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The View from Thunderhead

Reflections on the History, Culture, People, and Politics of Wyoming

By Ray Hunkins

This limited edition book is available for purchase only through this website. All proceeds from the sale of this book benefit The Louisa Swain Foundation.

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The View from Thunderhead Trust
PO Box 1293
Wheatland, WY 82201

To order a book, mail a check and your shipping address to our post office box. The cost for a single book is $55 plus $13.00 for shipping and handling for a total of $68.00.

If you would like to order more than one book, or if you need expedited shipping, email us the details (number of books, shipping address, and desired delivery date), and we’ll calculate the cost.

Make your check out to “The View From Thunderhead Trust Account” and mail it to PO Box 1293, Wheatland, WY 82201.

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Praise for The View from Thunderhead

Ray Hunkins has contributed so much to Wyoming—and here he goes again with this wonderful book. Full of colorful stories and deep insights, The View from Thunderhead is must-reading for everyone who wants to know more about the Equality State and the women and men who created it.

Lynne Cheney

Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute, Second Lady of the United States 2001–2009, Chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities 1986–1993; Editor, Washington Magazine 1983–1986

In this lively memoir and history, Ray Hunkins writes of what he sees as the real Wyoming—in its legacy, its politics, its land, its people, and its history (including the story of Wyoming’s key role in women suffrage). Fellow US Marines and lawyers, we celebrate Wyoming’s uniqueness as historians and columnists. (But as Wyomingites, we’ve also disagreed on politics and, a time or two, on historical interpretation). Nonetheless, Ray’s reflections told in this remarkable book remind us of the many reasons we love living here. His passion for Wyoming shows throughout in this thought-provoking memoir by a true Wyoming original.

Phil Roberts, JD, PhD

Professor of History Emeritus, University of Wyoming

The View from Thunderhead is Ray Hunkins’ deeply personal, passionate memoir—as when with pen in hand, from time to time—or from issue to issue—when that old Marine discipline and patriotism of his kicks in there is Ray, and whether you agree or not—you see his unconditional love of Wyoming and its history, its people, its institutions, and its culture.

Alan K. Simpson

U.S. Senator, Wyo. (Retired)

No one is more passionate about Wyoming than Ray Hunkins. For those of us who admire Wyoming from afar, The View from Thunderhead is our window into Ray’s respect for the strengths of the Wyoming people, the depths of their culture, and the complexity of their landscapes. Through his eyes and pen, we discover the values, ethics, and patriotism of its citizens, past and present. Prepare to be entertained and enlightened as Ray provides us with discourse and debate, laced with humor and humility, to connect the dots from a wild frontier—to the “44th State of The Union”—to a “State of Force & Fame” in the 21st Century.

Bruce Rohde

Chairman & CEO Emeritus, ConAgra Foods

Like Wyoming, its people, weather, politics, history, and landscapes, Ray Hunkins is an enigma. A cowboy, businessman, a lawyer passionate in the pursuit of truth and justice, and a sensitive, introspective Marine who embraces the tranquility of walking Ashley Creek and cherishes the land—mountains and desert alike. In The View From Thunderhead Ray has thoughtfully reflected on what is meaningful to him, and to so many who live in the West—relationships, land, tradition, education, culture, faith, integrity, and family. We will all be the better for Ray’s having committed his musings to paper and sharing them with us in this beautiful book.

Mike Sullivan

Governor of Wyoming, 1987-1995, United States Ambassador to Ireland, 1998-2001

About the Author

Ray Hunkins, an award-winning author, is a Marine and retired attorney and rancher who was the Republican nominee for Governor of Wyoming in 2006. He is an emeritus fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers. Ray has been active in state and community affairs during his 50-year professional career and is a former Chairman of the Board of the Louisa Swain Foundation. After living and working in Wheatland and rural Platte County, Wyoming, for 44 years, he and his wife Debby moved to Cheyenne to be closer to their oldest daughter and her family.

