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Cat Urbigkit: The Colorado Wolf Mess

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

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by Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon with cattle producers in North Park, Colorado at a gathering to discuss the wolf situation in that area. I met a community of ranchers who are struggling to understand how they can continue their cow/calf ranch operations amid a fully protected wolf population.

Thanks to a court order issued by a Northern California federal judge, wolves in Colorado are granted full endangered species status, so that wolves can only be “taken” in an act of self-defense, or in defense of others. Taking is defined to include “harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting.”

This is the most restrictive management regime for any species. Even when wolves were under federal protection during the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction program, they were treated as though they were a threatened population, allowing more management flexibility.

But that’s not what Colorado producers are dealing with. Colorado’s wolf population originated when wolves crossed the state line from the predator zone in Wyoming, stepping into Colorado and into the protection of the Endangered Species Act. Confounding the problem is Colorado’s ballot-box-biology that requires state officials to release additional wolves in the state by the end of next year. Those additional animals will acquire full “endangered” status the second their paws hit the ground.

According to a letter to Colorado officials from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, harassing wolves is prohibited, and harass is defined as “an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavior patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.”

Instead, Colorado officials and landowners are to minimize wolf-conflict risk “in an opportunist and non-injurious manner” through “appropriate hazing methods and techniques” to “discourage wolves from the immediate vicinity of livestock, a human-occupied residence, or other human-occupied area on both public and private lands.”

According to FWS, hazing methods that may be used “include, but are not limited to, carcass management, physical barriers (i.e., fencing and electrified fencing), guard animals, auditory and visual scare tactics (i.e., fladry, lights, sirens, cracker shells), increased human presence/vigilance, or any combination of these measures.”

Guardian Dogs

I was invited to meet with the North Park group because there is an interest in using livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) as well as other non-lethal measures to help protect area cattle herds. But LGDs don’t just arrive prepackaged and ready to go. Using LGDs with range cattle is a new challenge in the United States, as cattle generally don’t have the flocking behavior that allows the dogs to work so well with sheep or goats. While there are some circumstances where guardian dogs work well with cattle, I’m afraid that for most of the North Park producers, it doesn’t seem a great fit.

It is critical to set livestock guardian dogs up for success, and the process begins with they are young pups, bonding them to the livestock species they will grow up to protect. But these North Park ranches are already within the territory of a pack of six wolves, and that pack has already killed a herding dog, and injured another, inside a ranch kennel.

How is a livestock producer supposed to start a pup and ensure its survival into adulthood in the middle of a wolf pack? The North Park pack has repeatedly killed cattle on several ranches. How many guardian dogs would be needed to hold that 6-member pack out of the cattle? The odds for success is stacked against the producers, and the risk to young livestock guardian dogs would be substantial. It takes time to obtain a pup, raise it, and build up a LGD pack that would be capable of protecting livestock against a pack of six wolves. What if that pack produces pups again this year, and becomes larger?

How can I advise North Park cattle producers to start a LGD program under these circumstances? I can’t. It may be an option for some producers, but it not a cure-all for the current situation, and isn’t a viable option for ranches already within a wolf pack’s territory.

We toured one ranch just north of Walden where the cattle weaning pens would provide a fairly defensible space when the cattle are held there in the winter – but it is adjacent to a busy highway. It takes a lot of time and supervision to get a LGD into adulthood where it can really be effective – but to do it next to a highway would almost surely end in tragedy. In sum, while some individual livestock producers may be willing to try developing their own LGD program, it isn’t necessarily the answer for the majority of ranches in the area.

Other Methods

We also talked about guardian donkeys, another non-lethal deterrent that ranchers can try, but are known for generally limited effectiveness when it comes to wolves. In some areas, donkeys become preferred prey for wolves (rather than a deterrent).

We talked about a wide variety of grazing practices, livestock husbandry practices, human interference methods, and physical barriers like night pens and corrals, and other deterrents – from visual and sound devices, and the use of fladry. Most of these methods hold promise for small pastures, but generally aren’t viable for range cattle production.

Human presence has traditionally been the best deterrent, but even that has its limits. Wolves in our area simply changed their habits, making kills of our livestock and engaging in fights with our livestock guardian dogs between midnight and 4 a.m. – the few hours of the night we humans are sleeping. Our colleagues in France report that when they night-penned their sheep in electrified pens, the wolves began killing sheep during the daylight hours. When herdsmen refused to take their herds into mountain pastures because of depredations, wolves moved to begin killing stock outside of lowland villages. Wolves are intelligent creatures, and as we try to adapt to them, they adapt to us and our tactics.

Wolf advocates will claim that livestock producers need to take simple steps to protect their livestock, but they ignore the difficult reality on the ground. They also claim that “only” a small number of livestock are killed, and producers are reimbursed for their kills, so it’s really not a big deal. That conveniently ignores the myriad of problems and impacts that are caused by wolf attacks on domestic livestock. The reality is that indirect costs nearly always exceed the direct death loss from wolf depredations.

What’s Needed

North Park cattle producers are already in an impossible situation. The tools that are offered to them have very limited effectiveness, and wolves quickly adapt to our tactics. In the current situation, it doesn’t matter how many times those wolves kill cattle, or dogs in ranch yards, the wolves can suffer no consequences. They will learn that, and the situation could certainly get worse.

Even knowing all this, the North Park Cattle Association members I met with were committed to doing their best to minimize conflicts. Not once did anyone say that they hated wolves. In fact, with one producer told the group that he finds wolves to be fascinating creatures, but he hated the position livestock producers were in under current federal wolf management.

Producers talked about their concerns for basic livestock husbandry while stewarding their lands with this new challenge. They also noted the inequity of impacts caused by wolves, with producers tending to larger herds just as concerned with small herd owners. It was noted that an investment banker who owns a ranch may be able to invest considerable money for applying non-lethal tools, and can sustain a higher level of losses, than a young couple trying to grow their agricultural enterprise.

These cattle producers understand the need to minimize conflicts with wolves, but the options available to them are limited. The conflict reduction framework outlined by the Western Landowners Alliance provides a more comprehensive system to support conservation of wildlife in working landscapes. It includes interconnected components of conflict prevention measures such as the hazing methods suggested by FWS, lethal control to reduce damage, compensation, and local collaboration. Colorado producers need access to all 4C’s (compensation, conflict prevention, control & collaboration), and wildlife managers should be empowered with all these tools to reduce conflicts.

The Future

Since wolves produced a litter of pups in Colorado last year, North Park cattle producers have been inundated with outsiders advising them to take simple measures to protect their herds. I say that anyone who begins a sentence with “you should …”  should themselves shut the hell up – you know not of which you speak. No two ranches are alike, and what works on one outfit might not be appropriate for another. One thing I am sure of though, is that the North Park producers will remain stewards of the land and the animals they share their lives with, while they try to navigate this difficult conflict.

As Colorado officials move forward with the voter mandate to release more wolves, there are two potential actions that could provide relief to cattle producers. The first is that FWS may allow the wolf release under a 10j rule of the Endangered Species Act, which would designate Colorado’s wolf population as “experimental” and treated as though it were a threatened species rather than an endangered species. The second is that FWS is currently conducting a status review on wolves, which more than likely will recommend a downlisting or delisting for wolves in Colorado since the agency had already determined that wolves in the Northern Rockies no longer need federal protection.

But either of those measures that could allow wildlife managers more flexibility in dealing with wolves that repeatedly kill livestock could be protested by wolf advocates. After all, it was the wolf advocates that took legal action leading to the current mess for Colorado livestock producers.

The federal decision that brought fully endangered status to wolves in Colorado was the result of lawsuits filed by certain non-governmental organizations. The list includes Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Humane Society of the United States, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the National Resources Defense Council.

I’ve yet to see any of these organizations express support for the 4C’s conflict reduction framework to ensure landscapes where people, livestock, and wildlife all thrive. They should step up and do that now – unless conflict reduction isn’t one of their priorities.

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.

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Dave Simpson: A Far Cry From The Watergate Hearings

in Dave Simpson/Column

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Some of us are old enough to remember the Watergate hearings back in the summer of 1973. 

Trust me on this: The January 6th “hearings” ain’t no Watergate hearings. 

I was finishing up some college courses back then, and if I wasn’t in class, the television was on constantly to the Senate Watergate Committee hearings, chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin, a wily old Democrat from North Carolina. There was no controversy over what senators served on the committee. No members were rejected by the other party. 

The Republican co-chair of the Senate committee was Sen. Howard Baker, who made the question, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” the query most of us remember of the hearings.

There was an urgent need to keep watching, because new information was being uncovered every day, and there was the growing sense that despite his denials, our president was indeed “a crook.” An example was the revelation from White House staffer Alexander Butterfield that there was a taping system in the Oval Office, and suddenly getting those tapes became a huge issue that would go all the way to the Supreme Court. When Nixon had to hand over those tapes, the jig was pretty much up. 

We knew we were watching history take place, and an estimated 70 percent of us were watching on TV. The hearings were not packaged. The questioners were not reading from Teleprompters. There was no television producer punching up the action to get more viewers. The senators looked like people trying to find out what went on, not like prosecutors presenting a case. 

As a result, the Watergate hearings had credibility. When Nixon resigned, few could say the process of uncovering the issues was incomplete. Republicans, led by Sen. Barry Goldwater, ultimately went to the White House to tell Nixon it was time to go. 

