Wyoming: Butch’s Place

Butch’s Place, a western -style tavern comes complete with swinging doors, tables covered with red and white checkered oilcloth, and posters of locally produced ale and whiskey. A single gas fired stove provides heat for the dining area. The tavern, on Route 10 in Kirby, Wyoming, (population, last count, 375) between Thermopolis and Worland has been a landmark for over twenty years.

ls

Of course the main attraction to Butch’s Place was Butch. Marty and I don’t remember Butch’s last name and never knew his first name. He was just Butch. His wife, Linda helped manage the restaurant and also held a job working for the Town of Thermopolis.

Butch was a gregarious, accommodating host. He was known for his “okey doky” to any request. In spite of Butch’s claim that he didn’t cook, just “only put food together” there were several items on the menu that were unique to his establishment. A favorite amongst the children were the twelve -ounce hamburgers, whether they were ordered unadorned or smothered. His was one of the first restaurants in the area to serve buffalo burgers, cooked to perfection. A single order of chicken salad was large enough to satisfy a family of four, and the lightly grilled sirloin finger steaks were a delicious specialty. One dish that I haven’t seen before were his “hog wings”, which are pork shins, about the size of chicken drumsticks, very tasty and tender. They were cooked so that the meat fell off the bones.

A few years ago, Butch retired and sold the business. Although the food was still good, twelve- ounce burgers were no longer served, and we missed Butch’s and Linda’s camaraderie and conviviality. The tavern might have changed hands more than once.

You can imagine our surprise, upon visiting Wyoming last winter, to learn that Butch’s Place had closed. The rumor is that the recent owner’s girl friend decided to put pool tables in the dining area, which infringed upon the seating capacity and detracted from the character of the eatery. One of the employees was enraged and pulled the plugs on the refrigerators and freezers. The food was contaminated and it took quite a while before the restaurant was cleaned, sanitized, and safe to be used. To date, nobody has shown any interest in rehabilitating the facility and starting up again.

Back in Thermopolis, we observed other changes. Restaurants come and go for many reasons. As a result of a poor economy there were fewer bathers at the pool. In other years the pool was crowded with visitors from neighboring communities, particularly over the weekends. There were winter athletic meets at the high school and participants from different schools usually included a swim in their busy schedules. We may not have been in Thermopolis during the right week, but the out of town athletes were also rare.

The Quality Inn that we’ve stayed at has the capacity to park the tractor-trailers operated by truckers working in the oil patch. They haul large pipe, massive generators and other equipment to nearby oil fields. With the glut of oil and low prices for fuel, many oil wells hat have been capped and thousands of people have lost their jobs. This has had a ripple effect on the entire economy in the region. Consequently, truckers at the motel were not as numerous as other years.

Thermopolis is still home to the “World’s Largest Hot Springs” and we delight in ducking our heads under the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair. It’s also fun to see children making angels in the snow before jumping in to the pool. Water aerobics, which I find therapeutic, are still offered at the “Teepee” pools where we swim. It’s fascinating to watch the birds migrate in squadron formation, while we ‘re swimming. I love counting boxcars and tankers as the railroad trains whiz by the pool, but I have to admit that I lose track when there are more than two hundred cars on one train. We also enjoy watching the stars come out, whenever we swim in the evening. Some things I hope will never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

How do You Like Your Coffee? Time to Ban Guns in Public Places!

Marty and I stopped for lunch at the Black Bear Café one day during our recent trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming, and noticed a man sitting at the counter with a pistol in his belt. The Black Bear is anything but a Wild West saloon, with swinging doors. In fact it is a family oriented restaurant, favored by locals and visitors, alike. “Jack” helped himself to coffee, from one of the glass pots on the burner. Since we were not served yet, he poured coffee for us and started a conversation. He said that since Wyoming was a state that permitted carrying guns he might as well keep his visible.

One afternoon, about a week or so later, we stopped at the Bear for pie and coffee. We noticed Jack leave, but since he was in another part of the store, we thought he hadn’t seen us. When we were about to pay, we were surprised to learn that our friend treated us to our dessert. Jack seems like a nice person, and I’m sure that there are many nice people who tote guns.

Some states allow open carry of guns in public places; few have laws preventing it. But as Gail Collins wrote, “The open display of weaponry freaks out average citizens, especially the ones with children. It outrages police.”

I thought of the snake of dubious nature that I caught sight of at the counter in a Dunkin Donuts restaurant.  People who flaunt weapons and wild animals seek to draw attention to themselves and shock others. Like Jack, many of these people may be very nice. However we don’t know when anger might trigger a violent response.

There is no place for reptiles at Dunkin Donuts, and there is no place for guns, whether concealed or in full view, in restaurants  and at playgrounds.

Do we need another Charleston?

Attractions on the Interstate

Our usual trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming was delayed this year from December to late January. It is a long journey and each year we check out the possibilities of flying, and each year we opt to drive. The logistics of flying are horrible; the connections from one flight to another, disastrous. So we pack up our car and prepare for three and one half days on the road. We have our routine and manage to visit friends and relatives along the way and enjoy the ride.

