Aristotle has been attributed as saying, “Those who educate children well are more to be honored than they who produce them.” It was a dynamic era for Niobrara County education in 1977. In March of 1976, Dr. Hudson Lasher was hired as superintendent of NCSD#1. In an address given to the Niobrara County Chamber of Commerce in March of 1977, Lasher said, “We are all in the business. We are in the most important business. When we fail, the consequences are the greatest. Education is the biggest enterprise of any community… An outstanding teacher must possess a sense of humor, innovation and believe that educating children is important, the most important thing they can do”.
One local alumni Ric Schuyler, class of 1977, never forgot what his teachers did for him and while he is quick to recognize all educators, he holds a special place in his heart for Idy Bramlet and Dave Hamaker. He credits Bramlet and Hamaker as being instrumental in shaping his life and being the type of people that will be remembered for the rest of his life. “It was a great group of teachers, and probably still is today, but they get no recognition and they get nothing but grief from no-it-all kids. Their one goal in life is to see somebody do well”, said Schuyler.
1977 was the first year boys were allowed to take Home Ec. at NCHS and while perhaps Schuyler didn’t have the fiery passion for culinary arts, yet , he did have an agenda. “The only reason I took Home Ec. was because that’s where the pretty girls were. Idy Bramlet is the reason I do what I do. She got me interested. She made me do the work, but she made it fun. I wanted to cook weird stuff like kangaroo and alligator. I know that there wasn’t a budget for that kind of thing and the local grocery stores didn’t carry such exotic fare.” He strongly suspects that Mrs. Bramlet made several trips to Casper and used her own funds to obtain what was needed to keep the spark of interest burning in a young man with an eye for the ladies. “She loved it and it meant the world to her. “ Following graduation he would call her and she would giggle as they reminisced of past recipes. “It doesn’t get any better than that. That to me is what teaching is all about. They took it seriously”. Schuyler mentions that Bramlet also taught his mother in high school. “Around Lusk, that is what so many of those teachers did. They taught generations. For me, they made such an impact on my life. And now later in life I still look at that”.
From the lessons cultured in the halls of Niobrara County High School, Schuyler went on to establish a successful business, Pokey’s BBQ & Smokehouse located in Gillette, Wyoming. And true to form he is still cooking “weird stuff” like python, kangaroo and alligator. He also gives back by hiring kids that have made poor choices or made mistakes. He gives them a chance, just as he was taught to do by educators like Bramlet and Hamaker. This was the effect these two educators had on him. “They just saw something in me and wanted me to do well”. That is what he tries to do for others.
“A voice went off in my head about three months ago. I still think about these teachers a lot. I just felt I had to do something. I’m in a position where I can, so I did.” Forty years after graduation he made a phone call inquiring about the bidding process for catering the alumni banquet. Alumni board member, Karma Gaukel offered to send him a bid sheet. He inquired if she was “good Karma”” or “bad karma”, to which she responded that she would like to think she landed on the “good” side. Schuyler came to the point telling her that he didn’t want to bid on the position. He wanted to cook it, pay for it and donate it. The only stipulation made was that he would be allowed to thank two teachers in particular and to dedicate the meal in their honor. “To put their name on it so they’re always remembered.”
He got that opportunity. Bramlet passed away May 23, 2015, unfortunately but Hamaker was at the banquet. What Schuyler wanted to make clear was that these teachers give their lives and are thanked very little. This was just an occasion where he could thank them in such a “small way” and he felt compelled to honor them with a small token of his appreciation. It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. Made even more so by positive education.