Fast forward to today. I was listening to the “hearing” last week when Rep. Adam Kinzinger’s questioning of a witness sounded more like responsive reading in church. His foregone conclusion – that President Trump is an ongoing menace – could not have been more clear. Videos slickly interspersed throughout Kinzinger’s scripted performance belied the fact that we’re seeing a predetermined case being made, with the assistance of a top television producer.

The words “dog and pony show” kept coming to mind. 

Same with the performance of our Rep. Liz Cheney, co-chair of the committee that has no other Republicans other than Kinzinger. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, rejected two other Republican members to serve on the committee. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy then opted – perhaps unwisely – to not propose any other Republicans. So, everyone on the committee is against Trump. There are no skeptics asking tough questions, no Trump defenders.

On NPR two weeks ago, congressional reporter Ron Elving said Cheney is thought by some to be the new Howard Baker. But Baker didn’t say before the Watergate hearings even began that he wanted to keep Nixon from ever getting near the Oval Office again, as Cheney vowed to do to Trump. Her mind was made up from the very start.

And that’s why the January 6th Committee hearings are a far cry from the Watergate hearings. We’re watching the prosecution make its case – with all the flash and slickness of modern television production – but there’s no defense on the other side. Imagine a court case in which only the prosecution got to make its case.

Making things worse, the committee last week violated the old journalism warning about “a story too good to check out” when it was claimed that Trump tussled with Secret Service agents. But nobody checked it out with the Secret Service. And agents have denied it. Bad mistake by the committee. 

Looks to me like Trump is a guy who had trouble accepting defeat, and he made some bad decisions in his final days in office. But after four long years of determined, relentless, hysterical opposition – proven unfounded in almost every instance – did we really expect him to accept the results of a pandemic-jostled election without question? 

The January 6th Hearings are no Watergate Hearings. 

Not by a long shot. 

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Bill Sniffin: Al Simpson May Still Be The Most Interesting Man In Wyoming

in Column/Bill Sniffin

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

“What I used to call THE BIG TENT is now what I call THE BIG TENTACLE,” former Sen. Al Simpson told me on a sunny Wyoming afternoon last Thursday.

The retired U. S. Senator, 90, has long been critical of how Wyoming Republican politics has become more exclusive compared to the “Big Tent” plan used by himself and promoted nationally by former president Ronald Reagan. It implies that anyone who believed in basic Republican principles is welcome in his version of the party.

He was speaking in reference to the upcoming honor Thursday, July 7, when President Joe Biden will give him the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor available to an American.

Simpson, who lives in Cody, journeyed to my home town of Lander to attend the funeral of a wonderful woman named Eileen Oakley. Eileen recently died of colon cancer at the age of 75. Al’s son Colin is married to one of Eileen’s three daughters, Debbie. Debbie is an outspoken Wyoming political personality, herself, but that is another story.

Big Al (who stands 6-7) continued: “When I go to Washington, I am going to say that simply I am an American who lives in Wyoming. I will not be saying that I am member of the Wyoming Republican Party.”

His dismay, over the hard conservative direction the Wyoming Republican Party has taken this century, has been evident for years.  Being pro-choice, Simpson has found himself isolated from the majority of the members of the state’s current GOP for decades.

He likes to single out current state GOP Chairman Frank Eathorne for criticism. “I would like to discuss family values with him some time,” he said.

He also has nothing good to say about former President Donald Trump, which does not endear him to Republicans in a state that voted more overwhelmingly for Trump than any other in both 2016 and 2020.

Simpson retired in 1996 and has long claimed it might be impossible for him to win election in these days. He won three elections to the U. S. Senate, mostly by wide margins. He was an amazingly influential member of the Senate, serving as both Majority and Minority Whip for ten years.

The only other Wyomingite to receive the Medal of Freedom is his friend Dick Cheney, the former Vice President. Cheney was given it in 1991.

As Al and his wife Ann (married 68 years) exited the church at the funeral, he said maybe “we could call the new Republican philosophy THE BIG TESTI****L? Hmm. No, probably not.”

Some years ago, I ran a statewide contest in my column to identify Wyoming’s most interesting person.

He won both because of his amazing record of service to Wyoming and his country but also for his wit and amazing life outside of politics. The man is unique. A true Wyoming original.

Here is what I wrote when Al was overwhelmingly picked for that singular honor:

Picture this: the most interesting man in Wyoming is surrounded by his beautiful wife, his daughter, his pretty daughters in law, and his pretty granddaughters. He raises a glass in a toast and looks into the camera and says:

“I don’t normally drink, but when I do . . . I drink Wyoming Whiskey.” 

That could be the key line in a TV commercial as a takeoff of the amazing beer campaign that got me thinking about just who is the most interesting man or woman in Wyoming?

After putting it to a vote of my readers, retired U. S. Senator Al Simpson won hands-down.

And coincidentally, he was featured at the time in a promotion for the Wyoming Whiskey distillery where he had his own barrel of bourbon made. Big Al carefully and methodically signed and numbered all 216 bottles in his name.

Here is Al Simpson’s toast at the Wyoming Whiskey party:

“My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

“If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

“But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our mute, our pitiful aged, and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

“This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”

I doubt he will mention whiskey during his acceptance speech this Thursday when he deservedly receives the American Medal of Freedom.  

Congratulations to this amazing man and his family.

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Aaron Turpen: No, Buying an Electric Car Does Not Make You a Democrat

in Aaron Turpen/Column

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By Aaron Turpen, columnist
Cowboy State Daily automotive writer

This is going to burst some bubbles. I know. You’ve probably already come up with a response based purely on the title of this article, but bear with me a little before you type off in all caps at me. It’ll be worth it. I promise good information and bad dad jokes.

I recently was at a family reunion for family I’m married into. I met a bunch of people I didn’t know before and can still only vaguely understand how everyone’s related. For me, that’s hard to wrap my head around as I spent a fair amount of time in Utah as a teenager and learned how everyone there, at some point or another, had a Kevin Bacon with everyone else. No matter how diverse the crowd.

At any rate, during this family reunion, I met with a now-we’re-related guy named Tim. We had a long conversation. Because Tim owns a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner that started life as a drag car and continues its life, under his care and restoration, as a street-legal drag machine. If there’s anything I can carry a conversation at length with, it’s talking about cars.

At some point in that conversation, Tim asked me what is my favorite car that I’ve driven so far this year. A not unusual question for me to be asked, given that what I do for a living means that I daily drive around 100 vehicles every year.

I promptly answered that it was the Ford Mustang Mach-E. He was surprised. After showing some knowledge of what his classic muscle car would have been like stock and asking details about his engine boring and tuning techniques, he was amazed that an electric car would be my favorite. So I explained myself to him. Starting with my corniest vegetable joke.

But back to cars, I chose the Mach-E because it doesn’t just run from zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds, but it’s also a joy to drive. And that, to me, is what matters. I have very few biases when it comes to vehicles. I like trucks, sport utilities, muscle cars, tiny little sports cars, oddly-shaped foreign jobs, school buses, monster trucks, rally racing, off-road beasts, etc. I just like to drive.

Each vehicle has a different appeal and each kind of vehicle and powertrain for that vehicle also has an attraction. I like electrics because they give smooth power delivery. And most have the batteries down the middle of the car, so they tend to have excellent balance and dynamics. I also like the throaty, refined sound of a British V8 and the grunting growl of well-done American muscle.

In short, I like to drive vehicles. This is why I do what I do.

If I’ve learned anything as an American, it’s that politics get into everything in our country. I remember a time when that was not the so much the case, but that time was long ago.

Today, everything becomes political. We worship our divides and the tribal feelings of “we’re better than them” that result. Most of the memes on Facebook and commentary on Twitter are just that: Me vs You.

Being unaffiliated and libertarian in my political view, I’ve often found myself shoved into one group or another based on a comment or a question I pose. Usually by those who don’t see anything beyond elephants and donkeys.

So it is with electric vehicles. We collectively see an EV as either good or evil based purely on how we believe it fits in politics. Which is stupid. Yes, politics get into everything because government eventually gets into everything, but hating the object does nothing to change things.

Just as we don’t hate the soldier for participating in a politically-motivated war we shouldn’t hate the electric car just because some political figure says they are the future. Things change and we can’t always control that change.

Currently, polls are showing that about 60-70 percent of Americans would consider an electric car as their next new car purchase (depending on the poll).

For political affiliation and thoughts, one poll–created by an EV advocacy group but verified independently–asked questions of a cross-section of Americans who are both active voters and in the market for a new car in the next 3 years.

The Zero Emissions Transportation Association (ZETA) polled people nationally back in February with interesting results.

They found that the divide between the two major political parties is wide, with about half of Republicans (49%) saying they support incentives to buy an EV and about 79 percent of Democrats saying that they do.

But 72 percent of unaffiliated independents, which make up the bulk of the voters in the U.S., say that they think incentivizing EVs in some way is a good idea. This means that nearly two thirds of Americans overall are willing to give an EV a chance if the circumstances are right for them.

And unless half of the Republican party is made up of RINOs [insert Cheney joke here], which seems ludicrous, that means that a lot of GOP voters are not only interested in electric cars, but are willing to subsidize them in one way or another.