About the Publisher

The Louisa Swain Foundation, publisher of The View From Thunderhead, is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation dedicated to preserving, celebrating and educating the public concerning the heritage and history of the world’s first woman voter to cast a ballot under democratically enacted law that granted women equal political rights. Louisa Swain voted in Laramie, Wyoming, on September 6, 1870, 50 years before the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. The Foundation fosters education in democracy, human rights and suffrage.

The Louisa Swain Foundation identifies and recognizes those who, through their actions and accomplishments, display the qualities of community, courage and strength of character as exhibited by Louisa Swain when she cast her historic ballot.

Excerpt from The View from Thunderhead

The Thunderhead, our ranch, is some twenty-seven miles west of Wheatland, in the Laramie Mountains of southeastern Wyoming…

For forty years we owned and operated the Thunderhead. I have been inspired by the landscapes and vistas, as well as the turbulence and tranquility that are part of living and working in what is known as the “Laramie Peak Country” of southeastern Wyoming…

It would be an understatement to say that I developed an attachment to the Thunderhead. I love the place. The ranch has been an important part of my life—of my family’s life—as we grew and matured…

The idea for this book, and many of the essays in it, came to me like so many ideas have over the years, during a walk down the aspen lined lane leading from the ranch house.

It is a beautiful walk along Ashley Creek, the small brook that is the confluence of two springs just above our house. Such a walk lends itself to reflective thought, whether about cattle and horses, weather and climate, trials and appeals, or politics and philosophy. Each of those topics has been the subject of many musings during our years of stewardship of the land and wildlife that is the Thunderhead, each muse the product of reflections during my walks along Ashley Creek…

—From the Introduction to The View From Thunderhead, Reflections on the History, Culture, People and Politics of Wyoming

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments   vii
Author’s Note   ix
The Louisa Swain Foundation   xiii
Introduction   xv

Part One:  Reflections on Wyoming History and Culture   1
 1. How Wyoming Became the Equality State   3
 2. Wyoming’s Historic Women   23
 3. Wyoming v. New Jersey: Which Was the First to Enfranchise Women?   29
 4. Who Defends the “Culture” in Agriculture?   33
 5. A Vision for Wyoming’s Cattle Industry   37
 6. The Western Range Revisited, Part I   41
 7. The Western Range Revisited, Part II   51
 8. Looking Down from the Mountain: Sam Western’s Search for Wyoming’s Soul   57
 9. Bull Riders Make Good Marines   65
10. Guts on the Gridiron, Guts in the Guard   69
11. Brown and Gold Forever!   73
12. In Defense of the Ideals and Traditions of the American West   79

Part Two: Reflections on Wyoming People and Politics   85
13. Father DeSmet and the Last Rendezvous   87
14. The Indomitable Estelle Reel, Wyoming’s First Woman Politician   93
15. True Grit in a Wheelchair   115
16. Caspar Collins, Wyoming Hero   127
17. What Ails the GOP and How to Fix It   131
18. Term Limits   135
19. Sarah Palin and the Promise of Reform   139
20. Reflections from a Gubernatorial Campaign   143
21. An Unfair Attack on Our Governor   149
22. Accountability for School Performance   159
23. Governing Our Schools  163
24. Character Development and Ethical Training in Our Schools   167
25. Reforming the Endangered Species Act: An Opportunity   171
26. Oil and Gas Exploration Makes Sense   175
27. Drilling for Oil and Gas? Not in My Backyard!   179
28. Raising Taxes Is Not the Answer   183
29. It’s About Efficient Spending, Not More Revenue   187
30. The Financial Crisis of 2008: What We Learned   191

Part Three: Reflections on Friends and Faith   195
31. Remarks Delivered on the Occasion of the Desert Storm/Iraq War Memorial Dedication; Veterans Cemetery, Casper, Wyoming, July 26, 2003   197
32. In the Presence of John Paul II   201
33. Balint Vazsonyi   207
34. Wyoming Catholic Register’s Interview with Ray Hunkins   211

Afterword   223

Events & Media Coverage

Local rancher publishes book of Wyoming stories

The Platte County Record-Times published an article about the Platte County Historical Society’s program and book signing for The View from Thunderhead held at the Platte County Library on Oct. 29, 2019. The article was picked up by the Washington Post in their “Only In America” section.