On October 20, 1905, the twenty-three-year-old Ethel Waxham was traveling on a stagecoach on her way to the remote center of Wyoming. Ethel, the daughter of a Denver physician, had just recently graduated from Wellesley College. At Wellesley she earned a Phi Beta Kappa key, learned four languages, and studied classical literature. She wrote poetry, played in amateur theater productions,and did volunteer social work in New York City.
This was her first full-time job. She looked forward to teaching and described her first impressions of the school.
At last we saw the little school house of logs, fourteen by sixteen with a good (sod) roof, almost flat coming low over the sides . . . The whole was put up, I believe, at an original expenditure of seventy-five dollars . . . We soon had the place swept out and arranged, brought in the books that we had carried over, and set the traps for the mountain rats that had left traces of themselves over the place . . . The door has had some passerby’s six shooter emptied into it.(27)
She taught seven students in this schoolhouse while living with a ranch family. The nearest neighbor lived far away, and the closest town was Lander. Lander had a population of 1,000 and Ethel visited it only once that year. People did come visiting, especially suitors.
One suitor came visiting quite often even though he had to ride eleven hours from his home. He was a sheep rancher, John Galloway Love. Ethel describes him in this way.
Mr. Love is a Scotchman about thirty-five years old. At first sight he made me think of a hired man, as he lounged stiffly on the couch, in overalls, his feet covered with enormous red and black-striped stockings edged with blue around the top, that reached to his knees . . . His face was kindly, with shrewd blue twinkling eyes. A moustache grew over his mouth, like willows bending over a brook. But his voice was most peculiar and characteristic. Close analysis fails to find the charm in it. A little Scotch dialect, a little slow drawl, a little nasal quality, a bit of falsetto once in a while,and a tone as if he were speaking out of doors. There is a kind of twinkle in his voice as well as in his eyes, and he is full of quaint turns of speech, and unusual expressions. For he is not a common sheepherder,(it is said,) but a mutton-aire, or sheep baron.(28)
John Love dreamed of raising thousands of sheep and cattle on his land. Under Theodore Roosevelt and the new Desert Land Act he had ownership of 640 acres of land in Wyoming and because of the water on his acreage, control of 1000 square miles. He dreamed of irrigating grain fields and fruit orchards. Now he also dreamed of making Ethel Waxham his wife.
John asked Ethel to marry him, but she had other suitors and ambition and she turned him down. Ethel decided that when the school year ended she would go to the University of Colorado for her master’s degree. She had spent seven months teaching in Wyoming. Her poem reveals that the beauty of the land seldom left her thoughts.
I know a land where the gray hills lie
Eternally still, under the sky,
Where all the might of suns and moons
That pass in the quiet of nights and noons
Leave never a sign of the flight of time
On the long sublime horizon line—(29)
Love continued to court Edith by keeping their relationships alive through letters. Edith received her degree in literature and took a job teaching Latin for a year in Wisconsin. In 1909 she went to Pueblo, Colorado, to teach in a high school. (In the lesson plan on Edith Waxham excerpts from their letters are included.) In 1910, Ethel Waxham agreed to marry John Love and begin a new life in the country she had grown to appreciate in the seven months she had lived in Wyoming. Years later David Love ,their son, gave this remembrance of the stories of his parents honeymoon.
When my father was sure that my mother was going to marry him he had a sheep wagon built especially to his order. And that was to be the honeymoon sheep wagon . . . They were married on June 20th, 1910 and it was pretty hot, so they started out for the mountains and from then on there is a blank in our knowledge. Mother rarely discussed it. But apparently it rained a great deal. The horses got away and they were marooned and never got to the mountains. So the honeymoon was not a romantic success. (30)