Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- December 27, 2017

For my final Wednesday in Wyoming post of 2017, I bring you Cheyenne's iconic train depot with its holiday-colored clock tower.

I hope this year has been a good one for you and that many of your dreams will come true in 2018.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- December 20, 2017

Two weeks ago I showed you an elegant tree from the Historic Governors' Mansion. This one, part of the Paul Smith Children's Village's "Thousand Faces of Santa" display, may not be elegant, but there's no denying that it's fun. Where else would you find a tree decorated with nothing but Santas?

Merry Christmas! I wish you and your loved ones the most joyous of holidays as we celebrate the true reason for the season.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- December 13, 2017

It's the time of the year when people decorate the exterior of their houses with lights, inflatable snowmen, and other holiday-related decorations, but how many decorate whole hillsides with lighted reindeer?

I don't know about you, but the sight of that herd makes me smile and reminds me that Christmas isn't far away.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- December 6, 2017

Today's St. Nicholas Day, the perfect day to start my holiday-themed blog posts.  This year I'm going to focus on decorations in Cheyenne.

One of the most beautiful Christmas displays in the city is at the Historic Governors' Mansion. Each year they feature "Tinsel Through Time," an exhibit that showcases the differences in tree trimmings over the years.  But there's more than trees on display -- much more. Even the kitchen and laundry chute are decorated.

If you've ever toured Tinsel Through Time, you understand why it takes literally months to decorate the entire mansion. What incredible attention to detail!

This room features an early twentieth century tree, complete with boxes of animal crackers used as ornaments. I like the old-fashioned sled and wicker chair, and of course the idea of oranges being a special treat reminds me of how much has changed in a hundred years.

But some things haven't changed, including the love that makes this such a special season.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- November 29, 2017

We're going to end this month's tour of Fort Caspar with some history. This is the original sign that detailed the fort's history.  Unfortunately, it wasn't totally accurate.

As you can see from the following explanation, several important facts were misstated.
Regardless of the earlier inaccuracies, the fort is an interesting example of nineteenth century military life in Wyoming and a dramatic contrast to Fort Laramie. I encourage you to visit both if you're ever in Wyoming.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- November 22, 2017

Can you guess what this is? After showing you how officers and enlisted men lived at Fort Caspar, I couldn't resist letting you see how the horses fared. Yes, this is the stable.

Each of the stalls has a bin for hay and a basin for water. Judging from this, it appears that the horses had more privacy than enlisted men. Hmmm... What does that tell you?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- November 15, 2017

Last week we saw an officer's quarters at Fort Caspar. Today you'll see how different life was in the enlisted men's barracks.

One large room served as sleeping, eating, and recreational space for many men. And, if you're thinking that the beds look reasonably sized, it's because each of them was designed to sleep two.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- November 8, 2017

Officers who were stationed at Fort Caspar had relatively comfortable lives, including private rooms with large fireplaces (a definite necessity in the cold Wyoming winters), writing desks, and warm rugs.

What surprised me was that they stored their saddles in their rooms.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- November 1, 2017

Welcome to Fort Caspar! Located near Casper, Wyoming (yes, it's spelled differently), this fort celebrates military life in the mid-nineteenth century.

The actual fort was dismantled and its buildings used in the construction of Fort Fetterman, but the site was of enough importance that the buildings were reconstructed as a WPA project during the Depression.

Although the WPA used historically accurate building techniques, one decidedly non-historic element has been added: an electric meter.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- October 25, 2017

Doesn't this look like a fun place for a child to explore? It's part of the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne and is one of the reasons the library was voted one of the best in the country.

The whole second floor is devoted to children and young adults and has become a popular place for everything from story time to chess games, proving that libraries are gathering places as well as repositories for books.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- October 18, 2017

Last week I showed you the entrance to the Old West Museum.  What I didn't tell you is that its exhibits include one of the country's largest collections of historic carriages and wagons, including this stagecoach. 

I know from my research that traveling by stagecoach wasn't particularly comfortable, but I'd still like to travel a few miles that way to see just how much passengers were jolted and bounced.

What do you think?  Should we do it?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- October 11, 2017

Where would you expect to see benches made from wagon wheels and a fountain with a cowboy pouring water from his boot?  If your answer included something about the old west, you were right.  You'll find this scene outside the Old West Museum in Cheyenne.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- October 4, 2017

Perhaps this week's post ought to be titled "The Sunflower Saga," because everything in it revolves around one of the wild sunflower plants in my backyard. While the plants themselves aren't especially beautiful, the flowers are cheerful and -- best of all -- they attract beautiful birds.

