Howdy, stranger. So, you have made your way all the way here to Wyoming , eh? Well, now that you are here, you might want to hear the story about this wild territory. Yes? Alright let me begin.
The first settlers in Wyoming – apart from Indians, Spaniards and Frenchmen – were trappers. Fur trapping was the dominating trade in this territory for the first half of the century. They went out, alone or in small groups, for months, and set their traps and lived off the land. Now that's a hard life if you ask me. Once a year they all gathered at a location decided the year before, to trade in their findings, mostly beaver and deer, for money and provisions. Now, the money was usually wasted on whores and whiskey, before they went out in the wilderness again. As you might understand, many of these brave fellows never returned. Indians, bears and nature itself took its toll on these wild men.
But all that was before my time. Upon my arrival in the early 1850s, this land was slowly getting civilized. Well, as civilized as it could be. The trappers had established outposts here that were later converted to forts when the army moved in. The route west to California was established, and many of you might know it as The Oregon Trail. As a matter of fact, the route through Wyoming over the Rockies was the first trail west that could be traveled with wagons. But back to my story.
I came out here to make a fortune in hide. Well, I can tell you right away, I didn't. I made good money when the railroad was built, from 1865 to 1869. With thousands of workers to feed, the Union Pacific Railroad paid well for the meat, but of course this took its toll on the buffalo. When I got here there were millions of them. Now, you're lucky if you see a single head on your journey through Wyoming .
That's pretty much what happened from 1850 to '69. Wyoming became a territory on the official map of the United States on July 25th 1868 and amongst the territorial laws that were written and approved was one that would revolutionize the western world. Women got the right to vote and own land.
Wyoming was the first in the world to take this step in the direction of equal rights for man and woman. Of course, there were a lot of people who opposed it, and you can make up your own mind about the issue, I don't care. What the conservatives don't understand is that here in Wyoming a woman can be a widow the day after she is married. Rough land and many dangers can see to that. And back in '69, 8000 souls lived on this land. 1800 of them were women. So to discriminate the mothers and wives here…. Good luck.
But a more serious problem than the debate on women's rights was the Indians. After living in peace for decades, they suddenly made demands and started to kill people. The first one to get killed was a brave army officer that was sent out to arrest a cowrustler. After that, all hell broke loose. The darn redskins attacked all over the place, and it lasted from '54 to '74. Well, some of them darn savages still roam the plains looking for trouble, but it ended for real after the brave attack made by Custer. I worked for Custer, you know. Yeah, as a scout. Nice fellow, he was. A shame he met an ending like that. Anyways, after Custer and his 7th Cavalry met a bloody ending at the Big Horn, the people back east made sure to send enough troops to control the Indians. And of course, when faced with superior firepower and tactics, the savages gave up. Now, they all live in reservations, and thank the maker for that.
But if you think that Wyoming's troubles ended with the Indian wars, you're wrong. Because when the Indians moved out, the cowpunchers moved in. And miners, whores, dirt and scumbags. All the riffraff the folks back east didn't want. Well, not all of them were riffraff. The Swan-brothers for example, 3 brothers that started out with some dollars and a piece of land, and ended up as the cattle-kings of America . From 1873 to ‘82 they expanded a herd of 3000 heads of cattle to 33000, with a value of 3.750.000 dollars. Then they sold to some people from Europe . Good business, hehe.
But the Cow Bonanza is coming to an end. In 1886, 1.500.000 heads of cattle roamed the plains of Wyoming , but the land could only feed 1.000.000. And after the hard storms we had this winter, many ranchers went bankrupt. Now many cowpunchers, or cowboys as you might call them, are out of a job. Some of them have already got their own herds, since they don't know any other business than driving cattle. “Nesters” or “Freegrazers”, people call them. Of course, other ranchers don't like them at all, and blood has already been spilled on the plains. Posses are organized to rid the already rich ranchers of freegrazers, the freegrazers are joining up to be stronger, and of course, with all the guns around people are going to die. By the hundreds, you mark my words.
So, stranger, if you choose to stick around, be careful and choose your path wisely. I stay away from the ongoing conflict - and of course the redskins - but for many folks out here, the choices are few and the dream of dollars beat common sense. It usually ends in one place…. Boot Hill.