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Wyoming U. S. Senate Race Takes Interesting Twists Among Lummis, Cheney, Friess

in Bill Sniffin/Column
2752

By Bill Sniffin

This past week has been an interesting one for Wyoming politicians Liz Cheney, Cynthia Lummis, and Foster Friess.

 For months, former U. S. Rep. Lummis was the only well-known Republican candidate announced as running for U. S. Senate in 2020.  Her successor, the current U. S. Rep. Cheney, was expected by many to move up for a Senate run, too.

Political pundits were salivating at the thought of a Lummis-Cheney race for current U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi’s senate seat. It would have been a doozy.  Literally, thousands of Republicans in Wyoming were debating which one of these two popular Republican women they would vote for in such a primary?

Then Wednesday, Cheney announced she was staying in the House.

And then Thursday, former gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess reiterated that he is interested in the Senate seat and plans a “listening tour” of Wyoming. He has some things to say and wants to hear what are the key issues of Wyoming voters.

Could this mean in a 24-hour period, Lummis went from being a clear front-runner to possibly facing a hotly contested race against Friess? And who knows who else might be thinking of jumping into the race?

Friess is not to be taken lightly.  He is one of the best-connected Republican non-political office holders in the state. He is a friend of President Donald Trump and was the only gubernatorial candidate endorsed by Trump in the 2018 Wyoming Republican primary.  

Meanwhile Lummis, who once was expected to run for governor in 2018, sat out that race and decided to wait Enzi’s decision on retirement.  Since Enzi’s announced retirement, she has been working hard.  Her appearance at the Wyoming Business Alliance in Cheyenne in November was impressive. She hit a home run with her participation in a program on civility.

Lummis and Friess know each other well.  In a big state with a small population, everybody knows everyone.  Their conservative Wyoming politics mesh well. Both preach civility, which is a welcome trend.

Friess has a personal set of issues that he and his wife Lynn have supported financially and promoted publicly.  These include transparency in government, posted prices for medical procedures, supporting the Rachel’s Challenge program to prevent school bullying, and teaching Civics in schools.  He also is a big proponent of school choice.

The Senate Conservative Fund has recently endorsed Lummis, which is a national group of heavy hitter Republicans.  On Facebook, her page is filled every day with endorsements by statewide Republican leaders.

“I am a dyed-in-the-wool Wyoming conservative and I share the policy goals and unapologetic, liberty-minded orientation of many Senate Conservative Fund candidates like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marsha Blackburn, and Tom Cotton,” she writes on her Facebook page.

Meanwhile, these twists and turns have caught this writer by surprise.  I was positive that Liz Cheney would run for the Senate. Totally surprised when she said she was not going to run for the Senate. Not sure why, but all signs up to now seemed to indicate that she would.

Then when she chose to stay in the House, Foster Friess reaffirmed his interest in the senate seat and now plans a statewide listening tour.

Meanwhile Cynthia Lummis will keep on doing what she has been doing, which is traveling from one end of the state to the other, listening to folks and rounding up endorsements. 

Former Gov. Matt Mead sure sounded like he was not interested in that Senate seat, but will Cheney’s departure from the race change anything?  Another Jackson Republican heavyweight Bob Grady was very serious about a House run if Liz moved up. Will he consider the Senate? Filing deadline is months away.

There are only 100 U. S. Senate seats in the country and they do not come up very often.  Wyoming’s two seats are the most powerful in the country complains the New York Times because they are equally as powerful as two seats from California. However, ours each represent 290,000 people while a senate seat in California represents 20 million people! By this math, it takes 68 people in California to have the clout in the Senate as one person in Wyoming.  Feels about right to me. But I digress.

 Liz Cheney now has the chance to settle in at the U. S. House and some day move up to Speaker.  She already has set records at the speed of which she has gain influence, becoming the third-ranking member in just her second term. This is unprecedented. I think it is wonderful that she is staying put. 

 So, Wyoming voters sit back and enjoy the ride in 2020. Political races are fun for just about everybody, but it can be hard on the participants. So let’s give a shout-out to all those folks stirring the pot including Lummis, Cheney, Friess, and anyone else who wants to jump into the fray. 

My Wyoming: An Old Story About a Dog, a Lake, Ducks, Beer, Thin Ice, and Dynamite

in Bill Sniffin/Column
2730

By Bill Sniffin

In 2015, a 61-year old Green River man, John M. Henderson, fell through the ice on a frozen Flaming Gorge and drowned.

In 2016, a couple driving a Ford F-350 pickup at night across Boysen Reservoir east of Riverton broke through the ice. They narrowly escaped by kicking out the back window and scrambling out of the water-filled truck. Their pickup went to the bottom of the lake.

We’ve heard other unusual stories about going out on frozen Wyoming lakes.  Most will curl your hair.

There was a report from a Wyoming agency recently that told about how to save yourself or someone else who had fallen through the ice.  Their main lesson was – be super cautious about going out onto the ice to save someone else.  If you fall in, too, then you have two dead people instead of one.

Here is a supposedly true story about an event some years ago here in Wyoming where the ice reportedly gets really, really thick – about as thick as the skulls on these two unfortunate duck hunters. 

