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Fifty miles north of Cheyenne, WY after driving for a couple of hours from Denver, a very timely rest stop appears. Pulling off, I see a sign a little past the rest stop driveway saying “Chugwater” population 212. There’s a town here? With a name like that, I had to go. As I later learned, this little town was a major stopping point for any traveller heading north through Wyoming. It once was a thriving ranching and farming center too many years ago. The train still travels through this empty town and maybe the grain silo is still used, but life has abandoned this part of Wyoming – except for the soda fountain.
A soda fountain in the middle of nowhere? I had to check it out. Inside was a classic old-school soda fountain from another era. An old farmer was at a table nursing a cup of coffee along with an angry hating-her-life woman behind the counter. She asked me from a distance what I wanted, so I took the easy way and said chocolate shake. She bitterly grabbed the metal soda cup, poured in some milk, squirted in some chocolate syrup and began the frightening procedure of installing ice cream in the container. She scooped out an amount and then pushed the ice cream into the container with her fingers. This went on many times. I thought to myself, oh shit, I’m going to get nail fungus from a milk shake. She angrily whipped all of the ingredients up on the mixer and begrudgingly scooped the contents into a cup. I put down a five and exited stage left. I sat in the car for a while enjoying my nail fungus treat when a brand new Lincoln Continental SUV pulled up in front of the road shop. Out slowly crawled four 85 year+ old farmers and their wives. They were apparently on a date night at the soda fountain. I choked down the remains of the fungus, took a sad big breath and slowly cruised the remaining one hundred yards of this dying town, hit the rest stop and barreled on to the Interstate never to see Chugwater again.