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.

Want to take a tour across Wyoming? Check out the Cowboy Country tour with Collette. Use the Reference Number 21279 and help support Wyoming Public Radio.

Melodie Edwards

These days, most rural communities in the U.S. are elderly communities. 15 percent of Wyoming’s population is over 65 and a high percentage of them live on ranches and in small towns. But with younger generations leaving the ranch for more urban jobs, there are few staying behind to take care of their elders. They could move to nursing homes, but many of Wyoming’s seniors are often insistent--they want to stay home, even if it means a snowmobile ride out in the winter.

Stephanie Joyce

The energy futures of Wyoming and California are becoming increasingly intertwined. Late last month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he’s speeding up the state’s transition to renewable energy, with a goal of reducing emissions 40 percent by 2030. Just days later, a major transmission project to carry Wyoming wind power to California received its final environmental review.

Jeannie Stafford/USFWS & US Energy Dept

A chicken-sized game bird native to western sagebrush has become the subject of the biggest conservation project in U.S. history.

Efforts to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list stretch across 11 states from North Dakota to California. It is a complex balancing act between saving critical ecosystems while at the same time protecting the region’s key industries.

Wikimedia Commons

For years, Wyoming has been the leader in Coal Production. Production has dipped slightly in the state, but Wyoming still produces 40% of the nation’s coal – far more than any other state. As part of Inside Energy’s series on the Future of Coal, Reporter Clay Scott visited the state and found the industry’s imprint on the West runs deep.

 

Studio Sessions: Jami Lynn

Apr 27, 2015
Photo by Dario Acosta

Singer-songwriter Jami Lynn's South Dakota home makes a mark on her music. Here are two of Jami's animal-themed songs, including one from her brand new 2015 release, Fall Is a Good Time to Die.

Coyote, Why Ya Been Lookin’ so Thin?

Mom Raccoon

Richard Martin

The “war on coal” is a catchphrase typically used by industry-backers to rally against the Obama administration, but in his new book, "Coal Wars," author Richard Martin, comes at the issue from the other side. In addition to being an author, Martin works for Navigant Research, one of the world’s leading clean energy consulting firms, and as he explained in an interview with Wyoming Public Radio’s Stephanie Joyce, while he sees coal’s decline as inevitable, the book is his attempt to understand what that means for people in coal country.

Erin Jones

On Easter Sunday, six hikers tumble out of cars and gather at the East Trailhead of Turtle Rock, east of Laramie. Chuck Adams, the hike’s organizer, gathers them in a circle.

“This is the fourth High Society hike that’s been in the works," he explains. "The other three have occurred in Oregon, so this is the first in Wyoming so congratulations. You should feel special.”

http://anneandpetesibley.com/

Wyoming Public Radio producer T.J. Snook talks with former Jackson residents Anne and Pete Sibley about their new album, Extraordinary Life.

Studio Sessions: Spencer Bohren

Apr 2, 2015
Credit: Brenda Ladd

Spencer Bohren’s roots music journey has taken him from the Big Empty to the Big Easy. Born in Casper, his musical inspirations led to him to his adopted hometown of New Orleans. We’re always honored to have Spencer stop by our studios on a visit back to Wyoming. Here, he performs a couple of classics and an original.

People Get Ready

Caroline Ballard

Latino influence is growing in America across the board, including in conservation issues and outdoor recreation. One of the people leading this charge is Jose Gonzalez, the founder of Latino Outdoors, an organization that aims to increase the Hispanic community’s contact with the outdoors.

uwyo.edu

Four Shakespeare plays open next week in Laramie as part of the University of Wyoming's Shakespeare Project. Then, they’ll all fan out across the state on tour. (See below for locations.) The plays are staged in the signature style of Actors From The London Stage—just five actors and minimal props. One of the plays coming to Wyoming is a professional production. The other three are University of Wyoming student productions, directed by Actors From The London Stage.

amazon.com

    

Devastating pine beetle and wild fire epidemics have ravaged our national forests for years. But for the most part, everyone—environmentalists, the timber industry, government agencies—have been in agreement about how to manage such problems…as wild places, not as tree farms in which forests are a crop that’s been wiped out.

  

A new film follows the journey of a snowboarder Brolin Mawejje on his quest to become the first African Olympic snowboarder. Born in Uganda, he saw snow for the first time when he came to the U.S. at age 12. Snowboarding helped Mawejje escape a difficult home life and bond with a family who brought him to Jackson Hole.

Album Preview: Screen Door Porch, 'Modern Settler'

Feb 2, 2015
Stephen Williams

Screen Door Porch delivers a Wyoming-grown fusion of soulful Americana, Roots-Rock and Country-Blues that has been likened to “Gillian Welch meets The Band, with Ryan Adams and Bonnie Raitt hanging out backstage” (605 Magazine). The core female/male singer-songwriter pair of Seadar Rose & Aaron Davis offer rustic harmonies, a diverse mix of acoustic & electric instrumentation, and “a sort of Lennon/McCartney arrangement and get it right every time” (Americana UK).

University Press of Colorado

A new book chronicles changes in Wyoming over the past century. Historian and photographer Michael Amundson has retaken hundreds of photos from the early 20th century. His photos, shot in 1987-88 (while he was a student at the University of Wyoming) and again in 2007-08 are studies of pictures taken by Joseph E Stimson, a commercial photographer for the state and various railroads. The book is called “Wyoming Revisted: Rephotographing the Scenes of Joseph E.

Studio Sessions: Ian McFeron Band

Jan 27, 2015
Anna Rader

Seattle singer-songwriter Ian McFeron has dust on his boots from many tours across the country (including quite a few stops in Wyoming), reflected in the stories he weaves through his songs. Here are a couple of favorites from his albums Summer Nights and Time Will Take You; we’re hoping the as yet unreleased ‘Moses’ makes it onto McFeron’s third Nashville studio album, which is currently in the works.

