Current Edition

current edition

A party of fishermen enjoying a three-day float on the Platte over the weekend “camped out” on the river bank a few miles below town Monday night, though they camped a little more ruggedly than they had planned to.

The party, using two boats, and including Gil. Blumenthal, Bob Perue and his sons Richard and Norman of Saratoga and Sam Bromguard, Vern Jewell and Walt Carstaors of Greeley, Colo., embarked Monday morning from Pick Bridge below town. They had planned to “dock” at the old Overland Trail crossing to camp for the night, but some how missed their station, and some time later pulled in at Savage corrals.

Jimmie Perue and his brother Ronald had gone to meet them at the crossing, with food and bedrolls. When dusk came, however, the boat had failed to appear, so the boys ate their supper and rolled out their beds. In the morning, suspecting what had happened, they drove to the corrals, where they found the boaters had camped, sans coats, bedrolls or food.

After a hearty breakfast, however, and with still un-dampened spirits, the anglers embarked on the last leg of their trip to the Ft. Steele Bridge. At the corrals, Jimmie and Ronald Perue joined the fishermen, and Richard and Norman brought the truck back to town.

The first lap of the three-day trip was made Sunday from Saratoga to Pick, and all returned to town for the night. The fishermen said the float was an enjoyable one, in spite of their lack of bedrolls, and the fishing was good.

(Bob says he is planting a flag at the old trail crossing soon.)

A news item in the Aug. 12, 1953 issue of the hometown newspaper reported this mishap of local fishermen who were treating their out-of-town friends to a three-day float/fishing trip on the headwaters of the Upper North Platte River.

Youngsters in this area usually learned to row the flat-bottom wooden boats on the river as early as 12 years old. By that age, most were already seasoned fishermen and responsible enough to handle floating the river.

My dad, Bob Perue, would usually take two of us boys in the boat with each of the three of us fishing for an hour and rowing for a 30-minute interval. As my brothers and I – and sometimes even the neighbor kids – became more proficient operating the boat, dad would then start skipping his turn and allow us to fish for an hour and row for an hour while he fished full-time and gave instructions on how and where to guide the boat.

To this day, at the age of 80, I still love to float the river, row most of the time, fish a little, tell a few tales and teach the kids, grandkids and great-grand kids how to navigate the mighty Platte.

This is Alkali Ike I’m tellin’ about.

He works for the A Bar A.

In summer, he hazes little doggies about.

In winter, he forks out their hay.

 

In color, Ike’s hair is a strawberry roan,

His face is as freckled as sin.

He’s long and lank and limber and lean,

With a devilish cleft in his chin.

 

In straddlin’ a bronc or twirlin’ a rope,

Was he good, Pard? I’m tellin’ a man!

If he couldn’t scratch both head and the tail,

There’s nary a puncher who can.

 

Now this Alkali Ike was a keen judge of stock

As ever rode out on the range.

He could squint at a steer, guess at his weight

And hand back a nickel in change.

 

At spottin’ a horse or selectin’ a bull,

He was good as ever you’ll find;

But when it came to pickin’ a girl,

The poor fool! He must have gone blind!

 

Ike married a gal named Sally O’Moore.

She came up from Medicine Bow.

She was shy as a colt, just ready to bolt,

All cinched up and ready to go.

 

She was balky and stubborn with a wild roving eye

To lead she just could not be broke

She was skittish and snorty and tricky and mean

A rearin’, right back on the rope!

 

Poor Ike! He got stung like a bee on the nose.

His range knowledge betrayed him somehow,

For it was Ike, himself, who got halter broke

And hitched right up to the plow!

  “Maude Wenonah Willford was the valley’s true historian,” according to an article in the 1976 issue of the Bicentennial edition of a publication called “Early History of Saratoga and Vicinity,” in which this poem was published, and compiled by the Saratoga Historical and Cultural Association history committee. She was born in 1881 and was a true and loyal Wyomingite well known for her western verse and manuscripts. When a friend died, she was ready, with pen in hand, to write . . . but, then that’s another story.

With a major forest fire burning south of Saratoga, just over the Wyoming/Colorado border, it seems appropriate to again tell the story of the lookout towers built years ago.

Following is an article I had written many years back about establishing better fire control on the National Forest.

On a hot August afternoon in 1912, the supervisor of the Medicine Bow National Forest answered a telephone call reporting a possible forest fire.

On the line was the “lookout man” at a newly established “Lookout Station” atop Medicine Bow Peak.

A 1912 forest supervisor’s report notes that, “Within the space of 60 minutes, a fire which apparently threatened a fine stand of timber on the Medicine Bow National Forest had been discovered, reported to headquarters, investigated and located. All the Forest officers concerned with the protection of that timber stand knew of the fire and its location.”

Thanks to the newly established lookout towers in the Medicine Bow and Sierra Madre mountains.

The report continues, “When it is known that the Medicine Bow Forest covers over 800 square miles, and that every foot of it must be protected from fire, the advantage of a rapid-fire system of discovery and location of fires is apparent. The prevention of fire on the National Forests has always been the chief duty of the men of the Forest Service, but it is only of recent times that they have perfected the system of patrol to the point where such prompt action as that described above is possible.”

Prior to building and manning of lookout towers the forest was patrolled by foot or horseback and it took hours or days to report possible fires.

In a 1912 report written by Medicine Bow National Forest Supervisor C. M. Granger, it was noted that, “For the detection of fire on the Medicine Bow, there has been built up a system of what are known as primary, secondary and tertiary lookouts.

“Primary lookouts are points from which unusually large area are readily visible, on which a man is stationed throughout the season of fire danger, and which are connected directly by telephone with the supervisor’s office and the rangers headquarters.

“Secondary lookouts are somewhat less prominent points on which lookout towers are built; which are visited each day by the ranger or his assistant during the fire season; and which have telephone connection...

