Bridges Well Built

Wayne's covered bridge

A little boy named Wayne Baker, along with a few other children, were told by one of their teachers that they “weren’t worth wasting her time on.” So she didn’t.

Eventually Wayne went to Oakland,California to find work and landed there the day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. He found work at a shipyard where he gained priceless knowledge in cutting and welding. Wayne was later drafted and after completing that he put his skills to work building bridges.

I asked Wayne how he decided on bridge building and he replied that someone needed a bridge! “When there is a need you figure out how to do it.” He designs everything he builds.


His first bridge was for the city of Wellington, Utah in the early thirties. He has since built over a hundred. One was for the tiny town of Hailstone, Utah. While in the river splicing it together they stopped for lunch. Walking into a nearby café they heard the TV announcing that President Kennedy had been shot.

Later they moved back to their home town of Freedom, Wyoming where he and Dick Casull (of .454 Casull fame) established a gun manufacturing company. This business continued for many years. Dick passed away in 2018 but

Wayne is still chairman of the board of that thriving business.

Most of the private bridges in Star Valley are to his credit but he also has some in Jackson, Wilson, Teton Village, and Pinedale, Wyoming as well as Driggs and Victor, Idaho.

A celebrity was asked why he had three bridges on his property when two would have done the job. He replied, “I like Wayne’s bridges.”


Wayne and some of his colleagues have worked hard to get money together to start a trade school in Star Valley and it is well underway. Probably a wave of the future.

Imagine what Wayne could have accomplished if that teacher had chosen to “waste” her time on him…

Wayne and Miriam had eight children, (they lost their oldest son in an automobile accident when he was seventeen) 40 grandchildren, “around” 120 great grandchildren and ten great-great grandchildren. His beloved wife of nearly 73 years passed away this past January. He said she was a sweetheart – a wonderful wife and mother – and the reason he has been successful.

Wayne is 95 years old. He says he retires every night and that’s as close as it will get.


© Copyright 2013 Life in the Loony Lane | June Johnston. All Rights Reserved
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Flutes, Woodpeckers, and Bob


 My husband has decided that he wants to learn to play the flute.   I feel fortunate that he chose a relatively quiet instrument.  During early marriage, he decided to learn the guitar, but was too busy with work and family so gave that up.  Now in “later marriage” we’re back to learning music again.  Thank goodness he has his man cave.  I can close the door.  Maybe lock it if need be!

When our children were old enough we got instruments for them and they took band at school.    They played their little concerts for us at home, and we enjoyed attending the school performances.  One played the trumpet, one the clarinet, and one the modern day flute.

The Native American flute has a lovely, soothing sound that has been used for centuries for inspiration, healing, meditation, and even love. Legend has it that a young man was totally smitten with a lovely lady but could not get her attention no matter what he did.  Eventually, he discovered that a branch with holes in it from a woodpecker’s handiwork made a lovely sound when the wind blew through it.  He wondered if his breath would do the same, and it did.  He learned to create beautiful, soulful music with the instrument and finally got her attention leading to gaining her love.  It then became customary to play the flute for the lady whose attention you want to attract.  

Flute music is rich in folklore but some very serious issues can be addressed with the help of its amazing music: “I heard how playing the flute and creating music enhanced people’s lives.  I heard stories from caregivers, how playing their flute eased their patient’s discomforts.  Other therapeutic stories, involving people with asthma or C.O.P.D., war veterans who found comfort in playing their flute.  Teenagers suffering from self-esteem issues were suddenly finding confidence. I heard from those incarcerated, who found joy at having a new way to express their feelings.”– Odell Borg on High Spirits Blog

As always, there is lots of mixed information in history, but it appears that the Anasazi had flutes as early as 625 AD.  Through the years there have been many different designs used by the various tribes.  The famous Kokopelli, a widely recognized image today, is a symbol of fertility and is usually shown playing the flute.   Its music is now found in New Age and world music recordings, as well as in western music, rock bands, jazz, and symphonies.