The title of this story is: “Too bad about the dog.”  I apologize to whomever originally told me the story and these details borrow liberally from some unknown source (probably on the internet). They swore this occurred in the Cowboy State and I did not check with Snopes to verify it.

This supposedly occurred on Flaming Gorge or Boysen Reservoir or Glendo Reservoir or Seminoe or near Saratoga or some other Wyoming body of water.  Here goes: 

 Back around 2013, a guy buys a brand new Ford Pickup King Ranch Edition for $49,000 and has $790 monthly payments. He and a friend go duck hunting and of course all the lakes are frozen.

They drive to this particular lake armed with beer, with guns, with beer, their dog, with beer, and of course the new vehicle. They drive out onto the frozen lake and get ready.

Now, after a few beers, they decide they will be needing a landing area for the ducks. A place where decoys can float in such a manner to entice over-flying ducks to come land on the water.  And get shot. In order to make a hole large enough to look like something a wandering duck would fly down and land on, it is going to take a little more effort than an ice drill can make.

So, one of these bright fellers disappears into the back of the new King Ranch and emerges with a stick of dynamite armed with a 90-second fuse.

Now these two Rocket Scientists do take into consideration that they need to place the stick of dynamite on the ice at a location far from where they are standing (and the new pickup). They don’t want to risk slipping on the ice when they are running from the burning fuse and possibly go up in smoke with the resulting blast. They decide to light this 90-second fuse and throw the dynamite as far away as possible.

(Remember a couple of paragraphs back when we mentioned the beer, the vehicle, the beer, the guns, the beer, and the dog?)

Yes, the dog: A highly trained Black Lab used for retrieving.  Especially things thrown by its owner. You guessed it, the pooch takes off at a high rate of doggy speed on the ice and snatches up the stick of dynamite in its mouth with the burning 90-second fuse aflame.

The two men yell, scream, wave arms and wonder what to do now?

The dog, cheered on, keeps on returning.  One of the guys grabs the shotgun and shoots at the dog. The shotgun is loaded with #8 duck shot, hardly big enough to stop a Black Lab. The dog stops for a moment, slightly confused, but soldiers on.

Another shot and this time the dog becomes really confused and of course is terrified, thinking these two Nobel Prize winners have gone insane.

The dog takes off to find cover, (with the now really short fuse burning on the stick of dynamite) and ends up underneath the brand new pickup.

BOOM!

The dog and pickup are blown to bits and sink to the bottom of the lake in a very large hole, leaving the two idiots standing there with this “I can’t believe this happened” look on their faces.

 The pickup owner calls his insurance company. He is told that sinking a vehicle in a lake by illegal use of explosives is not covered.

He still had yet to make the first of those $790 a month payments.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find them at www.wyomingwonders.com.

Growing Up in Jeffrey City, Wyoming

in Column/Jerry Kendall
2716

By Jerry Kendall for the Cowboy State Daily

Whenever I mention that I grew up in Jeffrey City, I almost always get the same response: “Really? Jeffrey City? I’m sorry.”

Then I spend the next 15 minutes trying to convince the person that it wasn’t a bad place to grow up. My explanation generally starts with, “the wind blows a lot but after a while, you hardly notice.”

Well, anyone who has ever lived there knows that you never get used to it. Ever! You just sort of live with it and adapt.  

Ain’t no one better at adapting than kids.

Now you’ve got to realize these were the days before video games, computers, cell phones, and if you even had a TV, you only got one channel.

We spent all our free time outside and it seemed there was always plenty to do. After all, we did have the whole Red Desert for our backyard.

Our family actually lived on the back trailer row of the town and as the wind ripped through the gap between Green Mountain and Crooks Mountain, we were pretty much the first thing in its path other than the sagebrush.

I can remember watching the walls of our trailer moving in and out, like some great aluminum salamander breathing. Sometimes the windows would bow in until I thought they would shatter, sending shards of glass into anything in their path. Folks would put old tires on their roofs to keep them from rumbling as the wind swept over them. As I mentioned, the wind blew some in Jeffrey.

During the winter there were huge snowdrifts, which set up to the point where you could carve out caves or build forts made from blocks carved with shovels. We used these fortresses for huge snowball fights amongst warring enemies. We played king of the mountain on a mound of snow that would have been considered a real mountain in some states.

When it got cold enough, the miners would go out into a nearby field and push up snow walls with plows or backhoes into a large square and then fill the center with water for a skating rink. Almost every kid in town would show up with their battered old hockey skates. If you tried to skate against the wind you would end up going backwards until you ran into the snowbank on the downwind side of the rink.

What most of us would like to do was walk in the snow up the side until we got to the upper end. Then holding you coat open so the wind filled it like a sail, we would fairly fly across the rink, smashing into the bank at the other end and rolling through the snow out into the field. Hey, when you get lemons, make lemonade!

I remember one hot summer day, my buddy Dean Axtell and I were wandering around town, slingshots hanging from our back pockets, wondering what to shoot next when we spied a large refrigerator box behind the mercantile. We decided to make a fort out of it.

