Owning the Land, Owning the Story
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
320 Pages | 6 x 9 | 24 b&w illus., 2 maps
Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Devil’s Gate is the center of a landscape that threatens to shrink any inhabitants to insignificance except for one thing: ownership of the land and the stories they choose to tell about it. The static serenity of the once heavily traveled region masks a history of conflict.
Tom Sun, an early rancher, played a role here in the lynching of the only woman ever hanged in Wyoming. The lynching was dismissed as swift frontier justice in the wake of cattle theft, but Rea finds more complicated motives that involve land and water rights. The Sun name was linked with the land for generations. In the 1990s, the Mormon Church purchased part of the Sun ranch to memorialize Martin’s Cove as the site of handcart pioneers who froze to death in the valley in 1856.
The treeless, arid country around Devil’s Gate seems too immense for ownership. But stories run with the land. People who own the land can own the stories, at least for a time.
"A tale that should entertain, inspire, and trouble anyone who loves the American West.”—Will Bagley, author of Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows