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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Phillip Breker PhotoRX

After years of working as a chef in ethnic restaurants, Sioux tribal member Sean Sherman had an “ah-ha” moment. He suddenly wondered why there were no Native American restaurants, especially since pre-European contact foods are uniquely healthy. Now, Sherman is raising money through a Kickstarter Campaign to open one and he’s calling it The Sioux Chef.

The Modern West #14: Children Of The West

Aug 15, 2016
Melodie Edwards

  

The back-to-school episode. Young Wyomingites experience opportunities and challenges.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

  

Chris Goodwin's pitch opens with the same question every time: “Are you a Colorado voter?”

He has been wandering the streets of Boulder, asking that question over and over. Many people say no or ignore him  until he brings up the f-word: fracking.

Ortegon

  

This week the University of Wyoming hosted a summer institute for an organization that supports women of color in academia. One of the guest speakers was Sarah Ortegon, artist and former Miss Native American USA. Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen spoke with Ortegon about her paintings currently exhibited at the UW Art Museum, partly inspired by her childhood on the Wind River Reservation. Her work will be exhibited until September 2.

Coal Dependent School Budgets In Crisis

Jul 29, 2016
Ann Marie Awad / KUNC

  

This story originally aired on Inside Energy partner station KUNC. 

Colorado's coal country is experiencing the same slump that is gripping the heart of more traditional mining locales, like Wyoming or West Virginia.

"We see the trains and we hear the trains, and they used to be often. Daily," says Darci Mohr, the superintendent for South Routt County School District. "Now we hear one every five to six days."

Bob Beck

Bob Jensen has spent most of his time in Wyoming thinking about improving the economy. For ten years he led the Wyoming Business Council, the state’s economic development arm. Several months ago during a meeting of some Cheyenne entrepreneurs the idea of developing a coding school was pitched. And that discussion led to the development of Array, School of Technology and Design in downtown Cheyenne.

“It is a grassroots effort to try and effect workforce quickly for a growing tech industry in Wyoming,” said Jensen.

Melodie Edwards

Out under the cottonwoods in her backyard near Fort Washakie, Eastern Shoshone member Pat Bergie shows off her new raised-bed garden.

“Those are the tomatoes, strawberries,” she says, pointing at the rows of small seedlings. “Over here, I’d done some cabbage inside. I brought them out and planted them and those are what’s gone.”

Gone because birds came and gobbled them up.

“The big ones, the magpies are the ones that went out,” she says, laughing. “They’re the hoggy ones.”

University of Wyoming

  

Earlier this month, the University of Wyoming’s new president Laurie Nichols visited the Wind River Indian Reservation and sat down with business councils from both the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho to talk about how to get the Native American student body to better reflect Wyoming’s population of Native Americans overall.

She told Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards, it’s an issue she’s tackled before in her time as South Dakota State University’s provost.

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

On April 1, 2016, Frank Thompson lost his job as a mechanic at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle mine. He was one of almost 500 coal miners laid off that day by Peabody and its competitor, Arch Coal. At the time, Thompson, who is a single dad, was most concerned about what being laid off would mean for his son.

"He’s seven years old, so he kind of sees it as some time to hang out," he told Inside Energy's Stephanie Joyce. "But I don’t think he really realizes that this could be us moving away from here."

Leigh Paterson

  

Wind turbines are pretty sleek-looking from a distance, but there’s a lot going on behind those spinning blades.

Bryan Boatright, a wind energy technology instructor at Laramie County Community College, took me up into a deconstructed nacelle. A nacelle is a big rectangular box that holds generation components like the generator and drive train. Each one looks like an RV.

Rick Edwards (AMNH)

Wyoming looked pretty different 50 million years ago. It was tropical, with lots of trees and wet, humid conditions. Scientists know this because of the many fossils found from this time period in the Green River Formation in Southwest Wyoming.

The Modern West #13: The Poets Of The Prairie

Jul 19, 2016
Anna Rader

Wyoming’s vast landscapes and rugged lifestyles offer plenty of poetic inspiration. 

gargene.com

  

On Tuesday, Governor Matt Mead named Eugene Gagliano the 8th poet laureate of Wyoming. Gagliano is a retired elementary school teacher and is known for his collaborative and entertaining presentations for schools and libraries across the state. Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen spoke with him about the honor.

Bob Beck

 

Most moose herds in Wyoming are in decline, but the Snowy Range Moose herd appears to be an exception. After a moose re-introduction in northern Colorado, they started showing up in the Snowy Range Mountains west of Laramie in the 1980s.

They’re commonly spotted throughout southeast Wyoming, but there is little data concerning their exact numbers. Now a joint research project by the University of Wyoming and Wyoming Game and Fish is trying to change that.   

Melodie Edwards

Kids and horses gather on a dusty riding ground on a ridge overlooking the snow-capped Wind River Range. Northern Arapaho Social Services Director Allison Sage starts the day’s ride as he always does: with a prayer and introductions.

“We’re using Arapaho language,” he says. “We’re saying nee'eesih'inoo. That means ‘my name is.’ So you say, nee'eesih'inoo and then how you feel.”

