#WHYoming: Lenny Kaumo

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Welcome to SweetwaterNOW’s series, #WHYoming. Brought to you by Kaumo Law.

We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?

This week we sat down with Attorney Lenny Kaumo, who has lived in Wyoming his whole life. He has fond memories of growing up in Rock Springs in a heavily immigrant neighborhood.

He is proud and passionate about his family’s long history here, with members of his family arriving nearly 149 years ago.


How did your family come to be in Rock Springs?

On my mother’s side, my grandfather’s grandfather (I think that’s three greats) was a Norwegian stonemason that came with the U.P. to Rock Springs in 1868.

He was the second mayor of Rock Springs when we were still a territory and was Justice of the Peace at the time of the Chinese Massacre.
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I am a part of Wyoming history.

— Lenny Kaumo
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Kaumo’s grandma and grampa are in this photo. Eleventh Annual Reunion Old Timers Association, June 22, 1935.

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What are your favorite things about Wyoming history?

There were several things about growing up in Rock Springs that I look back fondly on.

I grew up just a couple blocks over [there] and they were heavily immigrants. I don’t speak any Italian because everyone wanted to assimilate when they came here to work in the coal mines. My grandfather came over here to Rock Springs in the 20’s.

All of the families that grew up in my neighborhood (I grew up on 10th and 11th street), all of the older people in the neighborhood had heavy accents and couldn’t speak English worth a darn.

But I was so naive growing up, I almost thought that broken English was an infirmity of age. When you hit 60, your English went to hell!
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Kaumo points out where all the old coal mining towns used to be using a very old map, showing his love of local history.

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How long have you lived in Wyoming?

My whole life.
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What has it been like seeing Rock Springs grow up?

We are fortunate to be here, because I often think ‘What if we were pioneers coming across this area?’ I think to myself if there wasn’t coal here, I don’t think anyone would have stayed.
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Can you imagine sitting up in the covered wagon and it’s getting dark. You’d probably say say “Honey, rest the mules, but don’t unhitch ’em. We ain’t staying. Oh, we’re on the Bitter Creek. You want a drink?”

— Lenny Kaumo

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The great thing growing up here, there was a heavy European flavor. They all had great gardens. They would get box cars of grapes and all the old Italians would make wine. Unique memories growing up and it was kind of special.
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The Tavern Bar on Pilot Butte Ave in 1936. Bartender Jack Podbevsek with (L-R) Frank Kaumo, George Matichka, Joe Kaumo, Jack Doak, and Uncle August “Gus” Kaumo.

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The other great thing I’ve always loved about Wyoming is, especially in our area, the tremendous amount of public land. You don’t find that anyplace else outside of Alaska. We are unique.

We are so fortunate. No fences. You can go out and see this wonderful country.

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What is something unique about you?

I think that growing up in old Rock Springs, I was fortunate to appreciate cultures coming together in an area where there was economic stability.

Everybody that came to Rock Springs came here for work. Still happens today.

It was very much a blue collar city with hardworking individuals. That is something that is always in play and will continue to be.

I feel fortunate to have grown up in that atmosphere. I think it helped me as far as the ethics and appreciations I have. Like family and good worth ethic.

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What do you appreciate most about the community?

The ability to have access to so much beauty and diversity, not only culture but the area involved.

You can go anywhere from the Killpecker Sand Dunes to the beautiful high mountain meadows in the Wind Rivers — and do it all within a few hours. That’s a rarity anywhere in the world.
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We have the fortunate blessing of being able to enjoy life and time.

 — Lenny Kaumo
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I’ve caught myself sitting on Second Street in traffic having to wait for five cars and I have to catch myself because I was literally 90 seconds from my office. I know attorneys that work in New York City and live in Connecticut. Their day starts at 5 am so they can catch a 6 am train, a two-hour train ride into the city, and then to get there by 8 am because it takes another hour to get from the train station to their office.

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If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?

To enjoy life and family.

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Where is your favorite place to hang out in Sweetwater County?

The badlands south of Bitter Creek, around the Fort LaClede area, where the haystacks and Adobetown are. I love Adobetown.

There is a little fort there at the headwaters of the Bitter Creek. It’s like Dances with Wolves. It’s sheer solitude. There is no one out there.
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A Chinese opium bottle, one of Kaumo’s many artifacts and books from Sweetwater County history.

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Would you rather walk, ride a bike, take a horse, or drive a car?

I think I’d rather walk.

 

What would you sing at karaoke night?

I would try to imitate Louis Armstong’s “It’s a Wonderful World.”
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How would your friends describe you?

I think they usually describe me as being easygoing and upbeat.

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What is one of your proudest accomplishments?

My family. I’m so proud of them. My wife of 47 years and my three daughters. [Those are my grand kids right there.]

At only 17, my granddaughter just came back from India with Doctors Without Borders and she’s a nationally-classed gymnast. So yeah, I’m proud of my beautiful girls. The only thing is that I only have six grand kids and I really like the number seven.

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Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Who is the guy from “My Cousin Vinny?” Joe Pesci.
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Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?

First of all, there is no place that you can access such wide open spaces and beauty.

But also, there are things that people don’t realize. If I were to retire, why would I move to a state that has state income tax, or inheritance tax? We do not have those. We do not have state estate tax. We only have to worry about federal estate tax.
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Those are three good reasons. Taxes, solitude, and beauty! Who could argue with that?

— Lenny Kaumo

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What’s a favorite food or drink you can only get here?

Growing up, it was “Bagna Càuda.” It’s like Italian fondue. It’s olive oil and butter.

You throw in some anchovies and about 7 cloves of garlic and let it simmer. Then you take the raw vegetables and bread. Everybody has a glass of wine and you get a bowl and you put a piece of bread on there and you scoop out your vegetables and then you eat the plate.

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If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to katie@sweetwaternow.com