Category archive

Column

B. Wayne Hughes, Jr.: A Call To Care

in B. Wayne Hughes, Jr./Column
11348

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By B. Wayne Hughes Jr., Chairman, Hughes Charitable Foundation
B. Wayne Hughes Jr. is a husband, father, rancher and philanthropist who calls Jackson home.

Many of our fellow citizens here in Teton County are not aware of the social services provided by our local nonprofit groups. From food banks to after school programs, from career counseling to just having a safe bed to spend the night, these selfless servants and their organizations strengthen our community in these and many other ways to make our community safer, more connected and humane.

Many, if not all, of us know the meteoric rise in housing costs and goods and services.  Teton County’s hourly wage earners and frontline workers have, and are, being priced out of the real estate market.  Homeownership in Teton County is out of reach for them.  Forever.  It is more than a heavy lift just to pay the average $2,400 monthly rent for a studio/one-bedroom here in Jackson on the wages being offered to workers.

As a result, even our restaurants and visitor services have cut back operations due to a lack of labor.  Some local healthcare workers and hotel employees are having their housing subsidized by their employers. Construction and restaurant employees are commuting an average of 60 minutes each way to reach their jobs here in Teton County.

The local nonprofit health and human services community is no different.  Hiring and retaining skilled, trained and committed employees is now at a crisis point.  Even well-established and longtime organizations are now losing their best and brightest due to this crisis.

Supply and demand are foundational to understanding our current housing situation. Demand, spurred on by buyers from all over the country, is at an all-time high.  Most of us here in Teton County are a product of that very same demand.  We also have no control over demand; it is what it is. Supply, defined by what’s available and what’s yet to be built, cannot keep up. Hence the rise in prices and the decline in affordability.  Supply will always be a challenge due to political, geographical, environmental and conservation considerations. Permanently protected lands – Forest Service, National Park, U.S. Fish and Wildlife reserves and conservation easements – account for over 97% of all land in the county.  This is a good thing.  It’s one reason why we all love it here.

The remaining lands are inside the Town of Jackson or Teton County and under the management of elected officials.  We hear of their concern, their sympathies and their complaints.  To date, no politically elected official has stepped forward with any meaningful ideas on how to deal with what is now a large scale housing crisis for many, including our health and human services community.  Government needs to facilitate zoning and approvals that allow for nonprofits and private companies to take on new developments – and then government needs to get out of the way.

It is imperative that we stand for, protect and support our health and human services community – and our firefighters, law enforcement and healthcare workers – by building housing for them.  Without them, we live in a completely different place. A poorer place.

Teton County is not for everyone, but for those of us who call it home it’s time to start caring, time to start speaking out, and it’s time to start giving.  Many of us have seen the problem and it is us.  Hopefully our recent citizens will focus more on joining our community than being ex-citizens from where they came.  Our recent citizens are mostly well-to-do and have capacity to give, but have little knowledge of our current situation and the need for their assistance in addressing the crisis.  Our local real estate brokerage community can and should be ambassadors for how new residents can become involved by conveying information about our community and how new residents can become involved.  It is the real estate community that’s helping to channel 3 billion dollars of investment into this county and they are not doing it for free.  There’s room for their leadership.

Established enclaves need to understand that the often invisible support that sustains their pleasant lives needs help and that help may include new development in places where they’d rather not see it.  We need more of our local workforce living locally.

And to those that say “the problem cannot be solved so why try?” – they need to look into their hearts and realize that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It may not make a difference to you, but it does to someone you know.

Start Caring.

You will soon hear more news about projects coming from our foundation’s leadership.  But we are only one group.  This call is to you, to get involved now.  Below are several of the not-for-profit health and human services organizations that you can contact and pledge support.

Teton Youth and Family Services

One22

Teton Literacy Center

Senior Center of Jackson Hole

Community Safety Network

Community Entry Services

Curran-Seely Foundation

Children’s Learning Center

Climb Wyoming

Jackson Hole Community Counseling

Stronger JH

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: Poverty Of Time Describes These Go-Go And Rush-Rush Times

in Column/Bill Sniffin
11361

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, publisher

“Time sure does change things,” said an airline passenger to his companion.

“When I was a boy, I used to sit in a flat-bottomed boat on that lake down there below and fish.  Every time a plane flew over I’d look up and wish I were in it.

“Now I look down . . . and I wish I were fishing.”

