By Paul Ulrich, columnist
Last August at a family camping trip at Pole Mountain outside of Laramie I took my niece on a trail ride in our side-by-side. As we rocked through the trees and prairie trails targeting large mud holes my 4-year old niece yelled “Wyoming is the Greatest” over and over between spitting mud (and probably cow dung) out of her mouth.
Her exclamations stuck with me. I ponder often her pure and fearless joy and love of Wyoming. I agree wholeheartedly with her that Wyoming is the greatest. The question I come back to is why?
Our unrivaled hunting and fishing, endless hiking and biking trails, camping, skiing, snowmobiling, rock climbing and kayaking opportunities are great. To name a few.
We can also look to our unique and rich cultural and wildlife heritage for greatness. Our Native American and ranching heritage is something we all take immense pride in. Our wildlife and fossil resources I marvel at each and every day.
So, back to the question of why I think Wyoming is the greatest. To find my answer to this question I looked to the soul of Wyoming and the values we hold dearest. I sought examples and boy did I find them.
I was visiting my Grandmother in the nursing home in Kemmerer this past fall and witnessed a great example of love and dedication. A retired gentleman was visiting his wife, a resident of the nursing home.
After we all shared a few words and inevitably made the “Wyoming” connection he pulled out an old Walkman with two headphones and he and his wife spent the rest of the time listening to gospel music and teachings together.
The moment touched me and I had to ask one of the amazing nurses the story. His wife had been a resident for several years and every single day he visited for hours, listening to music and simply sharing time. Let that sink in. Each and every day for years.
My more recent example we are all very familiar with. The story of an adopted son of Wyoming that demonstrates to us, perhaps the country, a fine example of perseverance and toughness. No college scholarships out of High School, Junior College, one, I repeat, one Division 1 college offer (Wyoming obviously) and every idiot talking head saying he wasn’t good enough to play, let alone succeed in the NFL.
A lot of crow is being eaten these days and we sure are proud to call Josh Allen one of our own. His perseverance, toughness and humility are Wyoming.
The words courage and bravery tend to be overused and over applied. The mental and moral strength to truly resist hardship let alone insurmountable pain and agony is rare and labeling someone courageous and brave need to be equally as rare. When we are witness to a truly courageous person we need to shine the light, take note and perhaps in a small way grow ourselves.
Such is the case with Triton Fritz of Hudson, Wyoming and his family. 11-year old Triton was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer at age 6. He recently went on hospice care and his body can’t fight anymore. The courage of Triton to fight for so many years against all odds and the courage of his family to share his story and their pain is remarkable.
Not only has Triton fought like hell with a smile on his face, he went ahead and memorialized his story in a book to help other children and families that might follow. That’s courage, that’s bravery and that is why Triton & his family will always go down in my book as the finest of both.
Our values, who we are, are the fabric and foundation of Wyoming. There are certainly more than I exhibited and I look forward to hearing your examples.
Triton, Josh and the beautiful couple from Kemmerer are a few of my favorites that demonstrate why I think Wyoming is the greatest. Quite simply, our people.