When you grow up in the middle of nowhere, planes aren’t really something you see often. Of course, there were the occasional farmers with their single engine planes in the field. I like to joke that the hangar closest to my town is the “Wright Regional Airport.” See the joke is that my town was way too small for any sort of airport.
It took until I was 15 to fly in a plane the first time- a trip to Miami for a choir competition. Soaring through the air, it’s hard not to think about how small the world really is.
For one person, the world wasn’t big enough. There wasn’t a route she wouldn’t take, until her final flight left her as a legend. One of the biggest aviation mysteries in history. But did you know that the famous Amelia Earhart was very nearly a Wyomingite?
Sure, celebrities buy homes in the Cowboy state all the time, we’ve even got another aviator in Jackson Hole when Harrison Ford is home at the Falcon Ranch. But Amelia was struck by the beauty of the rocky mountains and hoped to make a small corner of it her own.
If not for her untimely disappearance in 1937, the most famous female aviator in history might have become a resident of the cowboy state. A half-completed log cabin near Meeteetse stood as the remnant as her plans to get away from it all in the wilds of Wyoming.
Amelia practically needs no introduction– Born on July 24, 1892, she began her love affair with the soaring winds and air travel. At the age of ten, she saw her first airplane at the state fair in Iowa and she was fascinated from then on- hoping to be the one to pilot the machine through the air.
In 1920, Amelia and her father attended an aircraft meet up, where she asked him to inquire about lessons to learn to fly. She was taken up into the air for the first time with a 10 minute flight (for which they charged $10) and knew the profession was for her. “By the time I had got two or three hundred feet off the ground,” she said, “I knew I had to fly.”
Earhart would make history just 8 years later in 1928, as the first woman to make a transatlantic flight across the ocean. With her own star status rising, she’d be compared to the famous aviator, Charles Lindberg. The press even began calling her “Lady Lindy” as a term of endearment and a comparrison to Lindberg.
Amelia Mary Earhart first showed up on Wyoming radars in 1931, when she flew across the country in a plane dubbed “The Flying Windmill,” stopping in many Southern Wyoming towns along the way, including Cheyenne, Laramie, Rock Springs, and Le Roy.
The Laramie Republican-Boomerang’s front-page story in 1931 described Earhart as “a petite tousle-haired sky goddess in a weird windmill ship” upon her first stop in Laramie and her greeting of the spectators who had gathered. The stop in Laramie only lasted 20-minutes, and she was off again.
Earhart was in Wyoming again in 1934, when she and her husband George Putnam planned a trip to visit the Double Dee Ranch, just outside of Meeteetse. Located near the Wood River, miles from town, secluded and peaceful, the scenic mountainous location seemed like the perfect place to get away from it all and Earhart asked the ranch proprietor and her close friend, Carl Dunrud, to build her a cabin on the spot.
Dunrud cut logs and laid the start of her new summer home in 1936. A full story about her adventures at the Double Dee Ranch can be found here.
A year later, Earhart’s plane would disappear over the Pacific Ocean as she attempted her around-the-world flight. While the mystery of her disappearance has continued to this day, last week a researcher at the University of Tennessee released a statement that bones found on an island in a remote part of the South Pacific showed a 99% similarity match to Earhart’s after in-depth analysis.
Anthropology professor Richard Jantz said of the re-analysis: “until definitive evidence is presented that the remains are not those of Amelia Earhart, the most convincing argument is that they are hers.”
Though she may have ended up lost in the South Pacific, her new homestead back in Wyoming ceased construction. In the 1970’s, it began to deteriorate past the ability to restore it. The Dunrud family had a marker put up in Meeteetse to remember her; now the only evidence of Amelia Earhart’s plans for a home in Wyoming to call her own.
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