Honestly, I look forward to stopping at the incredible rest areas on the Interstate Highways, funded by federal and state governments. The familiarity of these sites is “comforting.” These facilities have no concessions. Fresh food and fuel aren’t sold, but the areas around the buildings are landscaped and have shaded spots for picnicking. There are placards disseminating local history and geology, and travel information is available. I’ve heard it said that the most attractive room in your house should be the bathroom, where we spend more time studying detail. This applies to pubic restrooms as well.

Nebraska was one of the first states to modernize the rest areas on Interstate Highway 80. The lavatories include attractive blue and white tiles; the stalls are corrugated stainless steel, and there are built -in changing tables. unnamed-5

The windy hills on Route 26, in Wyoming are dotted with creatively designed rustic facilities. The stalls are covered with mosaics constructed from local stone and the painted trim on the stalls compliments the hues in the stonework. unnamed-6

Back on Interstate 80, in Iowa, the comfort stations are architectural achievements, more like museums, known as New Generation Rest Stops. The motorist needn’t wonder where he/she is; each unit is unique. Glass and steel are used extensively in construction. The floors inside the structures are mosaic tile maps of the locale. My favorite is a tribute to prominent writers from the state. The pillars at the entrance are designed to look like writing pens. On our recent trip, we didn’t stop at the facility with the pens. However, I did take a picture of a granite sculpture in front of the highway rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.P1000024-2

On the Ohio Turnpike, most of the rest sites have concessions with access to all services. Some of the facilities are large circular buildings and the concessions offer better quality food. It was at one of the stops on the Ohio Turnpike, that we discovered “The Panera Bread Company,” a chain we’ve come to like and look for in our travels. There’s comfort sometimes in knowing what we can eat.

The stop on the Garden State Parkway, near Oradell, New Jersey, and close to where the Garden State and Route 287 intersect is always bustling. Yet, I appreciate the fresh plants on display in the lavatory year round.

It’s hard to miss the palatial edifices designed like hunting lodges, invoking those of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, on the New York Thruway and on the strip of I-90 that runs through the state of New York. There are several styles of “lodges,” so the traveler has an idea which town he/she’s near on the highway.

Are you tired of the hassle of flying? My guess is that you haven’t visited such beautiful bathrooms in any of the airports like the ones on the nation’s highways.  So get the family chariot in good condition and see the U.S.A!

 

 

 

Dan, the Man from Thermopolis

If you are motoring to Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, in all probability you’ll stop in Thermopolis, a small town, southeast of  the park, for a swim or soak, in the ”World’s Largest Hot Springs,” located in Hot Springs State Park,  where there are two privately owned thermal facilities. We have been visiting Thermopolis for about twenty years, and enjoy swimming in the outdoor pool, where the water is approximately 94 degrees. In the cold of winter, it’s fun to duck in the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair.

It’s hard not to notice Dan Moriarty, part owner and manager, of the Teepee Pools, the facility we prefer.  Dan is not particularly attractive. He’s overweight with a grey beard. He was a former alcoholic and suffered many illnesses. Managing the pool requires knowledge, and is labor intensive. Dan and his crew are out in all kinds of weather to assure that the equipment is functioning. This fall, the roof of the Teepee Pools suffered damage from hurricanes and can’t be repaired until spring. Meanwhile, Dan has been conferring with contractors, state officials, and his partners, about replacing the roof. They decided on using brick red metal paneling that will be both attractive and able to withstand rough weather.

Dan had the habit of greeting us with brash “can you top this” remarks. I wasn’t offended. I’ve known people with harsh demeanors who were good -natured. It is my observation that the bravado is only a mask for a person’s insecurity. Marty and I are fond of Dan. We enjoy getting together for lunch or dinner. He’s intelligent, and is not reluctant to talk about politics. We’ve exchanged many heated discussions. Who else, but Dan, would keep us up to date on the news and gossip of Thermopolis? We can also depend upon Dan for information about good restaurants.

In the locker room at the pool, I overheard some women describing Dan as a womanizer, and disrespectful of the opposite sex. I have the impression that he is the first person a woman, or anybody, would turn to when help was needed. He has often been accompanied by a date, when we went out, and was always considerate. We recently met Dan at a restaurant with several women. He was with the local women’s basketball team and had treated them all to dinner!

Dan would discuss some of the problems caused by customers. There are those who don’t watch their children. There are others who bring small children into the hot tubs, ignoring signs prohibiting children under 14 from using the tubs, citing serious health risks.

One of the most bizarre stories, Dan told, is of George, an older man whom we knew. When he passed away, his wife approached Dan about having a special funeral at the pool, because George loved swimming and spent part of every day there. She suggested bringing George to the pool in his bathing suit, after nine in the evening when the pool is closed. Dan bellowed, ”NO WAY.” We can always count on Dan to entertain us with his stories.

CIMG2811