Category archive

Community - page 3

Virginian Hotel owner says good spirits reside at the Medicine Bow landmark

in arts and culture/Community
2279

The historic Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow probably is probably visited by ghosts, according to its owner.

Vernon Scott, who has been involved with the Virginian throughout his life, said although he has never seen a spirit in the hotel, he is pretty sure they do exist.

“I think there’s spirits, honestly, here,” he said. “It’s good spirits, though.”

Since the hotel was built in 1911, it has hosted a number of famous visitors, including Teddy Roosevelt, Western artist Charlie Russell, football legend John Madden and author Owen Wister. The hotel took its name from Wister’s novel “The Virginian.”

It has also seen several tragedies, such as the death of a woman who jumped from the window of one of the hotel’s upper floors, as well as the death of a county sheriff, Scott said.

Scott said people who believe they hear spectral noises may just be hearing the sounds of an old building.

“I think what people hear are the steam pipes rattling the winter time,” he said.

However, he said many people have told stories of seeing strange things in the old hotel.

“My wife has a picture on her telephone,” he said. “At the bar, there’s an orb sitting there on a barstool. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Then there is the bed in one room that shows signs of being used just minutes after it is made.

“You can make it right now and right after that, butt cheeks (imprints will appear) in there like somebody sat down,” he said.

Another guest reported that when she stayed in the suite named after Wister, she often would see a woman dressed in a white gown.

“There’s just different things like that,” Scott said.

Ghost hunters investigate Territorial Prison

in Community
2264

Investigating the paranormal or “ghost hunting” isn’t actually frightening, according to a member of a Colorado paranormal investigation group.

Sara Igo, the fraud investigator for ParaFPI, was in Laramie last week with members of her organization to conduct an investigation at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.Igo said paranormal investigation is a way for people to learn there may be more to the world than they are aware of.

“It’s a science and understanding,” she said. “A lot of time people hear ‘spirits’ or ‘paranormal’ and they get freaked out or afraid. It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s embracing that there’s much more to this world than what we can actually see or touch.”

The team was equipped with high-tech equipment, including sensitive audio recorders to capture electronic voice phenomena or “EVPs,” noises that may occur on the playback of a recording that were not audible at the time the recording was made.

The equipment used in investigations has improved dramatically over the years, said Bill Swayne, ParaFPI’s team manager, who started investigating the paranormal in the 1980s.

“Back then, we didn’t have fancy tools like this,” he said. “It was basically a compass and you would go out and you would try to find something. It really wasn’t cool back in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Here’s a look at how ParaFPI prepared for its investigation at the Territorial Prison.

Two Millions Reasons To Be Thankful

in Community/News
2261

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne tradition of fundraising reached a milestone of giving Thursday.

“Thankful Thursday” topped the $2 million mark in donations over the course of its decade of fundraising. 

In the spring and fall seasons, several hundred people will gather each Thursday at AmVets Post 10 in Cheyenne for Thankful Thursday, described as a “Party with a Purpose.” Each week, the party raises money for a different Cheyenne charity. 

Using games, raffles and food, charitable organizations can raise thousands of dollars in a single night. There are even free money draws throughout the night, and folks can win thousands of dollars just for showing up. 

However, the highlight of the evening is the live auction. Charities gather donated items from individuals and local businesses that are auctioned off at the end of the evening. 

The auctioneer and master of ceremonies for the evening’s festivities is Bryan “Alf” Grzegorczyk. You’ll know Alf when you see him, because he’ll be wearing one of the many wild and colorful suits that have become his signature. 

As owner of Cheyenne’s Alf’s Pub, Grzegorczyk is quickly becoming a legend in Cheyenne for his fundraising. Recently, Grzegorczyk received not just one, but two awards for his efforts. Compassionate Cheyenne awarded him its “Compassion in Action” award, followed quickly by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s 2019 “Community Spirit Award.”

This most recent Thankful Thursday was a benefit for Wyoming 2-1-1, a group whose mission is to bring people together with available services, resources, and support organizations in Wyoming. 

As things were set to begin Thursday, the total raised so far for various charities was standing at just shy of the mark everyone came to see. 

