Antonia Gaona Named Executive Director (County Librarian) of the Laramie County Library System

The Laramie County Library Board of Directors is pleased to announce the next Executive Director (County Librarian) of the Laramie County Library System, Antonia Gaona.  Antonia attended college at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she majored in political science and economics. She paid her way through college by working at the library. She worked in many roles, gaining both a deep passion for public service and an appreciation for free access to information. On the precipice of attending law school after graduation, she realized her true calling was library work. She changed course and attended graduate school at the University of Denver, where she graduated with honors with a Master of Library and Information Science.

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Wyoming Stories: Steamboat the Outlaw Horse

This blog includes information collected from the Laramie County Library’s Special Collections. The Special Collections features items on genealogy, Western history and culture, and Wyoming history. Learn more about Special Collections at https://lclsonline.org/services/specialcollections/

The Outlaw Horse. King of the Hurricane Deck. The Unrideable. These are all nicknames given, with awe and appreciation, to a legendary horse born and raised on the Wyoming prairie. Steamboat’s legend began in the dirt and mud of the rodeo arena, but has since grown to become part of Wyoming’s cultural heritage and central to the state’s identity. His story and silhouette have become synonymous with the fierce independence of the Western Spirit. But you have to wonder…how did one horse become a symbol of an entire state? What made Steamboat so astonishing that thousands of residents identify him as an icon of Wyoming? How did the Steamboat phenomenon come to be?

To understand how Steamboat became Wyoming’s beloved mascot and symbol of Western independence, you must start at his beginnings on the rugged plains near Chugwater, Wyoming. 

The Beginning of Steamboat the Unrideable

Kid Moore Riding ‘Old Steamboat’ Toward the Crowd at Cheyenne Frontier Days. (Wyoming State Archives, Undated)

The year is 1896, and a beautiful black horse was just born on the Foss Ranch near Chugwater, Wyoming. The horse had no name, but it didn’t take long for him to get one. Steamboat received his name from an accident. While a ranch hand was ‘throwing’ the horse during castration, Steamboat smashed his head into the ground and broke his nose. The broken bone was cut out of the horse’s snout, and ‘after that, every time the horse breathed heavily, it sounded just like the whistle on a steamboat.’ (Papa, 2013) Thus, the legend received his trademark moniker.

Becoming a Legend: Steamboat’s Rodeo Career

Long before Steamboat was a rodeo icon, he practiced his craft by bucking off cowboys during ranch roundups. It’s likely that the first person to ever ride Steamboat was Jimmy Danks, a ranch hand at Two Bar Ranch who introduced Steamboat to the art of bucking while trying to break the young horse. Horses weren’t ‘broken’ until they were comfortable with a bit and saddle. Surprisingly, Steamboat took to a bridle easily enough. But riding him was a whole other story. When Danks first mounted Steamboat, he discovered the horse had a skill for bucking. “I guess he thought bucking was his business,” (It Happened 58) said Danks of Steamboat. 

Steamboat’s rodeo career began in 1901 in Denver, Colorado. The horse performed at the Festival of Mountain and Plain, unseating many riders and starting his path to notoriety. By 1903, Steamboat had garnered a reputation for brutal rides – a cowboy’s ultimate challenge. 

The horse’s career took off in earnest under the management of Charles Irwin, a wild west show promoter and contemporary of Buffalo Bill Cody. Irwin himself lived and breathed horses, earning fame via his ‘Irwin Brothers Wild West Show.’

Clayton Danks on ‘Steamboat,’ Saddle Bronc Ride at Rodeo. (Wyoming State Archives, 1909)

Steamboat had an impressive fifteen-year run in the bucking business. As part of Irwin’s show, Steamboat traveled from New York City to San Francisco. (Moulton & Moulton, 1992) He performed for famous politicians, including Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Francis E. Warren (another iconic name in Wyoming history.) He threw cowboys in the dirt from coast to coast, starring on the great stages of Calgary and Madison Square Garden, thrilling crowds with his dramatic flair for bucking. But the brightest chapter of Steamboat’s life began and ended at Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Steamboat & Cheyenne Frontier Days

Cheyenne Frontier Days began on a sunny, warm September day in 1897. It was a festival embodying the western lifestyle, featuring bucking contests, a ‘mock attack on the Deadwood Stagecoach,’ (Moulton & Moulton, 1992) and other cowboy-worthy entertainment. 

The celebration was still in its infancy when Steamboat came along in 1901, ready to buck his way across the arena. His career would grow alongside Cheyenne Frontier Days, becoming part of the rich history of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and catapulting him to international fame.

