The Modern West

The Modern West is a rich collection of news and cultural stories from the Mountain West. Catch our monthly digest of stories on The Modern West podcast.

Supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund, a program of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources.

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Western films are iconic like Stagecoach, The Magnificent Seven and High Noon. But has the Western genre lost its popularity in the modern days of the Avengers and superheroes? Wyoming Public Radio's Kamila Kudelska asked film critic, Dr. Andrew Patrick Nelson, whether the genre is really dying or just changing?

Image from the Cody Firearms Museum, Museum Purchase

  


In firearms history, there are many parallels between firearm production and automobile production. So Ashley Hlebinsky, the curator of the Cody Firearms Museum, was excited to find one lever action shotgun that held significance to two tycoons in the automobile industry.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was so famous by the end of the 19th century it traveled to Europe. These shows were celebrated back in America by billboard-sized posters. These posters are rare to find. This was the time when posters were plastered on walls, then the next show would come in and a new poster would be plastered over it. So eventually the poster would be scraped off the wall.

Cooper McKim

Dave Hohl is a long-time resident of Pinedale, a town surrounded by oil and gas operations in western Wyoming. In 2008, Hohl went cross-country skiing and he noticed a heavy brown haze.

Maggie Mullen

When visiting Yellowstone National Park or any parks in our region, there's a lot to consider. Will traffic be bad? What about the weather? Will I see elk, buffalo, maybe even a grizzly bear? And then there's something more basic. Will I be able to find a toilet that's clean, has toilet paper, and if I'm lucky, somewhere to wash my hands? You could be in for a surprise, since the park recently added squat toilets.

The Modern West 38: Grizzly

Sep 19, 2018
By Gregory "Slobirdr" Smith licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Context and controversy surrounding the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear and this fall's proposed hunt.

The sun is just a dim red dot. The nearby Canadian Rockies are shrouded in thick wildfire smoke.

Bob Gray knows we probably shouldn’t be hiking up a mountain right now.

“I have a scratchy throat,” he says. “Physically it effects my breathing. I probably shouldn’t spend a lot of time in it.”

Melodie Edwards

A Tour Of Rawlins

Longtime Rawlins city councilor and former mayor DeBari Martinez gives me a tour around town in his truck. He points out all the Latino-owned businesses we pass: a flower shop, a photographer's studio, a steakhouse.

Holly Copeland

Wyoming has a lot of wind energy but conservation biologists warn Wyomingites need to pay attention to how turbines can be harmful to wildlife. Biologists are figuring out ways to protect wildlife while still producing wind energy. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska spoke with Holly Copeland, the director of science for the Nature Conservancy in Wyoming, on which animals are in danger.

thinkwy.org

Two professors from the University of Wyoming have created an original opera about the story of an unusual subject; the Rocky Mountain locust.

University of Wyoming

Orientation is a common activity for freshmen at any university. While there are students who don’t want to go, some relish the chance to meet new people and well… orient themselves. University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols set a goal of increasing the number of Native Americans attending UW, especially since enrollment of tribal members recently reached an all-time low. Wyoming Public Radio’s Taylar Stagner participated in the Native American Research Center’s first-ever orientation. The goal is to make students comfortable from day one. 

Kamila Kudelska

A federal district court judge recently heard both sides in a hearing debating whether to put the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear back under federal protection. No decision has been made yet but the judge stalled Wyoming and Idaho's grizzly hunt for a couple of weeks while he decides the case.

Cooper McKim

Scientists know very little about a species of stonefly that can only be found in the alpine streams of the Grand Teton Mountain Range: the Lednia tetonica.

Courtesy Garrett Fisher

With rising global temperatures, glaciers are shrinking. Garrett Fisher is a pilot and photographer, and he recently set out to capture all of the glaciers in the Rocky Mountains while flying his plane, a two-seater built in 1949. His new book Glaciers of the Rockies is the result of the effort, and he told Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard that there is something different about seeing the world from above.

Cooper McKim

It's a bright, cloudless day in Gillette, Wyoming as a long train passes by overflowing with coal. Huge, open-pit mines dot the perimeter of a light-blue coal-fired power plant. Inside, a turbine is making the building rumble with its constant hum of producing electricity. It's supplying power to the entire western grid.

Bob Wick, BLM

Some western lawmakers are up in arms over a Trump administration announcement that eases the requirements for drilling near sage grouse. For now, Wyoming isn't impacted by the announcement, though that could change.