The success of Thankful Thursday rests in the people of Cheyenne, Alf said.

“The community itself, the people, the businesses in town are so giving here in Cheyenne,” he said. “I have a great volunteer staff that comes out week after week to help me. There have been close to 50 charities helped and I have 40 charities on the waiting list to get on.”

One of the sponsors, and one who has generously given thousands of dollars, is Corey “Lynn” Loghry, who owns the business Lynn Buys Houses. 

“It was something Alf would say ‘Separately we can’t do much but together we can do a lot.’ that was the reason I came onboard as a sponsor,” Loghry said. “When you come together with other small businesses, amazing things can happen.”

Also in attendance was Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr. 

“It has taken our entire community to come out during every Thankful Thursday, and to come to this point where we have reached $2 million, for very worthy causes, because guess what, government can’t do it all,” she said. “I have met mayors from all over the country and all over the world, and they ask what’s special about Cheyenne, and it comes down to it is such a generous community. We have the best community! If there’s a need, everybody steps up.”

At Thursday’s gathering, a running tally was kept so everyone would know the moment the $2 million mark reached. When would it happen though? 

With bidding on auction items coming in faster than Alf could keep track, the crew working in the back got his attention and stopped him. When he returned to the stage, the announcement was made, to thunderous applause, that Thankful Thursdays’ total collections had indeed topped $2 million.

As Alf changed the tote board, Mayor Orr was invited on stage.

“First of all, let’s give Alf a big shout out,” she said, prompting whoops and cheers from the audience. “Hats off to all of you, because the $2 million come from all of you, every Thursday night. I know these organizations’ budgets, and I know how much $10,000 means to an organization.”

After thanking Mayor Orr, Alf turned right back to the auction and starting doing what he does best, raising money for a very “thankful” Cheyenne. 

Wyoming small newspapers successful despite digital upheaval

in Community/News
community newspapers
2259

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

It’s called hyper-local community journalism, and three Wyoming publishers believe news coverage focused at the local scale holds the key to community newspapers’ successful future in Wyoming.

“People can get all the national news they want from a myriad of sources, but we’re covering the Lovell Bulldogs, Greybull Buffs, Rocky Mountain Grizzlies and Riverside Rebels, and we’re paying attention to the events and happenings right here in our communities,” said David Peck, publisher of the Lovell Chronicle, Greybull Standard and Basin Republican-Rustler newspapers.

Robb Hicks is the publisher-owner of the Buffalo Bulletin and owner of the Newcastle News Letter Journal. He equates success of community newspapers to the success of downtown businesses and main streets in the Wyoming small communities.

“I don’t believe it’s competition from digital or Facebook or other outside forces that’s impacting community newspapers,” Hicks said. “If small towns are going to survive, then newspapers will survive. Part of a town is the downtown. It’s commerce. If towns don’t have downtowns, they won’t have newspapers.”

Matt Adelman is the publisher of the Douglas Budget and Glenrock Independent newspapers, which are part of Sage Publishing (with newspapers also in Cody and Gillette). Adelman is also the new president of the National Newspaper Association, the national version of the Wyoming Press Association, the state association for 42 legal newspapers in Wyoming.

Adelman said community newspapers, overall, are not just surviving, but are doing well – and in some cases, thriving — in their communities.

“Community newspapers are really the only true news organization in their communities. We have radio stations and TV; many are reading press service stories or the local newspaper stories on the air,” he said.

Newspapers remain relevant, according to the publishers, because they are trusted as a local news source.

“It’s the trust factor. That’s what makes us different than larger dailies, and it makes us different than medium-sized dailies. People know us, and they trust us,” Adelman said. “Circulation has shifted some toward digital, but people still want the newspaper in print. They want it, period. That’s our secret.”

“We’re just covering the news, and we’re covering as much of it as we can,” Hicks said. “We keep trying to focus on our core product. Where we’ve seen success in Buffalo is when we’ve expanded our newsroom. Our newsroom makes up more than half of our staff.”

“In our papers,” Peck said, “we are using multiple platforms. We print the papers, have an e-edition, Facebook page and web site, and some newspapers are posting videos. We are the information providers in our communities. Right now, at least, print is still the foundation, because it’s a marvelous foundation for the advertiser. You can still open the newspaper and there’s a quarter-page advertisement for the local hardware store. You can’t beat it.”