Then we consider the merits of electric vehicles: they’re simpler, easier to own and maintain, and generally cheaper in the long run. They may or may not be more environmentally upstanding when compared to gasoline- or diesel-powered vehicles and they may or may not be “better” in some specific circumstance or other, but for the majority of people the majority of the time, they’re great. Or at least will be soon enough.

An electric car reduces a vehicle with about 30,000 or so parts down to a couple of thousand. Less complexity means less things to break. Fewer moving parts mean fewer things to have to take apart to figure out what went wrong. And cheaper fuel means cheaper operation.

If I know anything about consumers who buy vehicles, it’s that convenience sells. Every time. The more convenient (aka “easier”) the vehicle is to them, the more likely they are to buy it and keep it.

With a large chunk of the maintenance required of a combustion vehicle going away with electrics, that’s a convenience most will be happy with. As for the convenience of fueling, well, most of us can just plug an electric car into our house.

Eventually that will be the norm at apartment complexes as well. And while road trips and other things are a hassle with an EV now, they won’t be for much longer. Infrastructure is rolling out quickly.

So on practical terms, while you may or may not be ready for an electric vehicle right now, you will likely see them as commonplace in your lifetime. And considering one won’t change your political affiliation. I promise.

(Looking back, I didn’t really include much in the way of dad jokes. So what’s black on white on black on white on black on white? A penguin rolling downhill.)

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Rod Miller: Will Wyoming’s Silent Majority Speak Up?

in Column/Rod Miller
Photo by Mike Vanata

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily

Politics, by its very nature, is a noisy business. It is the clash of competing voices, all clamoring to be heard, and each one convinced that louder is better. It is a carnival midway full of flashy barkers trying to get your attention.

But this annoying cacophony is really just a small smidgen of the political population, a vocal minority. Its merely the audible surface, the white noise of what’s really going on. I’ll wager that, in Wyoming, there aren’t many more than a thousand or so people making all this racket.

This small but loquacious chorus includes the politicians themselves (incumbent and challenger) party apparatchiks from the state to the precinct level, and commentators like me who pen letters to the editor, social media posts and political commentary.

We band of brothers & sisters, acting big and talking smart as we read the chicken entrails and prophecy. We noisy few.

And we jawbone and argue and rant that we know how the cow eats the political cabbage here in The Big Empty. And its really pretty funny!

And, more often than we like, we get drowned out by the Silent Majority on election day. Its only on those occasions that our punditry is confirmed or laid waste by the real world. And it is to that quiet wisdom that we all should defer.

It was Richard Nixon who first coined the term in a speech written by Pat Buchanan (the finest political poet who ever lived) when he said, “And so tonight – to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans – I ask for your support.”

And it worked! Nixon won his next election in an historic landslide. And twenty years earlier the Silent Majority, although not yet named, weighed in and confounded the loudmouth pundits who wrote premature headlines that Dewey had defeated Truman.

They may not make much noise, but when these folks choose to weigh in, then the needle moves.

Who are they, this Silent Majority in Wyoming? They are the quiet folks who gather in coffeeshops and work in welding shops and cubicles from Wilson to Pine Bluff, from Evanston to Sundance. They keep their own counsel and play their cards close to the vest. They never tip their hand.

Every political faction in the state claims that they represent this powerful voting bloc, and that the Silent Majority agrees with their dogma. But this is just idle lip-flapping.

Wyoming’s Silent Majority cares little for political posturing. They’re more concerned with putting groceries on the table, finishing up branding and getting kids to baseball practice than they are with rhetoric.

Nobody knows how these folks will vote until the votes are counted. And this fact drives pundits and politicians to fits of apoplexy.

And this is their year!

Perhaps at no other time in Wyoming’s history has their voice been more important. With GOP inertia pulling us further toward an authoritarian, theocratic and fully-armed future, the choice in the Cowboy State is stark.

If Wyoming’s Silent Majority comes down on the side of Oral Eathorne’s MAGA carnival, then we can expect a future in which Romeo Bouchard is appointed Superintendent of the State School for Wayward Girls, and the Wyoming Supreme Court is replaced by the Park County Men’s Full Gospel Gun & Glee Club.

Can you say, “Governor Bray” without gagging???

So, here’s a call to action…first to the 170.000 eligible voters in Wyoming who aren’t yet registered. Get registered and vote! All the cool kids are doing it, and its really important this year.

And to Wyoming’s Silent Majority…give serious thought to what kind of state you want your kids to call home, because how you vote will make that determination. Speak up on election day!

We’re all listening.

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Eating Wyoming: Attempting To Eat Sanford’s Monster Burger Called “The OMG”

in Eating Wyoming/Column

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

I called out a new challenger and I took him on. This is the story of what happened. 

The ending isn’t a pretty one.

You know this column is about food in Wyoming. You know as your culinary warrior, I’ll take on any challenger. Recently I got a text message that informed me there was a new challenger that I needed to call out, just for honor’s sake.

You might be wondering who this challenger is. Well, it’s not so much a who, but rather, a what. 

First the who. Many of you could be familiar with Sanford’s Grub and Pub. There are two in Wyoming, one in Cheyenne and one in Casper. There’s even one in Dickinson, North Dakota. 

They have a ringer that’s taking down food challengers one by one, knocking them out. This new challenger is currently undefeated, with a record of 12 and 0! Will it be 13?

Now the what of the who. Sanford’s as most people call them, is diabolical! They created a monster burger called “The OMG.” This monster is a multi-layer plate crusher that refuses to die! Or in this case, be eaten. 

Yes, I took it on, but hang in there, I’m getting to that.

I called James Martin, general manager of Sanford’s in Cheyenne, to tell me the story of the OMG, and to warn me about what I would face.

According to Martin, the story goes like this: About 10 years ago when Sanford’s created its menus, there was a graphic in the middle of the burger section of this huge stacked burger. It wasn’t a menu item, but people would ask if they could get one. 

So recently when they did a menu update, Martin thought it would be a total joke to add the burger depicted in the graphic to the regular menu. Thus a legend in the making was born. 

“Just a burger,” you think? Think again. Here’s what’s on the OMG, and why it’s a gut buster extraordinaire. As I listened to Martin’s description,  I had two emotions: curiosity and a strong sense of fear. The voice in my head said RUN! 

Here’s what you get delivered to your table: On the bottom layer is a hamburger, followed by a cheese burger, then a bacon burger and, if that wasn’t enough, barbecue bacon burger after that. All together, this is 4 pounds of meat alone. Including the eight buns and fixings, it weighs in at 5 pounds and stands about 15 inches tall. Let that sink in a moment. 

I let James know that I would be coming down on the Saturday of Cheyenne’s annual Super Day celebration. As the day approached, I tried to psych myself up for the fight of my life. Mano e Mano, or man vs. burger. 

As I walked around Lion’s Park for Super Day, I kept telling myself “You can do this! It’s just a burger, and besides, you skipped breakfast.” 

As lunch time drew near, I was feeling a bit hungry and nervous. 

“Yeah, I have this. In… the… bag!” I kept telling myself.

I head on over to Sanford’s, introduce myself to James, and he tells me that regardless of finishing the OMG or not, I still get my photo on the wall. Sounds like a memorial to the fallen. Then he added that if I FINISHED the burger, I’d get a Sanford’s T-shirt too. 

I asked if anyone had gotten the shirt. He said no, but someone came within three bites before tapping out. It was then that the worry started to sink in. I’m not one to fade from a challenge, so I said, bring it on.

What happened next made me weak in the knees.

I spent my time waiting for the OMG concocting my strategy. Do I eat all the burgers first, then all the buns and finish with the fixings, or do I start at one end and work my way to the other? My honor was at stake here and I had to do something, fast! 

It was just then, I caught a glimpse of the beast! 

When they bring this out, they don’t just set it on the table, oh no! They literally walk it around the WHOLE RESTAURANT, stopping at EVERY table asking, “Is this yours?” in-between stops, chanting “O-M-G! O-M-G!” 

Now, when they get to your table, everyone is looking at you, and saying what everyone is thinking: “OMG! Is that guy crazy?” 

When James sat the tray down, I could swear I heard the burger mocking me with laughter. There was a knife stuck in the top and I don’t know if it was from another fight, or if it was a supposed to be a handle. 

Nodding at the knife, James said “Grab it here.” It was off balance and ready to fall over — or lunge at me. 

It was then that James said “You got this?” as he stepped away, saying “You’re on your own dude!” My only reply was a whimpering “Heeeelllllp!?”

Even I said OMG. This thing was massive! I could barely see over it. Now what? 

Suck it up Tim! You can do it! In the opening round, I managed to wrestle the beast flat to the tray it was on. This thing was as long as my arm, literally! It sat there, looking at me, and again I heard a mocking voice say “Yeah? Whatcha gonna do now punk?” It was then I took the one end to the other strategy. 

There isn’t a time limit on finishing this burger, and maybe that should have scared me. It’s at this point that I should tell you I had gotten a little cocky and ordered this with a topper of onion rings. I know, I know, what was I thinking? 

Round two began by drinking lots of root beer, and rethinking my strategy. I mean come on, I wanted the onion rings on top first. This is where the challenger struck. Out of nowhere, he went straight for the gut punch! While my strategy was a steady end-to-end approach, his was to distract me and tempt me with the onion rings. 

