Rear View Vol. I was written to provide an autobiographical resume of my family background and some of the more eventful and influential events in my life, from birth to the end of WWII, plus some occasional accounts of activities and situations that I hoped the reader might find of interest. The book did that reasonably well, I think, and some of the readers of that volume have suggested that I continue with Volume II to bring more closure to my life’s history.
I should mention that at my advanced age, like most of my peers, my memory of the specific dates and details of events of long ago, covering in this case a span of 55 years in
Vol.II, is not 100% perfect. In the previous volume I had the incomparable advantage of voluminous collections of saved letters from and to my parents and Carol. But after that book ended, when I became 30 years old and settled down as a well domesticated husband, the letter volume diminished considerably, and what there was of it was not retained as it had been in earlier days. The obvious moral here is if you contemplate ever writing an autobiography, keep a diary! But I will do my best, and here we go.
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Chapter I: Lander (1945-1946) Volume I ended with my transition to civilian life on October 16, 1945. I had contemplated a career as an airline pilot and had obtained a commercial pilot license for that purpose, but Carol convinced me (wisely) that returning to my profession as a geologist would provide more family stability and less competition by the thousands of WWII-trained pilots who would also be job hunting in that category. So I reactivated my employee status with the Carter Oil company, spent about a month in Wisconsin with Carol until shortly after she had given birth to our baby boy Jerry Michael on November 6th, and then I left for my new Carter assignment in their office in Lander, Wyoming. I was fortunate in being able to rent a lovely genuine log cabin of modest size in a convenient location at the north end of the town’s main street. So Carol and the baby soon joined me and we began our first experience in married civilian life.
Our year in Lander was a happy time for us. We were still emotionally honeymooners and had the pleasurable presence of our brand new baby boy. In addition we were very enchanted with the western culture environment and scenery in Wyoming, which were so
different from that we had experienced most of our lives inWisconsin. Lander, which is 30 miles southeast of the center of the west half of Wyoming, was (probably still is) a
classically western town of (then) about 2,000 or so population, in the eastern foothills of the impressive Wind River Mountains. Wyoming is full of similar spectacular mountain
ranges such as the magnificent Grand Tetons, and the Wind River chain is one of the best. It has nine peaks over 13,000 feet in elevation, including Wyoming’s highest at 13,785 feet above sea level.
We also found Wyoming to be replete with other scenic attractions within convenient touring distance from Lander,-- Yellowstone Park, Devil’s Tower National Monument, Flaming Gorge, Fossil Butte National Monument, and numerous national forests and state parks populated with abundant wildlife. Yellowstone Park, incidentally, was the world’s first national park, established by Congress in 1872, 18 years before Wyoming became a state in 1890.
Other interesting attractions were the endless number of rodeos, western culture celebrations, Indian festivities, etc. Most of the Lander citizens made a point of meeting and welcoming newcomers, and our social life was informal and plentiful. And we enjoyed visiting the numerous historical points of interest ,-- forts built in post-Civil War days for the protection of incoming wagon trains and settlers, graves of prominent Shoshone Indians, etc. A notable one of the latter is the grave near Fort Washakie (fifteen miles northwest of Lander) of Sacajawea, the famous Shoshone girl guide and heroine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805, whose sculptured face now appears on the U.S. Mint’s new golden-colored dollar coins. At the time of our stay Wyoming was next to last in the population density of U.S.
states,-- about 2.5 residents per square mile statewide including urban centers. This statistic has now approximately doubled to about 5 per square mile, largely due to the increases in a few of the major cities; nevertheless, the state is now last in population with a total of about 490,000.Except for the adverse effect of the annual influx of tourists, such wide open spaces have many commendable advantages, such as minimal amounts of highway congestion, easier access to the many scenic attractions, and the preservation of the area’s great variety of wildlife.And Wyoming usually has a very invigorating climate.
