Profile - Wes Wildcat

From microfiche to telecomms

In Random Profile, we interview a stochastically selected staff member about his or her life at the office—and outside of it.

Wes Wildcat knows how to change with the times. He came to NCAR nearly 34 years ago to work in the print shop. When the unit folded eight years later, he spent 10 years in the now-defunct computer graphics department, putting data onto 35-millimeter film and microfiche. After that technology was phased out and the film room closed, Wes moved into CISL’s Network Engineering & Telecommunications Section (NETS), where his current job title is network technician.

Staff Notes: Tell me about your role in NETS.

Wes Wildcat sitting at desk.

Wes: I do a variety of things, never the same thing. My main job is using AutoCad and other drawing programs. Right now I’m helping out with drawings for the NWSC [NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center]. When we have big cabling projects, I help the group with that. I do labeling in the telecom closets and wallplates throughout NCAR. I also do photography and video.

Staff Notes: What do you like best about your job?

Wes: My original degree in school was drafting, way back in the ‘70s. I’ve been doing drafting since about seventh grade. I liked angles and drawing things. In college, I did architectural illustration. But I never really found a job in it until I got into NETS in ’92. So it took over 20 years for me to find a job in drafting. But I stuck with it and didn’t give up.

Staff Notes: Thirty-four years is a long time to have worked at NCAR. Have you always been at the Mesa Lab?

Wes: Yes. And I’ve never had a window [laughing]. I’ve always been in the first basement or the second basement. I probably spent about 30 years in the first basement, in the same office for 19 years.

Staff Notes: Let’s hear about your life outside the basement. Tell me about those family photos adorning your office walls.

Wes: My wife, Ruby, and I have three kids, two in Arizona and one in Wyoming. And seven grandkids. We go to a lot of powwows, all over the country—Wisconsin, Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, California—but mainly in Oklahoma, where I grew up.

Staff Notes: Do you have a tribal affiliation?

Wes Wildcat

Wes Wildcat

Wes Wildcat

Wes: Yes, I’m a Pawnee and Euchee. My dad is a Euchee member down in Oklahoma. He’s one of the chiefs in his tribe. It’s an hereditary position. We have our ceremonies in July, which is rough because we dance all day out in the sun. I gourd dance. It’s a warrior’s dance or men’s dance that takes place before the powwow starts. There are a lot of songs that go with it. My grandkids are now dancing in powwows, too. We’re trying to keep the culture going.

My Indian name is Kuta-wa-Kut-su. It means “roaming hawk.” My last name, Wildcat, is only a little more than 100 years old. Back when the Euchee tribe was relocated to Oklahoma [from the eastern Tennessee River Valley area], our tribe didn’t want English names. They said they wanted names to reflect who they were. So they walked around in the woods and whenever they saw an animal, they said, “That’s what I want for a name.” That's why a lot of people are named Rabbit and Turtle. My ancestors happened to see a wildcat.

I was the first American Indian hired at NCAR, as far as I know. I must have been the first one because when I came here, a lot of people were afraid of me. They never knew any Indians growing up and only saw them in the movies, based on the questions I was asked. The room got quiet when I walked in. Walt Roberts [NCAR’s first director] even came down to meet me. He just wanted to talk and learn about my culture. It really surprised the shop when he came walking in because he’d never been down here before.

Staff Notes: Maybe you should have asked Walt for a window. Other than powwows, what else do you do in your free time?

Wes: I like exercising—biking and running. I was in the very first Up-the-Hill bike race at NCAR. I did the foot race once and that was a big disaster. I trained for three months and thought I was ready, but all of a sudden my legs just quit. I’ve done the Bolder Boulder about six times. And I’ve done some races in Oklahoma. Down there, they have a Clydesdale division for bigger people. In the first one I ran last year, I took second. 

I used to coach NCAR’s softball teams, back when the EAC sponsored softball. We had a variety of people from around NCAR on our team. It gave me a chance to yell at directors and managers [more laughter].