The wind was howling as usual. This box was a place to get away from being sandblasted for a while. Fighting the wind, we dragged it out to one of the few grassy areas in town, which ran along the highway and we crawled inside.

Much to our delight, we started rolling alongside the highway, tumbling all over each other and laughing uncontrollably. As we gained momentum, I ended up rolling out the end of the box, landing in a heap on the grass.

“Hang on Dean!” I shouted as I ran to catch up. But I couldn’t catch up. Dean was a little feller back then and he and that box were headed east at a high rate of speed. Just when I thought I would never see my little buddy again, the box spit him out as well. He was so dizzy he couldn’t stand up, so as any good friend would do, I ran up and dog-piled him.

We sat in a heap, laughing until our sides hurt and watched in amazement as the box began taking huge leaps into the air. The last time we saw it we figured it was headed for Casper. “Well, now what do you wanna do?”

 Everything considered, Jeffrey City was a great place to grow up in. We had movies in the old Quonset hut on Friday nights. We had a small outdoor swimming pool. We even had a bowling alley, which had been moved from Lander. Add that to the Sweetwater River within walking distance to swim and fish in and of course the Red Desert in our backyard to explore.

One thing though  .  . . the wind does blow there a bit.

Travel Troubles

in Column/Range Writing
2705

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

For all the international travel I’ve been fortunate to experience, I’ve had amazingly good luck. But that luck had to run out, and my trip to Canada last week was the time.

I started out by waking up too early in the morning, getting all the ranch work done and then heading to the Jackson airport. It was snowing and cold, but the plane took off for San Francisco without a hitch. I landed with a leisurely layover before my flight to Calgary and that’s when things started to go wrong.

I received a phone call that after 19 blissful wolf-free days on the ranch, a new pack had made its presence known and had scattered the elk from a nearby feedground. I relayed the information back to my family at home and tried not to worry.

The plane was delayed, first for a half-hour, then for another half-hour. By the time all the half-hours went by, it was three hours late and I landed in Canada about 1 a.m.

After being up for some 23 hours by then, I was exhausted and barely able to keep from arguing with the pushy car rental agent who wanted me to purchase insurance I didn’t need, and warned me I was personally responsible for the navigation system I’d rented as a backup (in case I found myself out of cell range in my drive to a rural area where I was slated to speak the next day).

Oops, by then it was already the next day. I went out into the -17° cold to meet my rental “smart car.” My family thinks it is hysterically funny to picture me driving such an advancement in technology, since my normal rig is a feed truck on the ranch.

I find a sleek car in the rental space and look down to see I’m holding a key fob with no key. I pushed the first button on the fob only to find it set off the blast of the car’s emergency alarm.

Although there was no other fool out in the dark and cold to hear the blast, I frantically pushed more buttons, finally shutting off the alarm and getting the danged vehicle unlocked. I hopped in and automatically moved to push the nonexistent key into the nonexistent key-starter – only to find a button. I look again at the key fob and realize my mistake. I push the button, but nothing happens.

After pushing it a few more times, a text appeared on the car’s dash instructing me that if I want to start the car I should push on the brake before hitting the starter button. Okay, done. Yaay, some heat to take off the chill as the car defrosts.

I got myself organized in the car and booted up the navigation system, plugging in the name of the hotel where I had a room waiting, but the system didn’t recognize it.

I then typed in the address, with the same result. I pulled out my cell phone and found that it had no service, and wasn’t able to roam on a Canadian provider. Great. Middle of the night, Calgary, no idea how to get where I need to be.

I headed south, finding the first flaw of the “smart” car: its lights don’t automatically turn on. I pulled over to find the lights on the steering column before continuing on my way, attempting and failing to find my hotel. After about 20 minutes, I gave up and I found another hotel with an available room.

After dropping $150 for three hours of hotel room rental, I was back on the road again (using an actual paper highway map), headed to a town two hours south – in a snow storm in my rented smart car.

The dashboard continually provided insights into my driving, contrasting whether my driving was “economical” or “aggressive.” So great, the car was “judgy” too, which probably made me slightly more aggressive as I engaged in war with the car.

After an hour, the car suggested I take a break, tempting me with an image of a steaming cup of coffee. I ignored it and drove on. It continued to make obnoxious suggestions as I drove, yet warning me about every slight curve in the wide, well-maintained, divided highway.

I arrived in the town where I was to join a rancher forum for the day, and stopped to search the rented navigation system for the location of the meeting. The navigation system had never heard of such a place, or such an address.

A helpful convenience store clerk explained that the place may have a new name on the building, but it was known as the Elks Lodge and that I would find it just past the local Dodge dealership. That’s the kind of navigation I could follow, and soon arrived at my destination. Only to find my cell phone (with my schedule and reservations detailed in its electronic calendar) was missing.

I raced back to the convenience store, where a nice passerby had found my phone where I had dropped it in the snow. It had been recently run over by a vehicle. Oh yes, another complication in my sleep-deprived travels.