Time (or the lack of it) has always been a prime topic for people who work hard and miss out on all the fun activities that living in Wyoming can provide. 

This time stress is especially bad about this time of year.  Spring and summer are times for fishing, golfing, puttering in that garden, working in the yard, visiting relatives, taking that long anticipated vacation and, well, just doing fun things.

It seems like time is so precious and is flying by so quickly that before we know it, we are out of it.  Often precious time with family and friends gets lost amid the pressures of job and commitments.   

We are so lucky to live in a place like Wyoming.  When was the last time you went to Yellowstone?  It is so green and beautiful this time of year.  One of the reasons it is such a favorite in the spring is the appearance of all the calves and other baby critters.

Other national treasures like Devils Tower or the Oregon Trail beckon, too.

Our state park system is one of the best in the U.S.  It really doesn’t take that long to drive over to Fort Laramie, for example, or Guernsey or Seminoe.  Time may be precious, but Wyoming offers lots of see if we just make the time.

Philosopher Jacob Needleman refers to our present-day pressures as the “poverty of time.”  He wrote a fairly pessimistic (but accurate) essay on this shortage of time in people’s lives. His comments are as follows:

“Time.  We’re coming to the end of a hundred years or more of devices that were invented in order to save time.

“What has become of time? Nobody has enough time anymore.  We are all completely taken.  The way I would put it is that time is slowly disappearing.  We are a time-impoverished society.  We have lots of material things, but we have no time left.

“Human time has disappeared — and we’re in animal time.  Or vegetable time, if you like. Or mineral time. 

“The time of computers.  The time of things.  Of mechanical devices.  Animal time is literally the time of the rat race.  It’s the New Poverty. We are simply not living our lives.

“New Agers say: Do what you love, the money will follow.  That is a fantasy.  Many people will say: ‘Now I have found that when I’m there making my living, making money, I am completely wasted on meaning.  My life is meaningless. I come away exhausted and tired. I have no time for anything that I consider meaningful.’”

Now, the above is a pretty serious commentary, but sometimes we all feel a little desperate about the lack of time there seems to be for us to get everything done that we want to do.

Then here are a few of my favorite expressions that I’ve collected over the years about time:

• After all is said and done, more is often said . . . than done.

• A favorite toast: May the most you wish for be the least you get. May the best times you have ever had be the worst you’ll ever see.

• Which shall it be?  Go, Go, Go or No, No, No!

• Experience is a hard teacher because she gives you the test first and the lesson afterwards.

• It isn’t necessary to believe in miracles.  Just hope a few believe in you.

• Sympathy is never wasted unless you give it to yourself.

• People always ask how do you grow? Figure out what scared you the most and go do it.

Here is a great quote on time. It is from the 1953 classic movie Beat the Devil, which was directed by John Huston. In it, a character played by Peter Lorre launched a famous monologue about time, which went:

“Time . . . time. What is time? The Swiss manufacture it. The French hoard it. Italians squander it. Americans say it is money. Hindus say it does not exist.  Do you know what I say? I say time is a crook . . .”

In order to have more time, we need to get organized. A smart guy once suggested that we need to do an inventory of our lives. He suggested we list things “I have to do” on one sheet of paper and “what I want to do” on another sheet.

Then go through everything in your life and anything that clearly doesn’t fit on one sheet or the other – get rid of it.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Jim Hicks: Memories Of A Gourmet Evening In Jackson Hole

in Column/Jim Hicks
11335

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Hicks, columnist

BUFFALO – A while back Maudie and Sven took a trip over to Jackson Hole.  We found the Tetons are as breath-taking as ever.

It’s good to get away from home base once in a while, and it gave us an opportunity to try some new kinds of food.  We picked up one of those “What–to-do-in-Jackson” books and read the list of places to eat.

Local restaurants have “catchy” names . . . like “Teton Thai” and “Bon Appe Thai.” We talked it over and decided to have an evening meal at a place called “Thai Me Up.”

“I like Chinese food every once in a while,” I told Maudie.

“You must be thinking of Taiwan,” Maudie replied.  “I think this has something to do with Thailand.”

“Close enough for me.”

So, we put the address of “Thai Me UP” in the GPS we bought ourselves for Christmas in 1998.  It had been in a box under the seat until this trip. It directed us to an empty field near Teton Village.