In 1907 and 1908 at Cheyenne Frontier Days, he earned the coveted ‘Worst Bucking Horse of the Year’ award, an equivalent to an Oscar in the rodeo circuit. The award proved what many a cowboy had learned in the arena, Steamboat was a ride like no other. Few cowboys earned a World Championship while riding Steamboat.. He was so successful at dumping riders ‘that the best riders often were disqualified on Steamboat.’ That’s not to say that no cowboy managed to ride Steamboat to a standstill, in fact, several did successfully conquer Steamboat the Unrideable.

The Bold Cowboys That Rode Steamboat

The rules of bronco riding were simple back in the early days of rodeo – a rider must ride the horse to a complete standstill without grabbing any portion of the saddle during the ride. There was no such thing as an eight second ride; it was up to the horse and its rider as to how long a ride lasted. 

Many a cowboy approached riding Steamboat with some dread. Few would bet against the horse, so consistent was he at throwing his riders. But some riders, like Sam Scoville and Dick Stanley, successfully subdued the King of Buckers.

Among the slew of cowboys who can lay claim to having ridden Steamboat, one has passed into legend alongside the horse. Guy Holt, a Wyoming native who grew up near Cheyenne, began his rodeo career around the same time as Steamboat. His wife once wrote that he had ridden Steamboat seven times (Moulton & Moulton, 1992), but there was one encounter with the horse that has left a permanent impact on Wyoming history.

It was September of 1903 when Holt mounted Steamboat’s back, unknowingly starting the ride of his life. The horse ‘bucked the hardest that anyone had ever seen him buck with a rider aboard,’ said one contemporary writer of the event, and it was said that after the rough ride, Holt’s nose was left bleeding from the force of Steamboat’s jumps. (Papa, 2013) That ride was immortalized in a photo taken by University of Wyoming Professor BC Buffman.

The End of Steamboat: 

It was a dark day in the rodeo world when Steamboat was laid to rest. The King of the Hurricane Deck had his last bucking contest in Salt Lake City, Utah, after an unfortunate accident in the pen, Steamboat was injured by barbed wire. The injuries were too severe, leading to blood poisoning. The horse could not be saved.

Carter on Old Steamboat, Cheyenne Frontier Days. (Wyoming State Archives, 1908)

Steamboat was returned to the place where his story became legend, the arena at Cheyenne Frontier Days. It was there his life ended with a single shot from a rifle. Chronicles of the time honored the horse with obituaries espousing praise for the great bucking horse. The Cheyenne Daily Leader bid him a fond farewell, saying, ‘The horse that has nipped in the bud the fondest hopes of many a broncho [sic] buster, the horse that has sent fear into the ranks of the veteran busters is no more.’ (Moulton & Moulton, 1992)

Steamboat’s Legacy: License Plates, Logos, and Football

Steamboat’s legacy lives on in Wyoming culture. His famous ride with Guy Holt is the inspiration for the University of Wyoming logo and there is a grand statue commemorating that ride on the university’s campus. 

Some believe that Steamboat is the horse on the Wyoming license plate…and perhaps he is. In 1936, an artist by the name of Allen True (Papa, 2013) created the symbol of a bucking horse and cowboy that graces the Wyoming license plate today. Rumor has it that the inspiration for the logo was Steamboat and one of his past riders, but that story remains exactly that: a rumor. No one knows what horse and rider inspired True; the artist never said. But, common belief in Wyoming says that it is Steamboat, and so, by the rules of public opinion, the symbol has evolved to become Steamboat, regardless of its true origins.

“Fanning a Twister,” by Peter Fillerup. (Library of Congress, 2016)

Steamboat has become the most recognizable symbol of the Equality State. In an article honoring the 100 year anniversary of Steamboat’s passing, it was said that ‘Steamboat helps remind everyone…that in Wyoming, the Code of the West isn’t dead.’ (Hecox, 2014)  Today, the horse remains an icon of the Old West, a representation of the Western Way of Life, and a story Wyomingites are proud to claim as part of their heritage.

References & Citations

Hecox, D. (2014). A century of life after steamboat. UWYO Magazine. https://www.uwyo.edu/uwyo/2014/16-1/features/century-after-steamboat.html

Hein, R. (2017). Wyoming’s long-lived Bucking horse. Wyoming’s Long-lived Bucking Horse. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/wyomings-long-lived-bucking-horse

Moulton, C. V., & Moulton, F. (1992). Steamboat, legendary bucking horse: His Life & Times, and the Cowboys who tried to tame him. High Plains Press.

Papa, P. W. (2013). It happened in Wyoming: Remarkable events that shaped history. Globe Pequot Press.

Steamboat: Wyoming’s wildest resident. American Heritage Center . (2024, March 11). https://ahcwyo.org/2022/07/25/steamboat-wyomings-wildest-resident/#:~:text=Steamboat%E2%80%99s%20last%20performance%20was%20in%20the%20fall%20of,He%20had%20a%20nearly%20fifteen-year%20long%20rodeo%20career. 