Fortunately, the meeting went smoothly, and was well attended by ranchers throughout the region despite the snowstorm. I borrowed some internet time for a quick search of the location of the hotel I had failed to find during the night and headed back toward Calgary, reaching the city in time for rush-hour, stop-and-go traffic.

My judgy rental car finally decided my driving was economical by the time I reached my long-lost hotel and I dropped into an exhausted sleep.

With an early morning flight, I returned the car to the rental lot and locked it. The placard outside the unmanned station instructed me to drop the keys and the rental agreement in the box provided. But the box was only large enough for the key fob.

I spoke with another befuddled car renter about what to do, and we decided to drop the keys in the box but take the agreements back to the rental desk inside the airport.

I had packed the worthless navigation system back into its carrying case and we ran through the cold to the rental desk. Which was unmanned. We tucked our rental agreements (detailing the mileage driven and proving we had returned the cars with full tanks) and the navigation system behind the desk and hurried through the terminal to begin the security process.

By the time I could check telephone messages on a layover back in America, I learned the car rental company was looking for me – something about a missing navigation system.

Although I tried to return the call numerous times, the rental company refused to answer the phone but had maxed out the available credit on my credit card.

The next flights went smoothly, and I landed back in Jackson to be met by Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce members welcoming travelers to the valley and handing out free mimosas near the luggage kiosk.

Mercifully I made it back to the ranch with no further mishaps, where I’ll be spending hours hounding the rental car company, talking to the credit card company, and ordering a new cell phone.

I’ll happily fire up my stupid, ugly, and unjudgy ranch truck that has manual windows and door locks, and that doesn’t try to convince me to take a break despite not getting out of four-wheel-drive for four months of the year.

We’ll be navigating around the ranch in the snow, searching for wolf tracks and escaping the advancements in technology that have made life so easy.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@iclou

Nanobots, Fossil Fuel Issues, and the End of Work as We Know It

in Bill Sniffin/Column/Technology
Crowd of robots. 3D illustration
2681

By Bill Sniffin

With your arms around the future; And your back against the past  — the Moody Blues

One of the high points of our annual New Year’s trip to see Dallas relatives is my yearly visit with the smartest person I know.

Of the 301,000 employees at Hewlett Packard a few years ago, one special employee stood out, their lone futurist, Jeff Wacker.

He is retired now and working on a book.

He also used to live in the same neighborhood as our daughter in Allen, TX.

A Nebraska native, Jeff would fit comfortably in Wyoming. His values and those of the Cowboy State pretty much line up. If his wife Nancy did not have some health issues, he might be living right now on the family homestead in western Nebraska, which he calls “eastern Wyoming.”

He has the same typical bad news for fossil fuels we Wyomingites all are hearing.  But he blames it on an amazing future of batteries and even exotic fuel sources like anti-matter.

He feels strongly that the hysteria about global warming is over-stated. He is an expert on just about everything. He challenges folks who believe Al Gore to dig into where that “90 percent of scientists believe  . . .” story came from. He says we are in a 1,000-year cycle and the heating of the earth occurs 600 years after CO2 increases.   

As a futurist, he thinks on a global scale and in big pictures.  He worries about eternal life.  “We are very close to providing a path where people don’t have to die, that one of the biggest future problems will be should we die and how should we die. Suicide?”

He also says the future of work could be the biggest issue of the 21st century. Automation, unique robots including microscopic nanobots, and Artificial Intelligence will continue to erode the job market.  “I have a friend who says we will always need people to keep the robots running – really? We already have robots that repair other robots.”

He divides all the various technologies into five areas:

• Nanotech is the creation of super tiny robots that can float around inside your bloodstream and keep you healthy. He sees billions of nanobots taking care of the trillions of cells in the body.

• Biotech will see cures and inventions occurring at fantastic rates in the near future and far future. Again, he really believes a huge problem for the youngest people living on the planet today is how do they want to die? He believes young people in the near future have the potential to live as long as they want to.  

• Robotech is already changing the world. “What will people do when there are no jobs?”  Typical work week might be 26 hours or less. He says three-fourths of all manufacturing jobs are already  “gone and not coming back.”

• Infotech leaves him discouraged especially when it comes to social media. He quotes a favorite author who said, “When everybody is an author, there are no editors.”

He thinks amazing sensors will be developed on a the micro level while, on a macro level, the world will be covered with satellites similar to the doomsday prediction of the Terminator movies, which saw all those troubles caused by a structure called SkyNet.

• Energytech may see more change than any other sector. “Look back 200 years to 1820.  We have advanced 2,000 years in the past 200 years. This will just accelerate,” he concludes. He also credits it to the gradual warming of the climate over those two centuries. “We went from horse and buggy to planning a Mars launch today.”

In 1820, the most valuable material on earth was aluminum; because it was only created when lightning would strike bauxite.  A nine-inch pyramid-shaped piece of aluminum is used as the cap of the top of the Washington Monument, for example.

Having this chat with Jeff Wacker left my head spinning. We are heading into a strange new world that sounded both hopeful and daunting to me.

He really is worried about the robots with artificial intelligence taking over.  “When it happens, it will happen exponentially, so we probably will not know what hit us until it has already happened!” 