David Swift

 

When someone gets sick, it can be difficult to know what to do for them. Should you bring flowers, food, a card? Jackson resident Kathleen Neiley is providing an answer to that question and employing rural women around the state with her new business Full Circle.

Quilts. The company creates custom, group funded t-shirt quilts for cancer patients, and its workforce will be made up of women in rural areas of Wyoming. Neiley told Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard the idea came from her own experiences.

Lauren Connell

  

A University of Wyoming study is looking for non-lethal approaches to relocating prairie dogs colonies off ranchlands where they can cause problems for livestock grazing and onto public lands. The prairie dog study is the brainchild of UW Rangeland Ecology student Lauren Connell.  

energy.gov

One of the great hopes for saving the coal industry is the development of a cheap, efficient way to permanently store the carbon emitted from it, but so far, carbon capture and storage has struggled to live up to expectations.

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

 

Just before midnight on a recent evening, Chris Loman was still busy checking people in and out of the Oak Tree Inn in Gillette, Wyoming. She asked one guest about his wife and ribbed another about a past visit.

“They’re like family to me,” Loman said. “And I am to them.”

The Oak Tree Inn is not a typical hotel. It has private rooms, key cards, and fresh towels, but most of its guests work for BNSF, one of the nation’s largest railroads. Until recently, the entire hotel was under contract to the railroad.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research

If trends continue, Wyoming will close its gender wage gap last out of all 50 states – in the year 2159. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research predicted that date by looking at salary rates in the state from 1969 to 2013.

Julie Anderson is a Research Associate at the institute, and she joined Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard to discuss why Wyoming is such an outlier when it comes to the wage gap.

Will Taggart and Aaron Pruzan

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that kayakers successfully descended the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River in northwest Wyoming, one of the wildest rivers in the U.S. But it was also around then that the state of Wyoming drew up plans to dam the canyon. A new documentary called Our Local Epic by kayakers Will Taggart and Aaron Pruzan explore how the Clark’s Fork became Wyoming's first wild and scenic river.

The Modern West #12: Wide-Ranging Sounds On The Open Range

Jun 20, 2016

  

The old saw may be “We play both kinds of music, Country AND Western,” but melody in the mountains is more than guitars and campfires.

Donning

 

In 1914 John Woody started a Wyoming phone company that is now known as Union Wireless. These days it’s a multi-million dollar corporation and one of the state’s great success stories.

Author Terry Del Bene has written a book about the company called A Phone Where The Buffalo Roamed. He explains why this phone company survived for over 100 years while others have faltered. 

Nathan Martin

 

There are only four places to buy cigarettes in all of Hot Springs County if you don’t count liquor stores or bars. I know because it was my job to know. I was a Synar driver.

Synar drivers scour the state looking for stores that sell tobacco. We don’t use Google or Yelp. We drive the roads. We pound the pavement. We ask questions. It’s good old-fashioned detective work. Except we’re not looking for clues—we’re looking for smokes. 

Photo courtesy Jennie Lawrence

In stories of the American Revolution, the Civil War, and westward expansion, the lives and roles of women often go untold.

Laramie Author Jennie Lawrence is aiming to change that a bit, with her new book Soap Suds Row: The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses 1802 – 1876. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard sat down for a conversation with the author about the secret lives of laundresses.

Melodie Edwards

  

On the shore next to the Buford Ranch pond in early June, clear plastic tubs sit in stacks with little ordinary-looking, brown speckled toads visible inside climbing the walls, trying to escape. And escape is exactly what a crowd of people—private landowners, environmental groups and federal and state agencies—have all gathered here today to help the toads do.

Charles Preston

An Oregon man is killed when he slips into a hot springs hundreds of yard off the boardwalk in Norris Geyser Basin. A Canadian tourist is fined $735 for picking up a bison calf that had to be euthanized. Another group of Canadians faces criminal charges for filming themselves walking on Grand Prismatic Spring. Two visitors have died already this summer season, but the risky behavior continues.

Stephanie Joyce

Earlier this year, on a conference call with investors, the head of one of the nation's largest coal companies shocked those tuned in with a frank admission.  Colin Marshall is CEO of Cloud Peak Energy:

"As we look forward, it is clear that the dynamics of the coal industry have permanently changed," he said. “Where coal used to provide baseload generation, it is now much more variable depending on power demand, renewable output, and the price of natural gas."

Courtesy of Wyoming State Archives, Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources

Ernest Hemingway is almost as famous for places he lived and visited—like Paris and Spain—as he is for his writing. Now, an article in Big Sky Magazine reveals Hemingway’s Wyoming connections. The article’s author, Darla Worden, became a Hemingway fan while attending high school in Sheridan. As she told Wyoming Public Radio’s Micah Schweizer, the Sheridan area has its own Hemingway connection.

StoryCorps Facebook

An upcoming agriculture conference will look at how to entice younger Wyomingites to work in ranching.

This year’s Wyoming Cattle Industry Convention is titled Educating for Ranching Success in the 21st Century. The average age of a U.S. rancher today is 57. Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association Vice President Jim Magagna would like to see that number go down.

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