WLM Summer 2019 - Page 8

WLM | people SPEAKING OF O nce upon a time 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. When Wayne reached high school, he was in an automobile accident that kept him out of school for a period of time. When he learned that he would have to take that grade over he chose not to. Wayne went to California where he knew there was plenty of work and stayed with one of his brothers with the intention of earning some money and then coming back to finish school. He arrived in Oakland, California one day before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Wayne then went to work for Western Union for a short time and then found work at a shipyard where he gained priceless knowledge in cutting and welding. When his draft number came up, he began basic training in Fresno for the Air Force. After the service, Wayne put his skills to work creating bridges. I asked Wayne how he happened to get into bridge building. His reply was simple -- because someone needed a bridge! He said, “I figure out what it takes to do each job, then I do it. If someone has a need, you take care of it.” Wayne designs everything he builds. He has also built 40-50 cattle guards and many gates. 6 Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine | Summer 2019 Wayne built his first bridge in Wellington, Utah in 1958 when he was in his early thirties. It was for the city, was 40-50 feet long and crossed the Price River. He has since built over a hundred bridges. One of them was in Colorado, north of Grand Junction. The power plant was on one side and the coal on the other. “They had to go a long way around to get the coal. I built a bridge so they could go right across to the power plant. It was a 110 foot bridge with seven foot beams,” Wayne explains. He built a bridge in the tiny town of Hailstone, Utah in 1963. It was done in two sections to get it up the winding road out of Price, Utah. They had to lay on their backs in the river welding to splice it together. While doing that, they stopped for lunch and walked to a nearby café. Upon entering, the TV was announcing that President Kennedy had just been shot! By 1968, he and Art Linkletter (of “Kids Say the Darndest Things” fame) were partners in a coal mine in Price, Utah. The mine flourished and produced ten times the national average per man shift at that time. After they sold the mine, Wayne and his wife, Mariam, moved back to Freedom, Wyoming. There, along with Dick and Jeri Casull (of .454 Casull fame), Wayne established a gun manufacturing company. Dick Casull recently passed away, but Wayne is still chairman of the board of that thriving company.