A Case Study


Family treasures . . . .

I don’t recall when I became attracted to all the artifacts and memorabilia that my father’s family had accumulated over the years here on the ranch.  Some of it came on the train from Mishawaka, Indiana in 1919 when my grandparents and great grandparents decided to sell out, pack up and head west.  The rest was acquired over a few lifetimes of homesteading and ranching here on Dry Creek.

Over the years I found myself attracted to books, photographs and detritus left in musty trunks or outbuildings.  When I discovered this old lawyer’s bookcase that had been stacked in a pile in the bunkhouse, which had formerly served as lodging for a number of hired hands and in later years as a great place to pitch all the excess baggage from the main house, I was thrilled.  I was surprised to find it there, covered in dust.  I could remember seeing it in the main house many years earlier.  I assumed one of my siblings would covet the antique, which bore a stamp on the face of the top shelf that read “Gunn Sectional Bookcase, Dec. 5, 1899 – Jan. 1, 1901 – The Gunn Furniture Co., Cedar Rapids, MI, USA.”  But I knew I had to have it.


That was almost twenty years ago.  I decided to bargain with my father to acquire the book case, offering to paint the house which was badly in need of it.  I hated coming home to see things getting shabby and by that time my parents were not able to undertake such a project.  I took a week of my vacation, bought the paint at Sears, and worked from dawn to dusk to transform the old house from a peeling, scruffy apple green (which I hated) to a pale gold called “Cactus” with dark green trim.  When I finished up on a Sunday afternoon, I asked if I could load up the book case, which stored nicely in the trunk of my car.  Dad came out to thank me for all the hard work on the house, then said, “you know, you didn’t have to do this.  I would have given you the book case if you had asked for it.”

IMG_0166As time passed, I filled the shelves of the old case with my collection of family junk which nobody seemed interested in but me.  And what a bunch of dandies!  The task of identifying all of it for the purposes of my blog seemed daunting, so I decided to take apart each of the four shelves, make a few notes about the contents, and take my time.

Case Study I 


A complimentary packet of needles from Belger Furniture Company of Mishawaka, Indiana inscribed with a promotional gem–“We will let you do the sticking.  We’ll not stick you;” a Jews harp ( I have no idea how it was named such); my father’s infant silver spoon engraved with his initials, “WJU;” a couple old keys; an eye glass that my grandmother wore when working as a young woman in the watch factory in South Bend, Indiana; a pocket magnifying glass; and a sterling silver salt and pepper set featuring a Japanese man carrying two buckets (one for salt, one for pepper).  This was a gift to my grandmother from my Great Aunt Ellen, who traveled the globe and sent her sister gifts from around the world.

IMG_0112(1)A selection of old postcards accumulated by my grandfather Ernest Ullery during his time in the U. S. Army.  The card on top is from the Culver Military Academy he attended in Indiana.  The card in the middle is the soft ball team from Mishawaka sent from a friend to my grandfather.  The bottom card is  dated 9/28/1908 and is a photograph of the Presidio, San Francisco where grandfather was stationed for maneuvers before being sent to the Philippine Islands.

IMG_0114(1)A commemorative book on Japan and the Philippine Islands was one of my grandfather’s mementos he brought home after serving in the U. S. Army. there are a couple large volumes badly in need of restoration that I hope to get rebound.  I am not clear where his travels took him besides the far east. Below it is a program of the Christmas 1906 holiday celebration at the Presidio.

IMG_0115 The pipe collection is a curiosity.  I believe the plain round bowl wooden pipe was Dad’s, as he smoked a pipe when I was a child.  The other two are collectibles that arrived from who knows where?

IMG_0127(1)The two small journals above recorded daily weather and events by my great grandfather, Samuel Ullery.  The five-year diaries are his also, and are dated 1936 (red one) and 1932, Renohill, Wyoming.  The Ullery family homestead was just west of Renohill, where Samuel served as postmaster for a period of time.