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My geologic duties in Lander were very interesting and enjoyable. I continued my specialty of photogeology, as I had been doing in the Williston Basin of Montana and
the Dakotas prior to WWII, using aerial photos purchased from the federal government that had been flown by various agencies for various purposes (except geology!). When from my studies I occasionally found surface rock patterns suggestive of buried rock structures that might be oil productive, I was assigned to do field work attempting to confirm on the ground my photogeologic analysis. I was pleased that several of the prospects I thus delineated were subseqently leased by Carter while I was there, and a “wildcat” (exploratory well ) drilled on one during my stay in Lander was an oil discovery.
Lander was one of several Rocky Mountain area “District” offices, supervised by the “Division” office in Denver (one of several in the U.S. which reported to Carter headquarters in Tulsa). Lander’s District Geologist was an affable middle-aged fellow named George Downs who, with charming wife Marion, were the gracious host and hostess for enjoyable social activities and dinners they frequently gave for the six or eight employees who comprised the Carter’s Lander office staff. One of George’s stunts at his
Christmas parties,--after he’d had several samples of his high octane eggnog--, was to go to another room, away from guests, where he’d sharpen six or eight wooden matches and
stick them in his bald scalp. He’d light them and return to the party room aglow, singing
“Oh tannen baum, oh tannen baum!”,--his favorite Christmas tree song in German.
Another staff member with whom I worked frequently was Wilbur Holland, a friendly soft-spoken field geologist with a personable wife named Ada with whom Carol and I frequently exchanged informal suppers. And a third couple with whom we socialized most frequently were the Sharkeys, Henry (Hank) and Billie. Hank, like myself, was a geologist and a recent retiree from the military service, and coincidentally the Sharkeys had a baby girl almost the same age as our Jerry Michael. We often deposited them both in the same crib when we adults had dinner together, and both babies took quite a shine to each other. As we realized in later years, this was a forerunner of J.M.’s adult interest in the opposite sex, which we of course realized and approved of.
Since many of the areas we prospected were quite remote desert locations or in no-road rugged mountain terrain accessible only by foot, geologists usually did field work in pairs so as to provide mutual assistance in case of any trouble. Wilbur and I luckily were mostly trouble-free. On one occasion Wilbur and I had to hike several miles in an untraveled part of the Wind River mountain boondocks, and an interesting happening occurred. Wilbur was traversing one side of a river canyon, and I was on the other. The footing was rather treacherous and as I crawled past a large pile of boulders I almost stepped on a buffalo skull! It was remarkably well preserved, with horns intact and a fair number of upper teeth still in place. Needless to say, I was quite thrilled, and knew it would make an attractive and unusual decoration hung over the door of our Lander log cabin. When I lifted it, however, I was surprised how heavy it was, and the prospect of carrying it several miles over rough terrain back to our car was a rather sobering thought.
I decided the best solution was to get help from Wilbur and agree to share it with him on some alternating time schedule as a house or yard decoration . I managed to lug it to the mouth of the canyon where we were together again, and proudly displayed my discovery. But when I offered to share it with him if he would share the transportation effort back to our car, he laughed and shook his head. “It’s all yours!” he said, “Ada would never let me hang that fossil anywhere. Besides, I already have a heavy load of rock samples in my tote bag to take back for analysis. Thanks, but no thanks!” So with considerable effort, sweat, and unkind thoughts about Wilbur, I finally hauled it back to the car and finally to our Lander home. I discovered then that Carol felt the same as Wilbur thought Ada would, so I had to store it and move it numerous times from attic to attic in the succession of houses Carol and I lived in until I could finally hang it in our Colorado cabin home.
