Fifteen-year-old Kate just lost her mom. On top of that, her learning disabilities are making it hard to go to school. She’s missed so much that the school says she might get sent away to a residential treatment center hundreds of miles away. But her grandparents are fighting hard for their right to keep her home. (more…)
In Rock Springs, Wyoming, we follow the treacherous paths of two young women. Larissa endures one trauma after another and soon finds herself unable to escape a cycle of probation and incarceration. Another kid, Jess, endures racism and bullying and seems headed down the same road. The system fails them both, but Jess’s story takes a turn when she lucks out with a new teacher. But Mr. Baker says kids shouldn’t have to rely on good luck. (more…)
In 1892, Wyoming hosts its first execution and it’s a teenage boy named Kansas Charley. His trial causes a big national debate: is Charley a hardened criminal or a neglected child? It’s a question we still haven’t answered in the American West, where children are incarcerated in greater numbers than anywhere else. We also hear from a modern-day Kansas Charley who’s living out his days in Wyoming’s prisons who says, growing up, no one ever asked him the simple question: do you need help?
Everyone likes to say that there’s no better place to grow up than in the Rocky Mountains. Building snow forts, riding your bike everywhere, learning how to find your way out of the woods when you’re lost. But for kids having a hard time, no one’s handing them a map and compass. In Wyoming, kids are incarcerated and dying of suicide at higher rates than anywhere else. Longtime education reporter Tennessee Watson started to wonder if all this had to do with the “cowboy up” attitude we take toward child-rearing in the American West. (more…)
This time, we head to Wyoming’s Red Desert – and hear the history of the 19th-century range wars. They led to laws requiring grazing fees and regular land health check-ups. But over a century later, some say these regulations haven’t done enough to protect our wild spaces. Not to mention our climate. (more…)
The history of how we brought the pastoral cow to live on the arid lands of the West is a violent one. Jim Elliot grew up in the shadow of that history and his stories are quintessential cowboy, full of guns, death and hard winters. But even Jim recognized the tragedy of the attempted annihilation of Indigenous culture and bison to make way for cows. But now, there’s growing hope among tribes as bison make a comeback. (more…)
The Abeyta family has been driving sheep down from the mountains of southern Colorado for generations. But it hasn’t been easy to keep that tradition alive – they’ve had to fight for it. Through their eyes, we trace back the beginnings of the cowboy to the Mexican vaquero and find out how those adventurous roots are still very much alive in the American southwest. (more…)
For the Elliot family, there isn’t just one kind of cowboy. There are guys like Jake who chase the idea of the rodeo star, never sinking roots, a rolling stone. And then there’s Jim, the hardworking and intimidating rancher. In this episode, we bust some myths about what it means to be a “real” cowboy and whether ranching ever measures up to our American ideals.
The cowboy roaming horseback across the American West is nearly inextricable from what it means to be American. But in reality, most beef is raised out East where there’s more grass, and only a tiny fraction of the economy in the West comes from cattle. Now a new generation of ranchers is working to reinvent this iconic way of life to fit a modern world.
When COVID-19 arrives on reservation borders, tribes aren’t sure if their newly minted health care programs can hold up against the onslaught. The fear is that this is history happening all over again. But the two tribes on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming decide early to roll up their sleeves–literally–in a fight for the very survival of their tribal identity.
Many places in the American West are becoming food deserts, where it’s hard to get healthy food. Sometimes that’s because people can’t afford it or because it means driving long distances. And for really isolated places, sometimes it’s because of both. Now, a group of ladies in Wyoming’s struggling coal country are working on a plan to solve hunger there. (more…)
The rural West has been seeing a steeper and steeper decline into despair, especially among white men. But when a Vietnam vet’s mental breakdown threatens the safety of Walden, the small town has a response that neighborhoods everywhere could learn from. (more…)
2020 feels apocalyptic. It’s not just the pandemic; there’s also drought, mega-fires, melting glaciers. Meanwhile, the ultra-wealthy are stockpiling land, buying up small family ranches across the Mountain West. It makes you wonder, is it really a good idea to put that much environmental control in the hands of so few? (more…)
The West has long been a haven for the ultra-wealthy. Sometimes, they move into small towns with the aim of revitalizing them. But in Walden, Colorado, one wealthy businessman’s plans went awry, with dire consequences for the community. (more…)
Why are we so fascinated by old ghost towns? And what can they teach us? We go looking for the ghosts of an old silver mining community called Teller City to see if they have any lessons for how the nearby town of Walden, Colorado can keep from falling into the same cycles of boom and bust. (more…)
Years ago, small towns like Walden, Colorado were vibrant. Street dances, a health food store, a movie theatre, the works. At least, that’s how host Melodie Edwards remembers it from her childhood. Now it’s shrinking, part of the “ghost towning” of the American West. But can communities like Walden find a way to survive? Or will Melodie’s parents be forced to move away, like so many others? (more…)
Albert Sommers is a rancher who thought he’d seen it all. When he found a mysteriously dead calf, he started wondering: how wild should our wild places be? (more…)
You ask around, and people can’t agree on a quintessential Wyoming writer. And if you can’t identify the literature of a place, you can’t define the place. Authors including CJ Box and Craig Johnson weigh in. (more…)