Bob is doing well with his flute, and I have no doubt that he will be playing beautiful music for us very soon.  He may be planning to expand his horizons though.  I found his letter to Santa and he was requesting a drum for Christmas. So much for quiet music!


© Copyright 2013 Life in the Loony Lane | June Johnston. All Rights Reserved
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Lloyd Baker, Centenarian Surveyor and Singer

IMG_9727 Lloyd Baker age 106

Born in Afton, Wyoming in 1911, he was raised on a farm south of Etna and graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1940 with a degree in civil engineering.

With very primitive tools, Lloyd performed his first survey in Cokeville, Wyoming, about 75 miles down the road from Etna, the town he settled in when he “came home.” The loop within those few miles took him from coast to coast working as a surveyor. Continue reading

Speaking of Love


February is the month when you will find the florist’s shops overflowing with roses.  Floriography was a method used by Victorians to send messages to others without uttering a word – thus the roses became symbolic of love, especially for Valentine’s Day.

There are several other flowers or plants that suggest love as well.  Lovegrass is a very beautiful perennial with ornamental, wispy plumes. Its Greek name is eragrostis:  eros meaning love and agrostis meaning grass.   It’s also used as fodder for livestock. Continue reading

Fly, Turkey, Fly!

The first Thanksgiving in this country has many variations including what was for dinner. (Hint: it wasn’t beef.) They had whatever they could get their hands on which included different kinds of birds, deer, and crops they had grown. The cornucopia, also called the horn-of-plenty, is a symbol of those crops.
The origin of the turkey as the preferred bird for the meal is also debatable but the story I like best is that in the 1950’s the Saturday Evening Post ran a Thanksgiving cover (painted by Norman Rockwell) of a family around the dinner table with a scrumptious turkey as the main dish. It caught on like wildfire!
We all strive for the perfect
Continue reading

Sunday Morning Breakfast

Sunday Morning Breakfast.

I love small towns!  It’s just that simple.

We have been blessed to go to breakfast with some very special friends on Sunday mornings at Tootsie’s in Thayne, Wyoming for several years now and I am ever more aware of just what a gift that is.   They are wonderful people.

I also enjoy the camaraderie of the other breakfast guests in the restaurant.  Friends may wave at each other across the room, call out a greeting, or just smile – but it’s special.  Some may stop for a minute Continue reading

Crazy Woman Creek – The Story of a Heartbroken Woman

Twelve miles from Buffalo, Wyoming, you can step back in time and feel the presence of a woman gone mad.  Wyoming has never been an easy place to live – you have to really want to be here, but at the beginning – when this wonderful chunk of real estate was not yet a territory – things were much more difficult. 

There are a number of stories as to how the name Crazy Woman Creek, Crazy Woman Canyon, and Crazy Woman Battlefield, came to be – the name alone conjures up visions of horror

One of the most valid stories seems to be that during the era when whites traded Indians for their furs, a misunderstanding led to some Indians scalping a white man right in front of his bride (also white). Her blood-curdling cry was so horrifying that the Indians were afraid of harming her.

She, no doubt, had the same dream most of us have – a future- with her husband, children, a warm, loving home, only to have it shattered right in front of her eyes.  In a split-second, all of that was taken from her.

She wandered the hills alone the rest of her life, never finding her sanity again.  Often she was sighted and fed by various mountain men, only to disappear once more.  One kindly gentleman built her a cabin and she was eventually found dead there, apparently of starvation, years later. 

If you listen carefully, while winding your way through that hauntingly beautiful canyon, you may hear the maniacal cry of a distraught, heart-broken woman.  The wind gently whispers its sad secrets as the creek ripples through the canyon, leaving history in its droplets. Such tragedy in the shadow of the beautiful Big Horn Mountains is beyond sad.


© Copyright 2013 Life in the Loony Lane | June Johnston. All Rights Reserved
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Our Beautiful Grey’s River


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We went road-tripping’ into the  Greys River area this past Sunday.  It is such a beautiful forest.   Lot’s of nice camping spots for tents and RVs alike.  It’s known as the river with a road beside it.