On that dreary note, Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Golden Globes: Taking Our Licks From Hollywood

in arts and culture/Column/Dave Simpson
2683

By Dave Simpson

PEACOCKS: The annual award show season – always good for a horse laugh out here in Deepest Frozen-Tundra Flyover Country – kicked off last week with the Golden Globe Awards.

This is when preening, self-absorbed peacocks who I couldn’t name if you held a gun to my head, dress up like they’re going to the prom, and gather for a feed folks like us could never afford, and slobber all over each other over movies that Corn Belt types like myself have never seen, and will never see.

This is an exclusive gathering of rich people with big hair who like to whine and complain about how rotten the country that made them so rich and glamorous and superior really is.

They view it as an opportunity to make rubes like us aware of all kinds of problems.

The last movie I paid actual money to see was “Forrest Gump,” which was released 25 years ago. So, if you do the math, it has been a quarter of a century since I saw an actual movie, which no doubt excludes me from the award show target audience.

The only interesting part for me was waiting for the next obscenity-laced kick in the pants, as these vacuous Hollywood boobs took the opportunity to show us their great compassion and vast knowledge of politics and foreign affairs.

(I will say that if you’re only going to see one movie in a quarter century, “Forrest Gump” was a pretty good movie to see. It was swell. The star, Tom Hanks, reportedly shares the Hollywood belief that anyone who voted for Donald Trump is stupid and hopeless, but he’s smart enough to keep it under his hat. He has the brains not to lead the parade of Hollywood Trump haters.)

So anyway, despite a warning from host Ricky Gervais that nobody is interested in their loopy political beliefs, the beautiful people nevertheless gave the rest of us the dickens for electing a president they loathe with theatrical gush and histrionics. One award recipient/foreign policy expert predicted that we are “on the brink of war” with Iran, thanks to the evil Trump. And they fretted, of course, over climate change, striking a major blow by eating a cow-emissions-free vegan dinner. (I wonder if they’ve heard that vegetables scream when you pick them.)

They were in fine form, using lots of filthy language – during family viewing hours, no less – that had to be bleeped out as they lamented the country many of the rest of us like just fine.

Who on earth would want to go see a movie put together by awful people like these?

I don’t know about you, but I’m good for another 25 years without seeing a movie.

THAT SAID: I’m not like the beautiful people above (duh) complaining about major aspects of life in America. But there are some minor irritants that come to mind. Stuff that we tend to notice more at this time of year when we’re stuck inside and can’t escape to the woods, and which wouldn’t take too much ding-dong effort to fix.

Some that come to mind:

People on TV who insist on all talking at the same time. The more interesting the subject is, the more frustrating it is when everyone talks at once.

Pundits/hosts who insist on asking long, detailed questions with multiple examples baked in, that go on so long that nobody can remember what the first part of the question was. (Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough are the absolute worst, and should be sentenced to diagram their sentences.)

Guys who walk around naked in the locker room at exercise, like they’ve got a blue-ribbon entry in the county fair.

Cell phone rings built into advertisements to get your attention. A pox upon them.

The “LIMU EMU” ads on TV. Lord, have mercy.

Selfish imbeciles who block traffic waiting for a great parking space at Walmart. I’ve mentioned this before, but they endure, like bed bugs. Get the tar and feathers.

Those white plastic sleeves that soda crackers come in, that fight you every inch of the way.

Telemarketers. Keel hauling is too good for them.

Tailgaters.

Hollywood award shows.

Dave Simpson began his journalism career at the Laramie Boomerang in
1973. He has worked as a reporter, editor, publisher and columnist at
newspapers in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois and Nebraska. He lives in
Cheyenne.

Arizona Bowl was Wyoming Triumph, but also for Tuscon Local Charities

in Column/Dave Bonner/sports
2687

By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

So it isn’t an ESPN bowl game.

That didn’t matter to fans of the University Wyoming and Georgia State University football teams who squared off Dec. 31 in the Arizona Bowl at Tucson.  And it sure isn’t a big deal to the folks who own, promote and produce the Arizona Bowl.

In fact, it’s by design. You can add a couple of exclamation points to that statement.

Of the 40 bowl games played this year, only two were not televised and controlled by ESPN/ABC, Fox Sports and CBS.

The Tucson Bowl was one of them. It was televised nationally by CBS Sports Network, a step down from the big names in sports broadcasting (61 million households vs. 86 million households for ESPN).  

The key is the matter of control.  To Tucson attorney Ali Farhang, the brains and the face behind the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl, it’s everything.  He is the principal founder of the Arizona Bowl and the chairman of the board of the group which owns the bowl, now in its fifth year. 

He and his founding partners are insistent that the Arizona Bowl is a community-driven event. That’s one way of saying that bowl decisions will serve Tucson’s interest, not national TV programming.

That starts with game day scheduling and start time. An afternoon kickoff for the Arizona Bowl on New Year’s Eve is non-negotiable.

Tucson weather delivered for the Arizona Bowl last week. Fans basked under bright sun and a temperature of 62 degrees for the 2:30 p.m. game. 

