The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush

  Excerpt from The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush

". the age of sixteen i was committed to the state penitentiary at rawlins, wyoming. my twenty first birthday was passed inside the walls of the same institution. the twentyfifth and thirtieth aniversary of my birth were also spent in the Wyoming State prison. i can trace my undoing to an extraordinary bad temper and an inherent love for firearms.

". ..i walked out from the damp prison air into the glorious sunshine of this enchanted land. i felt only a desire to get away somewhere out of sight. after walking towards the business part of town a short way, i turned and went straight out of town untill i reached the high sagebrush. the smell of sage was that day sweeter to me than a breath from a bed of rarest flowers. for an hour i was content to sit and breathe the pure mountain air and enjoy the warm sunshine.

'. ..if a pensive feeling, born of the knowledge of my own unfitness, at times possess me, it detracts not a particle from the beauty of the old brown hills, and the sweet, to me, smell of the sagebrush. "

Our top selling book is an anonymous prisoner’s diary called The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush. This book chronicles William Stanley Hudson’s four terms in the Wyoming State Penitentiary from 1903-1912.

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The origins of this book are obscure. For more than thirty years the original manuscript has been in the Wyoming State Penitentiary files at the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, Wyoming. While it was probably written around 1923, this book covers some specific events in Wyoming history dating from 1903 until late 1912. These events are verifiable in prison records and period newspapers. The author's close association and direct participation in significant history are without question.  Chronological accuracy seems to suggest the text may have been a loose transcript from a prisoner's daily diary.

The manuscript was untitled and written anonymously. Though research has pointed to a likelyauthor, his identity has not been revealed in the body of the text, keeping with the spirit of the original text and the author's apparent intention. The title- The Sweet Smell of Sagebrush -was given to this book in an effort to reflect the author's unique sensitivity and undaunted spirit. 

Very little has been changed from the original manuscript which was typewritten on 8 l/2 x ll " paper without margins. Spelling and punctuation have been left as written.  Because the author capitalized the first letter on every page, this unusual practice has/ been repeated in this publication. No words have been omitted or added to the story. Typographical errors have been corrected only when the author's intention was clear. When the story changes, the text has been broken to give the reader a visual rest. The original was written as one long paragraph without breaks from beginning to end. Archival photographs have been added to identify some characters. The historical integrity of the original manuscript has been a primary consideration of this publication from start to finish. This book is being published by Friends of the Old Pen Inc., which is a nonprofit corporation formed to help preserve, develop and promote Wyoming's Frontier Prison in Rawlins. The Old Wyoming State Penitentiary was opened in 1901 and closed in 1981, when the prisoners moved to a new facility south of the town.

This book is one of the more important sources of information available on the early history of the Frontier Prison. Profits from the sale of this book will go directly toward historical enhancement of the old penitentiary. We feel the author would have wanted it that way.

-Friends of the Old Pen

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