Another interesting experience occurred when Hank and I were inspecting a geologic feature in a rocky prairie area east of Lander. It was a midsummer day, unusually warm, and Hank and I had hiked quite a way through the cactus and sage brush. So when we came to a dry creek bed with a rock ledge on one side that offered a bit of shade, we decided to sit beside it and do some map-checking. We were there about 10 or 15 minutes when we suddenly heard a faint drumming noise behind us. I peeked over the top of the rock ledge and was surprised to see about a dozen or so antelope about a quarter mile away racing toward us, probably spooked by wolves or coyotes. I ducked down beside Hank, told him what I’d seen and suggested we sit tight with our backs against the rock ledge where the antelope wouldn’t see us. Suddenly, to our amazement and excitement we saw antelopes leaping over our heads about two or three feet above us, several at a time, landing on the far side of the creek bed and frantically continuing their flight in the same direction. I don’t suppose they saw us until they were in midair, which doubtlessly frightened them as much as it did us. After the herd had finally passed overhead, Hank and I collapsed in laughter, slapping each other’s back, and excitedly discussing what we were pretty sure was an experience not many people had ever had,--getting run over by a herd of antelope!
Camping in the Wind River Mountains was a popular pastime with Carol and me,
accompanied by Jerry M. We always avoided established camp grounds, preferring to select our own amidst the aspen forests where the presence of abundant wildlife (including bears!) was a stimulating and enjoyable feature. A favorite spot was in the mountain foothills near Dubois (about 75 miles northwest of Lander) where an interesting point was topography that formed a divide between the waters of the Mississippi River, the Columbia River, and the Colorado River. It was here we had a rather unique experience. One morning, while I built a campfire for morning coffee and breakfast, I asked Carol to bring some water from a nearby stream. She returned shortly, wide-eyed, and said, “There’s a moose there!” I said, “You mean mouse?” She said “Come see!” I did and was astounded that there was indeed a huge moose standing unperturbed by our
presence, across the creek not more than 30 or 40 feet from us. We must have been some of the first humans he’d ever seen, since he was as interested in us as we were in him.
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Chapter II: Rawlins (1946-1948)
Another Carter District Office was located in the city of Rawlins, then a city of about 5 or 6 thousand inhabitants in south-central Wyoming. It was on U.S. highway #80, a major thoroughfare across Wyoming near the Colorado border, which was paralleled all the way by the adjoining Union Pacific railroad. But the only convenient access from Lander was an auto trip of 125 miles on U.S. highway 287 south through some relatively uninhabited hilly and barren terrain.
While still in Lander I became frequently assigned to temporarily assist the Rawlins geological staff in prospecting projects where my photogeological expertise might be useful. I drove to and from these assignments, which were usually for 2 or 3 days, in our old LaSalle (the yellow sexy convertible I’d bought in Tulsa in 1940), and occasionally I had Carol accompany me in order to give her a broader look at Wyoming’s environ-
mental variety and Carter personnel. We stayed in motels, and Carol usually used live-in baby sitters in Lander for Jerry M. But two or three times she thought he had matured sufficiently to bring him with us on what had been promised to be only 2-day visits. In anticipation of more of these inter-town trips she decided to equip the car for possible emergencies enroute in such an inhospitable environment during winter weather.
The LaSalle was a front-seat-only convertible that had an open-air rumble seat in the rear. This was adequate for two extra passengers in mild weather but not very useful as such in winter weather in Wyoming. So Carol used it as a trunk, loading it to capacity with an extensive assortment of blankets, thermos jugs of water, and canned food, of which a large quantity was a voluminous supply of tuna. The LaSalle’s heater had quit working, and the repair job’s cost (about $30, as I remember) seemed rather expensive for our budget, so Carol acquired a small gasoline camper’s stove for possible use on the car floor in case we became stalled for any length of time. I questioned the safety of such a use, but Carol emphatically argued that using it in a wintery environment under emergency conditions was somewhat less risky than the possibility of any of us freezing
to death if marooned on the highway. So the heater was loaded into the rumble seat compartment together with the other supplies,-- none of which, fortunately, we ever had to use!
