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Use Protection to Prevent Snowblindness

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dick Perue

An article in the Jan. 30, 1903 issue of the Grand Encampment Herald notes, “Along the Continental Divide in southern Wyoming the depth of the snow fall has been increased to about eight feet on the average. The snow, being light, rapidly settles into a solid mass, almost solid ice, and it is generally estimated 10 feet of new snow will settle into one foot of solid.

“By wrapping the big mountain range (Sierra Madres) in such an icy mantle, which often gets to be several feet thick before the winter is over, nature has provided a storehouse for irrigation which defies all the devices of man. Rivulets, 10 thousand strong, flow out from under these icy banks to bless the crops in the valleys below, which planted in an arid country, would neither sprout or grow were it not for nature’s generous assistance from the snowcapped peaks above.”

The story continues, “When the sun shines bright upon the snow in the spring many victims are tortured with a dose of ‘snow blind,’ which is certainly one of the features of dwelling in snow land not coveted.”

“Snow blind is treacherous and lasting and victims seldom fully recover. It is well to take every possible precaution against this calamity, and the man who is jeered because he puts on the black veil for the day’s trip is not so much a fool as the man who trusts his precious eyesight to the elements.”

Other newspapers in Wyoming also reported stories of snowblindness. Following are a few.

“A large number of persons whose work compels them to be out of doors most of the time have been suffering from snowblindness during the past week or so. Some of the cases have been so serious the sufferer has been compelled to remain in a dark room for several days,” reports the March 19, 1912 issue of The Wheatland World.

The Rawlins Republican notes, “Jim True, of the Hagland place, is reported as having a severe case of snowblindness.”

In an article concerning the disappearance of a young trapper, the Cody Enterprise, in its Dec. 26, 1923 issue reports, “Many theories are advanced to account for his disappearance, among them the possibility a snow-slide may have caught him or he was seized with snowblindness and in groping his way about lost his footing.”

In the April 6, 1876 issue of the Cheyenne Daily Leader it was reported, “Here is a preventative of snow blindness (says a traveler), which I heard of when in California in 1873. I was told anyone having to travel upon snow in sunshine, if they blackened the skin around the eyes for about an inch, snowblindness would be prevented. Any kind of black paint, or a burnt stick, is all which is needed to avoid what is most painful – and I can speak of it from experience, having suffered while crossing some of the high passes of the Himalayas.”

The article continued, “. . . it was stated to me the old trappers in the Sierra Nevadas used this precaution as a protection to their eyes. It was also stated the same means were used by the people connected with the Hudson’s Bay Company, and they again first of all learned of it from the Indians….”

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