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Thousands of folks are expected to crowd into Wyoming and carefully turn their special sunglass-protected eyes to the sky about 11 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 21 to witness a total eclipse of the sun that will cross the U.S. from shore to shore.

However, today’s eclipse madness is nothing new to the Cowboy State. In 1878, crowds from all across the country gathered in a path of totality that spanned from Montana to Texas. In addition to the tourists who traveled specifically to experience the celestial event, many of the scientific luminaries of the day also made the journey to Rawlins, led by noted astronomer Henry Draper and including inventor Thomas Edison.

Following is how the “Laramie Weekly Sentinel” reported the coming of the great eclipse in its July 20, 1878, edition:

The Great Eclipse

The eclipse of the sun, which is to occur on the 29th, one week from next Monday, is, to us in this region, an event of more than usual interest.

It is bringing a large number of scientific men here from all over the world for the purpose of witnessing the eclipse and making new discoveries and observations. The moon’s shadow will sweep over a belt of country averaging about 110 miles wide, extending from the province of Irkoutsk in Siberia through Behring Straits and Alaska, leaving Salt Lake a little to the southwest, over Denver and Colorado Springs, through Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, ending just beyond the island of San Domingo. Outside the belt of totality, the phenomenon will be visible as a partial eclipse from every part of North America, except where bad weather interferes with the observation.

The eclipse will be total here for about a minute. It will commence at a quarter past two in the afternoon and end at half past three. During the period of totality, the darkness will be almost complete, so that one can scarcely see figures or hands on a watch, or recognize a person across the street. Stars of the third magnitude will be visible. It will be of the nature of deep twilight. This interesting phenomenon will be witnessed by scientific parties, from Denver, the summit of Pike’s Peak, from Rawlins and Creston in this Territory, and from various other points. The Denver Times publishes an interesting article on the subject, profusely illustrated.

Another article reports:

West. Personal.

During the few moments the train stopped here last evening, we had an introduction to Professor Edison, the great inventor. Mr. Edison is quite a young man. He wears no beard, which gives him boyish appearance. The most remarkable indication of greatness is that, like the editor, he has a very large nose, which, an exchange says, is indicative of "his disposition to pry into things."

Mr. Edison is a very social, genial gentleman. Neither his greatness nor the annoyance incident to it has spoiled him. He met here his old chum, Johnny Allyn, of Wyoming station. He and John were office boys together in their younger days, and Edison seemed as pleased to meet him as if they had been brothers. He goes up to Rawlins to view and make some experiments in connection with the eclipse.

The Draper expedition and Edison’s fishing trip to Battle Lake in the Sierra Madres near Encampment provide great viewing for future Postcards, unless this writer forgets to write while out fishing.

In the last postcard, it was noted that the sport of steer roping originated on the open range to assist with the branding of big steers. In the late 1800s, it became a competition at many rodeos including many throughout Wyoming.

The history of roping was featured in the printed program presented at the “First Annual Platte Valley Steer Roping” held July 18, 1948 in Encampment. 

The official program states:

“Cheyenne Frontier Days was born in 1897. For many years, the only roping event was steer roping, and it was always a most popular contest among cowboys as well as spectators.

As these cowboy gatherings became popular and a few of the top hands picked up some extra cash, they began to practice and develop new techniques to enable them to out-rope their competitors. Many a boss has ridden upon a steer with either a broken leg or a broken horn resulting from the practice of a would-be champion.

As rodeos increased, cowboys traveled from one to another in groups, and, wherever the longhorn was come upon, the journey was held up for a little last-minute practice. As a result of this, the Texas Legislature, backed by the cattlemen, passed laws barring steer roping.

Steer roping is a popular sport today (1948) in most western states including Oklahoma, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada and Oregon. Today, the contest is carried out in such a way that very seldom is a steer injured. Good ground, picked steers and good rope horses are the most important factors in a clean steer roping contest.

The 1948 program article concluded,

Some of the famous old-time steer ropers and their horses were Clay McGonigal and Rowdy, J. Ellison Carroll and Red Buck, Henry Grammer and Kid, Joe Gardner and Skunk.

Today, those ropers who have made the headlines are mounted on horses equally well-trained and famous as those of the famous old-timers of yesterday.

Prominent Men of Denver and Kansas City Preparing for Annual Trip Down Platte River

 It’s summertime, living is easy, and fishing is the best in the world. It’s also time for the tourists to arrive, as described in these two articles in “The Saratoga Sun,” published July 19 and Aug. 19, 1917:

A local business man has received a communication from F.G. Bonfils, one of the publishers of the Denver Post, stating that he and a number of other prominent men who have accumulated the habit of coming to Saratoga on a fishing trip every year have their arrangements about completed for another enjoyable vacation trip down the Platte river.

In his letter Mr. Bonfils says: “We are intending to make our annual float down the Platte River and will arrive in Saratoga on Tuesday morning, Aug. 14. The crowd will be just the same this year as last, only there may be one more. We want at least the same number of boats, guides and everything else. All are looking forward to this trip with a great deal of joy.”