We enjoyed life in Lander, and hoped the assignment there would be fairly long lasting. But in August of l946, about nine months after we’d settled in Lander, we were advised, to our considerable disappointment, that Carter wanted us moved to their district office in Rawlins. Rawlins, being at least three times larger than Lander, of course had more advantages than Lander, such as shopping facilities, restaurants, movies, etc. But it was on a barren plateau at about 7,000 feet elevation, with a seemingly permanent vigorous west wind. The Union Pacific railroad and associated facilities extended along the west border of town, and the wind constantly blew quantities of the rail tracks’ cinders into all portions of Rawlins. Walking in the streets facing the wind was always an eye-filling experience, and I suspected that there was more eyewash sold per capita in Rawlins than anywhere else in the U.S. It did not sound to us like a great place to live.
But in those days the employees of most major companies had few options but to go where told or resign, so we moved to Rawlins and were able to rent adequate living quarters in a second floor apartment at 217 E. Buffalo. The location was only six or eight blocks from Carter’s downtown office, in convenient walking distance, so we were able to store the LaSalle for most of the time in an enclosed garage that came with the rental
of the apartment.The plus side of the move, of course, was that I no longer had to make frequent tedious trips to and from Lander, leaving Carol and J.M. home alone for a few days at a time.
I once sprained an ankle descending our second floor apartment stairs. Walking was a bit of a problem and a friend had loaned me a cane which helped my hikes to the office. On one occasion I was using both cane and my dark aviator-type sunglasses as a screen
against the blowing cinders, and when I stopped at a street intersection waiting for the light to change, a young boy approached, took my arm, and said, “May I help you across, sir?” I almost started to laugh, but I suddenly thought maybe the kid was a boy scout and could get a brownie point credit, so I said OK , let him lead me across, and thanked him.
My geologic function in Rawlins was the same as in Lander only moreso since there was much competitive exploration and leasing activity being done by other companies in the newly prospective vast semi-desert country west of Rawlins. The Carter staff was larger than at Lander, including in addition to more geologists a couple of landmen (lease buyers to acquire acreage on prospects outlined by the geologists) and a scout (whose function was to keep track of the locations and status of competitive company’s exploration activities). The District Geologist in charge of Rawlins operations was Larry Hart who did a good job of coordinating and directing our prospecting efforts.
One of the landmen in Rawlins was an enjoyable fellow my age named Phil Willhite, who with wife Joan were two of our primary social partners. Another couple was geologist George Ashland and wife. A frequent Saturday’s activity for the men was an
afternoon rabbit hunt in the sagebrush areas around Rawlins, when the hunters would usually manage to shoot two or three jackrabbits. Killing animals never appealed to me as a sport, but I was always invited as an observer. Ashland usually took the game home with him to prepare for cooking, for which he never seemed quite ready until our rather extended “happy hour” (wives included) had been under way for some time, which usually lasted until close to midnight. He did a good job of it though, and he was always proud of what he termed “bunny gravy”. Baby sitters for those late night events were in very short supply, particularly on Saturday nights, so Carol had obtained a portable crib which we usually kept in either Ashland’s or Willhite’s quarters, in which Jerry M. was established during our festivities and late meals.On one such occasion at Ashland’s abode a week or so before Christmas the subject of Christmas trees came up. I said that in Wisconsin I had always been able to cut my own in the extensive pine forests a short distance from my home in Downsville, and I greatly regretted the absence of such opportunities in Rawlins.
“That’s possible here,”said Phil.
“I haven’t seen any pine trees within 50 miles of Rawlins!” I replied.
“If I showed you where would you cut one? Now, tonight?”
I sensed the possibility of some trickery, but it was about 11 p.m. and we both had by then imbibed enough to feel no pain, so I said, “Sure! Where?”
“I’d hate to take you”, said Phil, “ and have you back out. Is it worth a couple bucks penalty if you do?” “Sure,” I said, “let’s go.”
Phil specified that I take my car, told the rest of the gang we’d be back shortly, and off we went. After obtaining an axe and saw at his place, Phil directed me to an edge of town I hadn’t been in before. About a half mile beyond the residential limits I could, in the dark night, vaguely perceive a long and high concrete wall with tower-like structures appearing beyond the wall near the corners.
