John Perry Barlow holds forth on the finer qualities of Sinbad at the Bar Cross auction in 1988. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./Jackson Hole News/Wyofile)

“Honestly, I don’t think I was cut out for ranching,” John Perry Barlow said in 1988 after he sold his family’s Bar Cross Ranch in Cora and auctioned the equipment and chattels. “I spent 17 years not being able to say that to myself or anyone else.”

In the photograph above, Barlow is center stage at the auction, holding forth on the qualities of his mount, Sinbad. The former rancher, Wyoming Outdoor Council president, Wyoming Senate candidate, lyricist for the Grateful Dead and co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation died Feb. 7 in San Francisco. He was 70.

Barlow left the family ranch at 14 but returned to run the 5,800-acre spread after his father’s death in 1971. His grandfather, Perry W. Jenkins, bought the property in 1914 after “he had become tired of being shot at by his neighbor down on the New Fork River and decided to move upstream,” Barlow told the Jackson Hole News. Barlow’s father, Norman, a former math and astronomy teacher at Columbia University, thought up the brand. The minus sign above a plus sign came to symbolize the economic difficulty of keeping the operation in the black.

Today the ranch house is being renovated and a team from Evergreen Architectural Arts is seeking what may be signatures of Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Janis Joplin and John F. Kennedy Jr. on the kitchen wall. “When they were writing songs for the Grateful Dead down there, they would sign the kitchen wall along with everybody else, the hay crew and all,” said Jim Roscoe, a Teton- and Sublette County contractor who is overseeing the restoration. Conservators are working through layers of paint and wallpaper believed to have covered the writings.

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Among the scribblings: “Mortality is the price you pay for identity.” (David Swift, After Dark, Jackson Hole News.)

Barlow coined the term cyberspace, wrote the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace, and lyrics to songs, mostly by Weir. Phrases came to him while driving his tractor along the foothills of the Wind River Range, including these in “Cassidy.”

“I have seen where the wolf has slept by the silver stream/I can tell by the mark he left you were in his dream.”

 

Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Angus M. Thuermer Jr. is the natural resources reporter for WyoFile. He is a veteran Wyoming reporter and editor with more than 35 years experience in Wyoming. Contact him at angus@wyofile.com or (307)...

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  1. I remember an article about him from the 70s or thereabouts which ended by saying something like “Barlow then drove away from the ranch in a pickup with a bumper sticker reading: ‘It’s still not weird enough for me'”. Does anyone have a cite to that article?

  2. Thanks, Angus. The video is so rich and thoughtful, I appreciate you posting for the rest of us to see and hear his words. RIP JPB

  3. Legend says that Sublette County school funding took a big hit when John Perry’s Porsche-powered $peeding ticket$ came thru with diminished regularity…

  4. It’s interesting to read about the Wyo angle on John Perry Barlow and to learn about conservators seeking to uncover signatures of rock and roll legends at Barlow’s Bar Cross Ranch.

    It seems unlikely that Janis Joplin’s will be among them. She died Oct 1970. Yet, as you and others report, Barlow did not return to the ranch until 1971.

    Finally, Barlow did not coin the term cyberspace. Instead, it is widely reported that he was the first to associate cyberspace with the Internet.

    Meanwhile, please keep us updated on what conservators find at the ranch.

  5. I remember one winter driving from Jackson to pick up a friend at john’s place for a trip to Aspen in the 70’s and there were iguanas running around the ranch house. RIP john Sublette Illuminati.