“I guess this GPS is out of date,” I said. Maudie guessed I didn’t punch in the right numbers. So, we asked a guy in a gas station if there was a Thai restaurant nearby.  He sent us down the road. We went in and a tall blonde kid directed us to a table and dropped the photo-copied sheets (Menu) in front of us.

“My name is Eddie . . . Wan som-tin-ta drink?” he asked.

I wanted to act like a sophisticated user of restaurants, so I ordered a “My Thigh.”

“What’s that?” asked Eddie. 

 “You are thinking of a Mai Tai,” says Maudie.

Eddie looked confused . . . so I said . . . “bring me a beer.”

Maudie asked for ice-tea. We started to study the sheet of paper listing the specials at the place I was now calling “Thai Me Down.”

Nothing on either side of the sheet made sense so we asked Eddie for help. Eddie seemed to know his stuff.

He told us “chok” is some kind of rice soup.

And he explained there were no rodents in “kuai tao rat na” . . . only fried noodles.

We passed on the suggestion of snake-head fish served on fresh lemon grass.

I pointed to the menu and said, “how about some of this ‘khao phat moo’. . . can’t go wrong with a beef dish.”

“No,” says Eddie. “That’s pork.”

“Well, why don’t they call it khao phat oink?” I asked.

Eddie didn’t laugh

I could tell he felt he was working too hard, so we told Eddie to just bring us some soup and a nice dinner with some shrimp or pork and a bowl of rice.

“How many stars do ya want?” Eddie asked. 

Thinking it was like ratings on hotels, I said we always go for the “five star.”

Thai food can be HOT!

After dinner we started looking for an ice-cream shop.

Take care, watch what you eat.  We will drop a line again next week.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Dave Simpson: Everybody’s Doing Gain Of Function

in Dave Simpson/Column
11314

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Dave Simpson, columnist

This just in: “Gain of function.”

All the cool kids in school know what “gain of function” means.

If you don’t, well, you must not be a jock or a cheerleader. Or a member of the student council. You must eat lunch in the cafeteria with the losers, the drones, the spuds, the dweebs.

Nobody wants to be a dweeb.

Terms like gain of function take me way back to the 1970s, when the term “infrastructure” first burst on the scene. I was a callow (definition: devoid of feathers) reporter at the time, and nobody told me in college about infrastructure. But suddenly, if you didn’t work infrastructure into the conversation, the go-getters who ran things figured you weren’t too smart.

Nobody wanted to get caught asking, “What’s infrastructure?” Someone might say, “Well, Gomer, let me explain…”

At first only people in government, like city managers, knew that infrastructure was the way impressive people like them referred to lame, boring stuff like roads, bridges, curbs, gutters, sewers. We all had to start talking “infrastructure” if we were to be taken seriously. You had to get on the infrastructure bus.

(Back then, a city manager I knew had a habit of saying someone who wanted to do something “was desirous of” a curb cut, or a sewer extension, or whatever. Sounded kind of romantic. Caustic newsman Edwin Newman was doing his best at the time to deflate gassy, overblown, pretentious terms like “was desirous of.” He famously asked “when does a whopping number start to whop?”  You had to love the guy. I wanted to ask that city manager, “Do you mean WANTS TO? Instead of desires?” Problem was, he made a lot more money than I did, so he had to be right.)

Turns out, gain of function is a term scientists throw around to describe taking one awful thing, like the Corona virus, and through the magic of biology and science and those boxes where you stick you hands in gloves and play with test tubes without exposing yourself to the awful stuff in the test tubes, you magically turn it into something EVEN MORE AWFUL!

Bingo! That’s  the ticket! Success!

You’ve gained its ability, or function, to make something even awfuller, which is quite a day’s work, if you ask me. Talk about better living through chemistry!

Our language is a snarling, evolving beast, and some years after infrastructure became essential terminology, basic equipment if you will, along came the word “synergy,” and darned if we didn’t have to start working THAT into our conversations, too. (I tell you folks, it just never ends.)

I was working for a company that was bought by a bigger company (not fun, trust me on this), and suddenly everyone was yakking about how combining things here and there in “clusters” (don’t laugh) would “create synergy.” It was enough to make your head spin, what with all the synergizing going on, and it was a big relief when the cool kids finally moved on to greener linguistic pastures, like “dystopia,” and “gravitas.”

