Wyoming In the 1980’s Oil Bust – Part 2

by Woodsbum

My last post talked about what Wyoming was like when I was there in the early 80’s. It was a very difficult time and it caused us to live through what some would consider a SHTF type scenario. I know it really forced me to make changes in my life to cover my family if something like this ever happens again to us. Luckily, we were able to make it through by simply adapting and overcoming things as best we could. Eventually we did have to move to Texas with whatever we could salvage, but lasted for about 5 years before we lost our home. Considering how bad it was, we did pretty well.

This is how our family ended up making it through the ordeal.

Many of our friends were Mormon, which really saved our rear ends. My father would get me from school and take me out to go shoot wild game. I would bag a deer, antelope, rabbits, grouse, or some other wild meat, clean it, bone it, and bring out the meat in garbage bags and a backpack. We would use much of that meat, but would trade what we could to our Morman friends for canned items and other food stuffs. The one year I know I had to have harvested a couple dozen large game animals just myself. This was when I was in my later years of grade school (5th and 6th grade).

We were literally so poor, but still holding on, that I had to make and wear moccasins because we didn’t have the money to buy me new shoes. They were double hide buck skin that I had shot previously and ugly as sin. To this day I have a weird thing where I have to keep several pairs of shoes around me, even in my truck and under my desk at work. It just really messed with me and I still freak out when my kids (now grown) don’t have several pair as backups in case something happens.

At that time there was a bounty on coyotes. My father would get me from school and we would head out during the week to go get enough to make the difference in our house payment or electricity bills. I remember that the bounty was up to $75 per set of ears at one point. We would go out early in the morning and harvest a few rabbits that we would “fillet and release” back into the wild. In another words, we shot them and then spread their entrails around the fields after we cooked up the meat for breakfast. We would then call in the predators and shoot whatever had a bounty. Every once in a while we would get a fox. Those didn’t have a bounty, but we could sell the fur for over $100 if we didn’t mess it up too badly with the rifle.

My father and I would also hire out on farms and ranches to repair different equipment. I was only a kid, but I was very capable and proficient with driving different types of heavy equipment. Since my dad could fix almost anything and was an excellent welder, I would get a few extra dollars for us by running a tractor for such things as haying crews, mowers, etc or crane for scrappers pulling old oil gear. It was bad enough at times that I actually missed a few months of school here and there to help my father out on the road while he did mechanical work or welding.

Now what all did I learn from this 5 years of hell? That is a good question. I can tell you what some of the skills I know possess are and what changes in my life are a direct cause of this time growing up:

  • I know that I can hunt and fish efficiently enough to feed myself. This includes processing, preserving, and even smoking the meat to ensure the supply will last. Many may scoff, but that is how we ate and lived for 3 of those 5 years in Wyoming.
  • It is necessary to buy items that will be eventually used when you have the money. This includes ammunition, food, equipment, etc.
  • Learn from everyone even if you don’t agree with their religion or philosophy. The LDS church is huge on food preps and saving things for a rainy day. Many Asian cultures are also of this mindset. Interestingly enough, they all have their skills that many people “poo-poo” because of whatever reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to trade skills for items you need. I remember helping to process and butcher a moose in exchange for a portion of the animal. We ate on that for several weeks.
  • No situation is cut and dry. It will also change at least daily if not several times over the course of the day. After our family got set up with trading wild game for other food items, many other people started joining in. This also happened with the bounties on coyotes. It went from $75 per set of ears to $5 if I remember correctly. We ended up having to adapt and change how we made extra money several times and as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t be afaid to learn new skills. I can hunt, fish, trap, sew, cook, mechanic, weld, carpentry, lay cement, do flower arranging, pick out formal outfits and help fit women’s clothes, match perfume to skin type, clean jewelry, electrical, shoe horses, plumbing, break horses, train dogs, hydrolics, run heavy equipment, basic logging and land clearing, built structures from logs, auto body work…. The list goes on and on all because I realized that I have to be completely self sufficient to cover areas where others people are not and possibly turn a buck when needed.
  • Lastly, I no longer assume that I will be able to depend on anything or anyone. My only assumption is that I will have to be the one to do soemthing if it needs to be done. If I don’t know how to do something then I figure it out and learn. This has been one of my best traits as an adult. From rebuilding engines to replacing the roof on my house, I just research and do it. It saves money and allows me to know exactly where things stand after the fact. Plus, I have made money when needed by pimping my skills.

This really felt like a long post and I hope that this fulfilled my friend’s request that I put down some of the crap I had to deal with during that time and some of the lessons I learned from it. If not, I might be adding things here and there until it seems as complete as possible without giving away too much personal information…..

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