Peck said there are many web sites, radio stations, and even TV stations billing themselves as local news sources in Wyoming small towns, “but, typically, there’s one newspaper in the community. It gets their attention, because when people are reading the paper, they are focusing on it.”

Adelman said community newspapers give readers “the ultimate” personal and interconnected experience. 

“You can’t get that digitally, or by watching TV news,” he said. “It’s a personal active commitment when reading the newspaper. You have to be engaged to read the newspaper. And the key is keeping everything hyper-local about the community.”

The three publishers each have almost three decades or more of experience in Wyoming community newspapering. They all have lived the highs and lows and the booms and busts in their towns, and all three remain committed to capturing new readers – younger people with young families who work the local jobs in their communities.

“One of the things we hear is the concern of the lack of young readers. My argument is that we’ve never really had the young readers, until they have a house, family, pay taxes … then, they care,” Adelman said. “When they’re buying groceries, taking the kids to the doctor, paying for daycare and trying to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck, they care. We really never had the young readers anyways until we mattered to them.”

Hicks said community newspapers spend way too much time considering how to reach the 18- to 30-year-old demographic. 

“We fret about it, and we fret about it,” he said. “When these people grow up and they have kids, the news we cover becomes pretty important. It’s their kids’ pictures in the newspapers, and they’re paying taxes. We’ve got to stop worrying about that demographic.

“Instead, we must focus on our areas of strength, the age 35-plus demographic, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cover the things where young people are interested,” Hicks added. 

Peck said community newspapers must keep the hyper-local focus.

“You’ve got to focus on the local,” he said. “The integrity of the print journalist is also absolutely critical. Unbiased, fair reporting and finding the truth is so critical in this day and age of attack web sites and attack TV news.”

Peck said he “absolutely loves his job” at the ripe old age of 60. He followed in the footsteps of his dad, Roy Peck, who along with his brother, Bob Peck, launched many of Wyoming’s community newspapers.

“I can’t have imagined another career for myself. I love being part of my community in this way,” said Peck, who has launched dozens of young journalists’ careers at his community papers. “I don’t have trouble finding people with a passion for journalism. What I have trouble doing is finding people to come to my little bitty towns. Young people want life like it is in Bend, Oregon. They want all the bells and whistles.”

Hicks supports the work of Report For America, a national group attempting to train and place 1,000 journalists by 2025 at local media outlets to report on under-covered issues. Currently, one of his reporters is funded in part by Report For America (RFA), with RFA providing half (up to $20,000) of the reporter’s annual salary in the first year.  If the reporter continues working for Hicks for a second year, more of the salary would be covered by the Buffalo newspaper.

Adelman said more college students are taking an interest in journalism as a career “in all its forms and mediums, especially in the last five years.”

“These kids can write blogs all day long, and they’re finding that nobody reads them,” Adelman said. “Or, they can work in a community newspaper and get immediate feedback, good or bad. These young journalists are making an impact, and it’s through this hyper-local approach. It’s definitely not for the money.”

All three publishers believe the future is relatively bright for community newspapering in Wyoming and other rural western states, where community engagement remains high.

“It’s all about community identity and engagement, and keeping news coverage hyper-local,” Adelman said. 

The haunted bell tower of St. Mark’s

in Community
2256

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne is one of Wyoming’s favorite and oldest ghost stories. Is St. Mark’s church really haunted?

Rector Rick Veit took Cowboy State Daily on a tour just in time for Halloween.

Some question Hobart Morris, Chief Washakie statue move

in Community/News
2235

By Cowboy State Daily

Some Cheyenne residents are questioning a decision to remove a statue of the nation’s first female justice of the peace from in front of the newly refurbished Capitol.

The statue of Esther Hobart Morris, which stood in front of the Capitol for 60 years, has been moved to a space in the hallway between the Capitol and the Herschler Building.

The Capitol Oversight Committee, which has overseen the multi-year effort to renovate both the Capitol and adjacent Herschler Building, voted recently to permanently put the two statues in the hallway, which is to become a gallery and interpretive center in the future.