You had to be careful in that cool crowd. I once ordered an Old Style beer with my dinner at a company meeting, and was an object of ridicule among people with gravitas, who like fruit in their expensive beer. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and I never did. So now I always ask for beer with fruit in it when drinking with phonies.

You can look back on all the changes that have occurred to newspapers since we were bought by a big company, and few will be mistaken for improvements. So all that synergizing, and combining things in clusters, and all that beer with fruit in it, came pretty much to naught. And if given a choice, I’ll still have an Old Style, thanks.

So anyway, someone ought to have some answering to do about why scientists were messing around trying to make the Corona virus even more deadly, and why that should be our tax dollars at work.

Dress this up with a fancy term like “gain of function” it you like. But it just sounds evil to me.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Rod Miller: Trains, Cows & Nukes

in Column/Rod Miller
11276

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Rod Miller, columnist

Wyoming’s economic history is full of scandals and sketchy characters. It seems as if every boom brought with it some headline-grabbing fiasco that ranged from seedy to downright deadly. And yet, each time that happened, the economic life of the state took a great leap forward.

Here’s a partial list. The construction of the transcontinental railroad served to link Wyoming with the rest of the country and the world, and ushered us into the industrial age. But the names of two of the principals involved in that project, Thomas Durant and Oakes Ames, will be forever tarnished by the Credit Mobilier scandal. Fraud against taxpayers on a massive scale was committed, careers were trashed and people went to jail.

In spite of that trainwreck, nobody in Wyoming today will tell you that the Union Pacific Railroad was a bad idea, or that we should have insisted it be built somewhere else.

Likewise, nobody has ever claimed that the range cattle industry was anything but an economic building block of the State of Wyoming, or hasn’t served to help populate our home state and create our ethos. We are, after all, the Cowboy State.

Yet T. A. Larsen, our revered historian, has called the Johnson County War “the most notorious event in our history”. That conflict, instigated by members of Wyoming Stockgrowers Association elites, some of whom were our state’s founders, involved those men hiring outside gunslingers to accompany them to northern Wyoming to kill small ranchers and settlers in order to keep the state’s rangeland firmly in the hands of the bigwig cattle barons.

Add to the list the Teapot Dome scandal, wherein a sitting U.S. cabinet official was fitted for an orange jumpsuit because he conspired with Big Oil to defraud the government. Yet nobody in their right mind would claim that oil and gas exploration hasn’t been an economic boon to Wyoming.

When the Rockefellers were buying up ranchland in Jackson Hole to turn over to the government in order to create Teton National Park and the JDR Parkway, they were castigated as commie land-grabbers. But today nobody will deny the incredible economic boon to the state resulting from that act.

Enter Bill Gates and Warren Buffet with their plan to site a small, modern nuclear reactor somewhere in Wyoming. As soon as the plan was announced, the Sagebrush Telegraph was filled with vituperative invective against Gates as a U.N. One-Worlder Lizard Person who is only coming to Wyoming to harvest baby parts.

Don’t misunderstand, I am no fan of Bill Gates. I will never forgive him for Windows 10, but c’mon folks! If we are able to look past John Clay et al and the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association’s killing foray into Johnson County, we should at least hear Gates out on his plan.

I, for one, am willing to give this nuke plan a good think.

I grew up in Rawlins around a couple of Wyoming’s nuclear pioneers, Dr. C. W. Jeffrey, the namesake of Jeffrey City, and restaurateur Bob Adams, who took the advice of Dave Love, eminent Cowboy State geologist, and geiger-countered for uranium deposits in the Sweetwater River country right after WWII. Needless to say, they each made a lot of money.

I used to visit Doc Jeff’s office to get my physical for football and wresting in my younger Outlaw days. The office was up a couple of flights of rickety stairs in an old edifice in downtown Rawlins, and if an aspiring athlete could climb the stairs, Doc Jeff would sign the release.

But I digress. Back to Bill Gates’ nuke plant.

As a state, lets overcome our fear for a moment and dispassionately consider this idea. To me, it is a much more positive and productive move than suing other states who don’t want to burn Wyoming coal for their electric power.

To reject it out of hand would be akin to digging in our heels and saying keep that disruptive railroad, or those pesky Texas cattle out of our state because we don’t like the folks associated with such nonsense. Regardless of the personalities involved with bringing a nuclear power plant to Wyoming, we need to consider the proposal on its merits.