For six years, Mr. Bonfils and a party of good fellows have come to Saratoga in the late summer and made a trip down the river in boats, enjoying the fine fishing and outdoor life on camps along the river for a space of 10 days or two weeks, and each year do they look forward more eagerly to the time when they can take to the boats and float away from cares and worries in the enjoyment of the finest vacation trip that could be imagined.

Local parties are looking after the arrangements for boats and other equipment and all will be in readiness for the party when they arrive here.

An article in the Aug. 16, 1917 issue of the hometown weekly newspaper notes:

Navigating the Platte

F.G. Bonfils of Denver, accompanied by a party of nine friends from Denver and Kansas City, arrived in Saratoga on Wednesday in a private car attached to the regular train. The gentlemen are enjoying their annual vacation voyage down the Platte and will spend the next two weeks on the river in quest of the wily trout and enjoying camp life along the river.

Their boats, supplies, etc., had been taken to a point up the river near the mouth of Cow Creek, where the start was made, and they will make a leisurely trip from there to Fort Steele, where their car will await their arrival.

In the party are F.G. Bonfils, Volney Hoggatt, Alex. Dougherty, C.A. Bonfils and Leslie Whittaker of Denver; E.T. Swinney, T.T. Crutender and Lin S. Banks of Kansas City; and W.G. Bierd and C.H. Haney of Chicago.

The history of steer roping, according to a program distributed at the “First Annual Platte Valley Steer Roping” held July 18, 1948, in Encampment, is reported as follows:

Steer roping began in the early days with the round-up wagon.

In those days, it was necessary to rope and throw steers for branding, as they had reached an age and size that proved them hard to handle otherwise.

Cattle from several outfits would mix and graze on the same range, and to ready the cattle for market, the ranchers would throw in together with their round-up wagons and cowboys. For many days, from dawn to dark, the cowboys would ride the ridges and draws searching for steers and throwing them in with the big bunch.

These steers, all wild, nervous and restless, were difficult to control and should one break away from the bunch, there was a cowboy hot on his trail to put him back. Many times, it became necessary to rope and bust these steers to encourage him to stay with the herd. Should an unbranded steer be seen, he was roped, thrown, branded and then turned back into the wild bunch.

After years of such round-ups these cowboys became proficient in their work of roping and tying, and some were naturally more skillful at the work. Thus, it came about that each outfit had its top-hands, and when outfits gathered for the round-up, these cowboys, stirred on by the spirit of competition, would challenge each other in a match roping.

These matches became so popular that, in 1883 at Pecos, Texas, the first cowboy contest was held, and the public were invited to attend. In 1888 on the Fourth of July at Prescott, Ariz., a cowboy tournament was held. Cheyenne Frontier Days was born in 1897.

For many years, the only roping event was steer roping . . . but then that’s another tale to be told in our next “Postcard from the Past.”

Last time we visited, we were enjoying the experiences of a young writer as she shared her thoughts of a new lodge built in the Snowy Range of south central Carbon County. Following a day of exploring in the summer of 1917 Edna Paulson wrote the following in “The Saratoga Sun:”

I returned to our camp quite enthused over Medicine Bow Lodge.

That evening as we sat around the camp fire relating our experiences of the day, a light was suddenly flashed upon us, and looking up the road, we beheld a Ford “rambling right along.” That was only the beginning of many huge cars that followed. At least 50 cars must have flashed their lights on our camp that evening. We knew they were going to Medicine Bow Lodge, and to the Lodge we went.

The large living room was turned into a ball room, musicians from the valley caused the feet of the guests to trip lightly to the music, and as I watched the gay scene from a window, my imagination soon caused me to see, instead of gay dancers, a band of Indian braves dancing their war dance by the banks of Barrett at the base of the ridge, and the soothsayer came forward and, throwing his hands toward heaven, told of his vision, saying, “And monsters with fire eyes shall come, bringing men on their backs. The monsters will run like the wind and all the time growl savagely. Why they come I do not know. Perhaps they come to kill the deer, the elk and the antelope, or perhaps they will build lodges here and drive use out.”

Looking up the driveway, I saw a monster with fire eyes approaching and realized the soothsayer’s vision had come true – that the white men had killed their game and had now taken possession of the forest in the shape of Medicine Bow Lodge.”

In addition to this feature story, the hometown weekly newspaper noted on the front page:

Big Crowd Attends Opening of Lodge

Like Old-Fashioned ‘House-Warming’ was Opening Night at Medicine Bow Lodge

About 175 people from various parts of the country attended the opening dance at Medicine Bow Lodge last Saturday evening and all enjoyed to the full the opportunity to make merry in the bracing mountain atmosphere of an altitude of 8,000 feet as the guests of Sisson and Moore, proprietors of the Lodge. The opening was most successful, and although the camp is not yet entirely completed, the big crowd was taken care of by the matron, Miss Jessie S. Moore, without any apparent inconvenience.

The fun lasted throughout the night, the majority of the cars leaving the lodge after the coming of daylight. Some of the guests, so well pleased were they with the treatment accorded, even stayed for breakfast.

All the visitors to the camp were agreed that it is most beautifully situated for the enjoyment of summer life in the mountains, and it will no doubt be largely patronized by tourist and vacationists. But a short time will now be required to put the finishing touches on the buildings and grounds and to install the furnishings, after which the lodge will be in full running order.