IMG_0120(1)Two pocket watches, a thimble, a tie bar with agate boot, a lapel pen promoting Stubbs Mercantile Company, Kaycee, Wyoming, headquarters for Peters Diamond Brand Shoes.  My Great Aunt Alice was married to Bill Stubbs, a sheep rancher who decided to acquire the Kaycee Mercantile about 1920.  They employed my grandfather as manager until a severe drouth upended the agricultural economy and the store was sold.  Samuel and Ernest decided to take up homesteads nine miles northeast of Kaycee. The Masonic pendant would have belonged to my great grandfather, who was a Mason.  During his career as a building contractor in South Bend, Indiana he constructed the Masonic Lodge.

IMG_0128(1)This well-worn old Bible is inscribed “given to E. S. Ullery, May 1st, 1915 by Samuel Ullery.”   Below is written “this Bible was the property of Louisa Ullery for many years. E. U. ”  Louisa Benner Ullery was the wife of Jesse, parents of Samuel.

IMG_0126(1) An assortment of cameras were handed down from one generation to the next. In the background is a Eastman Kodak Co. printing frame.

IMG_0129(1)My grandmother Clara’s handwriting is on the background of the leaf she collected and saved.  She always loved her Indiana home but fate led her to migrate to the West as a young bride.  I am sure she treasured this reminder of her former home.


A Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog from 1875 looked dramatically different from the catalogs of my youth, which weighed five pounds and served as door stops, paper weights and reading material for the outhouse.  An ivory cribbage game was likely a gift from Great Aunt Ellen, the globetrotter and the little plastic elephant came from a collection belonging to Michael’s mother.

Case Study Two

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A pair of blue boots I added to accompany the catalog of the Western Boot Company.  Dad ordered custom boots from this catalog in the 1940’s or thereabouts – date uncertain.  I still have the boots, Style No. 425, “Classy and stylish tulip and leaf inlaid design with three or more rows stitching.  Price $34.50.”  Also in this group, a wool sack needle; leather key holder; silver snuff box (a gift to Dad from someone); a mouth harp and box of sharpening sticks.


A wooden barrel bung, silver napkin ring, and memento from the Pan American games, 1901, most likely my grandfather’s. An ancient pair of child’s scissors and a lapel pin missing the stick pin; pocket knife from Sloan Realty Company and a lock stitch sewing awl from the C. A. Myers Co., Chicago, Illinois.


My grandmother’s button jar, which I explored in an earlier blog is a treasure trove of interesting little items she collected over the years.  The Brand book has receipts for sale of cattle bearing the Ullery brand, which identifies the brand and location on the animal.  The Grange Initiative, dated 1943, certifies E. S. Ullery (my grandfather) as a member of Powder River Grange, No. 68.  The Grange was a farm organization and at that time was the “oldest and strongest” farmers’ fraternity in the world.

Case Study Three

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Books, more books . . . .

Bartlett’s History of Wyoming (volumes I – IV) and the Encyclopedia of Wyoming (volumes I and II) have some family history enclosed.  The hand tooled wallet was Dad’s and doesn’t look like it got much wear.  The various bones, skulls, etc. are things I have a fascination for, don’t ask me why?


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‘dem bones . . . .

My great grandfather, Samuel Ullery was a building contractor and these books were his.  “Encyclopedia of Architecture, Carpentry and Building” Vols. I – X have instructions and illustrations for building everything from a complicated church steeple to a large or small building.  More from my bone collection, and a wooden rhinoceros of unknown origin. But what about the leg?


The mysterious leg . . . .

The tiny red book is “Reeds Lilliput Dictionary,” Maori-English, English-Maori.  Publisher is A. H. & A. W. Reed, 182 Wakefield Street, Wellington and includes Proverbial Sayings.  Must be another gift from Great Aunt Ellen?  The small block of wood with reversed Indian Pipe brand was a letter stamp used by my father and grandfather.  The pink leg was pinned in between the shelf and back wall of the book case.  I had to pry it out and do not recall ever seeing it before.  It is a promotional letter opener from a manufacturing company, S & S. Mfg. and says “Shape Up Your Sales With.” Hmmm.