Now, permit me a word or two about Governor Mark Gordon. Since meeting him on the dusty ol’ campaign trail, and taking an immediate liking to the guy, I’ve followed his administration with great interest.

Up until now, I have considered his tenure in office as pretty much a place-holder…no big triumphs, no disasters. In fairness, Gordon assumed office in a difficult and weird time, and I think has done his honest best. But I’ve waited for a break-out, cowboy move on his part. This is it.

Governor Gordon’s willingness to look beyond the horizon to Wyoming’s energy future, in my view, negates anything he’s done to tie us to Wyoming’s energy past. By simple willingness to consider a new way of doing things, Gordon is turning our collective vision away our tried-and-true-but-dying hydrocarbon past.

It’s like emerging from a dark old coal mine into sunlight. I think that, when our eyes adjust to the light, we’ll all be glad he did.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Pendley: American Rescue Plan Is Unconstitutional! Certainly, The Part Dividing Americans By Race

in William Perry Pendley/Column
Photo credit: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
11241

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By William Perry Pendley, columnist
Mr. Pendley, a Wyoming attorney, led the Bureau of Land Management in the Trump administration

Antonio Vitolo is the owner, with his wife, of Jake’s Bar and Grill in Harriman, Tennessee, a town of fewer than 7,000 in Roane County, west of Knoxville.  Like all restaurants, but especially small ones, Jake’s suffered mightily following government-imposed lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Therefore, when the American Rescue Plan Act passed with promised relief— the Restaurant Revitalization Fund—Mr. Vitolo applied to the Small Business Administration, which runs the program, on the first day.  After all, time was of the essence.  Awards are made first come, first served, and the funds will soon run out.  Mr. Vitolo was not eligible, however; he is white!

Represented pro bono by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, Mr. Vitolo sued in federal district court in Tennessee, which ruled against him, but he sought expedited action before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Last week, by 2-1, the panel ruled in his favor and held the race-based provisions Congress included in the statute unconstitutional.

This is welcomed news for all Americans, a setback for Congress, which included racial preferences in legislation for decades, and an advisory that President Biden should end his shameful, hateful, and disturbing racially divisive rhetoric. 

For me, it was vindication.  The panel frequently cited my 1995 victory at the Supreme Court of the United States.  At that time, legal commentators predicted the ruling doomed government race-based decision making, which did not occur, but now, once this case or one like it reaches the Supreme Court, that will happen.

Judge Amul Thapar joined by Judge Alan Norris dealt first with jurisdictional issues, specifically the federal government’s attempts to throw Mr. Vitolo’s case out of court.  Governor lawyers argued he might not win a grant; moreover, his case was moot.  The panel rejected both arguments handily.

Judge Thapar explored the federal government’s decades-old presumption that certain racial and ethnic groups are entitled to preferences over fellow Americans. 

He called that “racial gerrymandering,” for example, “individuals who trace their ancestry to Pakistan and India qualify for special treatment.  But those from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq do not.  Those from China, Japan, and Hong Kong all qualify.  But those from Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco do not.” 

Judge Thapar: Imagine two childhood friends—one Indian, one Afghan.  Both own restaurants, and both have suffered devastating losses during the pandemic.  If both apply to the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, the Indian applicant will presumptively receive priority consideration over his Afghan friend.  Why?  Because of his ethnic heritage.

Quoting Chief Justice Roberts, he concludes, “It is indeed ‘a sordid business’ to divide ‘us up by race.’”

It not just sordid; it is unconstitutional.  Federal government “policies that classify people by race” have been “presumptively invalid,” wrote Judge Thapar, since the Supreme Court ruled in Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña in 1995 and subject to “strict (usually fatal) scrutiny.” 

To survive scrutiny, the federal government must demonstrate that it seeks to achieve a “compelling government interest” and that it “narrowly tailored” relief to advance that interest.  Asked Judge Thapar, does the federal government have a compelling interest in “presumptively sending men from non-favored racial groups (including whites, some Asians, and most Middle Easterners) to the back of the line[?]  We hold that it does not.”

As for the federal government’s argument that its compelling interest is “remedying past society discrimination against minority business owners,” the panel addressed three requirements: 1) specific episodes of past discrimination; 2) evidence of intentional discrimination; and 3) government involvement in that discrimination. 

