Aug. 7 , 2009 – Dipping into History


Judging by the chain of storms coming into the Bozeman area over the next week and having not much to do because of a “gimpy leg,” e decided to hit the road going south and east. Heading toward Billings, we turned off of I-94 at Laurel.

We were indeed pelted with heavy rains almost all the way to Big Timber. Then again down by Bridger. From Bridger to Deaver there wasn’t much rain but the electrical storm was awesome! At one point we pulled into a turnout and just watched the beauty of it.

We pulled into Deaver, WY just before sundown, and decided that this would be as good a place as any to spend the night. We had supper, then walked around the quaint little town. Six blocks of walking was about all I could handle.

In the morning Jolie and I went out for a potty walk, where I had spotted some strange equipment in a field. As near as I can tell, it is WWII vintage… maybe personnel carriers. One looks like it might be a small tank.

Continuing on the next morning, we arrived at our southernmost destination, Thermopolis, WY. The town is located near the center of Hot Springs County, within an Indian Reservation. The land, ten square miles around the springs, was ripped off from the Indians in 1896 for $60,000 payable in cash, skinny cows, bad bacon, sugar and coffee to be paid out over a six year period. In 1897 one square mile encircling the spring was given to the state of Wyoming. In 1929 it officially became Hot Springs State Park.

It is touted as the world’s largest mineral hot springs, producing just under 2.7 million gallons per day at 128 F. There are several privately run facilities here where an admission is charged, but according to the original treaty, one-fourth of the water must be free for public use. So, there is a very nice bathhouse that is free.

The surrounding park is very well maintained. A showpiece is the Tepee Dome, a fountain that was started in 1903 as a 30’ high pipe with a pile of bricks around it to hold it up. Today it is a beautiful Travitine sculpture.

We are staying just outside of town at the Fountain of Youth, a small park at the site of an accidental hot spring. In 1916, while attempting to drill for oil, the contractor hit hot water instead. The well appears to be an 6” casing that is bubbling hot water a couple of feet into the air. Although this location is across the river from the state park, it is producing more than half as much water per day!

The owner, Ron,, also owns the Fountain of Youth Motel in town. Nearly every night he puts on a one-man concert of cowboy and gospel music. His style and voice reminds me a little of Willie Nelson. Then on Sunday mornings about 9:30 or 10 o’clock he preaches a worship service. I understand that he goes to China for 6 weeks or so every year for evangelism with his son.

We took a little drive into the countryside to do some exploring. A point on the map showed “Hamilton Dome.” That sounded like a mountain to explore, so we turned that-a-way. When we got to Hamilton Dome, though, it wasn’t a peculiar mountain… except that it was a very common ridge, covered with ARCO oil wells!

Not far from there we spotted this abandoned schoolhouse. We discovered later that it was the Padlock Elementary School, named for the nearby Padlock Ranch. It was one of many identical buildings constructed throughout the county to educate the ranch children.

There is a restored school building just like it in Thermopolis at the museum.
I included the interior photo because it shows the kind of plastering that my father was doing when I started going onto the jobs with him in the mid-1950’s… horse hair reinforced gypsum plaster, over wood lath.

This school, although it had electricity, it did not have indoor plumbing… as evidenced from the “his & her’s” behind the school.

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