This awesome new blog is full of Marc Bacon's awesome Wyoming photography!
This awesome new blog is full of Marc Bacon's awesome Wyoming photography!
There are few legends in existence that are funnier or more confounding than that of Wyoming’s Lost Cabin Mine. Over the years, this legend has grown and shaped itself into one of the most ridiculously dizzying stories, filled with secrecy, deceit, love, hate, an epic gunfight or two, and of course—murder. Lots and lots and lots (and lots) of murder. It seems as though everyone that found themselves caught in this tangled web of a mystery eventually found themselves dead—of accidental causes, or by propelled lead deficiency.
Our story starts in 1863, with a group of three dumb prospectors wandering around the Bighorn Mountains east of Buffalo, Wyoming. As in every good story, these guys were completely lost, yet not all too concerned, because they had nothing better to do than pan for gold in the middle of the summer along the Snake River. On a sunny July day, the fortunes of these three miners, (who we’ll refer to as “Moe,” “Larry,” and “Curley” from here on out,) would change forever. While riding around in a valley at the base of the mountains, a sudden and very violent storm crept over the peaks above and started pummeling the hapless trio with large hail and strong winds, while lightening repeatedly struck the only tree in the valley (who says it doesn’t strike twice…)
After running their horses around in circles for several frantic minutes, and stupidly trying to outrun the storm, Moe turns around to his compadres and points excitedly into the distance—“There! There!” Seeing what he was pointing at, the trio rides quickly to a small cabin in the distance, dismount their horses and kick in the door. As the rain soaked prospectors took value of the cabin, they eventually noticed that the cabin was…uh…”inhabited,” or at least halfway so. In the corner lay a decaying skeleton, (fill in the gratuitous “it had a gold tooth and was still wearing a hat” imagery here…), still clutching the largest gold nugget that any of the three had ever seen.
Of course by this time, you can imagine that our heroes stood in the door, dumfounded for several seconds before noticing that the gold nugget was not the only drool-worthy object in the cabin—there was a much more interesting pile of equally as large gold nuggets right next to the skeleton. And this is the point where the three bearded Yosemite Sam look-a-likes did a rip-roarin’ yee-hee-hee-haw happy dance…
After the storm disappears as quickly as it came (dramatic effect, eh?), the three set to work filling their saddlebags with the pile of nuggets, until their horses’ bellies started dragging on the ground. All of the gold in the cabin couldn’t be transported in even two separate trips, so they had a seat (and drink) to discuss exactly what they should do.
In the other corner of the cabin, a wooden trap door sat covered in prospecting tools, and upon further examination, it was found that the trap door led to a tunnel—a golden tunnel. There was so much gold clinging to the walls of this shaft, that the entire tunnel glowed with light even in the darkest of nights. A gold vein so rich, it could keep our boys ‘a diggin’ for the rest of their lives.
After more heein’ and hawin’, it was decided that a return to Buffalo was needed to drop off the already impressive cargo load, before returning to stake the claim and mine the rest of the lode that would make our boys the richest men in Wyoming Territory. Unfortunately, fate took a cruel turn in the form of a much un-needed surprise. Immerging from the tiny shack, the prospectors found themselves surrounded by a dozen really hacked off (for some reason) Sioux Indians, wielding rifles.
Well exactly what you think happened, happened. Fearing the seizure of their fortune, (and scalps), the guys did the wise thing and drew their revolvers, firing round after round at the Indians. Two of the prospectors were killed almost immediately, and upon seeing his buddies turned into Swiss cheese, the third prospector mounted his horse (luckily the fastest of the three), and began to ride as fast as he could towards Fort Bridger, and safety. But remember, his saddle bags were so full of gold nuggets, the prospector had to dump several of the bags in order to allow his horse to gain enough speed to outrun the Indians. Apparently, it worked, or otherwise the Indians got bored chasing him, because he made it to Fort Bridger, albeit with several bullets in his body, and enough arrows in his back to turn him into a living pincushion.
Barely breathing, and presumably on his deathbed, the prospector frantically told the soldiers cleaning his wounds to bring his saddlebags into the infirmary. They obliged him, and were astounded at the vast amount of gold that was produced from that one, single saddlebag. Saving the prospector’s life was now the number one priority, presumably after beating the location of the mine out of him had failed.