The government met none.  Societal discrimination is not proof of discrimination; there was no evidence of past intentional discrimination against the groups granted preferences; and—other than vague congressional testimony—there was no evidence of government involvement in racial discrimination.

Next, the panel addressed narrow tailoring, which requires the federal government to demonstrate “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives.”  It concluded, in response to the government’s arguments, that “race-neutral alternatives exist,” which Congress failed to adopt; moreover, its use of “racial preferences is both overbroad and underinclusive.  This is also fatal to the policy.”

Further, the panel struck down the statute’s preference for “women-owned restaurants” after federal lawyers failed to provide the “exceedingly persuasive justification” required by the Constitution.

The panel concluded.  “It has been twenty-five years since the Supreme Court struck down the race-conscious policies in Adarand….  As today’s case shows once again, the ‘way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race’.”  Amen!

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: Wyoming’s Red Desert Is Like A Vast Deep Sea – It Can Devour You

in Column/Bill Sniffin
11222

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Bill Sniffin, publisher

I love the Red Desert.  And you will, too.

The ghosts of longtime friends Jimmy Smail and Bill Crump were hovering over us as Nancy and I made our first trek in three years to the vast Red Desert south of Lander and north of Rock Springs and Rawlins.

This gigantic place will devour you.  It is so big and stretches out so far in all directions.  I had forgotten how deep it is.  That’s right, the word “deep” comes to mind as you venture farther and farther into it.

Much like a vast dark jungle, this huge swath of open space just takes over. It stretches from one horizon to the other. It is like being in the middle of the ocean. 

I remarked to Nancy how native peoples roamed this area for 12,000 years. And for all but about the last 350 years, they did it on foot! 

From South Pass, you travel south for 10 miles to the magnificent Oregon Buttes.  They are so named because when the Oregon Trail emigrants reached these buttes on South Pass, it meant they were entering the state of Oregon. They stand tall next to Continental Peak and are major landmarks in the north portion of the  Red Desert. We love the buttes.

The area is known as a place to find Eden Valley petrified wood. In our early years in Wyoming, we hauled our share of the beautiful wood home. Now removing the wood is prohibited.

Southeast of Oregon Buttes we pass through the Honeycomb Buttes country and then come to a T-intersection.  If you go right, you see all the sights. If you go left, you literally drop off the end of the world. You feel like you are Columbus sailing off into the vast horizon.  We turned left. As we ventured deeper into this gigantic basin, you just feel overwhelmed by the distances. There were few landmarks. Just emptiness all around you.

The roads are well maintained and most cars would do fine, but I would recommend an SUV or pickup. 

We stopped once and I found a survey marker indicating the border of Sweetwater County and Carbon County. Also photographed a tiny horned toad. 

There were lots of wild horses roaming the area.  Stallions had clearly marked their territory with piles of road apples in the road at strategic locations.

This area is considered the largest unfenced region in the United States.  It also is a place where the Continental Divide splits, going east and west and creating a basin. Water entering this basin does not leave. 

After 90 minutes of experiencing this loneliest place in the loneliest state, we turned west and headed back to see the sights.  We could see two buttes off in the distance and knew that the Killpecker Sand Dunes and the Boar’s Tusk were on the other side of them.

The sand dunes were busy.  Lots of folks camping over the Memorial Day weekend and lots of expensive ORVs (off-road vehicles) roaming around.  We visited with Jose Perez of Rock Springs and took a photo of him and his daughter. He said his rig would go 80 miles an hour.  Wow!

We love the Boar’s Tusk.  This rock formation can be seen for a long distance all around. You can almost see it from Rock Springs.

Just south of there is one of the state’s best petroglyph sites at White Mountain. These are ancient rock carvings created by native peoples centuries ago. There are even rocks believed to be “birthing rocks,” into which handholds have been carved. Women over a millennia would grip these when having babies.  

The area is sheltered from that perennial western wind that occurs in this part of the state and was probably a wintering site for indigenous peoples.  

The site is well marked, well maintained and well worth the short hike.

It was over 50 years ago that a game warden named Bill Crump introduced me to the desert.   Bill died last September at the age of 95. On Memorial Day, the city of Lander named the day in his honor.  At 6 feet, 5 inches, he may have been the tallest sailor in the history of the Submarine service in World War II.

What a wonderful happenstance to have had a brilliant outdoorsman like Bill introduce me to the desert. I am so grateful for that.

