By Dave Simpson, columnist
It’s Toss Another Log on the Fire Season in Wyoming, as winter finally arrived in Cheyenne last week, with 60-mile-per-hour winds, blowing snow and freezing temperatures.
“It ain’t a fit night out for man or beast!” W.C. Fields said in the 1933 movie “The Fatal Glass of Beer.” It was kind of like that here.
(Fields, dressed in a bear-like fur coat, said the line six times in the movie, each time a cabin door was opened and a bucket full of fake snow was thrown in his face. Audiences loved it.)
Last weekend, 18-wheelers were idling at every truck stop in Cheyenne, waiting for hurricane winds to die down at Arlington/Elk Mountain on I-80, at Bordeaux up north of Chugwater on I-25, and elsewhere. (One Wyoming Highway Department camera on I-25 is labeled, appropriately, “Wind Sock.”)
We kept hearing about high winds, wrecks and road closures on both interstates. When will drivers, especially those driving trucks, learn to slow down? Or better yet, stay in town until the wind stops howling.
Has there ever been a better time to stay home than this time of year in Wyoming? To put your favorite chair in front of the fireplace, open a good book, and put a pot of chili on the stove for dinner? Call me an odd duck, but that’s my kind of day.
Winter can be tough in Cheyenne, but I think it’s tougher “over the hill” in Laramie, where I worked years ago, experiencing some brutal winters. One year the snow/melt/deep freeze cycle repeated a couple times, and the streets were like frozen railroad tracks. A police accident report said the cop didn’t give a driver a ticket “because I fell down three times, just walking over to his car.”
Everybody in town – including at the Spudnut Shop, where my first publisher drank coffee most mornings with his pals – was complaining about the lack of snow removal.
I stopped by the city manager’s office to ask how the effort to clear the streets was going, and City Manager Harold Yungmeyer said in frustration, “Pray for sunshine!” He said clearing streets of a frozen mess like that was a budget buster, and might not even be possible. So “pray for sunshine.”
It made a good headline in the Laramie Daily Boomerang. And it didn’t take long for “Fire Yungmeyer” bumper stickers to show up in town. (A pretty good city manager, if a bit too frank for his own good at times, Yungmeyer didn’t get fired, and ultimately moved on to be city manager of Las Cruces, New Mexico – where snow and ice are no doubt less of a problem.)
So anyway, this past weekend a truck driver from Florida asked for advice on a new Facebook page posting reports from actual drivers on road conditions. The trucker was on his way from Twin Falls, Idaho, back to Florida, and he asked what the status of I-80 was across southern Wyoming. It didn’t look promising.
He was shocked when 125 people responded to his post.
Let me repeat that: One hundred and twenty five helpful people!
“I was thinking about everyone in Wyoming who have been so nice and so helpful to me,” the truck driver posted last Sunday. “I was caught off guard because you won’t receive that kind of warm treatment from people in Florida. People down there are not as opened armed as you all in Wyoming.
“Maybe I’m being a goof,” he concluded, “but I have a closeness now to the state of Wyoming and the people in it.”
Can’t beat that.
It reminded me of a guy in Riverton I wrote about earlier this year, who wouldn’t take money from a woman whose car he pulled out of a snow drift.
“Guys like me live for opportunities like this” he told her, a chance to put his pickup, his tow strap, his jumper cables, and his good nature to use. A chance to help someone out.
Bottom line: There are some times when it “ain’t a fit night out for man or beast” here in Wyoming. But, in a pinch, you couldn’t ask for better folks.