Several weeks passed, and the prospector recovered steadily. The commanding officers at the fort had telegraphed back to Washington with news of the discovery of a vastly rich gold mine, and orders were handed down to do anything and everything to locate the mine and begin digging. A party was assembled of two dozen soldiers armed to the teeth with weapons and shovels, led by the healing prospector, who was promised 25% of everything extracted from the mine—a finder’s fee large enough to keep a full bottle of whiskey in his hand for the rest of his life.
The party left the Fort, and wandered around the Big Horns for the better part of six weeks, finding little more than tumbleweeds, and a wild mustang or two. Finally, early one morning the prospector excitedly rode back into the camp screaming “I found it, I found it! It’s here!” The party left hastily and rode after the prospector until a small shack appeared in the distance. “There it is!”
But as they got closer, the group saw not a small cabin filled floor to ceiling with gold nuggets, but a dilapidated hunting blind, or a small lean-to used by Indians as a sheltered vantage point for shooting buffalo as they rumbled across the prairie. This false discovery put the final nail in the coffin of the failed expedition, and the soldiers returned to Fort Bridger empty handed. The prospector left the Fort with the little gold that remained, and wandered around the Big Horns for the rest of his life, eventually losing his sanity, trying to find the “lost cabin.”
* * *
The next chapter of this story comes in 1873, as the old Catholic missionary Father Jean-Pierre DeSmet waits for a train in Cheyenne, to travel back to his home parish in St. Louis. The old Father was in failing health, and perhaps knew about his rapidly approaching death, as he felt it necessary to make a confession to his friend, an old Indian known as “Running Deer.” DeSmet told Running Deer of a journey he took in the late 1850’s around the Bighorn mountain range, in search of the summer hunting camp of a local Sioux tribe to which he planned to preach. While stopping to water his horse in a valley along a tributary of the Little Snake River, he had noticed what appeared to be a small structure sitting a short distance away, nestled along the side of a hill. Upon entering the cabin, the Father saw piles of gold lying on the cabin floor, along with a decaying corpse lying in the corner. After saying a blessing over the deceased, the Father quietly left the cabin and continued on his journey. As a man of God, he explained, he passed on the prospect of wealth, opting to allow someone else to share in the discovery. He also feared that since the cabin was found by an agent of the church, the church would claim the treasure for itself. So he went on his way, and kept this discovery to himself for his remaining years.
Upon hearing this story, Running Deer bid farewell to his friend, and immediately headed northwards to Buffalo, the nearest town to the location that DeSmet had given him. Running Deer had grown up in the region, and knew the patterns of the rivers and their tributaries in the area--from there he formed a pretty good guess as to where the cabin was most likely located. On arriving in Buffalo, Running Deer decided to enlist the help of a trusted friend who also happened to be a prospector, a man named Joe Svenson, known around town as “Old Joe.” Old Joe had heard the legends of the lost cabin mine, and had spent a great deal of time searching for it himself, before conceding his search as futile.
Unfortunately for Running Deer, gold fever hit Old Joe, and hit him hard—the last thing Running Deer saw after he disclosed the probable location of the mine was the muzzle flash of Joe’s .45 caliber Colt revolver as he put a bullet between the Indian’s eyes. Fate took its turn on Joe instantaneously thereafter, for blinded by visions of piles of gold, or perhaps deafened by the blast of his own pistol, Joe didn’t manage to see the rapidly approaching stagecoach from Deadwood, and was struck down in the middle of Main Street in front of the Wyoming Saloon. The town doctor declared him dead on scene.
The legend of the Lost Cabin Mine kept circulating around most of the western United States in subsequent years, but after time, began to fade into obscurity, as all legends tend to do. Men had searched their whole lives to find this mysterious place, but all had come up empty after fruitless journeys. It wasn’t until 1890 that another creditable claim of the mine’s discovery surfaced. This time it was Buffalo citizen C.T. “Rattlesnake” Jones that came running into the Wyoming Saloon hollering about new-found treasure while waving a satchel wildly about. When asked to explain further, Rattlesnake flung open the satchel producing several large gold nuggets, along with several small bones which the town doctor declared to be from a human.
