The Modern West

The Modern West is a rich collection of news and cultural stories from the Mountain West. Features, interviews, oral history, readings, and more offer a snapshot of Western life. Catch our monthly digest of stories on The Modern West podcast.  

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

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Historic sandstone buildings, granite boulders, giant spruce trees: step onto the University of Wyoming campus, and you know where you are. As new construction projects begin, the University wants to make sure the designs adhere to its iconic image. To that end, the University is working with a team of architectural consultants to come up with guidelines for how to preserve its historic character. 

Wyoming Art Party

The Wyoming Art Party is a new arts organization. No, we won’t be seeing Art Party candidates on the November ballot; think party, as in fun and festivities. The Wyoming Art Party’s inaugural event opens with a reception Friday, August 22 at a temporary gallery in Laramie. It’s a collaborative exhibit called ‘A Portrait of Wyoming.’ Laramie artists June Glasson and Meg Thompson are the founders of the Wyoming Art Party. They stopped by to explain the project to Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer.

Olly Moss, blog.camposanto.com

Picture this. You're a park ranger living in a watchtower in the Wyoming wilderness. No cellphone, no internet, no co-worker to keep you company. Your only human contact is with your boss on a handheld radio. But when unexpected events occur, you’re faced with exploring a wild and unknown environment…and that's where a new video game set in Wyoming begins.

Rebecca Huntington

What do butterflies, pikas and a challenge course have in common? They're all at the heart of the summer camp experience for teens in Kelly, Wyoming. Bordering Grand Teton National Park, Teton Science Schools offers a perfect setting for campers to study and appreciate nature. But as Rebecca Huntington reports students walk away with a lot more.

“Is this one lupine? Oh there's a painted lady, I think.”

On July 26, 1990 President George H W Bush signed into law the Americans With Disabilities Act. Among other things, the ADA has accessibility requirements for public places—such as stores or restaurants. But the Elk Mountain Trading Company was built 1895, long before the idea of handicap accessibility. Nancy Casner, who owns the Crossing Café housed in the building, recalls what it meant to add a ramp to the historic building.

Wyoming Stories: She'd Rather Ride A Horse

Jul 21, 2014
Wayne Thomas

Alice Fales lives in Cody, WY. She recalls fond memories of the role horses played in her youth and riding a horse to school.

Bob Beck

Many people have ideas for small businesses, but not many of them quit their day jobs to try something unique, especially when it’s something they know little about. But that’s exactly what the Pollock family of Casper did in starting Backwards Distilling Company

“My son’s an absinth drinker and absinth is hard to come by and he and she were talking… why don’t we just make some make some… and then we all looked at each other and we all stopped and went hmmm.”

Dan Hayward

This was almost the year of the thoroughbred horse, with California Chrome's run for the elusive Triple Crown. But here's the story of a smaller, scrappier horse that overcame long odds with the help of a Wyoming family. Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer has this postcard from a visit with the Spanish Mustang.

Living history comes thundering over the ridge. This is America’s original horse.

wyomingtalesandtrails.com

Dick Sedar grew up in Casper, in a working-class neighborhood called “the Sandbar.” His parents emigrated from Croatia in the early 1920’s to seek work in the coal and oil industries. Dick was one of 16 children and tells the story of his childhood in Casper.

One of Dick’s Sedar’s brothers, Mike, worked in the Douglas Prisoner of War camp during World War II.  Dick remembers his brother’s experience working with the prisoners, and the lasting friendships he made.

Linda Fleming was the first woman to be appointed or elected for public office in the Carbon County town of Baggs. After her long tenure as both mayor and county commissioner, she turned her leadership talents to ministry.

yellowstonenationalparklodges.com

Yellowstone Park is celebrating completion of a two year, 29 million dollar renovation of its oldest lodge: Lake Hotel. Now all of the Lake Hotel’s redecorated rooms are ready for guest now. Penny Preston reports people worked through two bitter winters to complete the project.

In 1889, 27 years before there was a National Park Service, construction began on Lake Hotel.  It is Yellowstone’s oldest.  Two years ago, reconstruction started.

“The old hotel had been touched pretty harshly over the years.

Melodie Edwards

In 1986, a large mammoth rib bone was found jutting out of the bank of a creek a few miles from Douglas.  The state archaeologist, Dr. George Frison, did a hasty 4-day excavation at the time.  But a thorough excavation has never been done because the land owners weren’t interested in hosting an archaeology dig on their property.  That left archaeologists with a big question--was LaPrele Creek a mammoth kill site?  But recently the land sold and archaeologists have finally been allowed to dig. 

Women in the United States have been fighting for equal wage rights since the early 1900s.  In 1963 the government passed the Equal Pay Act, which aimed to abolish wage disparity based on sex.  But the act excluded professional careers.  Starting in 1971, Marilynn Deiss juggled work as the Executive Director of the Wyoming Board of Pharmacy and as a single mother.  She tells her daughter, Debra Swedberg, how gender discrimination affected her life.