In recent years, my late friend Jimmy Smail showed me all sorts of secret places in the desert. Jimmy died at 82 in February.

I could feel good vibes from both of these wonderful Wyoming icons while we were tooling around in their favorite place – the vast Red Desert.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Jim Hicks: It Could Be Another Crowded Summer On The Bighorns

in Column/Jim Hicks
11199

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

BUFFALO = Most years Memorial Day weekend is a “sure thing” for cool and raining weather on at least one day.

But the 2021 version produced some perfect conditions for all kinds of activities. And, if you happened to drive around some of the local recreation areas, it was evident people have broken out of COVID isolation and restrictions in droves.

Camping at the Mikesell-Potts recreation area was packed full and kids were enjoying the beach in the bay there in spite of some cold water temperatures.

Campers and recreation vehicles seemed to be all over the mountain.

The Bench Sitters are wondering why the Forest Service is allowing campers along the road to Gross Mountain just west of town. That is no doubt the most photographed wild flower meadow in the Bighorns (with the snow-covered peaks in the background). But not any longer.

Some say it’s because they have access to internet signal.  A few years ago, no one camped there.

If early numbers are an indicator, this may be another record year for campers locating in just about every conceivable place on the mountain. If you thought the invasion of out-of-state campers would disappear after the COVID restrictions were lifted . . . it may turn out that was just the beginning.

Last week about 30 members of a local classic car club make a tour to Jackson which included a stop at newly opened National Museum of Military Vehicles at Dubois. Carl and Lois Madden were in the group and they tell us it is a “must see” attraction with over 450 vehicles from Jeeps to tanks.

They recommend calling ahead and signing up for a guided tour.

“Just amazing,” they said.

And from the mailbag this week we wanted to share a few musings by Wes Buckmaster, a retired attorney who lives in South Dakota. If you have a few grey hairs, read it slowly and for most it will generate some personal thoughts.

When older there is an urge to yell at the top of the voice.

Yell for the things gained and lost.

Yell for loss of the things never gained.

Yell for the opportunities squandered.

Yell for the accomplishments realized and then lost.

Yell for the loss of values held dear in the past.

Yell for the worthlessness of long allegiances misplaced.

Yell for the confusion caused by a dimming trail where past aspirations have since dissipated in the mist.

Yell for the weaknesses which left footprints exposing reasons why things are as they are.

The reasons, yes the reasons, some having been in our control.

Some that never were.

And finally, this week we need to share some lines from the late Phyllis Diller sent our way from former residents Ken and Nadine Gross.

As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.

Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.

Best way to get rid of kitchen odors — Eat out.

I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.

Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.

We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up.

His finest hour lasted a minute and a half.

I asked the waiter, ‘Is this milk fresh?’ He said, ‘Lady, three hours ago it was grass.’

You know you’re old if they have discontinued your blood type.

That last one gets big laughs at the Senior Center.  Get ready for a hot summer and we’ll write again next week.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Dave Simpson: Remember: Montani Semper Liberi

in Dave Simpson/Column
11169

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Dave Simpson, columnist

Couple years ago, I was watching something on television and the state motto of West Virginia was mentioned.

I grabbed a pad and pencil and jotted it down.

“Montani Semper Liberi,” I wrote down. The next day, I found a scrap of oak out in my workshop, fired up my router, and carved those words into the wood. Then I painted the inset letters dark green, stained the piece of oak, and routed a nice edge on it.

Two weeks later, I screwed it onto a joist above the front door of the cabin a friend and I built way up in the mountains of Southern Wyoming, where I’ve been spending my summers for the last four decades.

Translation: “Mountaineers (are) always free.”

Any day now, I’ll get word that the snow at 9,800 feet along the front range of the Rocky Mountains has melted from a winter high of as much as 120 inches – a roof-busting 10 feet – to something far less. Then one day soon, after some 80-degree days here in town, an email will arrive that someone has broken through the drifts, cleared the downed trees, and arrived at our little community of cabins.

Soon after that, I’ll make my way up the rough Forest Service road to open the cabin for my 40th summer.

For me, it’s like Christmas.

Could I really have been coming to this beautiful place, where you can just about touch the Milky Way most summer nights, for 40 years? Could two guys, old college roommates, build a cabin out of nothing more than downed trees, sweat, and beer-fed determination?