Tim Medcoff, a law partner with Farhang who is also intimately involved in the Arizona Bowl, said the vision for the bowl grew out of a desire to remove “kind a black cloud over Tucson from days gone by.” He referred to the fact that Tucson in recent years had lost the Copper Bowl, MLB spring training,  PGA and LPGA tour events.

The road back, in the collective mind of Farhang and colleagues, was to look inward.

“Ali’s all about promoting everything that’s great about Tucson,” Medcoff said. “That includes the sunny weather of southern Arizona, the Air Force and military presence, the hospitality of the area and the great non-profits — the people who care about making others’ lives better.”

The economic impact in the area from a successful bowl game is, of course, a big deal. But giving  back to the community is not simply lip service either. The NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl is one of a kind in donating all bowl proceeds to non-profits in the community.

“We do everything we can to make things better for Tucson,” Medcoff said. “We want to give back.”

And for the record, the Tucson Bowl is happy to have the CBS Sports Network as a partner.

“They told us they support everything we’re doing,” Medcoff said.

Final numbers have not been tabulated, but game producers expect that up to $400,000 in cash will be generated for non-profits of the community.  That’s net proceeds from ticket sales and concessions.

Wyoming did its part. The Cowboys scored a 38-17 win over Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference on the field, but that’s not all. Some 10,000 Brown and Gold clad fans helped propel Tucson Bowl beer sales to a new record.

Kym Adair, who pulls most of the levers in making bowl operations go, said she was excited by the strong showing of Wyoming fans that pushed bowl game attendance to 36,892.

She should be.

Sales of cold ones broke the previous bowl game record by $100,000. If you’re counting, that record $100,000 translates into 14,285 more of the 16-ounce drafts sold at $7 each than in any previous year.  

A new official Arizona Bowl Brew was introduced at the game, a product of the local Barrio Brewing Co. Wyoming fans gave it a big thumbs up.

Hurricane Winds Can’t Stop Commercial Air Service From Cheyenne to Dallas

in Bill Sniffin/Column
2661

By Bill Sniffin

Three cheers for that direct daily flight from Cheyenne to Dallas.

We took it for the second time over New Year’s and it is just so doggone handy. It is almost a miracle to me.

We live in Lander, some 250 miles from Cheyenne, so why am I am so psyched about this service?  Because, to me, it is personal.

Driving to Cheyenne works fine because we go through the capital city and head to Denver to see my 95-year old mother in a nursing home there.  We also have two brothers, a granddaughter, and a nephew living in the Denver area. It is fun to reconnect with them during the holiday season. 

Our youngest daughter lives in north Dallas, just 45 miles from the DFW airport, so they can come pick us up after we land. We enjoyed the New Year’s holiday and spent five days basking in 60-degree weather, while Wyoming was blowing and shivering.

Cabin of jet was full for the flight from Dallas to Cheyenne. 

Another reason for liking the flight is because it is a direct flight. However, we talked with two other Wyomingites who used the flight as part of more complicated trips.

Deb Hughes lives at Esterbrook near Douglas. Most recently her husband took a one-year assignment in Guernsey where they live right now.  She liked the service being so local. It was a springboard for her to visit relatives in Florida and Virginia.

Amber Rucker, a social worker at the Cheyenne Veterans Hospital, used the flight as a way to ultimately get to Mississippi. She flew out on New Year’s Day and came back Jan. 6. “Whew those winds were high in Cheyenne,” she said. She was impressed that the pilots handled the planes so well during the takeoffs and landings.

She said Interstate 25 was closed on the day she left, so had she booked her flight through Denver, she would have been unable to go. 

A little over a year ago, when I first heard about Cheyenne offering daily airline service to and from Dallas, I was skeptical.

With local, state, and federal help, a brand new terminal had been built in Cheyenne for what appeared to be non-existent airlines. It was seemingly a Wyoming version of the famous Alaska bridge to nowhere.

It was the airline terminal with no airline service.

Deb Hughes of Guernsey gets set to board plane in Dallas for the trip to Cheyenne.

Then some hard-working folks came up with the idea of non-stop daily service to Dallas, subsidized by local, state, and federal funds.

When I told my Lander friends that we were going to fly that route over New Year’s, they thought we were crazy. 

In recent years we have started a holiday tradition of celebrating an early holiday with our Lander-based daughter Shelli Johnson and her family. Then we plan our flight to Dallas over New Year’s, trying to be in two places at once over the holidays.

We chose to fly on New Year’s Eve day this year with two round trip tickets costing about $580.  It might have been cheaper flying from Denver but if you add in highway tolls, parking fees, and the hassle associated with DIA, well, it made going out of Cheyenne seem like a good choice. No regrets.

American Airlines uses 50-passenger jets. On our trip out of Cheyenne, they upgraded to a 70-seat plane for some reason. Lots of extra seats available, which made the trip super comfortable.

The trip home from Dallas to Cheyenne was on the smaller 50-passenger jet with 47 passengers.  Just two hours. Super convenient. The folks working the Cheyenne airport are great, too. Never seen TSA folks smile as much as that crew.