When I did get back on track it was too late, the blow had done its work. I was only able to get a normal burger’s worth eaten, and the onion rings, of course. It was only a matter of time, the end was in sight. The fight concluded with a TKO from the OMG.  I was defeated…kind of. As I lay on the floor with my last fork full, my backup plan was already in motion. 

When I came to, what was left of the OMG was still on the table. I motioned to a server, she winked, and right on cue, she came over with three to-go boxes. I piled the remains of the OMG into the styrofoam hurt lockers, and said “Check please?” 

On the way out the door, it was my turn to laugh mockingly. I patted the boxes on the top and said “See you when we get home!”

If you would like to take on the OMG, it is currently available at the Sanford’s locations in Cheyenne and Dickinson. Possibly coming to the Casper location soon. 

Get down there and take the challenger on! Get your photo on the wall, and learn why everyone that sees this behemoth says “O…M…G…!”  

Sanford’s Cheyenne location is at 115 E 17th St. You can catch them on Facebook and at 

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Clair McFarland: Of Summer And Sunsets And Battles With Millers

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

It’s miller season, but some of y’all call them moths.  

Dark and furry, millers are just butterflies’ homely cousins who didn’t get asked to the ball. They congregate instead at my window, insanely tempted by their soul mate: a reading lamp.  

Silken breezes float the tang of rain past that window, but I dare not open it because the millers will pour in through a rip in the screen. So I sit near the pane to hear rain sift through the withered lilacs, sending their dead fragrance into the night like a second, fleeting youth.  

Millers are a summer constant. Their blurry purr is a surer sign of twilight than the oily horizon itself. When the sun rises again and their polite derby slows, they cram into some unimaginable crevice of architecture and nuzzle each other to sleep.  

I sigh.  

My middle-born son careens down the hallway barefoot and in green pajamas, clears my outstretched legs in one bound, balances on the couch arm, throws open the window and cackles. The millers pour in like the wicked witch’s possessed monkeys, churning our post-pancake air into a dusty tornado.  

“What the heck – “  

But Middleborn has no time for my calculated questions. His eyes ablaze, he thrusts a tiny Altoids tin into the hairy brown cloud.  

“Gottem,” he says with a grin, snapping the tin shut over a dozen fat moths and running off to offer my first-born son an “Altoid.”  

That’s when the big, sweet twin wanders past me into the kitchen. He opens the refrigerator. Its light switches on.  

“No, don’t –“ I splutter. But it’s too late.  

The miller cyclone swoops into the open refrigerator and Big-Sweet, ever helpful, simply beams and shuts the ‘fridge.  

“Now they’re trapped,” he says.  

I slap my forehead.  

Middleborn returns, holding a miller by the wing.  

“Hey Mom,” he says. “Why does it feel like it’s just made of dust? Like, why does its wing sorta flake off in my hand like that?” 

“Because – “ 

“And Mom,” continues Middleborn, “is it a boy or a girl?” 

I scour my brain for anything on moth anatomy.  

“It’s a – it’s a – “ 

“NASTY BROWN VAMPIRE!” bellows The Husband, charging from nowhere with a Shop Vac under his arm. “And I’m sending it back to the crypt, where it BELONGS.” 

“Aw but Dad, they’re just millers,” protests Middleborn, who befriends monsters with ease.  

But The Husband has had enough. He wakes the Shop Vac and darts through the house, sucking the millers into their roaring tomb one by one. Then he scours the open window’s frame, where the heart-shaped moths cling with their pathetic limbs to crumbling delusions of summer eternal.  

“DIE, YOU SAVAGES,” commands The Husband.  

He vacuums them from the screen and frame, nods and switches off the Shop Vac.  

“Um, Dad –“ begins Middleborn.  

“That’s what you GET,” mutters The Husband. “Filling up my house. Pooping on my window – “ 

“DAD,” says Middleborn again. “They’re on the other side now.” 

On the far-left end of the large picture window a miller flock has blackened the view. The Husband opens that pane and sucks Middleborn’s new friends into the abyss.  

Then more millers crawl onto the far-right window screen, so The Husband vacuums those up. Then again on the left. And again on the right.  

“Where are they COMING from?” asks The Husband, amazed at the mysticism of miller physics. He seats himself across from the window with the vacuum hose braced across his knees like a shotgun.  

“It doesn’t matter,” he tells the millers. “I’ve got all day.”  

Three hours pass.  

The Husband has clotted the Shop Vac’s openings with paper towels and duct-taped the hole in the window screen. He dusts off his hands and trots to the ‘fridge, whistling.  

I walk through my living room with absolutely nothing fluttering in my hair.  

Middleborn swats me gently on the arm. “Pssst!” he says.  

I lean toward him.  

Middleborn smiles, reaches for his pocketed Altoids tin with one hand and points at the reading lamp with his other. There, as relaxed and entitled as summer’s chosen minion should be, perches a miller.  

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Bill Sniffin: In Debate’s Wake, We Are Seeing The Art Of Wyoming Politics, 2022 Edition

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

As for the debate, here’s my take:

Incumbent Liz Cheney emerged unscathed, her main challenger Harriet Hageman did well, and candidates Anthony Bouchard and Denton Knapp may have gained ground.

That is my reaction to Thursday’s long-anticipated debate among candidates for the U. S. Representative seat from Wyoming.

Cheney has been pilloried across Wyoming because of her strident criticism of former President Donald Trump. Some polls — commissioned by groups backing Hageman — show her trailing badly against Hageman, who has been endorsed by Trump. The former president even came to Wyoming and held a rally in front of 10,000 people in Casper May 28.

But back to the debate.

Cheney, despite offering herself as a big target, easily deflected the very few shots from the others. This was my biggest surprise of the event. And she even launched a few of her own against Hageman.

Hageman was confident. She acted and sounded like she is up for the job. But she chose to build up her own credentials, it appeared, rather than tear down Cheney. She accomplished that well.

Closing statements are critical in such events. Both Cheney and Hageman hit it out of the park. Both were strong.

Did the debate move the needle of the Wyoming voters heading into the Aug. 16 primary?

Interestingly, I believe it did, but not toward either Cheney or Hageman. 

State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was strong in his convictions and Denton Knapp presented himself as a confident elder statesman. Their performances were better than I expected and this could be bad news for Hageman. Just about every vote either of them gets will come from Hageman, thus reducing her perceived advantage over Cheney. 

Cheney will get her pro-Cheney votes and just about every Democrat vote in the state. It might be enough for her to win, which would have to be called a big upset.

A fifth candidate, Robyn Belinskey of Sheridan, was a non-factor in the debate.

County Commissioner Mike Jones of Lander thought Hageman won the debate: “Harriet Hageman did the best job relating current policies and failures of the Democratic Party under Obama and Biden to the issues we face in Wyoming. Liz pivoted halfway through to speak more about voters’ current concerns but she did not play to her strengths for which she has demonstrated very in-depth knowledge of conservative issues in the past.”

Pat Henderson of Sheridan thought Liz Cheney won: “The truth matters. Cheney asks Harriet Hageman if the last election was stolen? Crickets from Hageman. Fact: No sufficient fraud or evidence that the last presidential election was stolen or manipulated nationally or in our Wyoming. Not an important detail for Hageman? Probably is not, provided she can ride into Washington DC with a red MAGA hat on her head? Sorry the truth does matter.”

My conclusion is this just whets my appetite for more. The state Republicans are talking about doing another debate. No matter who chooses to hold it, I hope they do.

Outside of the debate here are some other observations that need to be made.

We need more joint appearances by the candidates. In Cheney’s defense, this is hard for the incumbent because she is needed back in Washington D. C. bashing Trump on a full-time basis in the national media.

In a statewide campaign, name recognition, money, and a good organization can win elections, but according to many political experts, the candidate who works his or her butt off the most often will prevail in the end.

Shaking everybody’s hand can get tiresome during a campaign, and yet, if you do it right – it is magical. If you do it wrong, well, it can be disastrous.

During my campaigning in the Republican primary 20 years ago, one of the candidates had a tendency to shake your hand and be looking over your shoulder for the next person. Man, does that make people mad. In those instances, that candidate lost more than he gained.

I will never forget two presidents, both of whom were considered great campaigners. I shook Ronald Reagan’s hand at a White House reception and he made me feel like the only person in the room. I shook Bill Clinton’s hand after a speech he gave in Jackson Hole. He looked me in the eye and made me feel special.

Both guys had reputations as master communicators and based on my limited experience with both, I would agree with that assessment.

In Wyoming, I would rank former Govs. Cliff Hansen and Mike Sullivan as two of the best at this skill, although just about everybody else has been great, too. You have to be in a small state like Wyoming.

Cliff’s long-time aide Paul Holtz used to brag about how many names Cliff could list when he worked a room. It was amazing. Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson would refer to his “3,000 closest friends” around Wyoming. And that remark was true – or maybe it was 30,000.

When it comes to campaign styles, up in Buffalo, Jim Hicks writes: “Somehow I believe that the candidate who can project empathy toward voters and a kinder gentler heart is the one who should prevail.”

He also says: “We create the monsters who use lies and exaggerations to create negative campaigns. We reward them with more votes. And as a result, we elect dishonest and mean-spirited public officials at times.”

I expect this 2022 House campaign to get very dirty toward the end. Let’s all take a deep breath and hope this campaign is based on issues and ability, not smears paid for by millions of out-of-state dollars.

