May 14, 2015
The weather forecast for the next week here in Cody calls for on and off showers, thunderstorms with occasional sun, not optimum conditions for photographing the barracks. I woke at 6:00 am this morning and saw the sky was clear, even saw a pink glow to the east. So I dressed and drove out to the barracks north of Cody. The rising sun lit one end of the barracks and Heart Mountain in the distance, unifying the two elements. A barbed wire fence surrounding the meadow framed the picture. I experimented with various lenses and angles and hope you don’t mind if you see more of this same barrack as I try to get the best light on it.
Our destination today was Shell, about 70 miles east of Cody. We met Heart Mountain Interpretive Center executive director Brian Liesinger and facilities manager Kim Barhuag a few miles out of the town at the Iowa University Geology Field Station. A barrack that was used as a dormitory was being donated to the Center. The plan is to move it by truck to the Interpretive Center site in Powell, at the exact location where a barrack stood when the camp was in operation. It’s a tremendous task for the museum and they hope to complete the move in time for the annual pilgrimage in mid-August.
We drove up and saw a full, 120 foot long barrack situated between large piles of dirt and near the completed construction of new dormitories. It’s striking to see the full length of one up close and then you realize several families were crammed into this modest space. The structure had been covered with wood shingles and various layers of tar paper were added to the roof, but the basic frame, walls and windows were in place. Only part of the interior had the sparse look with exposed studs and open lattice of wood supports under the roof. But you felt the history of the building all around. Brian looked at the hardwood floor and said this was probably an administration building since the living quarters barracks had cheaper floors with gaps between the wood.
Brian and Kim interviewed the neighbor, Dolan Scheron, who lived there when the barracks arrived on the adjacent property. He wasn’t a homesteader, so unfortunately he won’t be in the book, though Sharon and I really hope to find a way since he has a great smile and look at those Caterpillar suspenders!
One thing we wondered was how did they move a 120 foot long building? Well, turns out they didn’t, the barracks were literally cut in half or thirds, depending on how long the moving truck was (60 feet or 40 feet). (Most homesteaders used a hand saw, apparently you ask and they answer, “It took about two days.”) And between two of the ‘rooms’ in this barrack you could see the floor was cut in two. We hope to return to Wyoming to see the barrack being moved back to its home.