But longtime Cheyenne resident Mary Ostlund said Morris’ statue has become a fixture people expect to see when they visit the Capitol.

“I don’t know how people can think that she belongs inside,” she said. “She’s more visible and accessible where she is and she’s been there for 60 years. People are there all the time taking pictures of her and the (Capitol’s) golden dome. That’s what they remember about this complex, the golden dome and Esther.”

Cheyenne attorney Mike Rosenthal said Morris’ place in state history as a symbol of Wyoming being the first state to grant women the right to vote makes it important to leave her in front of the Capitol.

“Maybe Wyoming’s greatest achievement in history was granting women the right to vote,” he said. “And to bury Esther Hobart Morris … in the bowels of the Capitol is offensive.”

But Tony Ross, a former legislator who chairs the Oversight Committee, said the move was hoped to give Morris and Chief Washakie even more visibility.

Ross said the hallway will become part of an interpretive center that will feature static and digital displays about both individuals and the state.

“Actually, Esther and Chief Washakie are in a place of great importance,” he said. “We in no way ever thought that moving her to the (hallway) was in some way diminishing her importance. In fact, we believed it raised her prominence.”

Ross noted the State Museum recommended the statues be moved inside in the interests of preservation and said that throughout the discussions on the Capitol renovation, no one opposed moving the statues inside.

The State Building Commission, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, will now decide whether the statues will remain inside the Capitol.

Cheyenne brothers see success with slime

in Business/Community/News
Dope Slime Whiteaker bros
Mark Whiteaker (left) stretches some bead slime that he and his brother Joe Whiteaker (back), both of Cheyenne, make and manufacture through their business called Dope Slimes. (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)
2225

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Slime is sublime for Cheyenne brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker.

The savvy entrepreneurs run a thriving business called Dope Slimes that makes and ships homemade slime across the country and to other parts of the world.

Slime is a gooey and stretchy substance that is taking much of the globe and the Internet by storm. Slime’s history goes back 30 years, but it has become wildly popular now, especially among kids who like to make it. 

“Slime looks so amazing,” Mark said during an interview with Cowboy State Daily as he gently pushed his fingers deep into a thick layer of fresh slime.

The brothers make about 100 varieties of slime in different colors, textures and scents. They package their slime in clear plastic containers and sell it on their website and platforms like Etsy and eBay. They also post their own videos on Instagram to show how to make perfect slime.

A batch of the slime created by Dope Slime, a Cheyenne company run by brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker. The brothers sell more than 100 varieties of slime online. The basic recipe is relatively simple, they say: Elmer’s white glue, Borax and water. It is Mark’s imagination that allows the company to create slimes with different textures, scents and colors (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)

Slime creators use social media sites to market their work, Joe said, adding that in one month, anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million searches for “slime” are logged on Google.

Mark, 16, is the creative force behind Dope Slimes. 

Using a simple recipe — “Elmer’s (white school) glue, Borax and water,” according to Mark— the brothers and a few of their employees stir the ingredients using large stainless steel industrial mixers. Then Mark’s imagination provides the magic, as he creates a wide variety of slimes — from banana to funnel cake.

Mark’s slime is known for its distinctive aromas. A fluffy cloud slime called Lavender Dreams has the pleasing scent of the flower. 

DIY Pizza Kit combines five scents to create the smells of pizza sauce, cheese and buttery dough. Cotton candy bubblegum smells as good as it sounds.

Texture is also important for excellent slime. 

“Say I’m doing a slime inspired by an ice cream. I’d like to make the texture like ice cream,” Mark said.

Mark began making slime in the eighth grade for fun. “It’s stuff to do when you’re bored,” he said. 

He started the business when he was 14, but couldn’t keep up with the demand. 

Joe stepped in to help and is now an integral part of the business. 

Cheyenne brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker with some of the slime created by their company, Dope Slimes. The company has sold more than 150,000 units of slime online. (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)

Joe, 24, handles the business end from customer service to packaging, labeling and ordering. He also manages the company’s website, which includes photos and commentary about each slime type. Although Joe earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wyoming in May, he plans to continue working with slime.