“Turn here,”said Phil, and he directed me onto a long straight paved road leading toward the wall. “Why?” I asked , “I can’t see any pines up that way.”.
“Go on,--you’ll see some.” I proceeded, and as we approached it, it finally dawned on me what the wall was. “Phil, isn’t that the state penitentiary?” (I’d heard that there was one near Rawlins but had never been near it.)
“Yeh,” said Phil, “Now can you see the trees?”
Yes, now I could. In front of the wall was a long line of small spruce trees, five or six feet high and about 20 feet apart. “Phil, you crazy idiot! What in hell we doing here? You think I’m going to cut one of those?”
“Sure. They’ll never miss one. Those guard towers are on an inner wall, and any guards, if awake, will be watching the inner courtyard. They’ll never hear us or see us.”
The argumentative discussion which followed was the product of too many toddies by
both of us at Ashland’s, and after Phil had finally adroitly challenged my courage, I removed the saw, proceeded quietly and nervously to a spot distant from the car where I thought I might not be very visible from a guard tower, and cut me a Christmas tree! I rushed it back to the LaSalle, stuffed it into the rumble seat compartment, and we high-tailed it back to Ashland’s where my dumb feat was the source of much laughter and
many alcoholic toasts. The tree was a good selection, too,--it graced our small apartment until about two weeks after Christmas.
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The most notable event during our Rawlins era was the addition to our family of another member,--a healthy baby girl born June 3, 1947, whom we named Kathleen Luanne. That name, incidentally, had three sources. One of my father’s favorite songs was an Irish ballad called “I’ll take you home again, Kathleen”, and I guess my love of that name came from hearing my Dad sing it. The Luanne was a mix of Carol’s mother’s name of “Lu" ("Lulu") and Carol’s use of the name “Ann” as a middle name in college and her teaching career, which she preferred to her given middle name of Marcella.
Like Jerry Mike she was a cute baby (don’t all parents think their babies are cute?) with a sunny disposition, and was happy being taken on social visits or car trips. She accompanied us on a brief camping trip in the mountains when she was only a month old, with J.M. along having fun helping take care of her. The tent was too crowded to include her in her basket, so we installed her in a sleeping bag in the car where she fortunately stayed quiet and comfortable each night, giving us the unexpected pleasure of not having to get out of our sleeping bags on cold nights to go check on her.
On another occasion, later that year (1947) when we had established J.M. with our parents in Wisconsin we took a three-week summer vacation on a tenting trip to the Seattle and Vancouver area. Kathy was about 2 ½ months old, and we left her with our good friends Margaret and Al Hoxie, who had no children and assured us they would enjoy the experience. Kathy was apparently a perfect guest since at one point they wired us and said they’d like to order a duplicate. Jerry Michael was returned to us by my folks in late September, their first visit to see us in Wyoming.
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In February 1948 I was asked to move to Tulsa as soon as possible for another assignment, and in preparation before I left I helped Carol with some house cleaning and packing. We had found the Rawlins apartment very convenient and satisfactory, and I appreciated the fact that the owner had allowed me the use of one of his alleyway garages for the LaSalle at no extra rental cost. The garage was adequate, but very dirty and very cluttered with assortments of rubbish at one end. So I decided it would be a fitting gesture for me to clean the place up, and a couple days before my departure I did so. The rubbish contained piles of old newspapers and magazines under which I found a collection of ancient and much weathered books. I idly thumbed through a few to note dates of publication. One was a ragged and page-torn church hymnal which I was in the process of tossing into a garbage can when a yellowed piece of paper fell out. It was about half the size of a hymnal page, and as I picked it up I could see it was of rather ancient vintage (as was the book). The paper had some lines sketched in what appeared to be ink that had turned brown and faded enough to be almost illegible. I took it outside
in better light and as I studied it I could see it was a hand-drawn map. Two streams were