Most amazing, could 40 years have gone by? I was 30 when I bought the acre of land from an old rancher. That would make me, wait for it, 70 years old. Too old to be doing much more than tending the fire at a cabin way up in the mountains. Way too old to do it all over again.

Seventy is an age when you’ve already lost some folks along the way – the boss who once advised me to “first do what’s right, then worry about the money.” Parents. The close friend, an artist, who made a living turning stunning bowls out of exotic wood. Guys I worked with. The husband of a friend, a judge, who got cancer and died way too soon, leaving this message: “Don’t wait to pursue your dreams. It’s later than you think.”

And we have close friends dealing with all kinds of ailments, ranging from the merely aggravating to the truly life threatening.

My wife and I have been lucky. She had two cancer scares in 2018 – one turned out to be benign, the other excised, radiated and watched closely. She had a knee replaced. With me, it has all been mechanical repairs – a torn quad, two mangled rotator cuffs, and something called a triple laminectomy and fusion. (That last one was a lot of fun, let me tell you.) But none of it stood in the way of doing the things we really wanted to do. And for me, that included making my way up the mountain every June.

There is, however, the feeling – at 70 years of age – judging by the experiences of those our age, that a life-threatening shoe could drop at any time. Better enjoy ourselves now. Better spend some of the money we’ve been holding on to. Better smell the ocean one more time. Better breathe the mountain air. Better smell those lilac bushes.

They say God doesn’t throw anything at you that you can’t handle, and I’m pretty sure that’s why grand children were invented. Just about the time a guy could get pretty negative about aches and pains, and what lies ahead, along comes a grand daughter who says, “Love you! Mean it!” Who loves to make cookies with her Grandpa. And her brand new little sister, who looks with absolute wonder at every new thing around her.

Shoes will drop, we all know.

Someday soon I’ll show my grand daughters the cabin Gramps and his old college friend built way up in the mountains.

And there will be two brand new little mountaineers…

Always free.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Rod Miller: Scorched Earth Politics and You

in Column/Rod Miller
11168

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Rod Miller, columnist

A friend was bemoaning the current state of politics the other day, and asked “Why can’t politicians raise the bar?”. Given the sorry state of our political discourse today, that is a very valid question.

Candidates for public office, both at the state and national level, are increasingly resorting to “negative politics”, and lowering the standard of campaigns by using ad hominem attacks on opponents, name-calling, falsification and baldfaced lies. Nothing, it seems, generates headlines like a good smear, and headlines are the mother’s milk of politics.

I use the term “increasingly”, because mudslinging is not new to our political landscape. Read up on the presidential election of 1800, and see for yourself. That election led directly to a sitting Vice tPresident killing his political rival in a duel. Banner headlines, of course, ensued.

American voters have always loved a good political bloodbath. While we may express public shock at scorched earth politics, we can’t turn our eyes away from it. When we see the knives come out in a political campaign, its like we are driving slowly past a horrific wreck on the highway, craning our necks to see the mangled wreckage, hoping to get a glimpse of blood and tut-tutting about how sad it all is.

Politicians know this about us, and have raised to an art form their ability to grasp our collective attention with mudslinging, personal attacks and political carnage. They behave this way for a very simple reason. Voters reward these blitzkrieg candidates with what they covet most – election victories.

By tacitly allowing politicians to move the needle away from civil political discourse toward the worst of talk radio sophistry, we voters are complicit in damaging our representative democracy. We have abdicated our responsibilities as citizens because, it appears, it is easier to let some jerkwater politician do our thinking for us.

For all of our chest-thumping about “We the People”, we have failed to stop callous, spiteful candidates from hijacking our political process as they seek the lowest common denominator in politics. My friend was right – the bar has never been lower.

But she was wrong in thinking that its up to political candidates to raise the bar. They will never do that as long as they keep winning.

But if we as citizens demand better from those who seek to represent us, things will change. If we deny them our attention, and withhold our support when they descend into the political slimepit, then and only then will things change. When we use our votes as responsible citizens, the bar will raise itself. That is OUR job!

Our votes are the holy grail of any politician. Lets make sure we don’t give those votes to those who don’t deserve them.

My granddad, Kirk Miller, used to say, “The average person would be shocked to learn how little water it takes to make a good pot of coffee.” I’ll paraphrase him here: The average voter would be shocked to learn what a politician will do to get his or her vote. Lets make them work for it…our way.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

1 2 3 57
Go to Top