IMG_9911 Greys RIver

At Alpine, a nearby town, there is a huge, beautiful lake known as the Palisades, where the convergence of Salt River, Snake river, and Grey’s flow into it.   The gorgeous Snake River Canyon goes up to Jackson Hole on the east, and northwest the highway will take you to Idaho.

John Grey, AKA, Ignace Hatchiorauguasha, a very well educated half- Iroquois, was responsible for breaking Britain’s hold on the fur trade which led to the acquisition of the Oregon Territory for America.  The river was named after him.

IMG_9874 Flowers Greys

The Greys River is about 62 miles long and starts high up in the Wyoming Range, 45 miles south of Alpine.  It is a beautiful, rushing stream that separates the Wyoming Range from the Salt River Range on the west.  If you ever have the opportunity to camp along that river you will love it.

IMG_9905 River grasses Greys

It is considered one of the best playgrounds in the area, offering superb trout fishing, canoeing, rafting, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and of course, abundant deer and elk for the hunters.


IMG_9940 Greys RIver sign - Copy jpg for blog

This post shows just a few of the abundant wildflowers in the mountain valley.  What could be better than being surrounded by mountains, some about 11,000 feet, a wonderful mountain stream, and the serenity that only that scenario can provide?

IMG_9938 FLowers on the Greys

However – if I were camping in a tent, I might choose to sleep in my car, lest an unfriendly bear pays me a visit!



© Copyright 2013 Life in the Loony Lane | June Johnston. All Rights Reserved
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Devils Tower, Our First National Monument


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The tower rises majestically some 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River in Northwest Wyoming and is 867 feet from base to summit, with a base circumference of one mile. It is a spectacular sight, rugged, picturesque,  and often used for weddings,  filming, and commercial photography (permits required).

“Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is the movie that made the tower famous in 1977.  It’s more than a movie to the Indians – to them it is sacred and they ask that people voluntarily refrain from climbing it during the month of June in order to show respect for the culture of the American Indians since June is a month when many of their ceremonies traditionally occur.

Mis-translation of a word back in 1800 gives it the name, “Bad God’s Tower” which morphed into “Devils Tower,”  the apostrophe being lost due to a clerical error.  Various tribes had many different names for it: Bear Rock, Tree Rock, He Hota Paha, Grizzly Bear Lodge, to name a few.

How it was created gives way to many legends. The Kiowa say that there were seven sisters who ran into a giant bear.  They ran away and jumped on a small stump that quickly grew into the enormous stump we see today in order for the girls to escape.  The girls were whisked up into the sky and became the stars that form our Big Dipper.

Cheyenne legend states that while some of them were traveling to worship the Great Spirit, one of their wives became enamored with a mate-less bear, the men chased the giant bear, it chased them up a huge tree, they killed the bear, the woman turned into a bear and made the huge rock her home.  It became known at the Bear’s Tipi.

My favorite is the story of two young Indian boys who, as young boys will do, got lost.  They walked for days trying to find their way home, to no avail.   Eventually, coming face to face with Mato, a giant bear who shook the very earth with every step he took, they knew they were doomed.  In their struggles to get away, they fell and the earth rose with them on it.  Up, up, up it went to the height the tower is today.  The bear could almost touch the top, but not quite. It clawed viciously all the way around the towering chunk of earth but finally left in frustration.   Wanblee, a great eagle, extended his enormous talons for the boys to grab hold of and he delivered them back to their village, thus giving the boys quite a story to tell their grandchildren.

Geologist tells us that molten rock was forced up between other rock formations, some say it is the tip of an extinct volcano. Others feel the tower was formed underground, uplifted, and erosion formed what we see today.  More recently I’ve heard that it is a petrified tree going back to the time of giants.

Now, I’ll tell you what – I would hate to meet up with a bear the size of which was as tall as the Tower, and I shudder to contemplate the size the people would have been to match their surroundings.  Think how hard it would be to buy clothing!


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