Masks, guns and banks. Out here in Wyoming, that sounds like Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch.
Butch was famously asked why he robbed banks. “That’s where the money is,” he answered, looking like he had just been asked the dumbest question on the planet. If Butch did not say it originally, I am sure he thought it.
Two years ago, right now, I recall seeing a local Lander sportsman standing before a teller in a local bank, with his pistol on his hip, wearing a mask and making a withdrawal.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this happened all the time, but those were strange times indeed. It was not odd then because everybody in the bank was wearing a mask.
I was thinking about this while contemplating things that a person should be thankful for here during Thanksgiving weekend.
Besides that peaceful money transaction described above, vaccines come to mind when I think of things to be thankful for. Just two years ago, the entire world had shut down because of the COVID-19 virus and more than 1 million Americans have died from the disease.
Most of us were housebound and working remotely. People were spending the easy money that came from the government and smart businesspeople were filling out forms and working with their bankers and accountants to collect money from programs called PPP and CARES.
The WBC Really Stepped Up
Here in Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council did an absolutely magnificent job of passing out millions of dollars to small businesspeople. I know dozens of small businesses that would not have made it without that good work by the WBC. The number of businesses saved by its good efforts was probably in the thousands.
Gov. Mark Gordon caught a lot of flak during this time as he and his health officer tried to navigate the state through the crisis. From today looking back, Gordon appears to have done a good job in how he handled things.
We are thankful to have lived through the pandemic, and we lost some good people during that awful time. A lot of folks got sick and our medical community paid a high price for their dedication and good work.
New ways of doing business evolved. Remote meetings and telehealth were probably the biggest. School kids had classes at home.
Wyoming has always been famous for its long-distance driving. People in our state drive more miles per capita than any other state. A typical Wyoming meeting was described as driving three hours, meeting for two hours, and then driving three hours home. Not so much anymore.
Zoom meetings became the norm and continue to be the norm. What a luxury is it to sit in your home office and be at a meeting 160 miles away. We all just gained six extra hours plus not having to risk our lives on dangerous roads or dodging wildlife at night.
The term “Zoom casual” came into being where a person would wear a nice shirt but might be wearing shorts below the waist and out of camera view.
I have lots of scenic photos and Zoom has an option where you can put a different backdrop behind you. My home office is very cluttered and a mess. My wife says I have a piling system, not a filing system. Thus, I always put up a nice scenic image behind me. At this morning’s Cowboy State Daily zoom meeting, it was a photo of a giant bison in Yellowstone Park.
Two years ago during the COVID-19 crisis, there were many months in the early days when Wyoming seemed to be spared from the scourge. On June 28, 2020, we had just 20 deaths, which was the third least of any state in the country, behind Hawaii and Alaska.
Ultimately, that changed and we ended up with our share of deaths. A lot of good folks died because of it.
Summer 2020 Was Crazy Safe
A true oddity occurred during the summer of 2020. Millions of tourists came to Wyoming because of our open spaces and wonderful sites and sights. Instead of an explosion of COVID-19 cases, it was benign until fall.
Looking back, that is something I continue to be thankful for.
I had made a promise to myself to never write another column focused on COVID-19, but when it was time to reflect on things to be thankful for this week, there just were no other options.
We are also thankful for our family and our friends. Please be safe if you are traveling this week and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!