Saturday, May 24, 2014

Portrait of Laramie County

I hope you enjoy Mike Smith’s photo project as much as I. “Our Faces: Portraits of Laramie County” is Mike’s artistic way of showing the great diversity of the people of our community.

Day after day, we witness the project grow. He’s taken, and the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle has published, the photos of those among us who are well known and those who are not. There are photos of the young and the old as they work and play. Mike allows us to see one another. Some are in work clothes, others in costumes. The photographic images demonstrate the vitality of those around us. As the collection grows, we get a sense of the delightful and fulfilling way in which this community lives its daily life.

Recently one photo in particular caught my attention. Thirteen men were pictured sitting around a table at the El Charrito Mexican Grill drinking coffee. Gray hair now and broad smiles like always.

One of my favorite JFK quotes floated to mind as I examined Mike’s photo of these men. Then it was a formal dinner honoring several Nobel Prize winners from the Western Hemisphere. “I think,” said the President so eloquently, “this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House - with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Look at them. There is Gus Fleischli, Dave McCracken, John Pattno, T.V. “Tommy” Jones, Dennis Flynn, Dick Loseke, Larry Atwell, Dan Yoksh, Neil Emmons, Jim Olsen, Morris Perkins, Clark Smith, and Bill Allen.

Looking at their photograph, I couldn’t help but think this is one of the most extraordinary collections of talented, thoughtful, knowledgeable, philanthropic, and caring folks that has ever been gathered in a single room with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

That evening in April of 1962 at the White House, when President Kennedy invoked the name of Jefferson he said, “Thomas Jefferson was a gentleman of 32 who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, and dance the minuet.”

Something akin to that could easily be said of the thirteen men in this edition of Mike Smith’s wonderful “Portrait of Wyoming.” These thirteen could do every bit of that and more.

I’d hazard a guess that among the thirteen, there must be no less than seven to eight centuries of service to our community, state, and nation. Most of these men served the nation in times of war and came home to raise wonderful families and help to build our community.

They served in public office, some as legislators, one was the county sheriff, another the county prosecuting attorney. All of them worked to develop the economy of Laramie County and the State of Wyoming. Their careers included public service, banking, real estate development, energy exploration and production, insurance, education, and more. Some, more quietly than others, were at the center of the history of our community for more than half of the 20th century.

They promoted not only economic development but also the general welfare of the community. They gave time and money to charitable causes, promoted Laramie County Community College and the University of Wyoming, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the United Way, and worked tirelessly on many other efforts to improve the life we all enjoy here.

These thirteen have so many stories to tell. Sitting around that table, smiling and enjoying one another’s company, as Mike Smith photographed them, you can almost hear the stories they are telling.

I’d love to see a photo of thirteen women of the same caliber and contributions. There are others, many others, to whom the same accolades have been earned. Smith’s photo project gives us a chance to meet them all. Laramie County has been blessed with any number of men and women who have made life here the opportunity it is.

Thanks to Mike and the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle for the reminder.

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