Here's an American Goldfinch, his beak open as he reaches for a seed.

If you look carefully, you can see the seed in his beak.

One seed isn't anywhere close to enough, so he goes back for another and another and another.

I'm always amazed by how persistent the birds are. They'll stay on a single plant for up to an hour, devouring the seeds. It's particularly fun to watch them when they turn upside down to pluck a seed from the flower.

Here's what the plant looks like when they're finally finished. Not much left for the next bird.

I won't tell you how many hours I've spent watching goldfinches and other birds feasting, but each time I see them, I'm grateful for the volunteer sunflower that decided to grow so close to my house.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- September 27, 2017

Looking for a bad hair day? The new Grand Conservatory at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens can help you.

All joking aside, one of the unusual and fun features of the new conservatory is the fogging system which helps hydrate the plants. The amount of fog is carefully controlled and can be modified to meet changing indoor conditions. And, if it isn't the best thing for naturally curly hair, it does have a positive effect on skin.

So, come on inside and enjoy the fog.  (If you look carefully, you can see me to the left of the Gardens' Assistant Director, Tina Worthman.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- September 20, 2017

What's so special about this wall in one of the classrooms of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' new Grand Conservatory? It has a history.

When the conservatory was being built, it was necessary to cut down a number of old Ponderosa pine trees. You might be surprised to learn that this generated some controversy. Why? It all started back 150 years when the city was first founded on land that had not one native tree. Getting trees to grow here is a real challenge, so cutting down healthy trees is something few take lightly, even now.

Unwilling to let the trees go to waste, Gardens' director Shane Smith, who's a great proponent of recycling and reuse, arranged to have them milled into wood. During that process, the miller discovered that the trees had been infected with pine bark beetles and would have had to be cut down, even if the conservatory hadn't been being built. So, what was first thought to be a problem turned out to be a good thing -- the beetle-infested trees were gone, and the conservatory had some unique walls, not to mention a story to tell.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- September 13, 2017

It's not only the inside of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' Grand Conservatory that's green. So too is the roof.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Cover Reveal -- A Borrowed Dream

Even though we've all been told not to judge a book by its cover, I do, and I suspect you do too. That's why I'm always eager to see the cover art for one of my books and to be able to share it with you.

So, with no further fanfare, here it is -- the cover for A Borrowed Dream.

Isn't it beautiful? I never cease to be amazed at how the team at Revell manage to capture the spirit of my stories in the covers.

I love the way the designer incorporated so many authentic details:

  • The bluebonnets that tell you more clearly than words that the book is set in Texas
  • The stone schoolhouse, because one in the Texas Hill Country would have been made of stone rather than wood
  • The bell that students could ring to signal the end of recess 
  • The Texas flag
  • The heroine's blouse, which is virtually identical to one I saw in an historic costume book  
I could go on and on, but that might bore you. Instead, let me share the back cover copy with you, so you have an idea of the story that's inside this gorgeous cover.

Catherine Whitfield is sure that she will never again be able to trust anyone in the medical profession after the town doctor's excessive bleeding treatments killed her mother. Despite her loneliness and her broken heart, she carries bravely on as Cimarron Creek's dutiful schoolteacher, resigned to a life without love or family, a life where dreams rarely come true.

Austin Goddard is a newcomer to Cimarron Creek. Posing as a rancher, he fled to Texas to protect his daughter from a dangerous criminal. He's managed to keep his past as a surgeon a secret. But when Catherine Whitfield captures his heart, he wonders how long he will be able to keep up the charade.

With a deft hand, Amanda Cabot teases out the strands of love, deception, and redemption in this charming tale of dreams deferred and hopes becoming reality.

Have I intrigued you? I hope so. And, if you'd like to learn why I wrote this particular story -- the story behind the story -- here's the link.

A Borrowed Dream will be released in March 2018, but it's available for pre-order at all the major sites right now. Here are some links.

Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- September 6, 2017

How often do you get to see the tallest palm tree in Wyoming being pruned? I was fortunate to be given a sneak peek at Cheyenne Botanic Gardens' new Grand Conservatory before it opened to the public and happened to be there the day that the palm tree was being readied for the opening.  What fun!