Unknown. (Undated). KID MOORE RIDING “OLD STEAMBOAT” TOWARD THE CROWD AT CHEYENNE FRONTIER DAYS. [Photo]. Wyoming State Archives. http://spcrphotocollection.wyo.gov/luna/servlet/detail/SPCRACV~3~3~919724~113130:Cheyenne-Frontier-Days—Rodeo—Br?sort=title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location&qvq=q:steamboat;sort:title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location;lc:SPCRACV~3~3&mi=0&trs=26

Stimson, Joseph Elam. (1909). CLAYTON DANKS ON “STEAMBOAT”, SADDLE BRONC RIDE AT RODEO. [Photo]. Wyoming State Archives. http://spcrphotocollection.wyo.gov/luna/servlet/detail/SPCRACV~3~3~1353734~190935:Stimson-Collection?sort=title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location&qvq=q:steamboat;sort:title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location;lc:SPCRACV~3~3&mi=24&trs=26

Stimson, Joseph Elam. (1908). CARTER ON OLD STEAMBOAT, CHEYENNE FRONTIER DAYS. [Photo]. Wyoming State Archives. http://spcrphotocollection.wyo.gov/luna/servlet/detail/SPCRACV~3~3~1353734~190935:Stimson-Collection?sort=title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location&qvq=q:steamboat;sort:title_or_file%2Cidentifier%2Cimage_title%2Ccoverage_or_location;lc:SPCRACV~3~3&mi=24&trs=26

Highsmith, Carol M. (2016). Fanning a Twister by Peter Fillerup. [Photo]. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.39099/?r=-0.079,-0.042,1.196,1.04,0

Summer Reading Challenge 2024

Adventure is soaring into your library! Summer Reading Challenge 2024 is almost upon us. The annual event kicks off on June 1, 2024. Here’s what you need to know about this year’s program:

Summer Reading Challenge 2024: Adventure Begins at Your Library

This year’s theme is ‘Adventure Begins at Your Library,’ and here at Laramie County Library Systems we know this is true; adventure does begin at your library! Where else can you soar the skies, explore outer space, enjoy a swashbuckling sea voyage, or live out a royal romantic adventure all in one place? Books are a portal to new worlds and experiences, and we have thousands for you to explore.

As with previous years, you’ll earn more rewards the more you read. Whether you’re doing the reading or being read to, all forms of reading count towards prizes. After all your adventuring and hours spent diving into new books, you’ll deserve them!

To learn more about the challenge, this year’s prizes, and how to register, visit the official Summer Reading Challenge 2024 website!

Why Participate in Summer Reading?

Did you know that readers of all ages can participate in Summer Reading? It’s a community celebration that brings together booklovers from childhood to adulthood together. Children participating in SRC 2024 will reap the benefits of developing healthy reading habits while broadening their world and having fun – and the same can be said for adults.

What is the ‘Summer Slide’ Effect?

Summer reading is a powerful tool to help children maintain their reading skills. When summer rolls around, many students stop participating in educational activities. As a result, they can lose some of the knowledge gained during the previous school year – this phenomenon is called the ‘summer slide.’ (U.S. Department of Education)

The U.S. Department of Education encourages parents to bring children to the library during the summer and promote reading in the household to help prevent learning loss. Participating in Summer Reading helps make reading activities fun for kids and adults.

Top 5 Summer Reading Suggestions for Kids, Teens, & Adults

Kids

  • Last Kids on Earth – Max Brallier
  • Amulet: Book 1, The Stonekeeper – Kazu Kibuishi
  • Adventure Friends – Brandon Todd
  • Search for the Giant Squid – Amy Seto Forrester
  • Beowulf – Michael Morpurgo

Teens

  • The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Caraval – Stephanie Garber
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Odyssey – Gareth Hinds

Adult Fiction

  • John Carter of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi: A Novel – Shannon Chakraborty
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Dune – Frank Herbert
  • The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks

Adult Non-Fiction

  • Adventure ready: a hiker’s guide to planning, training & resiliency – Katie Gerber
  • Adventure in everything: how the five elements of adventure create a life of authenticity, purpose, and inspiration – Matthew Walker
  • Adventures in Yellowstone : early travelers tell their tales – Mark Miller
  • The adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: a biography – Russell Miller
  • The adventures of Henry Thoreau: a young man’s unlikely path to Walden Pond – Michael Sims

How to Log Summer Reading Challenge Hours

LCLS uses Beanstack, a digital platform that helps motivate people to read by allowing libraries, schools, and similar institutions to issue reading challenges and track readers’ engagement and progress.  Readers are encouraged to log their reading by creating an account and logging their reading.  Readers who prefer the hands-on approach can pick up a specially designed “reading log” with stickers to help track their reading days. Reading logs will be available at every LCLS library and the Bookmobile starting June 1.

