Lee Pitts: Practical people
April 25, 2014
I'll admit it was a puppy love because I wasn't even ten years old when I first spotted her. But just like young kids sometimes fall in love with their teacher, I fell head over heels in love with her looks. Later, as I really got to know her, I came to love everything about her.
I'm talking about Wyoming, of course. Why Wyoming?
First, there is the debt of gratitude I owe Rock Springs, Wyoming, for saving my life once. We were flying in a small plane on our way to Cheyenne and we never should have even been in the air in the first place. We started icing up and needed to get down in a hurry and Rock Spring was there for me, just like a loyal friend.
For years I went to Cheyenne once a year to announce a video sale, as I had done before that in Torrington. I've worked cattle auctions all over the state through the years and as beautiful as Jackson and the Grand Tetons are, my favorite Wyoming town is Sheridan. Other than where I've lived for 40 years, Sheridan is my favorite place on earth. Part of the reason is that I'm a leatherworker and Sheridan is the mecca we all worship. It's the home of Sheridan style leather tooling, the home of the biggest leatherworking confab in the country, and was the home of Don King, a man whose name you've seen on countless caps advertising King's Ropes. Don was a legendary saddlemaker and quickly made Sheridan the capital of my addiction. If you love cowboys, and their gear, you owe it to yourself to go to Don King's rope shop. Walk to the back of the store and through an alley to see one of the best collections of cowboy collectibles this side of the Cowboy Hall of Fame.
After I got to know Wyoming on more than a friendly basis I fell in love with her people… and the lack of them. Wyoming is one of the least populated states in the nation and I like that. A lot. I like the fact that Wyoming folks speak the truth, are friendly and have a sense of humor that seems to mesh with mine. They are independent and still have a pioneer spirit.
I remember attending an FFA leadership conference in Washington DC and seeing all the statues in the Capitol's Statuary Hall that represent each state. The one that stood out to me was Wyoming's, and not just because it's a woman. Esther Hobart Morris represents Wyoming because in the 1860s she worked tirelessly to give women in Wyoming equal rights. She is one of the main reasons that in 1869 Wyoming was the first government IN THE WORLD to grant women the right to vote. Good for them!
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There are all sorts of theories as to why Wyoming was the first but it boils down to how practical the folks of Wyoming have always been. The 1870s census showed there were only 1,049 females over the age of ten in the entire state and 6,107 men were chasing them around. The men thought that by showing their gentlemanly side they might attract more females to the state. And so, they let them vote. And it worked! It attracted a tough and independent type woman who would eventually give birth to the wonderful Wyoming that I love. I'd be living there now if I ever thought I was tough enough, but the Wyoming wind has kept the riff raff like me out.
Wyoming gave women the right to vote because they were practical and honest. And they still are. For example, awhile back in this column I told you about my neighbor and the 40 foot motor home he'd purchased at a garage sale to go see his Nebraska relatives. He kept breaking down and when he made a side trip to see the sights in Wyoming his RV completely collapsed. He got the rust heap towed to a garage where the mechanic inspected the junker and told my neighbor, "You only need one part."
My neighbor was ecstatic and couldn't believe his luck. "Just one part, really?"
"Yep, that's right," the Wyoming mechanic said. "Just one part… about 40 feet long."