The brothers have sold more than 150,000 slime products (they also make dope putty) and their slime has won awards for its quality. 

Slime has given them a taste of celebrity as they have been invited to attend many slime conventions throughout the country. These expenses-paid trips soon will include one to a convention in Brazil. 

They have become well known partly because of their 500,000 followers on Instagram.

Two of the leading YouTube slime experts have noticed them, too. Karina Garcia, also called the “Queen of Slime,” and Talisa Tossell of London, England, gave high praise to their slime in online reviews.

The brothers are gearing up for a busy Christmas season.  

“We take it pretty seriously. It’s not just a side business,” Mark said.

For more information on Dope Slimes, visit the website DopeSlimes.com

Thrills, chills plentiful for Halloween in Cowboy State

in Community
2221

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

As Halloween approaches, people around the Cowboy State are looking for a place to trick or treat, take the family or otherwise have a save good time celebrating. Halloween events around the Cowboy State are plentiful, ranging in venue from bars to restaurants, churches, civic centers and museums, all offering a different spin on the spooky season.

A tradition this time of year is the haunted house tour and one of Wyoming’s most famous — and notorious — is the haunted tour of the “Big House,” the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins.

Now entering its 28th year, the 2019 haunted tours of the prison will be held Oct. 25, 26 and 31 and will be a fast-paced tour for thrill seekers age 12 and over. 

“This year, our theme is, ‘Hell Hath No Fury,’” said Tina Hill, the prison’s site director. “We are doing this for the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage.” 

And while the prison is “officially” haunted, “our ghosts don’t participate in our special events,” Hill said with a chuckle.

Reservations are required are required for the tour this year. Tours run every half hour and take 30 to 40 minutes.

The Frontier Prison is also hosting its fundraising Halloween Masquerade on Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event is for adults only.

If it’s something less scary you are looking for, the Natrona County High School, is holding a “Save Halloween Carnival” on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be food, games and a costume contest. 

A first-time event in Cheyenne this year is the “Vampire Ball” and “Vampire Bachelor Auction” at the Asher Building on Friday from 10 p.m. to 2  a.m.

Tickets to the ball are $25 per person, $40 per couple and $100 per table of six. The night will include a dark dessert bar by Mullendore Confectionery, beer and wine sponsored by T-Joes, live music, tarot card reading, and witchy wares to browse or purchase. 

“With a lot of footwork and social media marketing, it is going to become an amazing annual Halloween event,” said Lesley Lara, the event’s organizer. “I couldn’t be happier with how well the community is showing interest in something so new to our event scene. So we are just going to make it greater every year.”

Below is a list short list compiled by the Cowboy State Daily of events around the state to help you get your fill of chills, thrills and good fun.  

