Wednesday, February 07, 2018
Torrington and Lusk Offer Diversified Lifestyles
By Bill Sniffin
My recent tour of eastern Wyoming has been among the most fun experiences of a near half-century in the state.
Nestled between Devils Tower on the north end and Laramie Peak on the south end and the rugged hills and buttes of western South Dakota and Nebraska, is a very special place, stretching from up north to Hulett down to Pine Bluffs on the south. One of our recent trips involved two wonderful towns, Torrington and Lusk.
It is hard to find a small city in Wyoming that is more diversified that Torrington.
It has a thriving Ag community including a big sugar mill plus a community college plus a large home for children and the state’s medium security prison.
One the town’s biggest annual events is the 2-Shot Goose Hunt and we were there for the annual victory banquet Saturday, Dec. 9.
Gov. Matt Mead was the biggest celebrity at the event, which he told me he enjoys very much. Former Gov. Dave Freudenthal also competed this year. And future governor wanna-be Mark Gordon (our current state treasurer) also competed.
Hunters compete in teams of two. One year Gov. Mead and his wife Carol were a team. They camped out in their blind and saw nary a bird. Mead later quipped at the banquet that night that they had nothing else to do, so they repeated their marriage vows.
Bob Mayor gave us a tour of the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, which was started as an orphanage some 87 years ago. Today, they serve young boys and girls who usually are sent to the home by the courts. They usually stay about six months.
The home is impressive. Its grounds are beautiful and it has a solemn, beautiful chapel. Its museum is one of the more distinctive in the state. The home was founded by Bishop Patrick McGovern of Cheyenne.
Our friends Bryan and Donna Cay Heinz showed us around the area, including some fantastic old homes. These old homes had crow’s nests on the roofs where presumably you could watch for hostile Indians or just check on things for quite a distance.
It was fun visiting the Torrington Telegram and meeting publisher Rob Mortimore and Editor Andrew Brosig. I have too much ink in my blood not to just love the smells and sounds of the local newspaper. And the Telegram is a darned good one.
The 2-Shot and other events were held in some of the impressive County Fair buildings. Hard to imagine a town as small as Torrington having an indoor arena of such size. They host national roping events and you can see why. It is both enormous and impressive.
Another big thing in this small town is the Torrington Livestock Exchange. It is one of three biggest livestock auction barns in the country. Hard to imagine the number of cows that go through that place each year.
Eastern Wyoming College is going through a building boom, which we saw courtesy of one of the students. President Leslie Lanham Travers is a Lander native, whom I had watched growing up in my town. John Hansen, the director of institutional development, has a number of impressive projects underway.
The college is all-in when it comes to the trades with a massive welding teaching complex and an ample cosmetology facility.
As a student of Wyoming history, it has always been easy to assume that the only major railroad in the state is the Union Pacific, which runs across the southern tier of counties.
But the eastern side of the state was literally also built of towns nestled next to the railroad, which includes Torrington, Lusk, Newcastle and onward north.
Our friends Gene and Carol Kupke of Lusk hosted us during our visit to that town. Enjoyed seeing sites like the new overpass, which was washed out by a flood not that long ago.
For a quarter of a century, my wife Nancy and I owned a newspaper in Winner, S. D. and often drove through Lusk on U. S. 20 on our way there from Lander. Always liked the town and always stayed at the Covered Wagon. They have a terrific little newspaper, which is capably managed by Lori Himes.
During my stops in eastern Wyoming we also visited Jeff Rose at the Rose Brothers Implement Store in Lingle. Last time I saw him, he was climbing Devils Tower with his daughter. Now he is talking about climbing Gannett Peak. Good luck on that!