You've probably heard me say that the Botanic Gardens are one of the reasons my husband and I chose Cheyenne for our home, and it's true. Now, with the Grand Conservatory, the Gardens are even more wonderful -- well worth a trip.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 30, 2017

What a difference a snowfall makes! Remember the grayish sky in last week's picture of Grand Teton National Park? Not only did snow cap the mountains, but it cleared the air, creating the quintessential picture of autumn in the park.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 23, 2017

Yellowstone's southern park sister, Grand Teton, is noted for its spectacular mountains and sparkling lakes. The sky is normally a deeper blue, but the smoke from fires in Yellowstone polluted the air this day.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 16, 2017

No trip to Yellowstone would be complete without at least one sighting of a bison. This one's resting in a meadow, perhaps because he realized that snow was coming and wanted to conserve his energy.

Did you know that not only is the bison the dominant design on Wyoming's state flag, but it was recently declared the national mammal of the United States?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 9, 2017

Summer and early fall are fire season in Yellowstone. If you're old enough, you may recall the fires of 1988 which destroyed a huge portion of the park and created an uproar when the flames approached iconic parts of the park.

The dead trees that you see in the middle ground are evidence of that fire, but -- as you can see from the amount of new growth -- new trees have grown, creating a reminder that while fire is destructive, it can also benefit forests by providing opportunities for new trees.

Did you know that some trees are so well prepared for fires that they produce two types of seeds, one of which germinates only after the heat of a fire opens the shell? Those seeds are called serotinous.  (Even though spell checker is protesting, that's the correct spelling.)

Notice the smoke hovering over the hills in the background. Yes, it's yet another fire, although fortunately not one of the magnitude of the '88 fires.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- August 2, 2017

When most people -- myself included -- think of Yellowstone National Park, we focus on the thermal features. No doubt about it, those are dramatic and unforgettable, but there's more to the park than geysers, hot springs, and mud pots.

The wildlife are another attraction. Who can forget their first sight of an elk, a moose, or a bison? What about the elusive wolves, whose reintroduction to the park was so controversial? And then there are the coyotes, the swans, the otters ... the list is much too long for this blog post.

It was a warmer than normal day in September when this picture was taken, which is why the elk were taking advantage of the cool river. You'll see that one even appears to be lying down in the water. But this is Yellowstone, where the weather can change rapidly. The next day, we had snow!

I hope you'll return next week for more of Yellowstone's attractions.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- July 26, 2017

Today marks the last day of our tour of the JCPenney Mother Store, and what better way to end it than to show you a display of items connected to Mr. Penney himself?
Here we have one of his hats, along with a bronze bust of him in his older days. What do you think about the gold shoes? Too flashy? That's what I thought at first, but then I realized that they were an appropriate gift for a man who started his career at a store called "The Golden Rule."

From everything I've read about him, James Cash Penney embodied the values in the golden rule and left a legacy of hard work, honesty, and caring, not to mention a multi-billion dollar enterprise that bears his name. A fine legacy, indeed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- July 19, 2017

Let's continue our look at the JCPenney Mother Store in Kemmerer with a closer look at the interior.

Although the merchandise that's for sale is modern, Penney's wanted visitors to see what the store looked like in the early twentieth century.  To do that, they've placed antique merchandise on top of the shelves and posted some of the store's slogans along with old pictures on the walls.

I'm not sure what all these items are, although I did recognize the milk can and the barrel, but I found the combination of old and new appealing.  Do you?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- July 12, 2017

Do you know what this is?  Since I told you last week that my July posts would be about the JCPenney Mother Store, you can guess that the picture was taken there.  But what is the purpose of this system of pulleys?

Believe it or not, it's how customers paid for merchandise and received change in the early days of the store. One of the defining characteristics of the Golden Rule and subsequently the JCPenney stores was that sales were cash only -- no credit -- so a lot of cash changed hands each day.

When a customer gave a clerk payment, the cash was placed in one of the tubes along with the sales slip. The tubes were then hoisted via the pulley system to the second floor of the building, where the cash register was located.  Change was returned by the same method. A unique system, don't you agree?

This was the first cash register.

The "cash only" policy remained in effect until 1958, when the store introduced its own credit card, reflecting the fact the country had changed, and Penney's needed to as well if they were going to continue to adhere to their principle of making customer satisfaction their highest priority.