Back to the Farm (Life is Good)

Doc Thiessen

Ghost towns may conjure images of old shoot-outs, tumble weed rolling down dusty streets. But there are also more modern ghost towns with less romantic stories. Laramie photographer Doc Thiessen is documenting some of the towns along the Lincoln Highway bypassed by Interstate 80.

Keenan Montgomery is a native of Minnesota. He moved to Laramie to study English and play football at the University of Wyoming. In his poem "My Black Experience" he recounts several anecdotes about race, living in Laramie, and what these experiences mean in the larger context of American race relations.

Micah Schweizer

Peg, Betty, and Dixie Johnson are sisters-in-law who married into an Elk Mountain ranching family. All three women played an important role in the local school. Peg and Dixie recall driving the school bus, Betty remembers moving to Elk Mountain as an untested school teacher.

Studio Sessions: Thunder & Rain

Dec 8, 2014
Anna Rader

Since forming in 2013, Thunder & Rain has quickly made a name for itself along the Front Range. The band’s “mountain made Colorado country” sound hangs strong hooks and catchy harmonies on classic bluegrass instrumentation.

Their debut album is scheduled for release in January 2015, with tours to follow.

I'm Gonna Belong

Smile Kid

Melodie Edwards

With goats flocking all around him for ear scratches, you could say Terry Hayes is a happy rancher. He’s the owner of the largest goat ranch in Wyoming, Open A Lazy S outside Riverton, and he says in the last few years his business has tripled. He says it’s because more people all the time are embracing the urban homesteader’s lifestyle. They’re raising backyard chickens, canning sauerkraut and knitting scarves. The number of backyard goats has also been on the uptick.

In 1994 University of Wyoming Botany Professor Dennis Knight wrote a book about Wyoming’s landscapes and some of the challenges they may be facing. Now 20 years later, Knight is joined by other authors to provide an update. The book is called Mountains and Plain: The Ecology of Wyoming Landscapes. We spoke with Knight when he wrote his first book and today he admits to Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck that some of the challenges the state faces today were not on his radar.

Al Hubbard

Last week, the Lander Art Center hosted an opening for its second annual Native American art exhibit. The show runs through December 20 and boasts more than 50 artists, most of them from the Wind River Indian Reservation. One artist in the exhibit is Al Hubbard, a 42-year-old Navajo and Arapaho artist who says traditional Native American images are fine, but Hubbard says he’s more interested in using pop art and other contemporary styles to express his ideas about tribal history and spirituality.

Rebecca Huntington

In the summer of 1988, 36 percent of Yellowstone National Park was on fire. To this day, it remains the largest wildfire since Yellowstone became a national park. Yellowstone's spokesperson at that time, Joan Anzelmo remembers what it was like to be at the center of the firestorm.

Last month, Wyoming’s wolves were put back on the Endangered Species list, after a court ruled that the state’s management plan was inadequate. It’s the latest battle in a long-running conflict over wolf management in the West. Author Nick Jans has been following that conflict for decades and jumped into the fray earlier this year with his new book, titled “A Wolf Called Romeo.” As he told Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard, he wasn’t always a wolf advocate.

Anna Rader

As a young man, Richard Garber and his brother served as the grave diggers for the cemetery in Big Horn.  They oversaw the interment of their friends and neighbors when graves were dug by hand, up through the advent of the backhoe. Garber and his friend Elaine Henry recall the importance of this cemetery to their families and the community of Bighorn.

Richard grew up on a ranch in Bighorn, Wyoming.  Because of the large amount of land they ranched, his family owned an airplane.  When Garber learned to fly as a teenager, mischief and misadventure ensued.

Rebecca Huntington

Roy Chambers was born to Ida and Andy Chambers in 1924 in a log cabin still standing on Mormon Row in the shadow of the Tetons in what’s now Grand Teton National Park. Roy worked hard on the family’s homestead cattle ranch. He met his wife, Becky, a nurse at St. John’s Hospital, and they married in 1956. Two years later, they bought the Flying V Ranch (today known as the Gros Ventre River Ranch) and went into the dude ranching business. Roy talks about the joys of running a guest ranch with Rob Cheek, who first came to Jackson Hole as teen-age “dude,” or tourist. 

Micah Schweizer

Nearly 150 years ago, Mormon pioneers set out from the Midwest, bound for Salt Lake City. They walked, pulling their belongings in wooden handcarts. Two groups got a late start and were stranded in Wyoming by a devastating October blizzard. And for the past 20 years, thousands of Mormon teenagers have been returning to that site to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors.

When the blizzard struck on October 19th, 1856, the lagging handcart companies were still weeks from Salt Lake City. More than 200 people died of exhaustion, hunger, and cold.

Rebecca Huntington

Chef Eric Bartle and girlfriend, Sara Kundelius, moved in the dead of winter from Portland, Oregon, to Turpin Meadow Ranch. The guest ranch is nestled at the end of the Buffalo Valley Road, on the edge of the Teton Wilderness, one of the most remote places in the Lower 48 states.

The couple loves to forage for locally grown foods and brought with them a supply of homemade jarred and canned delicacies to incorporate into the ranch’s menu. They share stories about that first trip to the ranch and their passion for home and forest-grown food.

Rebecca Huntington

Singer-songwriter Beth McIntosh and her son, Rainer McIntosh-Round, who live in Wilson, Wyoming, share stories about surviving moose and bone-chilling temperatures living in the cowboy state. McIntosh also reflects on her Scottish immigrant roots.

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