Some residents of the Cowboy State hold a very strict definition of who they consider to be newcomers. On the beautifully rugged expanse of the High Plains anyone who is not a homesteader or descendant of homesteaders seems to be considered a newcomer. Wandering the dirt roads that meander through and between ranches, seemly stretching into infinity, I have begun to understand why.
Last week we were visited by Wyoming newcomers, Anne Carter Mears and Brainerd “Nip” Mears. Anne and Nip were born and raised in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, respectively. They first met in 1946 while attending a summer science camp in the Snowy Range Mountains just west of Laramie, WY. Nip had just completed his service with the Marine Corps and both he and Anne were undergraduate students, studying at schools in New York State. They dated through college and were married soon afterward. In 1949 Nip accepted a job at the University of Wyoming teaching geomorphology, bringing the newly weds back to the mountains where they had met. Geomorphology is the study of landforms and the processes that shape them, so the striking, almost prehistoric looking scenery of the West was a playground for Nip. Mrs. Mears joked that every car ride was filled with a detailed tour of the geological scenery that colors and shapes the region.
Anne Carter Mears and Nip Mears (R-L)
The couple were invited to the StoryCorps MobileBooth by their nephew Jeffery Mears Bratspis, who was happy his Aunt and Uncle had the chance to share some family memories. One question Jef was interested in finding out was how his Aunt and Uncle came to own a horse ranch outside Laramie, Wyoming.
It all started, she remembered, with her daughters love of horses. Anne’s daughter was so enraptured by beautiful mares that the little girl called all her relatives to ask that instead of sending her a present, they send her money because she was saving up to buy a horse. Eventually, she had saved enough money and bought her first horse, a Morgan Mare named Lori Rose. A daughter’s love quickly rubbed off on her mother, who also fell in love with the great disposition and athleticism of Morgan horses. So much so, she decided to go into business as a horse rancher, breeding beautiful, award winning, Morgan horses.
Renee Greenberg, Jef Mears Bratspis, Anne Carter Mears, and Brainerd “Nip” Mears (R-L) in front of the MobileBooth.
At that time not many men would take a women’s attempt at buying a ranch seriously, so Nip helped handle the negotiations. One day over coffee at a local diner, after a year of back-and-forth negotiating, a local rancher finally agreed to sell part of his property to Anne. And with that Anne Carter Mears became the owner operator of Mear’s Morgans and for almost 40 years now, has been breeding, training, showing, and selling Morgan horses. In 2000 she was inducted into the American Morgan Horse Associations hall of fame for her dedication to the breed.
Anne graciously invited facilitators Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone out to her ranch so we could see a working horse ranch. Thank you for the invitation. We are both glad that the Mear’s family had an opportunity to record your family memories.
Since May of 2005 StoryCorps’ Airstream MobileBooths have been roving the country creating a space for people to interview their loved ones. In the last three years we have been to nearly every state in the continental United States, except Wyoming. That all changed two weeks ago when we pulled into a public parking lot next to the Albany County Courthouse at 5th Street and Grand Avenue in Laramie, Wyoming to begin recording stories in the place affectionately dubbed “the least populated state in the Union.”
Almost everyday StoryCorps facilitators are recording interviews all across America in our MobileBooths, StoryBooths, and at field recording sites through our Door-to-Door program. Although interviews are an hour long, the interview process continues long after participants have left the recording space. After each interview participants receive a professionally recorded copy of their interview while another copy of the interview is archived at the Library of Congress. Following the interview facilitators carefully prepare an archive entry that eventually travels to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
Facilitator Rachel Falcone prepares a participant’s memories to be preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress