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Man donates original concept art for Riverton's wolverine

Sep 17, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

In 1968, author and artist Joe Back gave 12-year-old fellow Dubois resident Lynn Stewart, a framed original pencil drawing of the mascot "Wally the Wolverine" that Joe had drawn for neighboring Riverton High School.

Now in 2017, Lynn Stewart offered this childhood treasure to Riverton High School as the drawing's final home.

Back was commissioned by the Riverton school district to create the sketch, and Stewart said he hoped the sketch to be display among the high school's walls.

"It's your history," he said.

Back was born in Ohio in 1899 and moved West in 1935 with his wife Mary, whom Joe had met at the Chicago Institute of Art.

During their early time in Dubois, the Backs ran two dude ranches, Lava Creek Ranch and Rocker Y.

After World War II, the Backs left the ranching business and moved east of Dubois, building a cabin that would also serve as an art studio.

Drawing and sculpting did not pay all the bills, so Joe took odd jobs, including stints with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as a seasonal game warden and packing fish into the wilderness for stocking.

At one point, Joe launched a book project to produce a "horse packer's bible."The end product was "Horses, Hitches and Rocky Trails," which is still in print.

Mary also taught extension art classes for the University of Wyoming in Dubois, Lander, Crowheart and Riverton.

Her classes were immensely popular, and the annual art show she arranged for her students and regional artists gave rise to the Wind River Valley Artists' Guild.

Her efforts were later recognized when she received the Governor's Award for Service to the Arts. Both she and Joe were also awarded the Medallion of Honor by Central Wyoming College in 1982.

Joe Back died in 1986, Mary Back died in 1991.

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2017-10-17

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