By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
There’s a spot between Cody and Greybull on U.S. Highway 20 where cell service gets sketchy. It’s the highest point, just east of Cody, called Eagle Pass.
There’s a flag that flies there, that has been there as long as many can remember. Or at least, there was, until vandals knocked the pole over a few months ago.
But that act of disrespect for the American flag has motivated a wave of support that saw thousands of dollars raised to replace the flagpole and ensure that the American flag continues to fly at Eagle Pass for years to come.
It all started because Howard Lewis, a Navy veteran, wanted to honor his mother.
“His mother used to take them to Cody once a month,” explained Bobby Werner, post commander at American Legion Post 32 in Greybull. “And when the weather was permissible they’d stop at Eagle Pass and have a picnic lunch. And when his mother passed, in honor of her, he started putting up a flagpole.”
“The flag was on a plastic pole,” said John Arney, who was friends with Lewis in Greybull. “But the wind kept blowing it down. And so he got a hold of my friend Lee Snyder, who’s in the American Legion in Greybull with me, and he talked him into trying to put a better pole up there. So they asked me, and I told them that if they could get a permit, I would help and I would do the work.”
In February of 2010, the American Legion secured a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put a permanent flagpole at Eagle Pass. But it wasn’t an easy task, according to Arney.
“So Lee got a piece of pipe, and I went to welding and putting the pulley on it and stuff,” Arney said. “And we got cement and an old wheelbarrow. I’ve got a handheld posthole digger, Lee and I tried to drill a hole in that rocky country out there – beat the heck out of us – but we got a hole dug according to the permit, and we put it up. My grandson come down, and he’s a horse – without him, we wouldn’t have got that pole up.”
Arney said that he and Lee took turns replacing the flags when they wore out, which was quite often due to the stiff winds that batter Eagle Pass regularly.
But Arney said eventually they both “burned out,” and the duty was handed off to volunteers from Greybull’s American Legion and VFW posts.
“But then somebody wanted to knock the pole down with their truck and it really put a nasty taste in my mouth,” Arney said, “because there’s a lot of people that liked that flag up there.”
Werner said when they were notified of the vandalism in February of this year, he and another member of the American Legion went out to the spot to collect the flag.
“It appeared that somebody pushed the pole over with the bumper of their vehicle, car, truck, whatever,” Werner said. “And it was bent pretty badly.”
That’s when the community rallied to replace the flag that, it turns out, was important to a lot of locals, who were alerted to the damage by an article in the Greybull Standard.
“On Valentine’s Day, the Elks Lodge had a dinner here in Greybull,” Werner said. “And a lady had a coffee can, and she put that article in there, and she walked around and started collecting money. And she collected about $240 that night. Later on, somebody walked up and handed me an envelope, and it was two $100 bills.”
Werner said after the Standard published its story about the vandalism, donations came pouring in.
“The next thing you know, we established an account at that Bank of Greybull,” Werner said. “And since then, we’ve raised (around) $10,000.”
“We raised some money,” Arney said. “There’s people from clear down in Louisiana that sent us this money, I don’t know who they are.”
Werner said the money – much more than is necessary to replace the flag and flagpole – will be used to enhance the entryways into the community, as well as keep the Eagle Pass flag flying proudly.
“We’ll be putting new flags over there occasionally,” he said. “And then the other plan is, with the approval of the town of Greybull, we want to erect flag poles at each sign coming into Greybull.”
“They poured the concrete and it’s ready for the pole now,” said Arney of the Eagle Pass flagpole. “They’re going to put it up Friday, and then hopefully they’re going to do the dedication the Fourth of July.”
“Everybody’s so used to seeing it when they go to Cody,” Werner said, “and hopefully it’ll be visible when you come back from Cody now, because we are putting up a taller pole.”
“Howard had a good idea there, to put it up there on top of Eagle Pass,” Arney said. “And when I go past it, I just stop and go in and salute it, and it’s just America to me. And it’s ‘bout the only thing I can do outside of belonging to the American Legion.
“As an American,” Arney continued, “I’m happy to see it up there.”