Check out our Summer Reading Events by visiting our calendar or clicking here!

Citations:

Stopping the Summer Slide | U.S. Department of Education

Insights from the Library’s Book Discussion Group: The House of Spirits

July’s Book Discussion read was Chilean author Isabel Allende’s debut novel The House of the Spirits. Though the book neither directly names any historical figures nor specifies where it’s set, it’s widely recognized as a political and social allegory relating the circumstances leading up to the 1973 military coup in which Augusto Pinochet seized political power from Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende. President Allende was the first cousin of Isabel Allende’s father and the author was living and working in Chile at the time of the coup. She was forced to flee to Venezuela after helping targets of political assassination escape Chile. It was during this time of asylum that she wrote The House of the Spirits.

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2023 Summer Reading Challenge Drawing Prize Winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2023 Summer Reading Challenge! Readers logged over 209,000 days of reading this year and over 4,900 people completed the Challenge. We will post the first names and last initials of drawing prize winners by Tuesday, August 18.  Anyone whose name was drawn will be contacted directly via the contact information provided during sign up. We hope to see everyone back for next year’s Summer Reading Challenge!  In the meantime, keep an eye out for other reading challenges and check out our monthly event calendars for all the fun stuff happening at your library. 

To review a list of our youth, teen, adult, and treasure chest drawing prize winners, please click here. Anyone whose name was drawn will be contacted directly via the contact information provided during sign up.

Insights from the Library’s Book Discussion Group: Big Little Lies

June’s book discussion read was Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which follows the lives of three women caught up in a series of events set in motion on the first day of pre-school orientation and culminating in a disastrous school sponsored trivia night months later. Though it can be a difficult read as it shines a harsh light on the realities of domestic violence, bullying, and sexual abuse, the book is, at times, genuinely funny and charming. Much of its charm is due to Madeline Mackenzie, who functions almost as a trickster figure in her role as one of the three main characters.

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Insights from the Library’s Book Discussion Group: The Secret Life of Violet Grant

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is the first novel in the Schuyler Sisters series and the third novel published by perennial best-selling author Beatriz Williams. Stanford educated and a self-professed history buff, Williams worked in the corporate world before devoting her life to writing. Williams’ novels generally fall into the genre of historical fiction with a bit of mystery and romance added to the mix. This is exactly what we find as we follow the parallel stories of Violet Grant in 1914 and her grandniece, Vivian Schuyler, in 1964.

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Laramie County Library System to Host Public Reception Honoring Retiring County Librarian Carey Hartmann

Laramie County Library will host a public reception in the Cottonwood Room from 10am to 12pm on Saturday, July 1 to honor Carey Hartmann as she retires from her position as County Librarian. Having served the library for over 42 years, Carey’s leadership, vision, and experience have helped shape the organization into the outstanding community resource that it is today. Members of the public are invited to attend and celebrate all Carey has done to further the library’s mission to “be a hub for engagement, literacy and learning, and lifelong curiosity and discovery.” The reception will feature refreshments prepared by The Library Café and live musical entertainment performed by the Bluegrass band Pickin Up the Holler. A presentation of remarks from community stakeholders will begin at 10:30am. The event is free and open to all.

Carey began her career with the library in November 1980 when she joined the organization’s Children’s Division. She continued working in positions of increasing responsibility before ultimately being appointed as the County Librarian in August of 2015. She holds a Master of Library Science degree from University of Arizona and has served the library profession through her roles with the American Library Association, Wyoming Library Association, and other committees and organizations.

Her impact on Laramie County Library System is tremendous. Carey led the library through the COVID-19 pandemic, balancing the need to provide vital community services with a dedication to protecting employees and community members. She played a pivotal role in successfully opening the new library building in 2007 and has tirelessly worked to expand the innovative services offered in the Cheyenne, Burns, and Pine Bluffs libraries and on the bookmobile.

The Laramie County Library System congratulates Carey on an incredible career and looks forward to celebrating her achievements at the public reception on July 1.

Contact:

Community & Media Relations at communityrelations@lclsonline.org. For general library information, please call 307-634-3561 or visit https://lclsonline.org.

Juneteenth: Guest Post from Ambreia Meadows-Fernandez

Laramie County Library System is partnering with the NAACP 4108 Cheyenne Chapter to celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 17 at Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The Bookmobile will be at the event to provide information on genealogy resources, library card sign-up, Summer Reading Challenge registration, and more! In celebration of Juneteenth, Ambreia Meadows-Fernandez, an award-winning local journalist and one of the upcoming event’s organizers, wrote a blog post about our nation’s newest federal holiday and provided some great recommendations for further reading on Black culture, identity, and history by Black authors. Enjoy Ambreia’s powerful insights and check out her reading recommendations today!
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