Letter To The Editor: Rod Miller Is Wrong

Dear editor: Rod Miller, in his recent column, The Invasion, Redux, misrepresented the main character of his opinion piece, Nate Champion and what the Johnson County Cattle War was about.

March 17, 20245 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Dear editor:

Rod Miller, in his recent column, The Invasion, Redux, misrepresented the main character of his opinion piece, Nate Champion and what the Johnson County Cattle War was about.

Miller indirectly portrayed Champion as a Wyoming native who warded off a band of big, bad invaders who tried to take over Wyoming. He likened the Wyoming Freedom Caucus to those invaders. This analogy doesn’t work. In fact, it’s backwards.

Nate Champion was born in Williamson County, Texas, north of Austin. He moved to Wyoming to work as a ranch hand. Rod would call Nate a carpetbagger. Eventually, Nate, like many other settlers, procured his own brand and ran his own cattle ranch.

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association and other Big Cow corporate ranchers didn’t like all these people moving into Wyoming fencing off the open range.

In short, the WSGA and Big Cow Corps conspired with state legislators (Joseph Carey, the namesake of CY Ave being one) and even Governor Barber to remove these “nesters” and seize their land. One tactic to force people off their claim was to falsely accuse Land Act settlers of cattle rustling.

Let’s talk about Nate Champion, the hero of Miller’s analogy. Miller’s narrative highlighting the conflict  in which Champion faces off with  out-of-state invaders is inaccurate.

Two attempts were made on Nate Champion’s life. The first was not by the so-called invaders. It happened on November 1, 1891. Nate, having his own brand, tried to retrieve his cattle that were for all intents and purposes, stolen during round-up by the WSGA guys. He dared face off with…let’s say…big government.  So, they tried to kill him.

Big Cow Wyomingites, Frank Canton, Joe Elliot, Mike Shonsey, Fred Coates, and Billy Lykins tried to extinguish him and failed. No invaders this time.

In April 1892, assassins were hired  by members of the WSGA with the blessing of the Wyoming legislature and governor.  These Texas assassins were to ambush Johnson County to rid it of the small, independent rancher problem. Murder was on the menu to violate the property rights of average Wyoming citizens trying to prove up their claims.

On the way to Buffalo, the WSGA guys heard Nate was in Kaycee. They took a detour and murdered him in cold blood. And it wasn’t one of the Texas assassins that killed him. It’s believed to have been Frank Canton. He was the former Sheriff of Buffalo.

Rod’s analogy is backwards. Nate Champion represents the Freedom Caucus. Fighting for the rights of the people. Protecting property rights along with our rights given by state and federal constitutions.

The Wyoming Caucus is the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association of yesteryear. The Wyoming Caucus worked hard to make sure Wyoming citizens didn’t experience relief from property taxes.

It was amazing to watch them defeat an imperfect, yet reasonable bill from one of their own. Wyoming citizens now, like then, are at risk of losing their homesteads.

It's the Wyoming Caucus that is of the ilk of Governor Barber, and Senator Carey who were in office at this time. The treachery of the invasion precipitated by those in power in the late nineteenth century can be traced as high up as President Harrison.

Nate Champion wasn’t the only homesteader murdered. There were a number more.

The worst part of the story is these entities got away with it. They bragged about it for decades afterwards.

Has anything changed? Members of the Wyoming Caucus were caught breaking the law during session. They campaigned and electioneered from Speaker Pro Tempore Stith’s office. Podcaster David Iverson has the proof. And yet…they walk free.

So how do these ideological leftists cover for the sins of their side? They resort to petty ad hominem attacks and belittle their targets’ birthplaces. It’s all they have. And it isn’t working.

Neither is presuming upon the public an ignorance of Wyoming History, twisting it to make a political point.

Yes, Rod, Nate Champion is likely spinning in his grave, his trigger finger twitching, but not for the reasons you put forth.

Oh, and ask Karlee Provenza, Dave Zwonitzer, Chris Rothfuss, Mike Yin, Liz Storer, Ken Chestek, and Mike Gierau—to name a few—where they were born.

If you want to get the facts on the Johnson County War, read Wyoming Range War by John W. Davis, The Johnson County War by Bill O’Neal, Cattle Kingdom by Christopher Knowlton, The Wyoming Lynching of Cattle Kate by George W. Huffsmith, The Banditti of the Plains The Banditti of the Plains by A. S. Mercer, and visit the Gatchell Museum in Buffalo. They have an amazing display of artifacts and primary source information from the JC Cattle War.


D.J. Gudger, Casper

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