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Dave Walsh: My First Cowboy Games

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

As the seasons come and go, the college sports seasons draw ever closer. I know summer just started, but our fall sports are just weeks away now. But that hasn’t stopped me from reflecting on past seasons, and that’s Cowboy fooball and basketball seasons, in particular.

I’ve had the privilege and good fortune to have been in the radio broadcast booth for every Wyoming football game, home and away, for the last 38 seasons. I was courtside for every Cowboy basketball game, home and away, for 36 seasons, from 1984 to 2020. That’s a lot of games, a lot of broadcasts, and so many memories. As you may have noticed, those memories have supplied much of the subject matter for these early columns. Of course, there are many more quick, little visits back to the past to come.

Memories of those particular games we have shared are events that were one-of-a-kind, and most-memorable to the avid Cowboy fan. But I was wondering if I might re-visit a couple of events, yes, a couple of Cowboy games, that were very special to me. These were events, these were games that I will always remember fondly. Both games ended in Cowboy victories. But these particular games hold wonderful sentimental memories, quite possibly, for only me.

These were the first Cowboy games that I ever attended, and the first Cowboy games I ever broadcast. I’m sure a true Cowboy fan remembers their first game. Well, these were my first games, ones that would lead to my association with Cowboy football and Cowboy basketball.

The very first Cowboy broadcast I took part in was the Pokes season opener in 1984. It was my first broadcast in historic War Memorial Stadium. I stood in what is now the visiting radio booth that Saturday afternoon. We had a great, unobstructed view, close to the field. 

That was my first Wyoming broadcast and I was actually the color analyst that day and the entire 1984 season. Mike Nolan, the very talented sports anchor at KUSA-TV Channel 9 in Denver, was the play-by-play man.

The Cowboys would play the South Dakota Coyotes that day, and it was South Dakota that would score the first 10 points in the game before the Pokes got going and scored the next 31 points on their way to 31-13 victory. 

I remember the cozy, yet intense, feel of the home field there in War Memorial Stadium that day. The stadium was about half-full, with a few more than 15,000 in attendance. It was made very clear that this was Cowboy Country, and I felt a strong feeling of belonging right from that very first day, Sept. 1, 1984, my first Cowboy broadcast.

The second event, uh, game, that I will long remember was played just 10 weeks later. It was the first game of the ’84-’85 Cowboy basketball season. It was my first time, not just attending, but broadcasting a Cowboy Basketball game for Curt Gowdy Sports and the Cowboy Basketball Radio Network. 

It was an exhibition game, Nov. 12, 1984, when the Cowboys hosted the national team from the People’s Republic of China. I vividly remember my quick study of a foreign language team of opponents. I found out just how non-fluent I am with Chinese. I felt OK with my new favorites, the Cowboys, especially a true freshman playing for the first time in the Arena Auditorium. Fennis Dembo would lead all scorers with 26 points. The Electric Man was 11 of 15 from the field, he was four of six from three-point land. And he grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double in his first appearance in the Double A.

Now, it was an exhibition game. The 85-68 victory over the Chinese National Team wouldn’t count. The games that did count began some 18 days later, when the Cowboys officially opened the season in the Arena Auditorium. 

Coincidentally, like Cowboy football, Cowboy basketball started with South Dakota, and Wyoming beat the Coyotes, 91-74. But it was there in the Dome of Doom, when Wyoming beat the team from China, when I got my first Cowboy Basketball experience. 

It was a first for Fennis too. And Eric Leckner, Turk Boyd, Dave Lodgins, and Jon Sommers. We all learned that day that Cowboy basketball could be something pretty special. And we learned that Cowboy home games would be played in a very special place. And that same positive support and intensity that I witnessed in War Memorial Stadium was quite noticeable in the Arena Auditorium as well.

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Dennis Sun: This Are Odd Times, The Demand For Beef Is Up, And The Supply Is Down

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As we get closer to the Fourth of July, those in agriculture are watching calf and yearling cattle, lamb, hay, and grain prices.

Those in the livestock or farming business, and their bankers, are trying to figure out if the cost of raising these cattle and lambs is starting to outgrow the prices we hope to receive this fall. We all start shaking the dice this time of the year. 

Cows and bulls at the local auctions keep going up, but are they meeting the price of inputs? Inputs such as inflation-driven fuels, fertilizer, pickups and every day needs are rising. Will the prices for lambs, calves and yearlings overcome the high prices of inputs?

As we complain, we do have to realize, in our region, we can raise calves and lambs cheaper than other areas in the country. Our land taxes and the costs of ranching are cheaper here. 

We don’t need to fertilize our summer grazing lands like they do in the eastern and southern parts of the U.S. With their smaller herds, the cost of raising an animal goes up quite a bit.

I always thought prices at this time of the year gave a pretty good indication of prices this fall. In the last few years, especially with calves and yearlings, the prices started on a downward slide. But this year, it could be going in the opposite direction. 

The reason I’m saying this is, demand for beef is growing and cattle numbers are declining. Both are expected to continue these patterns for the year. With the demand for hamburger growing, the U.S. is importing a lot of cattle as the packers need the lean beef to go with the extra fat our fat cattle are producing right now.

With high inflation and the threat of a recession a factor, these unknowns could really hurt us. Unknowns are hard to plan around. The biggest unknown out there is what the White House is going to do next. 

They need to stop blaming others for our problems and find practical solutions to get America out of this mess. We sure don’t need a national handout now. While $2,000 was nice to receive, we are paying for it now.

A big positive now is the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 was signed into law on June 16. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition estimates 22 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2021 were not delivered because of unreasonable shipping practices. This law will address challenges at the ports, including aging infrastructure and shipping issues leading to excessive detention, demurrage fees and declined or canceled shipments.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom says of the timeliness of the bill, “In these times of rising input costs, it has never been more important to maximize the value of our agricultural products, and the best way to do that now is to ensure access to the international marketplace. This legislation takes important steps forward in improving the shipping services available to U.S. exporters.”

In times like this, we’ll take any positives.

     The Wyoming Livestock Roundup is a weekly agriculture newspaper available online and in print. To subscribe, visit or call 800-967-1647.

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Rod Miller:  If Wyoming PBS Can’t Host The Debate With The Public Attending, They Shouldn’t Host It

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By Rod Miller, columnist

It was just announced that the U.S. House candidates debate in Sheridan on Thursday has been opened to credentialed members of the press, but remains closed to the public. This is a half-step to try to quell the brouhaha that the handling of this event has caused.

The candidates involved have denied that closing the debate was their idea, and the sponsor, Wyoming PBS, refuses to discuss the decision, saying only that the debate was closed due to security concerns.

Regardless of who decided to bar the doors, the decision has raised the hackles of Wyomingites across the political spectrum. To say that this was a stupid move is to test the boundaries of understatement.

To infer that the decision was taken because of fear is only logical. But fear of the reaction of a crowd to a legitimate political debate is not, nor has ever been, a valid reason to exclude the public from our democratic processes.

In fact, fear is not a motive force in a pluralistic, democratic society. Rather, it is the engine of totalitarianism and autocracy. Yielding to political fear is a white flag of surrender. Shame on whoever is waving it over this debate in Sheridan.

Lets examine some facts. Is democracy often messy and uncomfortable? Affirmative. Are citizens of the United States, emboldened by our Constitution, often passionate and expressive about our freedoms? Again, affirmative.

Are American citizens always calm and rational when exercising our Constitutional rights? Are we always tolerant of opposing viewpoints and willing to give those views equal time in the public eye? Do we always behave ourselves as the ladies and gentlemen we’ve been taught to be?

Hell no.

But is that any reason to exclude us from the most important political debate this election cycle? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Consider this…our elections and our judicial process are two ways that we flex our democratic muscle. Both are part and parcel of our republic. And both stir elevated passions among us. But we don’t let fear of those passions interrupt our courtrooms, nor should we tolerate in our political debates.

You simply cannot – no matter how strongly you believe in your First Amendment right to free speech – stand up in a courtroom to spout off and rant. An officer of the court will immediately usher you out of the courtroom, and the presiding judge can cite you for contempt of court.

You’ll be invited to exercise free speech out on the sidewalk, but your childish tantrum will not be allowed to disrupt the Constitutionally-protected rights of other citizens to a fair trial. We citizens cherish our legal rights to good jurisprudence, and we won’t kowtow to anyone who tries to throw a monkeywrench in the works just to make a point.

If our courts feared the involvement of citizens in their proceedings, we would be left to trust our fate to anonymous star chambers, closed to the public, with secret discussions and decisions. Sort of like totalitarian regimes.

Why should we hold our electoral process, debates included, to a lesser standard? If we don’t succumb to fear in our courtrooms, why should we yield to it in our political debates?

If Wyoming PBS is incapable of sponsoring a PUBLIC debate because it fears the public, then it should yield to field to an entity that has the courage and the will to get the job done. If the Sheridan venue somehow can’t be made secure, then a venue needs to be found that can guarantee a safe and inclusive event.

Once a venue is found, security outside and inside should behave like officers of the court, and remove anyone in the audience who is disruptive to the debate. They can whine and moan about their First Amendment rights out in the parking lot with their pals. Jerks like that should not be permitted to sidetrack democracy for the rest of us.

