GOSHEN COUNTY – The destiny of a person can sometime be seen through how they take on the tasks put in front of them.
For Goshen County Commissioner Carl Rupp, his task turned out to be leadership. Carl was a leader from an early age. He might say it was because of his size but it may have been a higher power that knew he was a good and caring man.
Carl grew up on the family farm near Huntley. He recalls, as young as 8 or 9 years old, an interest in music. He would pretend to play the piano on the coffee table.
"My mom thought that my sister and I should take lessons here in town for 10 years,” Carl said. “We got to be pretty good.
“After each lesson, we would practice after school,” he said. Their mother “had an egg timer and would turn it on for 40 minutes. We played until it dinged and we didn’t cheat.”
Growing up, he was always among the leaders – Class president, Student Council president in high school, captain of the football team. His interest, and proficiency, in sports earned him a football scholarship to the University of Wyoming.
Carl learned during his freshman year the college experience wasn’t what he’d expected. It was a big change from a high school class of 16 to a freshman class with 2,000 at college.
An injury three weeks into football practice ended up being a turning point in Carl’s life.
After a brief hospital stay, the coaching staff told him they were concerned about further injury and were going to bench him for his freshman season.
Carl hadn’t registered for classes by the time he was hurt because he was too busy playing. It all overwhelmed him, including a roommate from Detroit, Mich., a very different cultural background than he was familiar with.
Despite a promise from the coaches to take another look at him the following year for the football team, Carl decided to take the experience as a life lesson. He packed up his things and drove home to the family farm.
He said the experience taught him a lesson in humility
“It was a good lesson. A really good lesson for me,” Carl said.
The return home wasn’t without benefit. Carl was allowed to enroll late at what was then Goshen County Community College. That’s where he met his future wife, Marge. The couple was a good match and they married the following year.
The atmosphere at the smaller school was just what Carl needed to thrive, and again, his leadership abilities shone. His grades picked up again and he got involved in student government.
Carl was soon elected to the post of chairman of the Student Senate, where he was an instrumental figure in renaming the school Eastern Wyoming College.
“We were in charge of picking the mascot and the name of the school,” he said. “That was in 1966 -1967.”
Carl successfully graduated from the new EWC. He took the credits – and the lessons – he’d earned and transferred back to UW in Laramie, where he earned a degree in business.
When he’d been there before, Carl had been involved in the ROTC program, with plans to join the Army after graduation. But, it was the Vietnam era and the military had changed, he decided. Carl believed he had a chance of avoiding the draft – which he did – so he went to work to support his new wife.
Despite his parent’s admonitions not to pick farming as a career, Carl ended up going back to the life he’d grown up in. Carl and Marge moved back to the Huntley area, there to try their hand at raising potatoes. Their first crop froze in the ground, though, and Carl started having second thoughts about farming.
He accepted a position at an auto dealership, deciding after one winter “that wasn’t my calling,” Carl said.
He again returned to his roots, this time with sugar beets. Carl got involved in co-op operations, along with his church and other boards. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of his alma mater, EWC, and served as an advisor on the Torrington Community Hospital Board of Directors.
“I had one week a month packed with meetings,” Carl said. “This is the reason I think I shied away from being county commissioner, it took too long and the meeting were always in the day time.”
That was Carl’s life for the next 12 years. His third daughter came along in 1981 and, as they grew, the girls helped their dad with the farming chores. After his youngest moved off the farm, Carl turned to raising alfalfa, figuring the overall work load was lighter than some of the other crops they’d raised.
And they sold they sold the farm, with plans to move in to Torrington. But fate had another challenge for Carl.
He was getting equipment ready for the sale when he went to climb down from a tractor. A fall landed him in the hospital with a broken hip.
“Instead of turning around to go down the ladder I thought I could just step down the ladder,” he said. “That didn’t work out.
“I checked my arms first – ‘Yep, this one works and this one, then my legs. No, this one doesn’t work.’”
Carl fortunately had a cell phone with him and was able to call for help. The sheriff was the first to arrive, followed closely by an ambulance.
“I knew I was going to be alright,” Carl said.
After another hospital stay – this time in Scottsbluff, Neb., for a hip replacement – he managed to get the equipment sold and teach the new owners about irrigation with the help of a walker and close friends. Carl had the future course of his life charted – primarily playing cards with Marge and enjoying life.
“I was retired,” he proclaimed.
As with all things, again fate stepped in to play its hand. County Commissioner Ross Newman resigned from the board late in 2012, leaving remaining Commissioners Jim Hudelson and Robert Ward at logger-heads on Newman’s replacement.
But it was Marge who urged Carl to make a bid for the position. So, with Hudelson and Ward still deadlocked, then-District Court Judge Keith Kautz made the appointment, choosing Carl to fill the open seat.
He served for two years, then was elected to serve another, four-year term, rising to the position of commission chairman. Now, though, Carl’s decided it’s time to retire for real and chose not to seek re-election.
Over the years, the County Commissioners have been involved in a variety of projects and issues. One that sticks in Carl’s mind particularly involved a private road in Lone Tree Canyon, on the way to Chugwater in far southwestern Goshen County.
He elected not to identify the individuals involved, but Carl said the issue involved a long-time resident of the area and a new family. What started as a simple disagreement grew, Carl said.
Carl volunteered to oversee the issue, thinking, “How much work could this be?
“It turned into a two-year project,” Carl recalled. “I had 1,500 emails and signatures from people who didn’t want it to be a public road. It went on for a long time.”
The issue was finally resolved when the two parties reached a compromise – each would surrender some of their land for a new road. But, even then, there were twists unique to small, tight-knit communities, Carl said.
“Gary Coral, who was the road supervisor at the time, had two people on the crew who were married to the daughters of the old guy,” he said “He didn’t want ruffle any feathers.”
All in all, it’s been a good run. Moving forward, Carl has his future planned out – for the time being.
Starting Dec. 31, you’ll most likely find Carl Rupp at his dining room table playing cards with his wife Marge – or anyone who’s willing to play.