Rattlesnake had earned his name for his unusual affinity for his namesake, of which he kept several in his small room above the saloon. The men in the saloon urged Rattlesnake to draw out the location on a map, which he promised to do. After running up to his room, he returned with a piece of parchment, and one of his special pets around his neck. Rattlesnake claimed that he had all of his rattlers trained not to bite, but there was still an air of nervousness in the room whenever he produced one of his “friends.” As Rattlesnake sat at the bar, drinks on the house, he put his pen to paper, and then hesitated. “What’s wrong, Rattlesnake?” a voice inquired. All eyes were on the paper in front of him. “Can’t you remember?”
It took a moment before anyone realized that the beloved rattlesnake “Betty” hanging around T.C.’s neck was firmly clamped around his throat, his fangs digging deep into the side of the carotid artery. Rattlesnake slid sideways off of the barstool. He was dead before he hit the floor.
By Brian Profaizer, Writer-in-chief
Here at Wyoming Attitude, we take pride on holding ourselves to the highest standards of journalism. You can be assured that most of the stuff we post on this site is almost always sort of true. Usually. But not everyone in this state has held themselves to such journalistic virtue. Take for example the charming story of Grant Jones, reporter extraordinaire for the Chicago Times-Herald in the early 20th century. Jones graduated from Northwest University, and became a widely published newspaperman, as well as a very popular public speaker around the eastern United States. How did this seemingly successful writer end up causing widespread panic throughout the nation, invoking the concern of even the highest levels of US government? Easy—he was a drunken asshole that got himself lost between liquor stores, and somehow ended up in the middle of absolutely-nowhere Wyoming. It’s typical—believe it or not, that’s more or less how this blog started.
Jones found himself in Dillon, Wyoming in 1899. Where is Dillon? A better question would be where was Dillon. The town itself hasn’t existed since the late 19 teens, and now-a-days you’d be hard pressed to find little more than building foundations and rusty tin can paraphernalia—if you can even find where the town used to be in the first place. It was a mining town that supported the few hundred miners year-round from the nearby Rudefeha copper mine, which at the time was the largest and most productive copper mine in the world. The Rudefeha corporation that owned the mine didn’t allow the miners to drink in the town of Rudefeha, or anywhere near it, so after a long day of cheating death in conditions that most Chinese wouldn’t chance, the miners had to walk down the hill to either the town of Battle or Dillon in order to get themselves shitfaced enough to make it through their next shift in the hole. Both towns were conceived primarily as a place to drink, and included little more than a few bars, saloons, and perhaps a liquor store or two—a perfect fit for a journalist of Jones’ caliber.
How or why Jones ended up in Dillon may never be fully known. As far as we can surmise, he was probably looking for a brothel in Denver while drunk off his ass, and ended up reading his compass wrong. And what would be the first thing you would do as a successful writer alcoholic who winds up in a town of one hundred equally alcoholic miners? Why…establish a newspaper of course! As if a bunch of toothless, grey haired old miners who can’t read would really need to rely on a newspaper for information anyway...
Jones realized quickly what should have implied from the moment he arrived in Dillon—there is absolutely nothing going on in a mining town of one hundred miners and no women. He also found out, perhaps too late, another nice little nugget of information: between September and July, it snows so much in the Sierra Madre mountain range that leaving is not ever an option. And so, the “Dillon DoubleJack” began to suffer a dry spell of snow and alcohol induced writer’s block.
To add to Jones’ “problems,” being the habitual liar I’m sure he was, as soon as he arrived in Dillon, he sent a telegraph message back home to his editors in Chicago promising “sensational” and “extraordinary” stories from the “mythical” and “exotic” mountains of Wyoming. Now the only problem was producing said Pulitzer-worthy material. So Jones did what any competent college student would also do in this situation—he drank half his weight in alcohol, put pen to paper, and hoped for the best.
I’m not sure if you could say that the “best” came out of this procedure, but what transpired, we all find pretty fucking hilarious. Jones rapidly churned out stories describing in great detail the presence and actions of such creatures as the “six legged cogglywoo” as well as the “one-eyed screaming emu,” and the terrible “pink tailed herfalumbs” which resembled pink elephants, but with the body of a common dairy milk cow. You or I would read these stories and probably dismiss them as the ramblings of an alcoholic nut-bar, but apparently the city slickers of early 20th century America gave more to the benefit of the doubt. As soon as the stories from Dillon hit the wire, nearly every major newspaper in the eastern United States picked up the story, and the millions of readers they catered to immediately commenced in shitting their petticoats and striped trousers. The stories they were reading included great amounts of gratuitous description filled with violence and gore, as these frightening creatures tore off the heads and ate up the innards of the poor miners that were unlucky enough to take a piss behind the saloon late at night. Eventually the stories reached Washington D.C. and somehow caught the attention of Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson. Secretary Wilson took the stories to President Theodore Roosevelt, who, as an avid outdoorsman, should have known better about these kinds of things, but for some reason was just as concerned about these creatures as everyone else was. He ordered Wilson to organize a team of scientists to send to Wyoming to study these creatures-- probably because Teddy wanted to later organize a hunting trip so he could shoot one and make a White House rug out of it.