The bottom line is that the candidates debate must be open to the press AND the citizenry, warts, sweat passions and all. Fear cannot be allowed to derail democracy. If the political courage and will exists, a means will be found to do it right.

This is the heavy lifting of democracy, and sometimes its hard work. But it needs doing.

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Cat Urbigkit: From Spring’s Awe, to Summer’s Awful

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by Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

I’ve spent the last month alternating shifts with other family members as we camped on the range with a sheep flock for lambing. The sagebrush rangeland was been blessed by frequent rain and snow this spring, and conditions were ideal for enjoying the splendors of this season of renewal.

Lambing season is the most beautiful time of year in our ranching enterprise, as we supervise our fine wooled Rambouillet ewes giving birth. The ewes rarely require assistance, and our job is to make sure everything stays quiet and calm so the ewes can tend to their newborns without disturbance. 

The livestock guardian dogs take the night shift, keeping predators at a distance. We human herders spend the daylight hours watching over the flock, and directing its movements to new grazing areas, to water, and to hilltops to bed for the night. Our herding dogs help us as we backtrack the flock, making sure no lambs have continued snoozing contentedly in the brush as the flock moves.

Our primary task is to keep watch, and there is much to see. Discovering horned toads provokes a child-like sense of wonder, as does encountering pronghorn antelope fawns secreted in the contours of the landscape. We see wildflowers springing forth in brilliant bloom from hardy cushion plants, catch glimpses of sage grouse hens escorting their broods through the sagebrush sea, and laugh when we catch burrowing owls scowling at us from their burrows. 

The overwhelming magnificence of a quiet, starlit night is both seen and felt, as is bearing witness to a dark wall engulfing the horizon as a snowstorm roars across the landscape. In this environment that inspires such awe, I understand the wisdom in Aristotle’s, “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

As spring’s lambing season draws to a close, my reprieve from society concludes. As though summer sun glares seem to blind humanity of its sense of awe, at my return I find awfulness in abundance.

The news is awful, from the international arena to local. Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, targeting innocent civilians. Tens of thousands of Maasai pastoralists are being forcibly evicted from their ancestral lands by the Tanzania government so that a foreign company can use the land for a luxury game preserve. Mass shootings in communities, from New York to Texas. Dozens of people are found dead, locked in an abandoned tractor-trailer in Texas. Casting aside 49 years of precedent, our nation’s highest court eliminated a woman’s right to obtain an abortion – an action in which some rejoice, though I join others in mourning.

The Biden administration is busy rolling back policies of the Trump administration, which had rolled back Obama’s policies. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has proposed that it should be able to transplant endangered species outside their historic ranges – because it still hasn’t learned lessons from the past.

Wyoming PBS’s mission to provide service to Wyoming citizens which “helps them more fully understand and participate in local, national and global events that affect their lives,” is furthered by hosting a public debate for Republican candidates for U.S. House. After receiving pushback from its decision to exclude both the public and the media from attending the event, PBS will now allow some media to be present. That’s progress, but the nonprofit failed to invite even one of Wyoming’s female political reporters to participate as a panelist. Instead of selecting just one of these highly qualified, award-winning political reporters, in a nod to establishment, the public will be presented with a man panel that does not reflect the diversity of the candidates they will be questioning.

Our politics is polarized, our humanity lacking in humaneness. Plenty of hateful rhetoric but a drought of proposing solutions. Conspiracy theories instead of truth. Too much casting blame and too little consideration of merits of ideas. Awfulness.

After experiencing a springtime of renewal, perhaps it’s appropriate that this is the way of the world as we enter summer, the season of heat, with higher crime rates, accidents, and mosquitos. 

I’m not a summer creature. While some will bask in the heat, I’ll be seeking the shade in the high country alongside our flock, joining other creatures in the shadows while waiting for the harvest, the ripeness, maturity, and the refreshing cool that comes with the arrival of the fall.

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.

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Editorial: Denton Knapp Is the Only Candidate Who Cares About The Public Right Now

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Cowboy State Daily Editorial

Is it that surprising that the only person who isn’t playing the victim card in Wyoming PBS’ debate debacle is a veteran?

U.S. House candidate Denton Knapp isn’t the only one to say he’s not pleased with Wyoming PBS’ decision to bar the public from attending Thursday’s debate.

But he is the only person who is trying to do something about it. 

Yes, we know that Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman say they don’t like the idea of a private debate.  But they are resigned to it. We heard from their spokespeople. There’s nothing they can do, they say.

And we heard from Anthony Bouchard too. He was a bit more creative laying the blame on Cheney, of course without any proof. But he isn’t doing anything about it either.

We know that one of the three media panelists — Bob Beck — isn’t pleased the media can’t come and was going to ask that be changed. That’s fine if you are a member of the media. But what about the public?

We don’t know what journalists Steve Peck and Stephen Dow think because they won’t go on the record.

Wyoming PBS says there is nothing they can do about it and lays blame on some mysterious “security team” out there.  

It couldn’t be the same security team that made sure President Trump’s rally was safe a month ago. This is apparently a security team that has deemed an auditorium in Sheridan College impossible to secure.

That claim is ludicrous said candidate Denton Knapp, the war hero from Gillette.

Hero isn’t a throwaway word.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals (one with Valor) after being deployed to combat three times for Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

After serving for over three decades, he retired as a Colonel in 2017.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office.

Knapp doesn’t think it’s right that the public should be barred from a debate for public office being hosted by an entity that is publicly funded and has “public” in its name — Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service.

Knapp said he was going to reach out and actually try to do something about it. We know that because we spoke to him, not his “spokespeople.”

“The public needs to be allowed to read the reactions and emotions taking place,” Knapp told Cowboy State Daily. “It’s important to have open doors. We really need to be asking why this is being closed.”

Regardless of what happens, there is only one leader here who is standing up for the public right now.

That leader risked his life for the public for three decades.

And now that leader is the only one who is committed to serving the public right now.

You might want to give Denton Knapp another look. Because at least when it comes to serving the public right now, Denton Knapp is the only one who appears to care.

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Dave Simpson: Try Not To Spend It All In One Place

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

More bits and pieces, as I clean off  the cluttered Columnist’s Workbench:

– The term “underwhelmed” doesn’t come near to describing the reaction to President Joe Biden’s planned three-month federal gas tax “pause.” The terms “impotent,” “puny,” and “unpleasant smell in a feedlot” come to mind.

Biden proposes 18 cents in relief for a $2.25 cent problem.

No kidding.

The reaction he’s getting from exasperated folks at the pump is, “He’s joking, right?” The average American buys 400 gallons of gas a year, so three months of relief at 18 cents a gallon comes to – let’s see, move the decimal point two places and there you have it – a total of $18.

Enough for three more gallons.

Every three months.

Don’t quit your day job, folks.

This at a time when it cost me $68 to gas up my Ranger last week. It costs well over $100 to fill a Ford 150, and the impact on truck drivers, farmers, and pretty much everyone else is becoming obvious to us all.

As usual, Biden says it isn’t his fault, even though he went to war with the energy industry on the first day of his hapless administration, to the delight of the $60,000 electric car crowd. (I’m wondering where the nearest charging station to my Snowy Range cabin will be located. Wind ravaged Arlington?)

Gas was $2.39 a gallon when Biden took office, and $3.39 the day Putin invaded Ukraine. That’s $1 a gallon that he can’t blame on the dictator. But it’s all Putin’s fault, if you listen to Joe.

America has correctly concluded that Joe doesn’t have a clue.

– Years ago, a gubernatorial candidate in Nebraska, who went on to win re-election, proposed a state income tax cut that I computed would save a guy making $60,000 a year a whole $19 per year. “Pretty thin gruel,” I said to one of the governor’s staffers who called to complain about a column I wrote. He said I didn’t understand “the nuance” of the proposal. So I checked my math with a Ph.D in economics on the governor’s staff, and my arithmetic checked out.

Nuance my foot.

– Kayleigh McEnany, Fox News commentator and former White House Press Secretary under President Trump, said Monday that her father has an expression for guys like Biden:

“He’s a lost ball in tall grass.”

-Commentator Tammy Bruce on this term’s Supreme Court decisions: “We haven’t seen the Democrats this mad since yesterday.”

– The other day at the Menards in Cheyenne, I was getting supplies to take to the cabin. That’s how I ended up in the checkout line with four boxes of kitchen matches and a gallon of gasoline for my chainsaw.

The lady at the check stand wondered, “What on earth is this guy up to?”

I didn’t look like much of an anarchist though, in my gray hair, bifocals, jeans and Wyoming Cowboys hoodie.

We both got a laugh out of it, and I promised I wasn’t up to anything nefarious.

– It’s a good thing I retired from the daily newspaper editing biz 16 years ago, because this “preferred pronoun” business would have made me even grouchier than I was (pretty grouchy). The problem is that someone who wants to be described as “they” or “them” is just one person. There’s a plural problem there.

It was bad enough when home computers became popular, and people writing letters to the editor wanted to include multiple type styles and sizes, and cute emogis. jimcracks and geegaws. I killed all that stuff. And muttered a lot.

I’m retired now – every day is Saturday. And my sympathies are with the editor who has to decide whether “they” is one person, two people, or a whole ding-dong crowd.

– And finally, if this doesn’t make you laugh, I don’t know what will.

