Welcome to a new SweetwaterNOW series, #WHYoming.
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 I sat down with John Partain. John was born and raised in Rock Springs and raised his three children in Rock Springs. John’s father left Illinois and was headed to California looking for work but ended up settling in Rock Springs when he got a job in the coal mines.
John tells everyone his priority is his family, his passion is anything with the outdoors, but photography is his addiction. He jokingly refers to the three as his heavy cross to bear.
John, what is something unique about you?
Fifty pounds ago, I had three failed attempts to solo Mt. McKinley (Denali). That was a big part of my life. I take on some big projects that define me. I’d done a lot of solo exploring in the Wind Rivers and decided to take on something bigger.
In my first try at Mt. Denali, I was 27 days on the mountain. I got pinned down for seven days by myself in a storm at 17,800 feet. I was right under the summit but when I decided to move, I didn’t have energy to make it to the summit.
My second trip I made it to 15,200 feet. My third attempt I made it to about the same height and blew out an ulcer. I was bleeding internally and got out of there by myself.
What are some of the other highlights of your life?
I was fortunate enough to rent the Slovinski Dome for 15 years for my photo display. I was eventually able to buy the building. We closed on it on December 31, 2015. Starting January 1, my wife and I put in a 56-day marathon cleaning, painting and installing new carpet to get the building up and running on February 26.
We renamed the building The Emporium, which means a market place. I am overwhelmed and humbled with the success we have had in just a few short months. We now have 24 vendors renting space to show their paintings, carvings, pottery, and other types of fine art along with my photographs.
Our goal from the beginning was to just save the building because it was going to be torn down. If we make enough to save the building, we will be tickled.
As a child, I was in love with magazines and Wyoming wildlife. My hero was a photographer named Luray Parker who traveled Wyoming taking pictures. I wish that as a young man I’d had enough courage to go find him and shake his hand. He’s passed now.
As a 10-12 years old, I was the guy in the family with a camera. I took pictures of everything. I was possessed by it.
I remarried in 2000. My wife discovered my hobby and encouraged me to show my work. I had never done a show or a contest or tried to retail my pictures. We rented the parish hall across the street to show my work. I was overwhelmed and humbled with the number of people that showed up. I didn’t think anybody would care. They did care. After the show, the ladies across the street at the Slovinski Dome invited me to show some of my work there. I cleaned off the stage and set up a display. My work has been here ever since.
You have to keep going on. Every time you get into a struggle or a project, you have to keep going. Make sure you have plan B and an exit strategy. But, don’t allow plan B to be a lower-the-bar situation… Plan B doesn’t have to be less, just a different way to get to your original goal.”
– John Partain
What do you appreciate most about our community?
The giving, caring attitude you don’t see every day looking out the window or going to Walmart. When you need help, people step up and help. Sometimes help comes financially, or by just being there to give you support.
My family has been stricken with cancer. I’ve lost my mother, dad, two brothers, a daughter, and a girlfriend to cancer. The community stepped up and helped me a lot. I try to return that if I can and help out those people in need because it comes back around.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
Perseverance. You have to keep going on. Every time you get into a struggle or a project, you have to keep going. Make sure you have plan B and an exit strategy. But, don’t allow plan B to be a lower-the-bar situation. So many people say, “Well, I’ll just settle for second best. That is my plan B.” Plan B doesn’t have to be less, just a different way to get to your original goal.
I got married right out of high school. My wife and I needed a place to live. We found a one bedroom, furnished house on 10th Street for $16,000. My mother had a fit. Where was an 18-year-old kid that just graduated from high school going to get $16,000?
I went to a bank and I think the banker’s name was Clarence Samuels. He loaned me $16,000. I didn’t have a job and my payments were about $140 a month. So, I went to work in the mines underground.
My wife and I quickly outgrew our one-bedroom home so I started to add on and remodel the house. I didn’t know how to do carpenter work. I didn’t even own a hammer. I called every old-timer I knew and asked them about digging footings, pouring concrete and putting up walls.
I added a large room to the side of the house and later a second story. The home eventually became a four bedroom home with two and a half bathrooms. It took me several years working two or three jobs, raising the kids and working on the house to get it done.
Would you rather ride a bike, take a horse or drive a car?
A horse. I had horses for a lot of years. A horse gives you so much more versatility as far as where you can go and when you go.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. That would clear out the room.
How would your friends describe you?
I would hope driven. I would hope dedicated to a lot of different projects and to our friendships. If they need something, I’m there and they are there for me.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
My family. My kids. They are very accomplished, independent and good citizens.
Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Maybe Bill Murray. I feel like he is a jokester. I like to joke, tease and pull pranks. He could portray that well.
Why do you continue to live in Wyoming?
Wyoming is so vast. But the real beauty is that we don’t have the population that brings all of the social problems. We don’t have crazy traffic, crime and things that the populated areas have. We still have social problems and crime but on a much smaller scale. It makes it a lot easier to live here. Our smaller population makes us closer to our neighbors and willing to help them out more.
Our taxes are great. Rock Springs and Sweetwater County have several employment opportunities and a great school system. I have friends that come hunting here from around the country and they rave about our facilities and how nice things are.
If you’d like us to interview yourself or someone you know for #WHYoming, please send us suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org