Oct. 17: SPOOKtacular BOOth Expo! 
5 to 7:30 p.m.
Casper Events Center, 1 Events Dr, Casper, WY
Oct. 18: Halloween Halls of Horror 
7 to 10 p.m.
Central Wyoming College, Main Campus, 2660 Peck Ave, Riverton, WY
Oct. 18: Halloween Masquerade 
7 to 10 p.m.
Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, 500 W Walnut St, Rawlins, WY
Oct. 18: Vampire Ball and Vampire Bachelor Auction
10 p.m. to 2  a.m.
Asher Upstairs, LLC500 W 15th St, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82001 
Oct. 18: Halloween Sign Class
6 to 8 p.m.
CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities, 1635 Reata Dr. Gillette, WY
Oct. 19: Trick-or-Treating 
7 p.m.
Green Acres Corn Maze, 8451 Haines Rd. Casper, WY
Oct. 19: Halloween Pumpkin Carving
1 to 3 p.m.
Dubois Museum, 909 W Rams Horn St. Dubois, WY
Oct. 24: Trunk Or Treat / Carnival
4 p.m.
519 W Wallick Rd. Cheyenne, WY
Oct. 25, 26 and 31: Haunted Halloween Night Tours @ Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum 
7:00 to 11:55 PM
Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, 500 W Walnut St. Rawlins, WY
Oct. 25: Family Fun: Hootin' Howlin' Halloween
2 to 4:30 PM
Buffalo Bill Center of the West, 720 Sheridan Ave. Cody, WY
Oct. 26: 2019 Trick-or-Treat Trail @ The Science Zone
3 to 7 p.m.
The Science Zone, 111 W Midwest Ave Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Costume Carnival
12 to 3 p.m.
David Street Station, 200 S David St. Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Halloween Night at the Museum
12 to 3 p.m.
Fremont County Pioneer Museum, 1443 W Main St., Lander, WY
Oct. 26: Kid Prints Halloween Carnival & Trunk or Treat
5 to 8 p.m.
Sundance Elementary School, Sundance, WY
Oct. 26: Yellowstone Garage Trunk-or-Treat
12 to 3 p.m.
Yellowstone Garage, 355 W Yellowstone Hwy, Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Hanover's Halloween Massacre
8 to 11:58 p.m.
211 B St. Rock Springs, WY
Oct. 27: "Scary Music" or "Things that Go Bump in the Night"
3 to 6 p.m.
Campbell County High School South Campus, 4001 Saunders Blvd. Gillette, WY
Oct. 27: Trick or Treat Halloween Carnival
2 to 4 p.m.
Spring Wind Assisted Living, 1072 N 22nd St. Laramie, WY
Oct. 29: Safe Halloween Carnival
4:30 to 7:30 PM
Natrona County High School, 930 S Elm St. Casper, WY
Oct 31: Trick Or Treat On Town Square
9:30 to 11:00  a.m.
Jackson Town Square, 10 E Broadway Ave. Jackson, WY
Oct. 31: Halloween Bash 2019!
8 p.m. to 12  a.m.
Reed's Package Liquors, 310 S 5th St. Laramie, WY
Oct. 31: HALLOWEEN PARTY with CAAMP and FUTUREBIRDS
8 p.m.
Pink Garter Theatre, 50 W Broadway Jackson, WY

Meet the master: Leatherworker James Jackson wins nations highest honor in his craft

in arts and culture/Community
2204

By Cowboy State Daily

Enjoy this amazing conversation with master leatherworker and National Endowment for the Arts 2019 National Heritage Fellowship awardee James Jackson.

This year Jackson won the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts after being nominated by Josh Chrysler, folklorist for the Wyoming Arts Council.

“Jim being awarded a National Heritage Fellowship is truly a testament to the caliber of his work. The NEA only gives these fellowships to the best of the best, and Jim belongs in that group,” said Chrysler of Jackson’s work. “It’s difficult to understate both how prestigious an award this is, and how strongly Jackson deserves it,  for his excellence in an art form that is in many ways, highly representative of Wyoming and our western, ranching culture.”

Today, James Jackson works and demonstrates his craft from his studio at the Bradford Brinton Museum in Sheridan.

Jackson is deeply rooted in the leather carving tradition, having grown up primarily in Sheridan, which is known worldwide for its distinctive ‘Sheridan Style’ of leather tooling.

“A lot of the way I lay out patterns and so forth is quite a bit different from a lot of people in my trade that are carvers,” Jackson said of his unique style. “This carving has influenced a whole industry in Japan. You can go to Kyoto or Tokyo or any of those towns and you can see women carrying western style purses.” 

Jackson learned the art form from his father, the saddlemaker Edward Jackson, and other Sheridan leather carvers including Don King, Bill Gardner, and Ernie Ernst. Consistent with Sheridan Style, Jackson carves a tight pattern, with a lot of small flowers wrapped in nesting circles of swirling leaves. At the same time, Jackson develops his own patterns, and also experiments with form, combining his painting and leatherwork. 

“People from all around the country will look at my work and say, ‘that’s Sheridan-style carving'”, Jackson said. “That influence that I’ve had comes through me and then it gets out there.”

Jackson, a formally trained artist with an MFA from the University of Wyoming, is the fourth Wyoming artist to win the prestigious NEA award.

Jackson joins friend and mentor Don King, Western saddlemaker, 1991; along with Eva McAdams, Shoshone crafts and beadwork, 1996; and Martin Goicoechea, Basque bertsolari poetry, 2003. 

Jackson, along with eight other recipients from across the nation, was honored in Washington, DC in September.