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Volume II of the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry likely belonged to my great grandfather, Samuel.  I have searched high and low for Volume I, to no avail.

IMG_0308 (2)The large book on bottom is the Ullery family Bible with entries from the late 1800’s.  I had the bindings redone and it is holding up fairly well.  The book directly above it was also re-bound and was Samuel’s, as well as the leather-bound “Spaldings Treatise.”

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Most of these I presume belonged to my great grandfather’s extensive library.  I must confess, I have not read any of them and don’t know that I possess the intellectual capability (or patience) to try to absorb them.  There is more.

Case Study Four

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Postcard from the edge . . . .

This tattered album contains a wonderful collection of post cards collected by the Ullery family in early times.  Some are delightful.


Ernest send this upon arriving in Manila, Philippine Islands December 3, 1909.  He still had a sense of humor after traveling by ship for 27 days.


This, and all the other postcards in this old album are truly family treasurers.  A previous blog on my grandfather’s time in the Philippines details his experience in more detail.

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Cards for holidays, and just whimsy are included.  Ernest wrote to my grandmother Clara using a mirror to write backwards and I guess he wanted his messages to her to be a secret.  They are simply delightful.


Heavy reading for bedtime.  These, along with a group of hymnals, rounds out the fourth shelf, reserved for the most “weighty” of subjects. Also of interest are two bookkeeping journals dating from around 1921.  In them are names and sums of purchases, which must have been customers in the Kaycee Mercantile.  Ernie managed the general merchandise store for the owner, Bill Stubbs.  I know I have overlooked some of the treasurers in the old book case, but I don’t believe there are any more surprises quite as interesting as the pink letter opener!

Boundless Beauty

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Hazelton Peaks . . . .

There are many beautiful places in the Big Horn Mountains, but my favorite is the south end.  This view looks northwest, and the peaks in the background are beautiful, but the broad shoulders and high mountain plateaus with open prairie stretch before us in a grandeur that is only found in the south mountain range.

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Grazing paradise . . . .

A few Angus cattle graze below and what a pasture they enjoy!  In the early 1900’s more sheep than cattle could be found here and now it is a mixture of both.  This is private land, not national forest.  The ranchers that have grazed their livestock over the past 100 years have, for the most part,  been good stewards.  Earlier homesteads in the late 1800’s gradually evolved into larger parcels to provide a livelihood.

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Evening . . . .

As dusk approaches the light changes from golden to a muted color.  Rugged country, it seems empty to some who feel the need to be surrounded by settlement or ranch houses.


Life on the range . . . .

An old camp tender’s cabin is flanked by a more modern version, a camper trailer.  Star filled skies here are quiet except for an occasional coyote.

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Where sheep may safely graze . . . .

Once the predominant herds on the mountains, sheep are now far fewer in number, replaced by cattle.

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Clouds . . . .

That old refrain, “where the skies are not cloudy all day” could not have been about Wyoming.  The clear blue skies are usually a combination of impressionistic cloud formations that can lure the observer into daydreaming.

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Fixer-upper . . . .

A more primitive living quarters for the camp tender.  This old sheep wagon has seen better days but serves as a reminder of what life was like before the more modern mobile home or camper trailer arrived on the scene.

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Prairie chicken . . . .

Many parts of the Big Horns are heavily covered with sage, which is where these sage grouse call home.  Wyoming has the greatest population of these birds of any state, and we go to great lengths to preserve them.


Transportation . . . .

Steep slopes and rugged terrain dictate the terms of transportation.  The horse is still seen as a vital partner in the gathering of sheep and cattle on the mountain.


The Red Wall . . . .

The drive down the face of the Big Horns on the Slip Road affords a view of the red wall country and a stop for a cold beer, seated on a flat rock we favor.  The view differs from season to season and due to changes in the weather but is always magnificent.  The grandeur of the open west never ceases to fill me with wonder.  I hope it stays that way.


Drought 2020

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Not too tasty . . . .