The other day I heard President Biden say that he “inherited a mess” when he took office.


That’s a world-class knee slapper, folks. Try not to shoot your morning coffee out your nose. Breathe into a paper bag until your head clears.

And try to imagine the mess Joe’s successor will inherit.

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Jim Angell: Publicly Financed News Outlet Barring Public From US House Debate? Laughable.

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By Jim Angell, Managing Editor
Angell was the president of the Wyoming Press Association for 20 years

At first blush, the idea of a publicly financed news outlet barring the public from a debate featuring candidates for one of Wyoming’s top offices seems laughable.

Especially when it come from as respectable an outlet as Wyoming PBS, a long-time vocal advocate of transparency in government.

But, I guess, when you get too used to taking those federal dollars, you start behaving like the federal government.

“Closed because of security concerns.”

“You really don’t need to know that information.”

“We’re withholding that pending an internal investigation.”

“To ensure the safety of the candidates, the debate is closed to the public and the press.” 

That last one came from Wyoming PBS General Manager Terry Dugas, in an announcement explaining why the public and the media will be locked out of next week’s congressional debate in Riverton.

I spent 20 years of my life fighting to convince state and local governments to keep their proceedings and documents open to the public, the very people who pay for EVERY SINGLE THING that those governments do.

To have to stand toe-to-toe now with the very people who often stood with me in this battle just makes me sad.

There’s no room here for fiery rhetoric. Just a resigned shake of the head that PBS, probably on orders from someone else, is closing public access to the congressional debate.

Now, for someone interested in politics, there is nothing more informative than being able to watch a candidate being quizzed by knowledgable members of the media on important policy points. To see how they react to difficult, complex questions. To see whether they pause, deflect, obfuscate or offer well-considered answers on the important questions of our day.

Watching on a livestream simply isn’t the same. Nor is it meant to be. It’s a remote viewing of a television event. Informative, but lacking the in-person context. 

Media coverage after-the-fact will be good, but it can’t capture the small items, the candidates trading glances, hand gestures, or any of the post-debate chatter that occurs.

Just as a reminder, Wyoming PBS is largely a publicly funded organization supplemented in part with grants from private companies. In Wyoming, we hold our publicly funded institutions to a pretty high bar when it comes to transparency. Our own Supreme Court says public entities should operate “in a fishbowl.”

It’s a shame Wyoming PBS isn’t following the same rules it encourages others to follow although, again, it’s probably at someone else’s behest.

Will Cowboy State Daily cover this event anyway? Absolutely. It’s our job to keep you informed of what is happening in the election so you can make an educated decision when you cast your vote. Wyoming PBS’ decision to lock out the media, except for those asking questions, should make no difference in any outlet’s coverage plans.

But unless and until Wyoming PBS can come up with a better explanation for this closure than “it’s for safety,” I’m going to be mighty disappointed.

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Rod Miller: Political And Journalistic Cowardice In the 307

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Pardon my French, but I’m pissed off!

It was just announced that the candidate debate between Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman, to be hosted by Wyoming PBS next Thursday, will be closed to the public. Let me repeat that – the most important political debate in Wyoming this year will be closed to the public.

The reason given is  “To ensure the safety of the candidates, the debate is closed to the public and the press.” This rationale was given by Wyoming PBS.

If Wyoming PBS made this decision unilaterally, they are guilty of journalistic yellowness of the first order. And they know better.

If the candidates, either one or both, decided to exclude the public from their debate because of personal or political fear, they are not worthy of the legacy of our Founders who pledged “our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

If this decision stands, it will establish a precedent for years to come. It will build a firewall between voters and candidates that will insulate both from the truth that will last for generations.

By issuing this edict, Wyoming PBS and the candidates are telling the voters of Wyoming that their involvement in this election is not needed. They are saying that political cowardice trumps the citizens’ need to know.

And they have made of themselves the most important story of this election. Shame on them!

Our Great Experiment in Democracy has survived and thrived over the past couple centuries by operating in the sunlight, through intimate involvement of the voters and press. We Americans and we Wyomingites take it as a birthright that decisions affecting us are made in the light of day.

We, both layman and press, have always been involved with the give-and-take of political discourse between candidates. We goad them into telling the truth by asking hard questions in a public forum where everyone can hear the answers.

To confine this important exercise in democracy to a dark tv studio, with one camera is an insult to us all. To claim that this is being done for the security of the candidates or PBS is to hide behind the skirts of fear.

Generations of our youth did not fight and die so that Liz and Harriet could debate in their “safe place”. Nor was that sacrifice made so that Wyoming PBS could avoid unpleasant controversy by closing an important political debate

That blood was shed so that our government and our institutions could operate in an atmosphere of open truth and courage, with citizens’ witness and participation. Decisions like this negate that sacrifice. Shame on them!

This debate is important enough, and citizen and press involvement important enough, to open the doors and let us in. Its important enough to have law enforcement outnumber the audience, if that will make Wyoming PBS and the candidates more comfy with a public debate.

This is about our goddam democracy, not people’s feelings.

So, the debate should be open and the chips fall where they may. What is at stake is the future of public participation in our democratic process. If this decision stands, we can all start to kiss that treasure goodbye.

So Cheney, Hagemen, PBS and anyone else involved who thinks this is a good idea should change their minds pronto.

If they don’t, shame on them!

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Bill Sniffin: It’s True – Construction Is Name Of The Fourth Season Also Called Summer

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

We have all heard the expression that our summer season is actually nicknamed “construction,” but what is happening in Yellowstone right now is going to be incredible.

Some estimates said repairs from flooding in the first national park will cost in the billions. But right out of the box, numbers like $50 million and $65 million are being used, just for the short-term fixes.

This column is about travel but I could not start it without writing about my favorite place – Yellowstone.

Cam Sholly will go down in history as one of the greatest superintendents the park has ever seen. He has handled this catastrophe with skill and vigor.

His decision to immediately move a $52 million project, with all the machines and manpower from a Grant Village-Old Faithful project, to repair work in the northern park is a stroke of genius. As he said, “we have one of the best contractors in the country on site with all their personnel and equipment ready to go. This is going to work.” This type of quick thinking is often lost in today’s woke world. It’s called “getting the job done.”  He deserves our praise and our thanks.

I can’t wait to go back to Yellowstone in August and see how far along they have come in repairing that great place. I predict it will be amazing. Now I just have to check whether my license plate number is odd or even.

In other travel news, we recently returned from a 12-day trip to Iowa.

During the trip, I chatted with a couple from Chicago. They were tired and anxious to get home. They had just spent the most fun ever visiting Yellowstone and the Tetons. “Wow, you folks live in the most beautiful place in the country. We just loved it!” This was pre-flood, of course.

This exchange took place at a convenience store under a Dutch Windmill replica in Grundy County, Iowa, on US20. (Note: US20 is the longest highway in the country, but that is another story).

That Chicago guy and his wife and I both complained about the $4.66 per gallon we had just paid for the cheapest unleaded gas on the pump island. And, yes, they said crime-ridden Chicago was going to the dogs. All the news reports are true, she sighed.

We also both commented on the amount of highway construction we saw on Interstate 80. It is constant and endless. Lots of two-lane driving, which is especially frustrating during thunderstorms.

But it was a beautiful day and eastern Iowa was as green as it gets. We parted company. They went east and we went west.

Nancy and I, plus our daughter Alicia Haulman, had been in little Wadena, Iowa, for the funeral of my 96-year mother. She died two years ago in the middle of the COVID crisis. Getting my 10 siblings and me together for a funeral had been a difficult task, mainly because of COVID flare-ups.

The funeral had been postponed twice but this time, we finally were able to get her ashes buried in the old family plot where my dad had been buried 20 years ago. It was fun finally seeing brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, in-laws, and outlaws.

We started this trip a week earlier by attending a Jefferson Award luncheon for Nancy (she won the award for statewide volunteerism in 2011) followed by the Donald Trump rally, both in Casper.

My overall impression is that Wyoming roads, although getting a little gnarly, were among the best we experienced. Iowa, which always had great roads, were the worst.

While in western Iowa, I enjoyed Iowa’s number-one rated pork tenderloin sandwich at a restaurant called Victoria Station. It was located in an old train depot in Harlan.  The sandwich was delicious. It made me wonder who might be serving the best pork tenderloin in Wyoming?

Meanwhile, 320 miles to the east, our family’s old home town in NE Iowa is near Amish country. We saw a farmer in the field pulling a plow with four Clydesdale horses. Lots of folks were driving around in their little black buggies, each pulled by a single horse. My dad always called these folks the “hook and eye” Dutch. These folks believed that a new-fangled invention called buttons were the work of the devil. They clasped their clothes with a hook and a hole called an eye. 

The big news on the front page of the Des Moines Register, which I delivered as a paperboy 66 years ago, was that robot tractors were taking over. Interestingly it was not giant tractors but fleets of smaller ones that were the prediction.

My final crazy note on this trip was driving 825 miles in one day June 7 from Harlan, IA to Lander. We dropped off our oldest daughter Alicia at the Omaha airport at 430am and pointed our car west planning to spend the night at the Red Lion in Cheyenne. 

Despite enduring world-class thunderstorms across Nebraska, we got to Cheyenne at noon. After a nice lunch with Jimmy Orr, Nancy and I looked at each other and said, heck, in four and half hours we can be home. We can sleep in our own bed tonight. 