More changes occurred two decades later when bank credit cards began to replace individual store cards. (One of the advantages of the bank credit cards was that it was easier for customers to carry one card and receive one bill rather than dozens.) In response to customer demand, Penney's began accepting Visa in 1979, with Mastercard following in 1980.
And now, although the Mother Store still maintains a nostalgic air, payment is definitely modern.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- July 5, 2017

Did you know that JCPenney, the national department store chain, had its beginnings in a small town in southwestern Wyoming? I had the pleasure of visiting it last month and am going to share highlights of my trip in this month's Wednesday in Wyoming posts.

Although this is not the original building or, for that matter the original location, the building is referred to as the "Mother Store" and brings tourists to tiny Kemmerer, Wyoming from all across the country to see where James Cash Penney opened his first store on April 14, 1902.

The first store was part of the Golden Rule chain of stores and he was only a part owner, but by 1907 Penney had full ownership of three Golden Rule stores, and in 1913 he incorporated under the J.C. Penney Company, Inc. name. The rest is history.

As you saw from the first picture, the outside is typical of many stores in small towns, complete with a bench for husbands to sit while their wives shop. Here's the interior.

There've been a few changes to it, including the addition of skylights, but much of the rest is the same as it was in the early twentieth century.  The merchandise, however, is all twenty-first century. And the welcome that the store's associates give customers would have made Mr. Penney proud, because it incorporates his maxim "to serve the public, as nearly as we can, to its complete satisfaction."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- June 28, 2017

Aren't these hawthorn flowers beautiful?  While some hawthorns have a profusion of white flowers, this one is obviously more brightly colored -- a welcome sight in any yard.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- June 21, 2017

Today's the official start of summer, but I'm still celebrating spring-flowering trees.  This is an Ohio Buckeye which, despite the name, thrives in Wyoming.  Its trunk and branches are particularly sturdy, making it ideal for the strong winds.

What you see in the picture above is the first stage of the flower and leaf buds opening.

Here you see that the flower has emerged, and the leaves are beginning to take shape.

Although it doesn't have the showiest of flowers, the buckeye makes up for their somewhat bland color with quantity.

The next step is the formation of nut-like fruit clusters.

Although these are supposed to ripen in the fall, so far -- and I've had a buckeye in my yard for thirteen years -- I have not seen any last long enough to mature, but there's always a first time, isn't there?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- June 14, 2017

Although Wyoming winters are noted for being harsh -- and they are, with the combination of fluctuating temperatures, strong winds, and minimal precipitation making it difficult for trees to survive -- many crabapples, including this one, thrive.

This is a Centurion Crabapple.  Although you can't tell it from this picture, the leaves are often almost as red as the blossoms.  And, when other trees' leaves turn red or gold in the fall, these turn green.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming - June 7, 2017

Although there are times when I miss the flowering trees and shrubs I had in the East, with dogwoods, azaleas, and rhododendron topping the list, spring in Wyoming has its own beauty ... and its share of flowering trees.

This is a dalgo crabapple, which produces what the nursery called "persistent fruit."  That means that the fruit lasts most of the winter, providing food for the birds.  The birds enjoy that.  I enjoy the spring flowers.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 31, 2017

I'm ending the month with what I call the Mystery Bird.  It appeared in the yard in mid-December and stayed long enough for a photo shoot, but -- despite hours spent with my Audubon Field Guide -- I could not identify it.  Neither could my neighbor, who's an avid birder.

Do you know who the mysterious visitor was?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wednesday in Wyoming -- May 24, 2017

Today's post is going to be longer than normal, because I want to show you three Horned Lark chicks from hatching to fledgling.

Did you know that Horned Larks build their nests on the ground? That would seem to make them susceptible to being trampled by cattle or humans, but somehow they survive.
As you can see, their camouflage is excellent. If it weren't for the bright orange throat of a hungry chick demanding food, you might not even notice the nest, particularly since the egg looks very much like a rock.

At this point, the nest doesn't appear too crowded, but that's because all the chicks haven't yet hatched.

Here's the second chick, just hatched. If you look closely, you can see the eldest chick with its head next to the unhatched egg and its yellow down quite visible.

What are these two siblings doing? My guess is that they're waiting for the third egg to hatch. Note that their beaks are open, probably in search of food.

At last! Three chicks and -- yes! -- three open beaks.

The nest is getting crowded now, but the triplets aren't ready to leave. Did you notice that you can see darker feathers beginning to emerge under the yellow down? I'm amazed that their beaks are closed.

Here they are, beginning to look more like birds than chicks and almost ready to leave the nest. Good thing, since the nest is now very crowded.

Once they leave the nest, I see them perched on fence posts and hear their song, and then the cycle begins again.