Jason Zeller

The fifth annual Hyart Film Festival is scheduled for next weekend, June 19-21, at the historic Hyart Theater in Lovell. The festival has culled 160 entries from around the world down to just under 50 films—comedies, drama, sci-fi, horror, and kids movies. Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer called the festival’s Creative Guru, Jason Zeller, to find out what movies made the cut.

facebook.com/CoryPMcdanielMusic

Casper's Cory McDaniel (guitar) and Amy Gieske (bass) play one from the new record, The Tremors.

motherearthnews.com

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest off-pavement cycling route in the world. It runs from Mexico to Canada, paralleling the Continental Divide. We're joined now by one of the people who created the route and who just published a guide book for it.

His name is Mike McCoy, and he live in Victor, Idaho. McCoy says the idea for the route grew out of the work he was doing with the Adventure Cycling Association.

Wyoming Pathways

Wyoming’s ranking as a bike friendly state continues to drop. The state ranks 36th after ranking 33rd last year and 11th in 2010.  The loss of stature has concerned that Director of Wyoming Pathways…Tim Young.  He’s been speaking with the Wyoming Department of Transportation about the issue.  He joins us to discuss the report.

Micah Schweizer

Steve Frame and his fellow Western Rebel Jim Halsey, aka Jimmy Harper, perform a song written for workers in the western oil fields.

youngmusicians.net

Evanston native Shasta Wigginton talks about what it was like to be homeschooled and how the experience shaped her views on education.

JenTen Productions

The Stagecoach Bar in Wilson has kept Jackson Hole fed, watered, and entertained since 1942. The historic bar is home to cowboys, hippies, and the famous Stagecoach Band, which has played every Sunday night for over 40 years.

Irina Zhorov

Sixty years ago a group of women in Casper whose husbands were always leaving them for long shifts out on the oil patch got together to commiserate and lunch. The group became known as the Geowives - wives of geologists - and it’s celebrating its diamond anniversary this spring. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov attended the Geowives’ monthly luncheon and has this story. 

IRINA ZHOROV: Bette Faust is one of the charter members of the Geowives, and a Wyoming native who came to Casper in the 1950s.

Tamara Linse

Author Tamara Linse grew up on ranch in northern Wyoming. She channels that experience in a new collection of short stories, ‘How to Be a Man.’ As Linse explains to Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer, the stories grew out of her own struggles with identity and gender.

Micah Schweizer

Marla Brown is a fifth generation Wyomingite who grew up helping run her parents’ various businesses during some of Rawlins’ booms and busts.

Dan Hayward

Big Boy No. 4014 was delivered to Union Pacific in December 1941. The locomotive was retired in December 1961, having traveled 1,031,205 miles in its 20 years in service.

The journey of Big Boy is complete! Watch the arrival in Cheyenne below.

The Continental Divide Trail is a 3,000-mile path that stretches from Canada to Mexico, passing through Wyoming and several other states. It was designated a National Scenic Trail in the 1970s, meaning that a mile-wide corridor is protected, for the entire length of the trail.

But the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, which maintains the trail, says the trail still faces threats from nearby development. We’re joined now by the Coalition’s director, Teresa Martinez. She says protecting the trail’s view shed is particularly crucial in Wyoming.

This week Wyoming Public Radio reporter Irina Zhorov left Wyoming for a new job in Pittsburgh. When Irina came to Wyoming from Philadelphia in 2010 she had questions about her new state.  When she graduated from her Master’s program in 2012 she wrote us this essay called “Letter to Wyoming.”

StoryCorps

Bill Schilling is the president of the Wyoming Business Alliance. He was instrumental in getting the Hathaway scholarship passed through the legislature, and he says it’s one of his greatest accomplishments.

The Hathaway allows students to get money for college if they meet certain academic criteria. Here, Schilling talks with former dean of the UW Business School Brent Hathaway. (In case you were wondering – no, the scholarship is not named after him.) Schilling recalls how the Hathaway scholarship came to be.

Palace of the Governors Photo Archives 050884

Racial diversity is not one of the things for which Wyoming is best known. According to census data, only one-point-five percent of the state’s population is African American. Now, a class at the University of Wyoming is documenting the largely untold history of black people in the West. The class is confronting black invisibility—real and perceived.

Tyler Nordgren

An exhibit opening this weekend at the University of Wyoming Art Museum is among the first major displays of astrophotography as art. ‘Starstruck: The Fine Art of Astrophotography’ is a dazzling exhibition, ranging from night skies and landscapes to deep space photography.

Josh and Susan Anderson—Evanston natives who met only after they were both going to college in Utah—work for the Uinta County school district. In this story, the couple talks about how they arrived at their vocations.

Both of the Andersons’ children were born in Jackson—the closest hospital to their home at the time, and more than a two hour drive away. Naturally, this left the couple with some wild stories about childbirth on the frontier.

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