New books shed light on various historical views

Joy Ufford photos

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Sometimes a book is about one person’s story and journey. Another might delve into people whose started small and came together as a community.

Then again, a book might be about an author’s infamous great-uncle, like the fondly remembered Butch Cassidy.

All three were part of a special Sublette Centennial presentation on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 7, at the Sommers Homestead Living History Museum. A shaded tent, lemonade and a curious group of readers gathered to hear first-time author Scott Werbelow, the more experienced Bill Betensen and prolific Sublette historians and authors Ann Noble and Jonita Sommers.

Son of a Poacher

Werbelow, a Wyoming Game and Fish game warden in Pinedale for 15 of his 28 years, talked first about his autobiographical debut, Son of a Poacher – Wyoming Warden in the Making. Werbelow now lives in Meeteetste and is the Cody Region’s game warden coordinator.

Revealing many personal stories and hardships from growing up on a remote ranch – such as his father truly was an alcoholic and poacher – he grew determined to become a game warden, even with an industrial arts degree.

After four years as a temporary employee, he was allowed to take the test.

“It was very competitive,” Werbelow said. “There are crazy stories from my childhood to finally taking the warden’s exam. And all of the stories are true.”

Transforming his life into chapters wasn’t easy, he added, and the “biggest holdback” for someone “with an F minus in English” was to publish a memoir. He met a woman who knew his family and after hearing he became a game warden, told him, “You should write a book!”

She referred him to XLibris in Indiana; he called, sent the manuscript, which they edited and returned. He proofed it again and sent it back.

Two days later, a friend reported Son of a Poacher was selling on Amazon –“He bought a copy of my book before I even had one myself!”

Werbelow is working on his next book, True Stories of a Wyoming Game Warden.

Signed copies of Son of a Poacher are sold at Office Outlet, Museum of the Mountain Man and www.scottwerbelow.com.

Butch Cassidy – The Wyoming Years

Bill Betensen’s great-grandmother, Lula Parker Betensen, was the younger sister of Robert LeRoy Parker. She had written her own book, Butch Cassidy – My Brother, and was welcomed onto the movie set when Paul Newman and Robert Redford portrayed the “almost true” story of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Betensen grew up with her firsthand stories, memories and photos and after 20 years of research, wrote Butch Cassidy – My Uncle, A Family Portrait in 2007.

His second book, Butch Cassidy – The Wyoming Years, brought him to explore local nooks and crannies with Jonita Sommers as tour guide.

“Wyoming was really a safe spot for him,” he said of his great-uncle, first known as Bob Parker and later in Wyoming as George Cassidy.

“I learned that Butch loved Wyoming and as a result, people of Wyoming found him endearing,” he said. Betensen said it was important to verify the stories, because Wyomingites love passing along tidbits. One unsubstantiated tale was that Cassidy gave a woman money to pay off the bank manager, told her to get a receipt and afterward robbed the banker.

On the second book’s cover, a familiar and archival photo, newly colorized, looks startlingly alive, as if Bob Parker or George “Butch” Cassidy just sat down in front of the camera. For his next book he’s considering Butch Cassidy’s possible “hidden treasure” sites.

Both of Betensen’s books are available through High Plains Press and Amazon. 

Homesteading and Ranching in the Upper Green River Valley

This massive attractive book by Ann Chambers Noble and Jonita Sommers contains the most detailed individual histories about settlement, traditions and transitions of Sublette County where the Green has its headwaters.

Noble started it as a project for the Green River Valley Land Trust to document several historic ranches in the Upper Green’s nine drainages. It turned into a four-year project with Noble enlisting Sommers’ expertise and knowledge.

“It would be impossible to cover every ranch,” Noble said. “There were an estimated 2,500 homesteads in this area; we have no idea of how many didn’t make it.”

For each successful homesteader who lived and built on their acreage, there were probably three who failed, Noble said. Those families and ranches that thrived grew very interconnected over the years.

The book contains hundreds of historic photos with contemporary landscapes intermingled and was published by Laguna Wilderness Press. It took several tries to get the look and feel the authors wanted, and out-of-state editors had a difficult time “allowing” them to use local vernacular – but the result is an award-winning effort of monumental proportions.

The book is available at the Museum of the Mountain Man, Green River Valley Museum, The Cowboy Shop and online.

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Joy Ufford photos

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