"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Wyoming Journals, Ch. 8: The Dichotomy of the Old West and the New West

Numerous wind mills, all lined up.
All our errands are complete.  Bud’s elk is delivered to the processor and both our tummies and the truck’s tummy is full, so we head south out of Medicine Bow across the Wyoming prairie.

Fence poles with barbed wire line both sides of the two-lane highway across this range land, meant not to keep us on the road, but to keep livestock off the road.   They do not deter the pronghorn antelope, however.   Rather than jump over the fences, the antelope crawl under them and roam wherever they please.

As we near the I-80 freeway, a wind generator farm tops the ridge above Foote Creek River, 120 windmills set in a natural wind funnel, although I suspect all of Wyoming is a natural wind funnel.    

The wind farm is visible from a long distance as there isn't much is Wyoming to break the view other than mountains.  Plus, the diameter of the wind generator rotors is80 metrers and the towers are 60 meters high.

We cross under the interstate highway, and instead of making a right turn onto a dirt road that would take us into the Snowy Mountains where our camp is, Bud goes straight ahead a few yards and smack into a big part of Wyoming history.

Huge cottonwood trees, resplendent in their autumn finery,  line this short stretch of road, with log buildings more than a century old on either side.   This the site of the famous Rock Creek stagecoach station that dates to the 1860s.   Founded in 1862 by Joe Bush, this stage crossing was one of many on the Overland Trail, a major east-west freighting and stage route for westward expansion.

Farther north, the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail were bedeviled by Indian attacks, and attention turned to the northern Overland Trail in an effort to avoid those attacks.

No place was safe for the settlers from the native tribes fighting expansion into their territories.   In 1865, Indians attacked a wagon train near here and kidnapped Mary and Lizzie Fletcher, two young girls.   Mary was sold to a white trader, but Lizzie was kept by the Arapahos and stayed with the tribe the rest of her life.

Thirty-five years later, Mary found her sister living on the Wind River reservation.   Lizzie opted to stay with the tribe, and is buried next to her husband Broken Horn, at the St. Stephen’s Mission cemetery on the reservation.

Now a 3-acre National Register Historic District, the site has 10 surviving buildings.  At one time, the home station boasted a homesteader’s cabin, a post office later converted to a bunkhouse, barn, milk house, ice house, and slaughterhouse.   There was also a blacksmith’s shop, with a dance hall and gambling house on the second floor.

With no official guide to interpret, I am left with guessing what buildings were what.  This is private property and knocking on doors to ask the few residents what is what is probably frowned upon.


As I wander down the block-long road admiring the rail fences, I’m struck by the dichotomy of this stage coach station and the modern interstate highway just a couple hundred yards away, where 18-wheeler freight trucks haul freight to and from San Francisco and Teaneck, New Jersey, and make it one of the top ten busiest highways in the nation.

Traffic on I-80 is visible in this photo.   The wind farm is located on the ridge to the right, but out of sight in this view.

Obviously, it was not the Interstate that made the stage lines and Rock Creek Station obsolete, but the Iron Horses of the Union Pacific railroad that parallels the main street in Medicine Bow.  

Completed in 1869 in Promontory, Utah, when the presidents of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads drove the ceremonial spike connecting the two lines, the railroads made westward expansion safer than wagon trains, and opened up a new occupational description:   train robber.

However, this area attracted ranchers and homesteaders and the small community of Arlington was developed.

I am utterly charmed by Rock Creek station and its buildings.   Just a few miles away is our modern RV hunting camp.  

From there, it’s a slow 40-minute drive on rutted, pot-holed, overgrown logging roads up and into the mountains is Bud’s hunting.   Located just below the top of a mountain ridge, the blind is on a steep slope that plunges to Rock Creek, the very same small creek where the historic stage line station is located.


  1. Fantastic, Jeanne. The only thing that I can see that might be wrong is the diameter of the windmills. I think they are 57 meters in diameter or roughly 180 fret.

    1. Feet. Darn cell phone and auto spell.

    2. I will double check my notes, Bud. Thanks for the tip.

    3. I went back to my original source, Wonders of Wyoming, and it does give the diameter in feet. I cannot find measurements specific to the site near Arlington,but there is one in SW Wyoming that gives tower height as 60 meters and diameter as 80, which sounds a lot better than 57 feet. Or perhaps there wind generators are smaller and the diameter is 57 meters, as you said.

    4. Sigh. "..THEIR generators are smaller...."

  2. Fascinating historical journey ... remarkable that these building still stand as a small glimpse of "what it was like" in that day and age. Glad you got to see it. It is easy to overlook the major highway while you are among these remains! Patti and Cap

  3. It looks like we both have fumble fingers when typing.

  4. Gullible, Check your reference to the Overland Trails location relative to the Oregon and Morman Trails. (the OT is about 100 miles SOUTH of the OT & MT) Merry Christmas, Brad & Diane Clow

  5. A. Mary and Lizzie Fletcher were my 2nd great aunts! So grateful to see where Rock Creek Station was, without having to travel there. Thanks for the photos!