Todd A. Surovell

University of Wyoming anthropologists are putting out a call out for help looking for a lost mammoth. How do you lose a six-ton extinct animal that lived 13,000 years ago? Well, you find a few of its bones but lose track over the decades of exactly where they were found. But now some clues have come to the surface. Wyoming Public Radio’s Melodie Edwards sat down with the University of Wyoming anthropology professor Todd Surovell, the detective trying to put all the clues together. 

Maggie Mullen

It's no secret that water is a problem in the West. Historically, the humble beaver helped maintain wetlands and ponds across the arid landscape but their populations were decimated during the fur trade and their numbers dropped dramatically from 400 million to just 100,000 by the turn of the twentieth century. But Canada's national animal is making a comeback and scientists think they have an important role to play as our region fights drought.

The Colorado River is running low on water. The lifeline that slakes the thirst of 40 million southwestern residents is projected to hit a historic low mark within two years, forcing mandatory cuts to water deliveries in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.   

Facing exceptional drought conditions, cities throughout the watershed this summer have imposed mandatory water restrictions, ranchers have begun selling off cows they’re unable to feed, and the river’s reservoirs are headed toward levels not seen since they filled decades ago.

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Public Domain

In the arid West, how do we manage the limited amount of water available to us? Exploring the complex issues of water…where it comes from, how it’s used, and who gets to use it.

Wyoming Humanities Council

For years, Wind River’s tribal advocates have suggested that Wyoming kids lack access to authentic education about the state’s Native American heritage. Some said that has led to insensitive or even racist encounters when tribal sports teams travel to other school districts.

The Paul Dyck Plains Indian Buffalo Culture Collection, acquired through the generosity of the Dyck family and additional gifts of the Nielson Family and the Estate of Margaret S. Coe

At the turn of the century, ethnologists and anthropologists were trying to collect objects from different Plains Indian cultures, since they believed the cultures would not survive. The “laundry list,” as it was referred to, attempted to collect everything special and unique from the disappearing cultures. This usually included fancier items like beaded clothing, since they were considered to be more aesthetically pleasing.

The Denver Post wasn’t dying, says Larry Ryckman; it was being murdered.

“We were under attack by our own owners,” says Ryckman, who was until recently senior editor of news at the newspaper.

Stan Honda

A documentary and book explores what happened to the barracks at Heart Mountain detention camp for Japanese Americans after World War Two. The film released in December 2017, “Moving Walls: The Barracks of America’s Concentration Camps,” tells the little-known story of how hundreds of the barracks were sold to veterans to homestead in Northwest Wyoming. Sharon Yamato, the filmmaker, wanted to explore the connection between these two different communities in an effort to create a dialogue. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska asked Yamato what was the significance of the barracks to the homesteaders.

Cooper McKim

It’s a hot day south of Wheatland, near the small town of Chugwater. Dirt kicks up around passing cars on a long driveway as the sunbeams gold on waving fields of wheat. At the end is the Baker Farm, with old water tanks and rusted antique farm vehicles in front of the home. 

Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyoming. Gift of The Coe Foundation. 11.70

 

The painter, Alfred Jacob Miller, was an early artist explorer depicting the American West. But it turns out, he only went out to the West once. His patron, William Drummond Stewart, commissioned Miller to come along to a rendezvous out near present day Pinedale, Wyoming. A rendezvous was a gathering of fur traders and trappers of Native American suppliers. They convened to get ready before the fur trade season came.

Hay prices are spiking this year, driven up by a drought-induced shortage of the crop. It’s affecting ranchers across the board, but horse owners in particular are feeling the pinch. Horses eat higher quality hay, so it’s harder to get. It’s forcing horse owners in Colorado to buy more hay from neighboring states like Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana and that’s driving the cost up even more.  


The M1 Carbine is a short, lightweight rifle that was introduced during World War II and then used throughout most of the rest of the 20th century. The army developed the rifle as an alternative to their big and heavy M1 Garand rifle, which was close to nine or ten pounds.

Kamila Kudelska


Wyoming’s agriculture industry is trying its hand at blockchain technology. Beefchain.io, a private company, is one of those businesses that started after Wyoming passed a number of pro-blockchain laws. The goal is to use blockchain technology to track data points about cattle and share the information with consumers: pasture to plate.

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