Three poor bastards from Colombia University were eventually chosen to be the guys to take the train ride to Encampment, Wyoming to rendezvous with Jones, who would take them into the lairs of the amazing demons of the Sierra Madres. It isn’t known whether Jones ever got the message that these scientists were coming—we assume he did—and we can imagine how panicked he must’ve been at the thought of how fast his credibility would implode as soon as these fellers wired back home. Fortunately for our “hero,” God intervened on his behalf before this ever became an issue. After the long train ride from Washington to Laramie, the Colombia professors boarded the Saratoga and Encampment railroad in Laramie, beginning the long climb through the Snowy Range Mountains—in a blizzard befitting the movie “The Day After Tomorrow.” These trains were specially equipped with snow-plows on the front, which were great for busting through drifts of snow, but not so great for busting through drifts with large fallen pine trees hiding underneath them. The 2-6-4 coal fired steam locomotive smashed into a pile of timber that had fallen over the tracks and drifted over with snow, derailing the locomotive and tender, as well as the first few passenger cars. The winds howled, and the snow fell foot after foot at a time—not letting up at all until three days later. By this time, our three professors are more like three professor-shaped popsicles, frozen to the seats of the stationary Pullman cars. It was another week before they could clear enough snow out off of the tracks to recover the bodies.
Whatever happened to the panic caused by the beasts of Wyoming? Well, when news of the train accident reached Washington, it was decided that the weather in Wyoming at the time wasn’t conducive to any sort of scientific study, so the mission was rescheduled for the summer. It seems as though the idea got caught up in some sort of bureaucratic red tape, because as far as it is known, no one has ever come to Wyoming looking for pink tailed, cow bodied elephants.
And whatever happened to our hero, Grant Jones? Well, sadly for him, he was found dead in his cabin in 1903, overdosed on morphine, clutching a bottle of whiskey in his hand. And with his death, so died the cogglywoo, and all of his fantastic friends.
We drive. Everywhere. It usually takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get from town to town, and that’s going 90 on the interstate.
I guarantee you 95% of the people in this state have never been in a taxi in their lives. The ones that have only did so on the way home from the bar. And they probably only paid less than five bucks for the ride, because that’s all it takes to get from one side of the biggest city to the other. Cabs aren’t yellow either—you are probably looking at a pickup truck for your ride.
Rush hour consists of more than two or people at a traffic light. Even at the busiest time of day (5PM) on the busiest street (Dell Range) in the biggest city (Cheyenne—50k people), you are limited only by how fast your car can go. It takes no more than 10-15 minutes to get from one side of town to the
other, and that’s driving without any kind of urgency.
The weather in Wyoming is interesting. It has snowed in July. It has been 70 degrees in January.
Usually summer temps range from 60-90+ degrees. Winter temps from 40 to -55+ degrees. Fall lasts two weeks. Spring lasts about the same.
It isn’t unusual for the weather forecast to mention a snow storm bringing 20+ feet of snow. It’s called being in the mountains.
The wind blows. In some places, the wind blows constantly. 30-40 mile an hour winds constitute a “slight breeze” to Wyomingites, and 70+ mph winds are commonplace.
You think the Mile High City is impressive? Try the almost two mile high city (Laramie, 7260 feet.) The “summit” in between Laramie and Cheyenne is 8620 feet. Medicine Bow Peak on the other side of Laramie is 12,654 Feet. Take a deep breath…
Crime is low. Way low. “Unheard of” low. The reason behind this? The ratio of guns to people in the state is 12:1. People leave their houses and cars unlocked. A burglar surprising a sleeping home owner is going to be surprised himself when his head leaves his shoulders via something big enough to take down a bull moose. Bad guys don’t exist in force, therefore the murder rate is the lowest in the nation: only 6 in the past year. San Francisco had 6 in two weeks during their busiest month.
