Reliving history

Vernal woman's game based on Browns Park's past

Decades ago, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch rode the vast countryside of Browns Park between bank robberies.

It's a part of history that is fading away into books. But a Vernal woman is working to keep the stories of the Wild Bunch alive through a board game that celebrates the history of the outlaw West.

Dusty Johnson Grothusen's board game, Ride the Outlaw West, has sold 5,000 copies since she first released it. It's been so successful that she plans to produce 10,000 more games.

Players start the game with $300, a horse and the clothes on their backs. To become outlaws, they land on spaces that give them guns and gear so they can begin pursuits such as cattle rustling and bank robbing.

Everything a player does is based on the history of Butch Cassidy and his gang. The game comes with a bibliography of the sources Grothusen researched while developing it.

Those sources, she said, include everything important that has been written about Butch Cassidy.

"I snuck it in on you, because you don't realize you're learning," she said.

Players draw Outlaw Fate cards when landing on certain squares, and while the cards can be either good or bad in the course of the game, each card provides historical information about outlaws.

The game has been sold in five nations, and Grothusen has shipped it to U.S. soldiers serving in Kuwait.

The soldiers found the game online and contacted her to request a copy.

While traveling the country to market the game, Grothusen has met many people who say they are relatives of the historical characters in the game.

They tell her family stories of buried gold and hidden Indian head pennies, and Grothusen records their tales.

"There's still too much firsthand knowledge to ignore," she said.

These stories will be incorporated into a second edition of the game Grothusen already is planning.

She intends to write Outlaw Lore cards, which will compliment the history of the Outlaw Fate cards.

Grothusen isn't claiming the anecdotes that people share with her are always factual history, but it's the history people grew up knowing and that provides a value.

The game is set up for two to eight players. Coming from Utah, where Grothusen said people tend to have big families, she wanted to make the game bigger. But she couldn't find more than eight outlaws who were worthy to be in the game.

"These guys had better morals than we have today," she said.

Although Butch Cassidy and his crew robbed banks and committed crimes, they were moral people, unlike some Eastern outlaws who viciously murdered others, she said.

The Wild Bunch helped many ranchers in the Browns Park area who would not have survived without the outlaws' assistance, she said.

"It's a real Robin Hood story."

In Moffat County, Ride the Outlaw Trail is for sale at Under the Aspen Tree, the Museum of Northwest Colorado and the Maybell Store.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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