I’ve got this new email friend from Upstate Wyoming.
(You know Upstate Wyoming – anything north of Chugwater and west of Buford. Here in Cheyenne, we’re Downstate Wyoming, the beating heart of government, bureaucracy and feisty debate.)
While I’ve never met this guy in person, I’ve written about him, and lately we trade emails. He’s a retired forester and smoke-jumper. And he has lots of great stories about an interesting life’s work.
Like when he pulled a car out of a snowdrift for a lady, then jump started her dead battery to get her on her way. She tried to pay him, but he wouldn’t hear of it.
“Guys like me live for opportunities like this,” he told her, savoring the chance to show a little western hospitality, and to give his pickup, his tow strap and his jumper cables a workout.
Besides, for retired guys like us, every day is Saturday.
I included him in a column about the western ethic of helping folks who are in trouble. Without compensation.
So anyway, my new friend from Upstate Wyoming – a plain-talking clear thinker, who jumped out of perfectly good airplanes no less than 50 times to fight fires – has been encouraged to run for office. A seat in the Wyoming Legislature was suggested – 60 most-expenses-paid wintry days every two years in scenic Downstate Wyoming. Or maybe a seat on his local school board, which Bill Clinton once said carries more raw power than being president.
Ronald Reagan said the time to run for office is when other people ask you to.
I was thinking about this guy two weeks ago when I sat in the gallery of the Wyoming Senate, watching the brain-numbing process of approving or rejecting amendments to bills. It was near the end of the 20-day budget session, and the lawmakers looked kind of logy, exhausted, bored, and I thought this would be no job for a guy who used to jump out of airplanes.
(Turns out I was a couple days early in my visit to the Senate gallery, and missed the action-packed afternoon when they tied my senator to the mast and flogged him with the cat of nine tails, removing him from his committees for being an unrepentant scoundrel. And now Senate leaders may investigate him, which is confusing because I thought the hanging comes AFTER the trial, not before. So now I don’t know if Senate leaders are covering their tracks, or piling on.)
So anyway, my new friend from Upstate Wyoming will not be running for office for two very good reasons. Turns out he’s got a whole slew of grand kids, some of them grand daughters, and tea parties are held from time to time with various stuffed animals, and Grandpa is expected to attend.
“A grandfather has to have priorities,” he told me, citing a recent “King’s Tea Party” with one of his grand daughters. Straightening out the Legislature, or serving on the local school board, might get in the way of important grandfather duties.
“It is often difficult to keep up with the requests of the fair ladies,” he said, “but I try and I am often corrected for using the wrong vocabulary – The Queen’s Tea Party it is.”
I understand. It is my duty to teach my 3½-year-old grand daughter how to bake peanut butter cookies with Hershey Kisses on them, and to help her crack eggs for breakfast. I taught her to say, “Get the lead out!” when her mother takes too long preparing lunch, and she’s the only kid in pre-school who knows the answer to the age-old seafaring song, “What do you do with a drunken sailor?”
Answer: “Put him in a longboat ’til he’s sober.”
Grandpas have duties which cannot be interrupted – attending tea parties, cracking eggs, and teaching grand kids that burned toast will “put hair on your chest.” (That one really confuses grand daughters.)
You know. Important stuff.
The second very good reason my Upstate Wyoming friend won’t be running for office?
His wife won’t let him.
Jumping out of airplanes is one thing. Getting into politics, quite another.