Wyoming filmmaker looks at plan to use nukes in fracking

in Community/Energy/News
Atomic Fracking in Wyoming
2197

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming filmmaker will soon share the results of several years of document research and interviews to tell a story many people have never even heard of—atomic fracking.

Greg Asay’s documentary “Atomic Fracking in Wyoming: The Story of Project Wagon Wheel” is a visual exploration into a slice of Wyoming history often forgotten. It will air on Wyoming PBS on Nov. 19.

Asay originally learned about Project Wagon Wheel while he attended law school. It was the story of how atomic fracking was nearly put into practice in Wyoming, and it ignited his interest.

After law school, while working in Cheyenne, Asay found time to go to Laramie to explore the forgotten history of atomic fracking in the state.

He spent about two years rifling through various boxes in the American Heritage Center searching for anything that gave him clues, examining thousands of historic documents.

“The whole thing was so gradual,” Asay said. “I just kept getting a little bit more and then, a little bit more.”

He eventually discovered about 2,000 photos and a slew of documents. He journaled his findings. As much as he enjoyed the process, there were times when he had to take breaks—up to months. But he always went back. 

Eventually, after nearly exhausting his search, he stumbled upon the last box that would hold the cornerstone of his video—eight original audio interviews of people directly involved with the project recorded by writer Chip Rawlins. These cassettes would begin to tell the story of atomic fracking in Wyoming.

After World War II, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission explored peaceful and useful ways to expand the use of nuclear energy in the United States. In cooperation with El Paso Natural Gas Company, the commission used nuclear explosives to extract natural gas from sandstone formations at test sites in New Mexico and Colorado in the 1960s and ‘70s, Asay said. These tests were to play a large role in the company’s gas extraction future.

When El Paso Natural Gas wanted to conduct tests 19 miles south of Big Piney at the Wagon Wheel site, some community members held a meeting to discuss the project and learn more. The town hall meeting drew about 1,000 people to the town with just a few more than 500 residents.

Some of the residents assumed if the government was part of the project, it was probably safe; but some community members weren’t so trusting, said Ann Chambers Noble.

Noble is a historian who included a chapter about Project Wagon Wheel in her book “Pinedale, Wyoming: A Centennial History, 1904-2004.” Not only has she researched the topic in-depth, but she also remembers first-hand how the town had concerns for the nuclear fracking. In her middle school years, while the project was under consideration, she and her family would spend summers in Pinedale. She noted area residents were curious as to what atomic fracking would truly mean to them.

In 1971, locals formed an exploratory group called the Wagon Wheel Information Committee to learn more about how the El Paso Natural Gas Company would extract the gas. The committee was comprised of non-experts, such as ranchers, looking to understand more about the process, Asay said. 

After learning more about the project, members the committee began to feel uneasy about it. By 1972, area residents opposed the project by a 2-to-1 margin as tallied by a local straw poll, according to Asay.

Eventually, the controversy and delays caused by the committee’s work quelled support for the project.

Asay kept researching the committee’s journey and how members helped stop a potentially dangerous practice in their community. His narrative, actually the community’s narrative, began to take its first crude form. During the process, Asay found Noble’s book and contacted her.

Noble said she wasn’t sure what to think of his inquiry at first.

“You get a lot of these random emails as a historian,” she said. “and Greg sent me a cold email.”

At first she didn’t think much of it, but Noble said she began corresponding with him. It wasn’t until she realized Asay fully grasped the significance of the committee that she began to take him seriously. She shared with him photos and stories, which became part of the final version. Eventually, Asay shared his first rough cut of the video with her — nearly two and one-half hours, he said.

Noble reviewed a draft of the film and gave feedback to Asay. She said he really tried to achieve a correct depiction of the community and include subtle but accurate details. He wanted his film to be the community’s story.

“I love what he did,” Noble said. “I feel he really captured the story.”

Asay said he went through a couple of edits before finally polishing the 60-minute product that will soon air on PBS.

The story has become a part of Asay, One that he is compelled to share even on the road.

“There’s a turnoff near Pinedale,” Asay said. “I always point to it.”

Atomic Fracking in Wyoming: The Story of Project Wagon Wheel” airs on Wyoming PBS Nov. 19.

Go to Top