Overall, I would say this is a great experience.

It seems to me that Colorado’s Front Range folks might drive to Cheyenne to save money and avoid the big airport hassle.  Folks from all over Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado are potential travelers out of this airport. 

I’ve been told the next effort should be daily flights from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City and even Denver.  I wonder if they have made a pitch to Allegiant? Now that would be quite a coup. The airline future will be bright for Cheyenne with proper regional promotion.

Cheyenne’s airline past is storied.  United Airlines originally had its main maintenance facility here in Wyoming.  The very first flight attendant school started in Cheyenne in 1930 by Boeing Air Transport.

For over a decade, Cheyenne was headquarters for the large regional airline, Great Lakes Airlines.

Yes, there is a fantastic history of commercial aviation in Cheyenne. With flights like the one we took and future flights on the drawing board, it will be fun to see Cheyenne’s airline experience soar into the future.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

The Value of Rural Subdivisions

in Agriculture/Column/Range Writing
Sublette County
2649

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Private ranches help to preserve open space and wildlife habitat, while urban dwelling condenses the size of the human imprint on the landscape. These benefits are readily understood, but the importance of rural subdivisions to local communities is often overlooked.

Rural subdivisions suffer from love/hate status. While many residents hate to see fragmentation of rural land, many other people dream of living on a few acres outside of town. They love the freedom offered by rural living, including raising their children with more outdoor space, and having animals that would be prohibited by municipal living. The large percentage of government land ownership in Wyoming serves to make land use planning for private property all the more critical since energy development on public land can cause a large influx of people in need of housing, yet the burden for providing housing falls to the limited amount of private land available.

Nearly half of Wyoming is managed by the federal government, and Wyoming continues to maintain its status as having the lowest human population of any state in the union. With our traditional public lands-based boom-and-bust energy cycle comes tremendous ebbs and flows in our human population. Sublette County is a prime example. With less than 6,000 residents in the county in 2000, the county boomed to a high of 10,476 people by 2012, with most of this growth associated with net migration due to energy development. With the energy bust, the county population declined more than 6 percent by 2019, to just over 9,800 people.

With the bust, Sublette County lost about 663 residents from its peak population. By 2017, 46 percent of Sublette County’s housing units were classified as vacant. That’s a startlingly high vacancy rate, but Sublette County has long been known for its hosting of “second” homes to people living outside the county. About 68 percent of the county’s vacant units are for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use (second homes), and 15 percent of the county’s vacant units are for rent or sale. But another 15 percent (428 homes) are classified as “other” vacant, which means they are not for sale or rent, or otherwise available to the marketplace. According to the Wyoming Community Development Authority, “These units may be problematic if concentrated in certain areas, and may create a ‘blighting’ effect.”

Although we lost more than 660 residents, what we see now is that some of the people who moved to Sublette County to work in the gas fields have decided to stay; either hanging on to what energy jobs are available, or finding other ways to make a living. They may have moved here for the boom, but have determined to stay for other reasons, despite the economic downturn. While some of these residents live in town, and some have constructed homes on large acreages, most often I see their presence reflected in rural subdivisions. They have greenhouses, art studios, vegetable gardens, and chicken coops. The kids learn to ride bicycles on dirt driveways; they construct primitive forts in their yards; and they go out into the pasture to “camp” in the summer. They wade in irrigation ditches on hot days, ride incessant laps on snow machines and dirt bikes, and feed calves, pigs, and lambs for show at the county fair.

Most of these families have animals – cats and dogs, chickens and other fowl, small and large livestock, and horses – and all of these animals require both space and food. Since the acreages are too small to be self-sustaining for their domestic animals, animal feedstuffs must be purchased and brought in, which adds to the local economy. I drive by a busy feedstore across from a rural subdivision every time I drive to town.

Although some decry rural subdivision of land for its scarring of the landscape and harm to nature, I maintain that for these rural residents, they are living as close to nature (blemished though it may be) as they possibly can. Their animals are what connect them to the land, and when the jobs that brought them here may go elsewhere, it is the land and animals that keep them here.

While some may notice the horses standing in a dirt-packed corral, I see that the horse owners have corralled the horses to give their limited pasture time to rest and grow. I see those horses loaded for roping competitions, fairs and rodeos, for family pack trips and hunting adventures, and for kids to ride bareback on the vast public lands nearby, where the kids climb off to explore horned toads and other wonders of nature that surround them.

While some see rural sprawl, I notice the installation of flowerbeds, scattered wildflowers over septic systems, and boxes lovingly crafted for bats, bluebirds, and kestrels. I see people who have taken some level of food security into their own hands, raising animals to provide meat for the freezer, and living and learning about the cycle of life and death, and knowing where their food comes from.

All forms of living have both societal and environmental impacts (negative and positive), but rural subdivisions are often maligned. This view fails to recognize that people can be drawn to our communities with properties in rural subdivisions, and these rural ranchettes can serve as anchors that connect communities while supporting local economies.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Looking ahead: What 2020 will mean for Cowboy State

in Bill Sniffin/Column
2020
2628

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

I can see clearly now – the year 2020 will emerge as one of the most important years in Wyoming’s history as various trends emerge.

