning “snowbirds,” many of whom are fine amateur or professional artists. But quite a few, like Greg, have chosen to live in Dubois year-round. He and his family have been here for 20 years.
Beecham041516
He told me that he and his wife Lu (who is the business manager for the local schools) “kept moving farther and farther away from the hubbub” in western Washington state two decades ago, but the hubbub kept chasing them. At a local art show in Ellensburg WA, he asked the husband of an artist from Casper where they could find a place in Wyoming that was not too crowded, had a good school for the kids, wasn’t too cold, and was beautiful.

Without hesitation, the man replied, “Dubois.”

They looked first in Colorado, because his parents came from Grand Junction. But even back then, he said, there were still too many people in Colorado.

So they detoured back through Dubois “to see if what the guy had said was true.” Within a few weeks, they had bought property in town.

Last weekend’s art show also featured works by Jerry Antolik and Tom Lucas. Antolik lives in the tiny nearby hamlet of Hudson, where he focuses his efforts on murals. But his portraits are also excellent, and as you see here he also does fine wildlife paintings.Antolik_MooseAntolik told me he was up on Union Pass quietly working beside this pond full of lily pads when the moose suddenly emerged with her calf.

Tom Lucas, who grew up nearby in Lander, is as much a historian as a painter. He’s well known locally for his monumental effort to research and recreate the methods by which the ancient Shoshone treated the horns of bighorn sheep, to craft the legendarily strong and supple bows that allowed them to be master hunters.

Travel_LucasOne of his bows was on display last Sunday, along with several of his masterful paintings of native crafts. As part of learning to paint them, as you can see from the beaded bag in this picture, he also recreates them.

Tom, whom I consider a good friend, told me he began to paint as a young lad because he was inspired by the work of Charlie Russell. “I never thought I could get to be that good,” he said, “and maybe I’m not.” But you can see how far he has come in that direction.

He also said that he hoped the show might inspire the same dream for some of its young visitors. If it does, they’re in a good place to find living mentors.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

You can see Living Dubois in your email every week! Sign up at the upper right.

 

 

 

 

Volunteers Help Free Sheep Caught by Muggers

Guest columnist Karen Sullivan recounts a unique adventure, her reward for being in the Dubois area during the “shoulder season.”

BighornSheepStudyRecently, I had the unforgettable opportunity to help study some of the bighorn sheep and mule deer in the Dubois area, up close. It was an incredible experience!

Along with several other volunteers, I assisted in a joint project of the National Bighorn Sheep Center, the University of Wyoming, and the state Game & Fish Department to monitor the body condition and migration patterns of these wonderful animals. Our job as volunteers was to help collect the sheep delivered by helicopter, and to protect both the biologists and the animals by holding them still while they were being examined.

Last year, several ewes were collared in order to track their movements and recapture them annually for physical examinations. A helicopter crew from New Zealand was hired to capture the sheep and bring them to the exam area near Dubois.

BighornSheepStudy1The crew used a helicopter and net gun to catch the sheep. Once the sheep were caught in the net, two muggers (yes, that is what they are called!) jumped from the helicopter to blindfold and hobble the sheep. They also wrapped them in a sturdy tarp for transport to the exam area.

The helicopter pilot’s skills were impressive, to say the least! He very gently laid the sheep on the ground, where volunteers picked them up and carried them to the biologists who would examine them. Each animal had an extensive examination, which included measuring their body fat, checking for pregnancy using an ultrasound, and collecting blood, ear, nose, and throat swab samples to test them for disease.

BighornSheepStudy2Most of the sheep were surprisingly calm throughout the process, especially considering that no tranquilizer was used.

The collars were then adjusted or replaced as needed. After this, the sheep were moved to an open area, where their blindfolds and hobbles were removed and they were set free. Volunteers were also able to help with freeing the ewes.

Once released, the ewes did not waste any time running to rejoin their herd. They are amazingly fast runners.

BighornSheepStudy3The collars on the ewes allow the biologists to track them and their lambs throughout the year and to monitor their health as well as their migration patterns.

As a new part of this ongoing statewide project, several mule deer in the Upper Wind River Valley have also been caught, examined, and collared with the same objective.

I would not have imagined that I would ever be able to get so close to bighorn sheep or be able to actually help with a project like this. I hope that the long-term results from this research will help ensure the health of these magnificent animals, and increase their population.

© 2016 Karen Sullivan. Image credits: Karen Sullivan (top), Nick Dobric (remainder)

Want to see more of Living Dubois? Sign up at upper right to receive new posts by email.

Dubois K-12: A Hidden Gem

Two substitute teachers tell what they’ve found. It’s remarkable.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

You can sign up to see Living Dubois by email using the “Follow” box at upper right. Thanks!

SchoolHouse
Schoolhouse cabin at the Dubois Museum

Think of a schoolhouse in Wyoming, in the middle of nowhere. Drafty logs and a sod roof, maybe? One room, full of kids who have dirty faces and scraped knees, most of them destined for a life of pitching hay? Maybe one headed for college?

I didn’t ask my teacher friends, Karen and Lori, what they expected to find when they volunteered to substitute at the Dubois school. I asked what they found. It was nothing at all like Little House on the Prairie.

They started with the basics: the stuff. Not only is the K-12 school building brand new, everything else is state of the art, said Lori, who previously taught elementary school in a “fairly affluent town” south of Boston.

100_0105
The actual K-12 school in Dubois

In Dubois, every student has a portable computer of some kind. Elementary-school students were taking Chromebooks to art class, she told me. Back in Massachusetts, “each kid there didn’t have his own computer.”

My friend Karen has taught junior-high school biology in Dubois, and she’s waiting to teach more classes. She also still has her appointment as an assistant professor of microbiology at Louisiana State University, and she teaches online courses for a Louisiana college, working from her home just outside Dubois. (See “Best Internet Anywhere” and “Consultant’s Dream Come True.”)

“The science labs [in Dubois] were incredible,” she told me. “The fume hoods were better than we had at LSU. I’ve never seen microscopes that advanced in high school.”

Not only do they have the high-tech microscopes; the students know how to use them. She found they also knew a surprising amount about the bacteria they could see through the lens.  They had learned to extract DNA from strawberries.

The equipment, of course, is only the sizzle. The meat of the issue is the class size, which in a town of 1,000 is very small.

100_0085
Lori teaching. (Why the funny hats? It was Dr. Seuss Day.)

The kids at primary level are “sweet and eager to learn,” Lori told me, but as anywhere, there are always a few “who need extra attention. With only 7 or 9 kids in a class, it’s easier to do that.”

The junior high classes are about the same size. Karen spoke about the pleasure of being able to interact with each student in the lab, to get each of them excited and motivated. “Also, I was surprised at the level of respect in the classroom,” she said. “They’re all so polite. It was amazing.”

Clearly this is an environment that takes teaching seriously, and gives it latitude.

In Massachusetts where Lori taught full-time, she told me that basically all a substitute teacher had to do was show up in the morning. To substitute here in Dubois, not only did she have to fill out an application, she had to document her certification to teach, to be fingerprinted, and to take a course on the Wyoming and US Constitutions.

100_0102
Sign in the corridor outside a classroom.

When she arrives early in the morning, a lesson plan is waiting for her. “I’m not just going in to babysit,” Lori said. “I’m teaching them.”

The full-time teachers seem happy, she told me, not overloaded or stressed. “You get to think up the curriculum design and plan your own courses,” she added. “It’s amazing. Wonderful.”

Another advantage occurred to me recently: For a high school student with good grades in this remote little town in the least densely populated state in the lower 48, getting into college outside Wyoming must be a slam-dunk, because all colleges want to optimize their “mix.” A good applicant from Dubois must be unusually interesting and attractive compared to one from Boston or New York City. (What’s more, I’ve heard that there are more college scholarships available around here than applicants to receive them.)

I mentioned the college-admissions benefit to a good friend whose high school-aged son went to Oxford, England, for a summer program last year. “I know,” he said with a smile.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

You can sign up to see Living Dubois by email using the “Follow” box at upper right. Thanks!

 

Dubois WY: Consultant’s Dream Come True

Is the ability to work from Dubois a stroke of genius, or just a stroke of incredible good luck?

As the owner of Recreational Resources LLC of Dubois, Rick Collignon putters away all day on his computer, fax, and cell phone. What the folks on the other end of the line may not realize is that during a conference call he may be on horseback at an altitude of around 10,000 feet, nowhere near the rest of the office.

CollignonThis avid outdoorsman has the best of both worlds. He spends his free time fishing, hiking, and hunting in Wyoming, in the Wind River Valley, but spends some of his working hours as a consultant to the Fish and Game Department for a different state–South Dakota.

Rick is a great example of how the high-quality Internet service in Dubois allows residents here to succeed as consultants and business owners from what looks on the map like the middle of nowhere.  Like so much else about living in Dubois, this arrangement suits only a specific kind of personality.

“Telecommuting requires a certain type of person to be successful,” says Rick. “A tremendous amount of self-discipline and drive, good organizational skills, and the ability to work alone a vast majority of the time.”

As with any job, he adds, you must make your work time accommodate your clients’ hours. So you can find yourself talking to DC in the early AM and the West Coast late into the evening. It’s also about your creativity, he adds: The ability to not only think outside the box but also to create a marketable product—yourself. What can you offer that beats the next guy?

Another important key factor is to maintain your network of business relationships, to assure that you’re in the right place at the right time to win the deal, even if that place is one of the most remote in the lower 48 states.

And place is important to the mix. Another key to successful telecommuting is to locate yourself in an area–be it city or country, mountains or beach—that will put you in the most productive frame of mind, whatever that means for you. If you can’t maintain the focus of your thoughts in the city, then perhaps solitude is the key.

It certainly has been for Rick. After months of hard work (predominantly over the phone or email), he successfully negotiated the Missouri River Land Transfer for the State of South Dakota. His success enabled Rick and his wife to purchase the KOA campground in Dubois and revamp the facility–something they are both enjoying.

cid_836“Dubois is one of those places,” as he put it, “where a consultant has all the quality access and communication links to the world through the Web needed to successfully compete in today’s markets, while providing an outstanding life space which stimulates those invaluable creative talents needed to excel in this line of work.”

I also telecommuted from Dubois for 8 years before I retired last June, and obviously I continue to take advantage of the great Internet here. Everything Rick says rings true, and he and I are hardly the only people around here who are taking advantage of the opportunity.

The cost of living is low, the quality of life high. Just a few weeks ago, the financial website bankrate.com designated Wyoming the best state to retire for the second year in a row. The factors it cited (low taxes and prices, low crime rates, beautiful environment) are just as important to self-employed individuals who work on the Internet as they are for retirees. And the Internet here, as I keep saying, is second to none.

For people whose hearts sing at the thought of mountain peaks, open skies, and true solitude and serenity right out the back door, is the ability to work from Dubois a stroke of genius or just a stroke of incredible good luck?

I don’t know how Rick would answer. As for me, I put it down to the grace of God, and give thanks every morning when I look out the window.

© Lois Wingerson, 2016

You can sign up to see Living Dubois by email using the “Follow” box at upper right. Thanks!