Out west

Looking into infinity on Road 1XG that heads down from the Bench and back to civilization north of Powell

PHOTO Title: My home on the range 

It is very hard for me to believe that anyone could look out and see in real time what is represented in this tiny photograph and call it home. And yet I have ancestors — a grandmother and some great aunts — who did just that. It was called homesteading. While their husbands were comfortably in town (Powell, Wyoming) running the Sheehy & McWilliams General Store, these tough women were spending at least a portion of their time trying to “prove up” on land that nobody would want and still doesn’t want to this day. They called it Polecat Bench. You can see it looking south from Powell. It is flat land that is raised up above the rest of the area on what is called “a bench.” The rise to this land is, for the most part, quite steep. And there is NO … let me repeat that … NO water up there. No rivers. No streams. No little streams. No lakes, ponds or puddles. No water. Which means there is almost nothing anyone in the early 20th century or the early 21st century can do with it. But, somehow these dear ladies managed to do it. And the land has remained in family hands ever since.

The taxes got paid out of the proceeds of the meager rent paid by a few ranchers who ran their cattle up there (I think the ratio was one per square mile). And they were paid exploration rights some of the time by various oil and gas concerns. And there is a gas operation up there and some wells so it was always a possibility I suppose. But my grandmother and her sisters-in-law weren’t lucky in that way. What did make them lucky is that after a few fires and a depression, the men decided it might be a good idea to go back east again.

Epilogue: Now it is November 2007. I am in receipt of communications from Robert Brown of Cody, Wyoming, who has an amateur interest in documenting historical sites, one of them being the structure located on what we knew as “Nellie’s Place.” I will write more about this and request permission from Robert Brown to possibly incorporate his images. For the time being, here is a slide show of his images.

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