“Tertiary lookouts are high points having no tower or telephone lines, which are visited by the ranger or patrolman in dangerous periods.

“On the Medicine Bow there is one primary lookout, four secondary one and a large number of tertiary’s. These lookouts collectively cover almost every nook and corner on the Forest, and it is only...but then that’s the view in our next “Postcard.”

With forest fires spotted around the state, we are featuring the lookout towers and the persons who manned them. Part two of the story, “Lookout Towers of the Snowy Range and Sierra Madres,” follows:

In a 1912 report written by Medicine Bow National Forest Supervisor C. M. Granger, it was noted that, “For the detection of fire on the Medicine Bow, there has been built up a system of what are known as primary, secondary and tertiary lookouts.

“Primary lookouts are points from which unusually large area are readily visible; on which a man is stationed throughout the season of fire danger; and which are connected directly by telephone with the supervisor’s office and the rangers headquarters.

“Secondary lookouts are somewhat less prominent points on which lookout towers are built; which are visited each day by the ranger or his assistant during the fire season; and which have telephone connection …”

“Tertiary lookouts are high points having no tower or telephone lines which are visited by the ranger or patrolman in dangerous periods.

“On the Medicine Bow there is one primary lookout, four secondary ones, and a large number of tertiary’s. These lookouts collectively cover almost every nook and corner on the forest, and it is only the very deep canyons or narrow gulches, which do not expose themselves to view from one of these points.

“The primary lookout point is on top of the Snowy Range. This Range is about seven miles long, and by visiting three peaks within a mile of each other at the highest part of the range, the lookout man can look down on 80 percent of the forest area.

“The lookout man lives at the foot of the range in a little cabin on the shore of Lookout Lake. Each morning about seven o’clock, unless it is raining or so foggy as to obstruct the view, he climbs from his cabin to the top of Medicine Bow Peak, the highest point on the range, 12,005 feet. From here, he scans through nine-power binoculars all the north end of the forest. After making sure as to the presence or absence of suspicious smoke in the vicinity he proceeds south along the top of the range about half a mile to another high point known as Lookout Peak and repeats the search for smoke on other portions of the forest. Then, to make his observations complete, he goes to another point still further south which commands especially well the southwest corner of the forest.

“On top of the range immediately above the lookout man’s cabin, and about midway between his three lookout points, there is an iron box telephone set … which puts the lookout man in touch with all the ranger headquarters.

“It takes Miller, the lookout man, 40 minutes to climb to the first peak and about an hour for him to make the complete round of the three points. So, within less than two hours in the morning eight-tenths of the forest has been minutely examined for signs of fire. The watch is kept up throughout the day, and a fire could not start and gain any headway at all without almost instant discovery by Miller.”

Wyoming experienced above average temperatures and much above average precipitation in May. This said, June has brought record-breaking high temperatures and a sharp decline in the percent of average precipitation – combined with wind. This is resulting in a decline in soil moisture and is causing severe crop stress in parts of the state, particularly the northeast.

The June 23 U.S. Drought Monitor map shows continued moderate drought conditions in the Tongue and Big Horn basins. Severe drought rapidly developed in Crook and Weston counties surrounded by moderate drought in Campbell and Niobrara counties and abnormally dry conditions into Sheridan and Johnson counties on the eastern and western borders, respectively. 

The June 16 Seasonal Drought Outlook through Sept. 30 is less optimistic than last month – showing continued drought in areas currently experiencing moderate to severe drought.

Month and seasonal forecasts

As of June 16, Wyoming has a high probability of above average temperatures for the month of July and equal chances of above, below or average precipitation.

The July to September outlook for Wyoming suggests a greater probability for above normal temperatures. The seasonal precipitation outlook for the state is equal chances of above, below or normal with the exception of northwest Wyoming, where there’s a greater probability for below normal precipitation.

As readers might have heard, El Niño conditions dissipated at the end of May, and the index is currently negative. Looking further out, it appears La Niña will continue to intensify, and we should expect a La Niña winter for 2016-17.

La Niña seasons typically see a more northern track for the jet stream, which often results in higher snowfall for the northern states, and a drier winter for the southern ones. The effects are more defined in the northern, especially northwestern, parts of Wyoming, which would have better chances of seeing the higher snowfall. 

The dividing line between the effects runs through southern Wyoming. We always seem to be in the middle area where forecasts and predictions are less certain. The strength of La Niña also plays a part, and initial forecasts are not showing this to be an exceptionally strong La Niña, at least not for the upcoming winter. This said, the forecast could change, so producers should stay tuned for updated forecasts.

Ag considerations

Noting the above conditions and forecasts, we should be prepared to see more areas in Wyoming become abnormally dry or increase in drought severity particularly in eastern and central Wyoming.

If these conditions persist it could result in elevated fire potential throughout Wyoming given the fuel load, and hotter, drier conditions. Eastern Wyoming and areas bordering Colorado and South Dakota have already experienced wildfires this season.

You can learn more about fires in Wyoming and other states at inciweb.nwcg.gov and nifc.gov/fireInfo/fireInfo_maps.html.

We can’t forget the value and importance of identifying and mapping weed infestations this time of year and, if appropriate, treatment and/or removal of weeds. Visit wyoweed.org/weeds/state-designated-weeds to view state designated noxious weeds and the 2016 list of county declared weeds.

Contact your local Weed and Pest or Extension office to ensure you use the best method(s) to manage weeds. And join the Play, Clean, GoTM movement and ensure your farm and ranch equipment are clean to help stop the spread of invasive species.

Windy K. Kelley, UW Extension and USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub Regional Extension program coordinator, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-2205 or Wyoming Water Resources Data System Deputy Director Tony Bergantino at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-766-3786.