West of Alliance, the terrain began to rise in earnest, and we encountered some light turbulence - the only part of the trip that even resembled a rough ride (it was early afternoon by now). We landed at Rawlins shortly after 3 PM. At 6813 feet above sea level, this was our highest-elevation landing (and takeoff).
Rawlins is the home of the old Wyoming State Penitentiary. The original pen was in use from 1901 to 1981, when a new prison was opened, also in Rawlins. The old prison is a National Registered Landmark, and may be seen by guided tour.
Of course we took the tour. There's a small museum that may be seen without
the tour, but it's only a small fraction of the place.
The tour begins with an explanation of the Julien Gallows, which Wyoming used to execute nine prisoners before replacing it with a gas chamber in 1936. This machine is a Rube Goldberg-like contraption whereby the condemned person causes his own hanging. The prisoner's weight on the trap door trips a latch that lets water out of a bucket below the platform. The bucket is initially in balance with a weight attached to the central part of the support. When enough water runs out of the bucket, the weight pulls out the center of the support and the trap door opens, hanging the prisoner.
The mechanism wasn't meant to be humane, so much as to spare Wyoming citizens from having to play the hangman's role - the prisoner caused his own execution. Of the nine men executed on this gallows from 1912-1933, none fell far and hard enough to break his neck; they all died by suffocation.
This is the trap door for the Julien Gallows. The photos are all the prisoners executed here and in the gas chamber. Before stepping onto the trap door, the prisoner was told to look out the window for one last view of the world outside.
on to Moab