On the Trail
In August I had an assignment that had nothing to do with writing (I was producing a film for the company I do some work for on occasion), but involved four days of travel across the eastern half of Wyoming. This particular job involved meeting and filming people where they live and work.
As part of my preparation, I contacted ranchers and business owners to line up filming sites. When we actually began shooting, we found that the simple logistics of getting from Point A ” say Wright, Wyo., to Point B ” my own backyard in the Encampment area ” were such that we could not film at all sites, and we instead scrambled and worked in other places along our route.
One of the places we did not have an opportunity to film was on the Garrett Ranch in Bates Hole located southwest of Casper. I met with Kim and Steve Garrett and their two boys at the ranch on a Sunday evening. Like many Wyoming ranch families they are involved in a number of activities including 4-H and FFA projects for the boys. They still had a couple of bum calves, and their horses, which they told me they liked to use to practice steer roping.
Their place was a fairly typical Wyoming ranch, somewhat isolated and with corrals and buildings that could use some repair ” a job to be done when hay was cut and stacked and other work completed. One obvious difference from most ranches was the location of a tent in the yard. While many ranch boys might set up their tent and sleep out during the summer, in this case the tent was atop a trampoline. The placement, they said, wasn’t for a softer place to sleep (although that was an obvious benefit) but to avoid rattlesnakes.
Our schedule made it impossible to return to the Garrett Ranch for filming, but I’m glad to have made my own visit there to meet Steve and Kim and the boys, who told me they are Fence Post readers.
We did film in the Casper area before heading to Thunder Basin Coal Company, the largest producing coal mine in North America. All I can say is “Wow, what an operation!” We were taken to various points around the mining operation to see the coal being loaded into rail cars and watch the open pit operation from above before driving closer to the world’s largest operating dragline and then having a chance to go down to the coal seam itself. Those coal trucks are so huge it is mind-boggling and our small white van seemed really, really tiny when beside them.
From Thunder Basin we headed toward the Bighorns, where Clay and Leah Miller welcomed us at Paradise Guest Ranch. I will admit this is one of my very favorite places in all of Wyoming and we had the most perfect of afternoons to visit. Although they had virtually no warning we were coming, Clay and Leah welcomed us with open arms. While at the ranch we filmed some fishing and horseback activities and although we were invited to stay and attend chuckwagon dinner our schedule made that impossible and we headed back to Casper.
But it was fun to be at Paradise and I must extend my sincere thanks to the ranch crew who were so accommodating, but I expected that. I’ve stayed at Paradise before and know what kind of atmosphere you find there. My congratulations to the ranch, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Clay and Leah have invited me back for the Anniversary Doin’s at the end of the month, but unfortunately another assignment will have me out of the state at that time.
Early the next morning we were on the road again traveling from Casper to Wamsutter where we met Jerry Austin, operations manager for BP, who took us to a gas drilling rig south of town. This was as fascinating and interesting as being on site at Thunder Basin Coal had been. The crew was changing drill pipe, an operation we watched from the dog house, a small control room high on the rig. We learned that BP has some of the most advanced, environmentally friendly drill rigs operating in the industry and that we were on one of them.
When we arrived at the rig the cameraman/director of the film told me, “This won’t take long.” Two hours later we were still at the site getting new and interesting angles. From there we headed south to Baggs, Dixon, Savery and Slater, Colo., and then across the Sierra Madres to Encampment. All along that route we filmed ranching operations showing yet another facet of the economy in Wyoming and nearby Colorado.
The work we did in Wyoming is part of a much larger project that encompasses locations in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. I can only imagine that the places they filmed in those states are as diverse and interesting as what we saw in Wyoming. I’m glad to have been a part of this project because it gave me an opportunity to meet some new people like the Garretts, to see the operations at Thunder Basin and to climb onto a drilling rig.
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Hudspeth County, Texas — In the fall of 2019, ranch hands were gathering a bull when they noticed something out of place. One of their employer’s cows was freshly branded, with someone else’s brand.