Bluemel channels history in her new endeavor

 PINEDALE – Mary Bluemel’s father used to say that she’s “tougher than whang leather.”

He started coining that in reference to his daughter’s abilities to get back up on a horse and keep pushing. She then demonstrated her toughness in pushing for clinics in Sublette County to get vet-certified so her father could spend his last years in the county. She’s also found her own toughness in being an advocate for mental health, eventually becoming an approved speaker by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

But her latest endeavor is based upon different words from her father. He’d introduce Bluemel as “the best in the West” when she’d show off her hobby art for his last several years. He taught her the basics when she was young and she continued her hobby for 49 years. Now, she’s pursuing her art as a full-time business – Best In The West.

She’s already won Wyoming State Fair prizes for oil paintings and promoted her works through two books, the second of which will soon be printed and for sale. She’s in talks with a publication company in New York to do some freelance illustrations for them.

Her creations can mark different special occasions or holidays, or create a permanent piece to remember loved ones. She’s been asked to create art involving multi-generational families as well as a beloved horse. While she appreciates all of them, that last one gave her certain sentimental value.

Drawing horses brought back memories. She’s a former county barrel-racing champion. Back then she rode a little gray mare that had been in the rodeo bucking string.

“She bucked off the good cowboys, then stopped so my dad brought her back to our ranch and gave her to me. She never attempted to buck with me,” Bluemel said. “She was an outstanding horse.”

A look at the horse she drew brings back memories of her father, even if they’re not horse related. Like the time they went to the circus in the 1970s when she stood in line to get a picture taken with a sticky-warm python around her neck. Those are the times she remembers decades later.

So she’s decided to turn her hobby into a full-time job to create permanent memories. Work to frame and hang on walls for future generations to see, sparking folk tales and rose-tinted times. She’s hopeful her work can continue her activism for mental health.

“We are Wyoming warrior women,” she said. “Reach out.”