We are suffering from what the “experts” describe as “severe drought.”  The last rains came the end of June, with one inch over a week and nothing since.  We watch each day as clouds build, threaten, and move on.  Scattered thunder storms have brought some relief around us, along with hazardous lightning which starts grass fires that have burned in all directions.  Most recently a fire started just a half mile away and fortunately the highway served as a barrier to keep it from moving toward us.

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Stunted bunch grass . . . .

Tilly’s paddock will usually support 1-2 horses throughout the summer with grasses so tall and coarse that I try to mow some sections so she will graze the shorter, finer grass.  This summer she is subsisting on hay and while we have creek bottoms with grass up to my chin, she won’t partake when I turn her out.  But that is another story.


Fuel for fire . . . .

After a very wet early spring (March/April) grass in some areas took off.  Now it stands waiting to burn and is fueling the fires all around.  The volunteer crews working the blazes are nearing exhaustion as they try to put up hay and keep up with the routine operations of managing their ranches.  The more serious fires have required planes to drop fire retardant but persistent winds have made it difficult to put out the flames.  One has to wonder what lies ahead for fall and winter weather.

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A little shade . . . .

We planted cottonwood trees on the west border of Tilly’s paddock.  These, along with others we have planted, are surviving on drip systems which use very little water and keep the trees alive through the drought.  A fast-growing tree, these will bring shade and shelter in the coming years.

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Someday a shady lane . . . .

These cottonwood trees (right) were planted several years ago and suffered many disasters: the local deer population eating the leaves and smaller branches; Feed Lot, the longhorn steer tearing up fences and breaking branches just for fun; and grasshoppers stripping them bare, robbing them of nutrients for the winter.  The drip system we installed needs annual maintenance and new emitters because any extended loss of water to these trees in a drought means losing them and starting all over again.  But I won’t give up.  My family began this shelter belt 60 years ago and many trees were lost in dry years.  Russian Olive trees (not pictured) made it through, barely, but they are now quite old and I want to be rid of them.  They are invasive and no longer desirable.

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Babies . . . .

Twenty new chokecherry trees are slowly putting on growth and will need new fencing to protect them from the deer in spring.  The older chokecherry trees in the background were part of the shelter belt we planted back in the 1960’s but many have died off due to little rain  and too many deer foraging for the new growth each year.  They have been included in the drip system and hopefully will continue to flourish.  Growing trees in Wyoming isn’t for the faint of heart.


Dry Creek is dry! . . . .

After flooding and then running continuously from February to June 1, Dry Creek has all but dried up.  Lots of flood debris waits to be cleaned up when we can safely get vehicles into the area without sinking in the mud.


Pond scum . . . .

The last remaining section of the creek that holds water is now ripe with algae and not a very pleasant sight.  It too will likely be dry by the end of August.  Good-bye to the mosquitoes that have plagued us all summer.  That is the only positive development that will come with the current drought.

A Touch of Autumn

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Arbiter of change . . . .

Walking from the barn this morning, I rambled down into the lower pasture and directly in front of me was this low-hanging limb with shimmering, golden leaves.  It jolted me as a reminder of the date, August 11, and the reality of the end of summer approaching.  The weather has been intensely hot and dry for several weeks.  Not the kind of weather I look forward to each year as I anticipate autumn, which is my favorite season.

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Cottonwood eye candy . . .

After autumn, spring is my favorite, followed by summer.  Then I try to forget that August actually exists, as it brings heat, grasshoppers, and the Big Dry when very little rain falls.  I am usually desperate for September to arrive with crisp lovely days, cool nights and fall colors.  For now, we are actually in what I call “deep summer” as the equinox is yet to arrive.  But these golden leaves are telling us what Mother Nature has decided and our determination of the autumnal equinox is a construct based on daylight and dark being equally divided on September 22nd when the sun crosses the celestial equator.

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Soon to be many . . . .

More small patches of golden leaves will begin to show in the coming days.  It grows dark earlier now and as sunshine diminishes, so does the deep green chlorophyll pigment in leaves diminish.  Autumn will bring with it a little sadness as the season closes and another year winds down. People the world over have found ways to celebrate the passing of seasons and I shall celebrate too as my favorite season arrives.