A Landing a Day

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Cokeville, Wyoming

Posted by graywacke on May 8, 2015

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-three-or-four days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

Landing number 2179; A Landing A Day blog post number 607.

Dan:  Although I just missed ID (a USer) by less than 5 miles, I landed in this OSer . . . WY; 76/70; 4/10; 1; 149.6.  Note that after six 5/10s in a row and a streak of ten 5/10s or greater, I’m down to 4/10.  The “1” above denotes the beginning of a new streak for 4/10 or less.  Hopefully, it’s a short streak . . .

Here’s my regional landing map where you can see I wasn’t all that far from UT as well:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows that I landed just north of Cokeville:

 landing 2

I have a first-time-ever way of presenting my watershed analysis.  As you’ll see in the video below, StreetAtlas for some unknown reason is very robust on letting me know the names of the streams near my landing.  On this video, I’m slowing zooming out, one click at a time:


Although I landed in the watershed of Smiths Fork, you have to love South Fork Smiths Fork! 

As you saw, Smiths Fork discharges to the Bear River (4th hit).  As shown in this map, the Bear makes its way to the Great Salt Lake (17th hit):

 landing 3

Here’s an expanded landing map, showing my proximity to the UT/WY/ID triple point as well as my Bear Lake landing (# 2118, September 2014):

 landing 2a

My Bear Lake post is (of course) pretty cool.  Check it out by typing Bear Lake in the search box.

Time for my Google Earth (GE) space flight:


So given my proximity to Cokeville (and the lack of any towns anywhere close to my landing), Cokeville it is.  From Wiki:

In 1873 an early settler, Tilford Kutch, opened a trading post and ran a ferry across Smiths Fork. After the arrival of the railroad in 1882, the town grew, and was incorporated in 1910.

The town was named for the coal found in the area.  Following the railroad, sheep ranching became more popular, reaching its peak in 1918, when Cokeville was informally called the “Sheep Capital of the World”.

Wait a second.  There was coal there.  Why didn’t they name it Coalville?  So what exactly is coke?  From USTimes.com, this from “World Of Coke:”

Coke is a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content and it is used when purity and high carbon content is desired. Coke is used worldwide in blast furnaces and is used most often in making metals.

Coke, is a hard gray fuel. According to the New Columbia Encyclopedia, coke bears the same relation to coal as does charcoal to wood.

Coke is made in brick furnaces with bituminous coal as the source.

My guess is that there was an old coke operation associated with the coal mines, eh?

Just for the heck of it, here’s a Wiki shot (by Plazak) of early 1900s coke ovens in Cokedale, Colorado:


After considerable searching, I could find nothing about old coking operations in Cokeville.  However, the town of Sage WY is only 18 miles south of Cokeville, and I found this, from the Cokeville Historical Society:

History of the Community of Sage

In 1875, the Wyoming Coal and Coke Company opened a coal mine in the Bear River formation near Sage, Wyoming and erected coke ovens.  Although efforts were made to wash the coal to remove impurities, coking attempts soon met with failure.  In 1900, an attempt was made by a Pennsylvania expert, who expanded the mine and designed and built a new coke oven.   He finally concluded that the coal was of no value as a coking coal.

So maybe “Cokeville” was wishful thinking.  By the way, besides Cokedale, Colorado, there’s a former Cokeville Pennsylvania with some old coke oven remains still present.

But there’s a big story about Cokeville WY that made national news not all that long ago (1986).  Strangely, I don’t remember this story at all.  The Wiki entry for Cokeville had this:

On May 16, 1986, former town marshal David Young and his wife Doris Young took 167 children and adults hostage at Cokeville Elementary School, using guns and a homemade bomb.   The children and adults escaped after the bomb exploded. Both hostage takers died, while 79 hostages were wounded.


So I did some research and read quite a bit about that crazy day in Cokeville, and will lay out the preliminaries myself. 

After being released (fired?) from his job as Cokeville marshall (after marrying Doris, who was from Cokeville).  They went to Tucson, and David became reclusive, focusing on his philosophical readings.  He wrote his own philosophical treatise, “Zero Equals Infinity.” 

He came up with a whacko scheme to hold the entire Cokeville elementary school hostage for ransom, and decided to carry through with it.

He made a crude bomb that he carried in a shopping cart, wired to a detonation devise affixed to his arm.  The bomb was set to detonate if he raised his arm in the air.

Here are excerpts from WyoHistory.org:

David and Doris Young gathered children, teachers, staff and visitors in the elementary school into one central location.  They attempted to crowd 154 people into one of the two first grade classrooms, a room with a total capacity of 30 students and a teacher.  David set himself near the center of the room with the grocery cart bomb nearby, as Doris went from room to room rounding up people.

Once all the hostages were contained in the first grade classroom, David Young informed them that they were leading a revolution and distributed copies of his philosophy Zero Equals Infinity to everyone present.

Cokeville Elementary School teachers and staff tried to keep kindergarteners through sixth graders calm and entertained. In the tiny classroom, they watched movies, played games, prayed. And, then, shortly after 4 p.m., the bomb exploded.

Witnesses later testified that just before the explosion David Young had connected the explosive to his wife. Then he went to the restroom, which was attached to the classroom.  Doris accidently triggered the bomb by motioning to her hostages with her arms.  The explosion engulfed her in flames and burned many nearby children.

Chaos ensued. David emerged from the bathroom to find his wife in excruciating pain. He shot and killed her.  Students, teachers, staff and visitors frantically exited the building, with teachers helping many of the children escape through the windows.  David saw John Miller, the music teacher, trying to escape and shot him in the back.  David returned to the restroom and killed himself, ending the hostage crisis. The only two fatalities were David and Doris Young.  Everyone else survived, including the injured John Miller.

It seems obvious that the bomb didn’t explode in the usual sense of the word, or else there would have been horrendous casualties, with 150 people packed into a classroom.  Even so, the central narrative that has emerged from the incident involves the word “miracle,” and who am I to argue?

Here’s more, but now from Wiki:

76 of the hostages suffered injuries, mostly flash burns and other injuries from the exploding bomb. Several children reported seeing angels in the classroom that day, including many children which claimed to have seen a “beautiful lady” who told them to go near the window. Other children reported seeing an angel over each child’s head.  Investigators discovered that only one of the bomb’s five blasting caps went off, and if it had worked properly, the bomb would have blown off the side of the building and many more would have been injured or died.

The incident was detailed in the book When Angels Intervene to Save the Children by Hartt Wixom and his wife Judene, which formed the basis for a CBS made for TV movie titled To Save the Children. In 2006, the Cokeville Miracle Foundation compiled a book of recollections about the day from parents, emergency workers and former hostages. The story was also featured on “Unsolved Mysteries,” “Unexplained Mysteries,” and “I Survived…”

A new movie about the incident, The Cokeville Miracle is scheduled to be released April 15, 2015. It is being made by filmmaker T. C. Christensen.

Here’s a video produced by Dan Cepeda (Casper Star-Tribune) looking back 25 years on the incident:


Time for a couple of GE Panoramio shots.  First this by good ol’ Ralph Maughan (a frequent ALAD contributor, although I doubt he knows it) – a shot of “Rocky Point” just outside of Cokesville:

 pano ralph maughan rocky point

If I only knew a geologist, I’d sure ask him or her what the heck is going on here!! 

And here’s a beautiful shot, taken less than a mile north of my landing by mkbsab:

 pano mkbsab

That’ll do it.




© 2015 A Landing A Day





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