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

TamingoftheShrew072015_2
Shakespeare returned to the Wind River Valley last night, with a riotously engaging performance of Taming of The Shrew at Dubois’ Dennison Lodge.
Petruchio072015
Petruchio arrived in this attire, more a cowboy than a count. He did, of course, get his gal.
TamingPoster
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

Midsummer Surprises: A Museum Day Storybook

It was a dark and stormy morning. What a strange start to a Dubois story! Who would ever expect rain in in the high mountain desert, in mid-July, preparing for one of the town’s favorite annual celebrations: Museum Day?

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 Rising

demolition_with_boysAt left, two young lads watched with interest as the last building damaged in the devastating December 30 fire comes down. I asked their names at the time, but unfortunately forgot them before I sat down to write this.

Dubois fire
Downtown Dubois on 12/31/14. Photo credit: Alan Rogers/Casper Star-Tribune

The fire, widely reported in the national media, destroyed a half block of historic buildings on the main street. (You can see some more dramatic pictures at Dubois fire.)

The fire was caused by overheating of wooden walls too close to a chimney. Subzero temperatures caused the water lines in the fire hoses to freeze up as volunteer firefighters battled the flames in the wee hours.

Community response was, predictably, immediate and robust, reflecting the strong feelings that residents, former residents, and longtime repeat visitors have for the Dubois community.

A crowd-sourced relief fund raised nearly $12,000 for affected business owners over six months. Another fund coordinated by the local charity Needs of Dubois and St. Thomas Episcopal Church raised about $88,000.

Contributions at the annual Swedish Smorgasbord event in June and other sources raised money for a new fire engine with hoses that will not freeze overnight in Dubois’ high-mountain winter temperatures.

DuboisRisingThe theme of the Independence Day parade was “Dubois Rising” (see the float with that motto in the image at right). Nobody needed to be told what that was about.

Meanwhile, the demolition proceeded. The new empty lot offers residents a startling view, straight through from the hardware store and its parking lot to the world’s most unique bar (the Rustic Pine Tavern) — or vice versa. We’re used to seeing timber storefronts and a board sidewalk.

JeffsBareLotWhat’s going to happen here? We’re eager to find out.

“How could I not rebuild?” said the property owner Jeff Sussman in the local newspaper, not long after the fire. Now that the insurance reports are submitted, architects’ plans are under consideration.

A New York commercial real estate broker, Jeff and his wife Susan also own and manage the Diamond D ranch here. Jeff and Susan are anything but absentee landlords. You often see them in the Rustic when they’re in town, and they celebrated Jeff’s recent birthday with an open bar.

When I spotted Jeff in town not long ago, I mentioned that heart-warming statement in the Frontier, which was a beacon of hope at a devastating time for a town whose economy relies heavily on tourism and therefore on the face it presents to those passing through.

“I meant it,” he replied. “We’ve lived here for years. I wasn’t just going to take the insurance buyout. This town means a great deal to us.”

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