National Geographic : 1945 Aug
The National Geographic Magazine elk to a buggy. It ran away, threw the man's wife out, and kicked the buggy to pieces. So when a Hollywood movie outfit wired me for a dozen elk to use as reindeer in a Santa Claus picture, I said no. You couldn't train that many to work together; they're hard to handle. "Bow-and-arrow fans get a crack, too, at our wild animals. We've set aside certain areas where only archers are permitted to hunt." Flying Cowboys Use Planes in Wild Horse Roundups Wyoming chases wild horses with airplanes. Frank Robbins, of Glenrock, is in the business. "We hunt in southwest Wyoming, where horses run wild with no fence for 100 miles in any direction. It's a daredevil spectacle," Robbins says, "to see the plane zoom at a galloping herd and head it into our cleverly hidden trap. Our corrals enclose about 35 acres and stand at the fork of two deep ravines which make a natural trap (page 159). "Wild horses make good saddle or work ani mals. Because of the independent, self-reliant way they've lived, they seem to have better minds than domestic horses. "Older animals I sell to buyers who turn them into glue, dog food, rations for mink and fox farms, or feed for young fish in State hatcheries." Once wild beasts 70 feet long ate grass here. Imagine a lizardlike giant rearing on its hind legs to peer into fifth-floor windows of the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne! Only the timing is wrong in that fancy. Where sheep and cattle now graze, great dinosaurs also used to feed, back in Jurassic times. "I live in the world's oldest house," says Edward R. Boylan, of Como Bluff. "It's built of petrified dinosaur bones that may be more than 150,000,000 years old." From near-by quarries, and from others near Greybull in Bighorn Basin, have come carloads of such prehistoric animal bones. Shipped to museums far and near, they will be reconstructed in skeleton form. Indians long delayed the white settlement of Wyoming, which was not admitted to the Union till 1890. Singing "Oh Susanna!" and with rifles cocked for Indians, hordes of West bound emigrants had crossed the State on the Oregon Trail after 1843; yet it has been esti mated that only some 400 whites, counting trappers, lived here when Lincoln moved to the White House. Custer died to help Wyoming. To the last man, he and five companies of his 7th Cavalry command were butchered by the Sioux, June 25, 1876, on the grassy slopes of Montana's Little Bighorn. That tragedy was a milestone in the history of white settlements in Montana and Wyoming. Stunned by the Custer Massacre, Uncle Sam sent enough soldiers into the Rocky Mountain country to halt more major Indian outbreaks. Building of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1867-8 was a spectacular scene in the astound ing drama of this frontier State. Buffalo scratched their sides against the new telegraph poles and thus pushed them down. Indians tore up the track, fired wooden culverts, killed section hands; in primordial ignorance they stretched rawhide ropes across the track, with a dozen bucks holding each end, trying to stop the onrushing train. Imagine how grunting Indians cartwheeled over the prairie when the engine hit that tightrope! Today, other railroads also serve these grassy plains. At Lander ends a branch of the Chicago and North Western. North across the State goes the Burlington, to haul out livestock, coal, oil, wool, beet sugar, and beans and to unload goods and many visitors for dude ranches and the parks. Yet, because people are so few, the State uses only 2,000 miles of track, as against nearly 9,000 in Kansas, which has about seven times as many people. I sat on the Great Divide west of Cheyenne and watched Union Pacific trains pass at the rate of more than 75 a day. Then I began to realize what that phrase "transcontinental railroad" means. This double-track line is like an endless belt, hauling goods east and west. From my lookout I saw from five to ten trains at once. Big as their powerful engines are, at a distance they yet seemed dwarfed against this Mongolianlike vastness, dwarfed as caterpillars crawling on a polo field. Famous Trails into Wyoming On their expedition Lewis and Clark (1804 06) didn't see Wyoming; they passed north of it. In 1807 one of their men, John Colter, traversed the Yellowstone country. Later, In dians almost killed him, but he escaped, naked. When he told of geysers and boiling springs that would cook fish, nobody believed him. But they believed what he said about beaver, and it was trappers who first prowled this Promised Land. John Jacob Astor's fur-trad ing adventurers came in 1811. A few years later, the British North West Company (absorbed by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821) sent its men here. So did other fur companies. Beaver grew scarce by 1840. Trappers and "mountain men" moved on. But migration to Oregon had begun.