Rod Miller: Ghosts Of Wyoming Governors Past

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily

Leo Wolfson recently wrote a couple of great pieces about former Wyoming Governors, Ed Herschler and Dave Freudenthal, and it got me to thinking about governors we have known here in the Big Empty.

Both articles describe thinking governors, logical governors, governors for whom flavor-of-the-month political polemics just don’t cut it. Governors like Herschler and Freudenthal repay the voter’s trust by working hard, paying attention and listening instead of spouting slogans.

Wyoming has been pretty damn lucky with the governors that we’ve had, and a lot of states probably envy us for that. The only governor whom we really had to clean up after was our second governor who was up to his armpits in the Johnson County War political conspiracy.

We replaced that knucklehead with our third, the guy who skinned Big Nose George and was inaugurated wearing shoes made from the outlaw’s hide.

Let it be known that the citizens of Wyoming treasure OUR office of governor, and if some jerkwater politician screws up while in OUR chair, the reckoning will be swift, dramatic and packed with irony.

But, like I said, we’ve either been lucky or good in picking governors. I’ve known a handful in my lifetime, and I’m here to testify that they have all been solid, good statesmen regardless of party.

Hell, we’ll send anyone to Congress or the Legislature. In contests for those offices, we often seem to gravitate toward the noisiest, not the best.

But we are pickier about our governors. For that office, we tend to choose workhorses over show horses.

I don’t know what it is about that office. I’ve spent a lot of time in it and it just “feels” different than any legislative or congressional office I’ve ever been in. It has a different mojo, as if the walls are thinner than any other office in the state, and the citizens of Wyoming are right outside, watching.

My editor thinks that the Governor’s Office is haunted. I won’t argue with him, but I’ll let him tell you that story himself. I am convinced, however, that there is something at work in that office. I might describe it as audible but invisible voice in the place that constantly whispers in the occupant’s ear “No funny business, Lebowski”.

And we tend to elect men and women to the office who are good listeners.

Watch me segue’ into an Ed Herschler story!

Herschler hired me right off the ranch to work in his office in 1984. I’m pretty sure it was Bob Budd who dropped my name to Dick Hartman, Herschler’s quarterback, Hartman called me and told me that I wouldn’t need Carhartts or a shovel to do the work, so I drove to Cheyenne for an interview.

Dick and I talked for a bit in the capital, and I filled out some paperwork. Then he said, “Lets go meet the Gov”. And we drove out to the airport, and met Herschler in the Cloud 9 Bar, just a whisker before Happy Hour.

The Governor of Wyoming sat at his table in the Cloud 9, surrounded by the Carbon County Mafia – Bud Daly, Jerry Michie and Johnny Orton. There was likely a glass of Cabin Still & water in front of him.

Hunters, come to Wyoming, were getting off a plane and collecting their baggage, guncases included. A few of them wandered up to Cloud 9 to wet their whistles. It was getting crowded in the bar.

Herschler shook my hand, and we talked briefly about folks we both knew. Then he motioned some hunters over and asked them where they were from, where they were going to hunt and what kinds of guns did they bring along.

My interview was over.

As I left, Herschler was inspecting their rifles, telling them stories and patting their backs. The governor drinking whiskey with armed strangers, with no security anywhere. This could happen only in Wyoming, where we don’t put assholes in the Governor’s Office.

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