The Wyoming Highway Patrol drives Dodge Chargers specially outfitted to be faster than your Mazarati.
Wyoming is by far the wealthiest state in the union due to the enormous revenue from the minerals and natural resources industries. Wyoming is the number one exporter of coal, natural gas, uranium and trona—the active ingredient in kitty litter—and the number two exporter in oil, right behind Texas. These exports combined, constitute 2/3 of the state’s total revenue. Folks in Wyoming pay no state income tax or corporate tax. The sales tax is 6%, one of the lowest in the nation. You can rest assured that the heat in your house is coming from Wyoming coal or natural gas, and the litter your cat is peeing in comes from a little part of Wyoming.
The largest on-shore natural gas field in the world is just north of Wamsutter, Wyoming. It’s owned and operated by British Petroleum.
The out of state tuition at the University of Wyoming is $3000 (per semester) cheaper than the in-state tuition at any Colorado University.
The tallest building in Wyoming is in Laramie, and belongs to the University of Wyoming. White Residence Hall on campus is 13 stories high. Up until school year 2006, the Laramie Fire and Rescue Department owned ladder trucks that only reached seven stories. When asked about this seemingly large and ominous oversight, the LFRD was quoted as saying: “The University takes proper precautions to prevent against losses in case of a fire. Each student is required to buy life insurance. A fire would actually end up in economic gain for the University. Until then, we’ll just hope reeeeeel hard that the place doesn’t burn down.”
The square quarter mile that encompasses the dormitories of the University of Wyoming in Laramie has the distinction of having the highest population concentration in the state. (September through May, that is.)
Buford, Wyoming is officially the smallest town in the United States. Population: 1. It’s the guy that owns the gas station. (he’s also sheriff, mayor, city council, garbage man and dog catcher.)
There are no escalators in Wyoming. Anywhere. Period. (I’m pretty sure I just heard your big city-type heads explode.) There used to be one, in downtown Cheyenne (the old J.C. Penny’s), but it was removed. It was made of wood and kept breaking, and the tenants of the building got tired of calling a repairman from Denver. It’s just as well. Not long after, the repairman died. And so did the chances for another escalator. We have better alternatives for vertical transportation, however—they’re called stairs. (a “staircase” is an escalator that doesn’t move, which saves on maintenance.)
Thermopolis, Wyoming has only one stoplight. The town worships that fact—literally. They have barbeques, block parties, and church services underneath the stoplight. You think I’m joking? I’m not…
You won’t find a Macy’s, Best Buy, Gap or even an Old Navy in the state. We shop at Walmart. And J.C. Penny’s—a store that originated in Wyoming.
Brian: We know what you’re thinking right about now…
Marc: Right, another blog. Something more to read. Perhaps you’re one of those losers that sift through endless strings of RSS feeds, catching up on the endless amount of bullshit that bloggers shovel onto the internet on a daily basis.
B: If that’s your idea of entertainment you probably should get a life…
M: Well, as if the internet didn’t have enough garbage floating around like cyberspace junk…
M: Right—anyway, we’ve decided to add to it.
B: And we’ll try to make it so you don’t have to read everything—we’ll put pictures up too, so you don’t have to bother with words.
M: …or we’ll put up videos, so you don’t even have to think….
B: We’re doing this for pretty much two reasons:
M: One is that we have nothing better to do.
B: That’s certainly the primary reason.
M: And two happens to be in the name of education.
B: That’s right. We’re out to eliminate ignorance.
M: Impossible. I’m bored already.
B: Okay, Okay! We’ll set our sights a little lower.
M: People write best when they right what they know.
B: And no one wants to read a blog about women…
M: We’ve decided to create a blog honoring our home state of Wyoming.
B: Wyoming! The loveliest part of Canada!
M: Right….Yeah, believe it or not folks, we get that a lot.
B: So…we’re setting out to prove that the great mystery that is Wyoming sucks less than whatever state you currently find yourself in.
M: And that it’s much more than just a hat for Colorado…
B: …and we’ll also discuss our hatred for Colorado, among other things.
M: Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,--we’ve got plenty of time to cover everything.
B: Well, let’s get to it. Put your guns down and start typing.
M: Will do. Welcome to our blog folks.
B: Yeah. Now go away.
Naw…you should probably read stuff, or something. You’re already here, after all…