Like the perfect score on an eye test, 2020 has the makings of perfect vision when it comes to trying to identify issues important to the state. But wait; there is both excitement and dread. Is this the year for some exciting innovations to catch hold in the state?  Is this the year when our spending excesses catch up with us?

State leaders are looking for some home runs in job development.  Maybe more firearm companies will move here. Can we slow down the devastating blows to the fossil fuel industry, especially for coal?

The Legislature meets for its biennial budget session on Feb. 10 and you can bet some hellfire rhetoric will be heard about how “robbing our rainy day fund” is driving the state to the poor house.

Yet the facts will show we have over $1 billion in that fund and some $20 billion in other funds stashed in various coffee cans from the permanent mineral trust fund.  Going broke?  Compared to other states, Wyoming is a beacon of good financial governance.

Gov. Mark Gordon is not one of the shrill voices as he suggests austerity will be with us for a while. Rather than across the board cuts, he likes each agency head to adjust his or her budget in ways that make sense to it and to the state.  Tough decisions are expected to be made and some folks will lose their jobs. 

I am looking forward to covering the Legislature in its brand new remodeled digs.  State Sen. Eli Bebout reminded me that I was wrong in my last column about how much was spent on the remodeling. The correct number is $301 million, or $500 for each man, woman, and child in the state. By the looks of the place, the future will show that it was a good investment.

Looking ahead to 2020, I hope the statues of Esther Hobart Morris and Chief Washakie are placed back outside by the entrance of the building, where they belong.

Some 300 miles northwest of Cheyenne, the huge National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois will open in May.  Dan Starks has created Wyoming’s newest great museum.  Folks, this is going to be a treat. You have no idea just how big and how impressive this museum is going to be. It is a game changer for tourism in the western part of the state.

Commercial air service made some big changes when Sheridan, Riverton, Gillette, and Rock Springs all became aligned with United-SkyWest.  We have seen some amazing experiments in state and federally subsidized air service in these communities over the past ten years.  This new plan should be helpful for everyone.

The national election in 2020 will have ramifications in Wyoming. A Donald Trump reelection could provide an economic boost through his support of fossil fuels and his reducing anti-fossil fuel policies from taking effect. Trump’s efforts to improve Ag trade with China would be welcome, too.

In Wyoming, we will elect a new U. S. Senator. The assumption is that current U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney will run.  Former U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis is already running hard.  Former Gov. Matt Mead says he is not and Jackson GOP Megadonor Foster Friess says he is weighing his options.

If Liz Cheney moves up to the Senate race, the race for her House seat could be one of the all-time donnybrooks in Wyoming election history.  For political observers, this will be an exciting year in Wyoming.

Two big important jobs will be filled in 2020. The University of Wyoming will hire a new president after trustees did not renew Laurie Nichols contract in 2019.  Also, the Wyoming Business Council will be seeking a replacement for Shawn Reese.

The move toward more transparency (like 2020 vision?) will soon be getting one of its first big tests.  State Sen. Tom James (R-Rock Springs), has requested a list of every Wyoming school employee and his or her salary as he goes into the Legislative budget session.  Lots of folks are complaining and do not want that information out.

Some years ago, the Casper Star Tribune annually published a list of the highest paid state employees showing his or her wages. This request by Sen. James opens the door for some media outlet to also disseminate the list. 

Gov. Gordon and State Auditor Kristi Racines have both showed initiative when it comes to transparency. Will 2020 be the most open year yet?  Let’s hope so.

I am a big fan of the Rachel’s Challenge program, which works with schools to prevent bullying, teen suicides, and school shootings. It looks like 2020 will be a banner year in Wyoming as more schools sign up for the program.

There will be a push to have Wyoming join the federal Medicaid program, which will save the Cowboy State millions of dollars and provide needed medical service to many needy people.  Also on the medical front, there will be efforts to have medical facilities be required to publish their “cash/self-pay” prices for procedures and medical drugs.

Gov. Gordon is also leading an effort in 2020 to have the Public Service Commission investigate Rocky Mountain Power’s new plan, which will close most of its coal-fired power plants sooner than expected. 

Gordon is also working hard to open some ports somewhere where Wyoming coal can be shipped overseas.  Again with a Trump administration, there is promise for this development in 2020.

Also on the energy front will be the development of thousands of new giant windmills, as we see the state slowly transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in 2020.  The state’s biggest solar project is also due to be expanded, north of Interstate 80 in SW Wyoming.

Figuring out a way to pay for all the maintenance on Interstate 80 will see the beginnings of exploring a tolling system.  Meanwhile, it is hoped that Wyoming drivers pay better attention and fasten their seat belts more in 2020. The 2019 year was deadly on the state’s highways.

We can’t write a column like this without mentioning musical superstar Kanye West and what he is doing in Park County. Now that will be an interesting story in 2020 as he continues to expand his businesses there.

Let’s hope that with a year named 2020, we can maintain a clear vision for Wyoming’s future that improves the lives of its 580,000 citizens.

Happy New Year!

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

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