WLM Summer 2019 - Page 23

– WLM | history OF 1949 Christmas for several decades as Wayne’s wife Rosetta sent an annual Christmas card and not only thanked him for saving their lives that day but told of how her daughter Theresa Ann was doing and the wonderful young lady she was growing up to be. Each year, Merl reflected on the time spent with the Yohe family during the blizzard and always blamed himself for the untimely demise of Mr. Yohe. I told his sister that I wish I could express, not only to her brother but her family, that Merl’s efforts were met by the strong will of a young man determined to save his young family. I went on to tell his sister that at some point one of these men would win this struggle of wills and it happened to be Wayne, as he found a way to leave the safety of the truck in an attempt to find assistance. She then told me she wished her brother could have heard these words and not struggled all those years with the chain of events that took place as the blizzard isolated himself and his passengers from being rescued. This story, like so many others I have heard, made me realize that so many lived with the memories of the blizzard. Some were reliving a story from my book; others were presenting me with new facts, sharing information that newspaper articles and eyewitness accounts had missed. A story in my book tells of one of the many trains stranded in Green River. In a letter written by Miss Bonnie Lee Ellington of Omaha to a friend, Mr. Allen James Kitson of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Miss Ellington estimated there were over 1,500 people stranded with her in Green River from both trains and automobiles who couldn’t maneuver the drifting snow. Miss Ellington and her fellow train passengers had left Los Angeles on January 2 and became stranded in Green River from January 3-6. In addition to the travelers there were a variety of athletic teams, including two hockey teams, two basketball teams and one football team. A long-standing rumor I had heard from many a Cowboy fan was that the stranded University of Wyoming Cowboys basketball team, en route to Laramie, entertained the Green River community (then bloated with an additional, stranded population) with a game against the also stranded Hamlin Pipers basketball team. An interview with Mr. Kerwin Englehart led me to believe no game took place. However, Miss Ellington’s letter noted that a game did take place, “… between one of the teams on our train and a team from one of the Streamliners.” Besides the basketball game, stranded passengers enjoyed a special matinee at the only theatre in town, attended a dance hosted at the local high school, and joined in a singing session led by a group of college boys. Miss Ellington described in her letter that food was plentiful, only running out of milk. She concluded her letter, “Although it was a lot of fun, I don’t think I would care to do it again very soon.” It was an absolute honor to write The Blizzard of 1949: Surviving the Storm. As I have visited towns across the state I am humbled by the turnout at each event and the overwhelming response to my book. I trust that I have been able to tell your story to those not only in Wyoming but across the United States. Thank you for the support and opportunity to visit your towns and tell you more about the Blizzard of 1949 and how it affected the state of Wyoming. W L M www.wyolifestyle.com 21