Why, oh why, Wyoming?



My mother was born in Wyoming in October of 1919. Her parents were Polish immigrants who came from Austria around the turn of the 20th Century and settled in the United States. Why Austria? Poland didn’t exist when they lived in Europe. It had been partitioned and their part of it was in Austria.

Like many immigrants, they traveled to Chicago. My grandfather was a coal miner in the old country, so he looked for coal mines that were hiring and found opportunities in Wyoming, in the town of Hudson.

Hudson’s post office dates from 1904 and its population peaked around the time my mom was born, at 900 plus people. Mostly though, the population hovered around 300. These days it has about 450 residents.

What do we know about Wyoming? Well, it is very sparsely populated—the least populated in the nation. Lots of open country if you like wide open spaces. Hudson is in a corner of Fremont County, about 20 miles southwest of Riverton and ten miles northeast of Lander.

Hudson’s coal boom didn’t last. Mostly now it’s a place for farming, ranching and other enterprises. Hudson was founded because of a railroad, but it’s long gone. My grandpa found work trimming lumber into railroad ties and selling them to the Chicago and Northwestern.

My grandparents had seven children, including one daughter who died in infancy. There were four girls and two boys. Most of them didn’t want to spend their lives in a town as small or as far from “civilization,” and my mom packed up and went to Chicago as soon as she was old enough.

That was where she met my father, and the rest— as they say—is history.

What’s in Hudson these days? Some businesses, a post office and a steakhouse that is famous among traveling salesmen throughout the west. Hudson seems to have attracted a few retirees. Its neighbor towns are a bit more active. Riverton is the bigger of the two, but Lander is a charming place.

What about Hudson? My grandparents, their infant daughter and one of my uncles are buried there, along with my uncle’s late wife. I visited the town and the cemetery several years ago and found it a peaceful resting place.

I guess peaceful pretty much sums it up. That and a meal from the steakhouse.

WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.

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