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Know your enemy: Wyoming edition

It's game day, people...but we don't get to watch our Broncos till early evening. Whatever shall we do? Read these tried-and-true Wyoming facts and figures I suppose.

Ten things Bronco fans probably didn't know about the University of Wyoming or their altitudinous abode

10) The town of Laramie was actually named after a French-Canadian fur trapper named Jacques La Remee. La Remee set out on a trapping expedition in 1820 or 1821 to get his hands on some of real choice pelts, but never arrived at his rendezvous point and was never seen again. The mainstream media of the day blamed his disappearance on the Arapahoe Indians, but the Indians were all like "WHAAAT?". To this day, no one really knows what became of La Remee, but it apparently intrigued people enough to name a bunch of stuff after him, including the Laramie River, the city of Laramie, Fort Laramie, Laramie Peak, and Laramie County, Wyoming. Kinda makes you yearn for these simpler times, when all it took to get a location named after you was to be the first person there, the last person there, or the deadest person there.

9) Laramie, Wyoming—the stately home of the University of Wyoming—was founded in the mid-1860s as a tent city outpost near the Overland Stage Line route and the Union Pacific railroad. By 1868, town had gained some bit of notoriety when it became the western terminal of the Union Pacific Railroad...a distinction that lasted all of 3 months, when a new section of railroad was opened to Benton, Wyoming (at the time known as "the Most un-Laramiest Place on Earth"). Along with losing their hip, western terminal status, the town became lawless and "ungovernable" when "Big" Steve Long became the town's first marshal. Long and two brothers named Con and Ace Moyer (parents were gamblers, perhaps) began to terrorize the townsfolk...and not in a whimsical Yosemite Sam-type way...a murdery way.

Long and the Moyer bros (who owned a town saloon with the quaint name "Bucket of Blood") started to harass the townsfolk and force them to sign over the deeds to their land, with non-compliance usually resulting in death. By October of '68, Long had killed 13 men and was actually looking like not the best choice for town marshal. Later that month, the county Sheriff N.K. Boswell, organized a "Vigilance Committee" that he marched into the Bucket of Blood to apprehend Long and the Moyer boys. Long and Moyer boys were given a stern talking to and told to never pull their hijinx within city limits again. Just kidding, Boswell's vigilantes, dragged Long and his pals down the street to an unfinished cabin frame and lynched all three. This episode was particularly noteworthy because it marked the last time that anything cool happened in Laramie, Wyoming.

8) Wyoming played their first collegiate football game on February 22, 1893 and head coach Fred Hess led the team to a stunning 14-0 triumph over Cheyenne High School. Upon hearing of the utter domination of Cheyenne High, President Benjamin Harrison was quoted as saying, "who did what now?"

7) Wyoming's school song is "Ragtime Cowboy Joe"...a hit 1912 song composed by Maurice Abrahams and Lewis F. Muir. The lyrics to the song are as follows:

He always sings
Raggy music to the cattle 
as he swings 
back and forth in the saddle,
on a horse—a pretty good horse! 
He's got a syncopated gaiter, 
and you ought to hear the meter 
to the roar of his repeater; 
how they run—yes run!— 
when they hear him 'a-comin', 
cause the western folks all know, 
he's a high-falootin', rootin', tootin', 
son of a gun from ol' Wyoming, 
Ragtime Cowboy 
Talk about your Cowboy, 
Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

Composer Maurice Abrahams' other hit, "He'd Have to Get Under ‚ Get Out and Get Under (to Fix Up His Automobile)" is by sheer coincidence, my high school's fight song.

6) On November 5, 1949, the Wyoming Cowboys stormed into Greeley, Colorado and defeated Northern Colorado by a score of 103-0. Coach Bowden Wyatt's Cowboy squad went 9-1 that year and won the Mountain States Conference Championship. Shockingly, the Northern Colorado team went 0-8 that season although it should be noted that their D-line consisted of a baby, an Allen wrench, a one lb. sack of Gold Medal Flour, and an inanimate carbon rod.


Northern Colorado's 1949 starting defensive end.

5) Coach Lloyd Eaton (1962-1970) had just one losing season at Wyoming and left the school with a 64% win rate, but may have done enough damage on his way out to set the football team back decades. In 1969, the Cowboys were off to 4-0 start and hadn't had a losing season in nearly two decades, but the day before the team played BYU, all 14 of the team's African-American players marched into Coach Eaton's office and announced their intentions to wear black armbands for the game against the Cougars to protest some of the LDS church's policies. Well, Eaton didn't overreact at all to the player's request...he marched them into Memorial Gym and dismissed every last one of them from the team. The Cowboys beat BYU that year, but lost their last 4 games of the season and won just one game the following year. Eaton left after the 1970 season, but the school didn't post another winning season until 1976 and have had rather spotty bouts of winning seasons in the 40-some-odd years since the so-called "Black 14" incident. Ahhh, the far as I know, nothing controversial, untoward, or turbulent happened during them.

4) Basketball today would be slightly more boring had it not been for the ingenuity of Wyoming Alum Ken Sailors. Prior to Sailor's remarkable stroke of genius, it was apparently thought uncouth for a basketball player's feet to leave the floor while making a shot. This was apparently also around the time that a two-handed underhand approach (the "Granny Shot") was deemed most effective for shooting free-throws and basketballs were made of raccoon hides. Well, old Ken Sailors—three-time All-American at UW—would have none of this flat-footed mumbo-jumbo and invented the modern jump-shot. For his efforts, Sailors will have a place in sports history books next to such innovators as Dick Fosbury, inventor of the modern high-jump technique, and Damien Rossignol, the first guy to use skis to get down a hill rather than the accepted method of the time—riding a sherpa.


Sailors with his feet firmly on the God intended.

3) "The Cowboys" has been the nickname of the University of Wyoming athletic squads for almost as long as the school has been around. Legend has it, that a bonafide cowboy assisted the football team back in their early years...although in what capacity, I'm not sure—possibly storing gatorade in his hat (ten gallons worth, natch). The name stuck and the Cowboys moniker (along with "Cowgirls") has been used ever since. "Cowboy Joe" is a live pony that does what ponies do (prance?) at home games, and "Pistol Pete" is the costumed mascot that kinda looks like a bow-legged G. Gordon Liddy. As far as the school colors are concerned...I believe that the first mascot sat on a chipped beef and mustard sandwich and the resulting pants-ruining color combo was a big hit with the students.

Cowboy Joe

2) Colorado State is Wyoming's oldest and bitterest rival. The two school's have been engaging in their "Border War" since 1899 and have played all but a handful of years since the contests' inception. Since 1968, the winner of the annual matchup receives the Bronze Boot trophy...which is a boot that I wanna say is made of copper. Currently, CSU holds the edge in the all-time series 59-45-4. The boot was made for walkin'

1) The Cowboys play their home games on Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. The Stadium currently has a capacity of 30,514 and, at 7,220 feet above sea-level, is the highest altitude field in Division 1 football. The football field is named "Jonah Field" in honor of the Wyoming Gas Fields in the Green River Basin. The Wyoming Gas Fields are estimated to contain 10.5 trillion cubic feet (297 billion cubic meter) of natural gas. The nearby Colorado Gas Fields is just a vacant field where they hold an annual chili cook-off. Hey-O!