So we headed out into the wild Wyoming wind and got home about 6  p.m. I just needed a 40-minute nap at the rest stop between Laramie and Rawlins to get rested. Then we continued on our way. 

When tired, one of my tricks is to splash cold water on my face and then go out into the Wyoming wind. This gives you a cool wake-up call. I highly recommend it if you are getting sleepy while driving here in the Cowboy State.

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Cat Urbigkit: Sublette Lets the Sunshine In On Taxation Issue

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by Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

At Tuesday’s regular business meeting, the five members of the Sublette County Commission unanimously voted to release attorney/client communications regarding the county’s fire mill levy in response to a Wyoming Public Records Act request, and then held a public discussion of the taxation issue for more than an hour.

The meeting room was fairly crowded, with attendees including the mayors and legal counsel for the incorporated towns in the county who had been specifically invited to join in the discussion at the meeting.

The communications included a 12-page analysis of the way the commission had levied up to one mill for Sublette County Unified Fire services in the county.

As reported in last week’s column, when Sublette County unified its local fire departments into one countywide department in 2015, it continued to tax a portion of a mill for fire protection in the unincorporated areas of the county. Residents of the incorporated towns were never subjected to the county tax.

In anticipation of the commission’s decision to publicly release the document from the County Attorney’s office, Sublette County Clerk Carrie Long prepared a large stack of copies to be distributed to the public attending the session.

Written by Chief Deputy County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich, the memo included several startling revelations. The first is the County Attorney’s determination that “the County has no authority, statutory or otherwise, to assess a mill levy for fire protection services, and as such the practice of doing so is unlawful.”

The memo reported that there is no time limitation for refunds of an illegal erroneous collection of a tax and pointed out that Sublette County has collected more than $11 million from its fire protection levy in the last five years.

Not only did Sublette County improperly impose the Fire Mill tax levy, the County Attorney’s office advised that the County also violated state and federal laws by failing to apply its General Fund tax levy uniformly throughout the county by not taxing properties located within the three incorporated towns (Big Piney, Marbleton, and Pinedale). County officials estimate that this failure represents an undertaxation of about $42,000 per year, or about $36 per person residing in the towns.

Executive Session

My column last week criticized the county commission for holding its discussion of this taxation issue in executive session on June 7. An email communication to county officials dated June 3 from Melinkovich, released in response to the Wyoming Public Records Act request, summarized the situation going into that meeting:

• “the County has not had the authority to assess a ‘fire mill’ since 2015”

• “A tax collected without proper authority would likely be found to be erroneous/illegal”

• “Erroneous or illegally collected taxes are subject to refund or credit against future payments.”

• “Eliminating Sublette County’s ‘fire mill’ and absorbing that amount into the County’s general fund levy and taxing all properties within the County uniformly would protect all dollars collected in the future from being subject to refund.”

The June 3 email was sent to prepare the Board of County Commissioners for its June 7 business meeting. The email noted: “We will be discussing whether the County is appropriately assessing a fire mill at Tuesday’s meeting.

The agenda has a brief executive session prior to the discussion for the purposes of providing the opportunity for the Board to ask any questions about the legal aspects of the attached memo or the issue and what potentially could happen next.

If the Board ultimately chooses to make a change and absorb the amount that has been levied as a ‘fire mill’ into the County General fund mill levy, this decision would need to be made through Board action. Thus, a motion, discussion, and vote would need to take place in open session.”

But the County Commission didn’t hold any of the discussion in open session at that June 7 meeting, and the public generally was unaware of the taxation issue until my column was published last week. In my view, this week’s release of documents and full discussion in open session, resolves the lack-of-transparency issue.

Changing Taxation

After discussion of the issue at length between county and town officials on Tuesday, Sublette County Commissioner Sam White said he was ready for the commission to make a decision, to take action. “I think we are doing it wrong and we need to change the way we are doing this,” he said.

Although Commission Chairman Joel Bousman pressed to request an Attorney General’s opinion on the matter, Commissioner Tom Noble said that legal opinions are just that (opinions) and “only a judge” could make the legal determination.

In the end, the commission took action as White had suggested. Prompting Melkinovich to provide the proper verbiage, Commissioner Doug Vickrey make a motion to eliminate the Fire Mill levy from the county taxation in the future. The motion was seconded by Commissioner Dave Stephens, and passed on a vote of 4-0, with Bousman abstaining from the vote.

Going Forward

This week’s action means that Sublette County will no longer impose a Fire Mill levy and will now begin to tax its General Fund levy on property owners within the incorporated towns to comply with the Wyoming Constitution’s Article 15 provision that taxation “be equal and uniform.”

The county’s fire protection program will now be a part of the General Fund budget, on par with other departments such as the road and bridge department and the sheriff’s office.

That also means that the revenue stream generated from Sublette County Unified Fire’s (SCUF) work on federal wildfires throughout the western states will no longer be protected by its designation into a restricted fund used to replace aging equipment and fire halls.

Instead, the revenues generated by Unified Fire will go into the General Fund to be spent by the county commission as it wishes (and will no longer be earmarked exclusively for fire purposes).

That issue was of considerable concern for many attendees at Tuesday’s meeting. Representatives from the towns expressed their continued support for SCUF and the existing structure of the town-county deal in which the county provides fire protection for the towns, prompting the commission to agree that the exiting program works well and expressing their support for the importance of the fire protection program.

In the end, it will be the sitting board of county commissioners that decide how much money is spent on the SCUF program every year when it adopts the upcoming budget. That’s been the way the program has operated in the past, but from now on, the revenues generated by SCUF will no longer be set aside specifically back into that program.

By the time the session concluded Tuesday, what the commission didn’t address was how to correct the mistaken taxation imposed since 2015. My guess is that any action on that front would only be prompted by a legal filing from a county taxpayer.

A full audio recording of Tuesday’s commission meeting is available here. The Fire Mill Levy agenda item begins around 1:25:44.

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.

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Rod Miller: Notes On The Apocalypse

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Something is fixin’ to happen and it ain’t good. I can smell it, just over the horizon. I can’t see it yet, or shoot it, but its there. And its headed this way.

You feel it too, don’t lie to yourself. You feel it when you whistle past the graveyard and something whistles back. You feel it as that icy chill along your spine when you balance your checkbook.

The hair on the back of humanity’s neck raises because we can all feel it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all feel it.

It manifests itself in the way the world behaves today. Suspicious and fearful toward each other and nervous about food, water and electrons, we fill our tanks and wonder how much will be left for tomorrow. We go to war over the scraps.

Without useful tools, we resort to politics. Because we mistrust our own wisdom, we rely on our emotions and superstitions. Nothing seems to work anymore and we’ve become scared children with nuclear weapons.

Like lab rats left to reproduce unchecked in a cage of finite resources, we are breeding ourselves away from the dinner table and toward a messy end. We have trapped ourselves between the laws of exponential growth and diminishing returns.

There are too many of us, and not enough of everything to go around. So we covet and hoard and consume what is in front of us, just so nobody else can get it.

And to justify our self-destructive behavior, we put words in God’s mouth. Even if our own children are hungry, we praise the bounty of others who have overflowing granaries and treasuries. We sanctify greed as a virtue, and call it the Will of God, out of our own yearning to have that much ourselves.

But read the scriptures – whether the Bible, the Koran, the Upanishads or whichever holy book blows your skirt up – and you’ll find that our little experience as carbon-based units here on Earth has a “use by” date. Pick your apocalypse. It is written.

Alongside the universal scriptural exhortations to humility, morality and good stewardship of the Earth are the universal scriptural warnings that it will all come crashing down in time. Its like the deities know more about us than we give them credit for.

My favorite scene in Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country For Old Men” has two crusty rural Texas sheriffs bemoaning the drug violence along the border and the breakdown in order. One claims, “It started when we quit hearin’ ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’”.

William Butler Yeats skins the same cat in the opening of “Second Coming’ when he writes, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ the falcon cannot hear the falconer/ things fall apart/ the center cannot hold/ mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

So, its not like we haven’t been warned. But we ignore the warnings, and we exile the prophets as we turn our attention back to Fat City.

What do we expect? Do we believe that a benevolent god will excuse our childish squandering of our gift and save us from killing ourselves just because we pray? Do we have sugarplum fantasies of a new Earthly Garden lovingly presenting herself to us after we turned this one into a landfill?

What we see around us today are the “signs and wonders” that the incomprehensible it finally here. Things will not be okay, no matter how hard we cross our fingers. The Great Adios is a’comin’.

It feels like all humankind is in a headlong rush to meet it, laughing behind the wheel like this is some sort of cosmic game of chicken. Saying, “Hold my beer.”

I wish I had better news, but I don’t. All I can muster is a notion that there must be some sort of grooviness on the other side, and a healthy curiosity to find out.

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Eating Wyoming: Lazy River Cantina

in Eating Wyoming/Column

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How I got soaked and fell in love!

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

When you are really, really hot and really relaxed, there’s nothing better than something equally cold and… a good taco! Let me tell you where you can get both.

This week’s intrepid road trip takes us deep into the wilds of hobo country. 

When I say hobos, I mean those that soak in the famous Hobo Hot Spring in Saratoga … It’s late May as this story unfolds, I put my life at grave risk to get it to you. 

A friend and I were both getting cabin fever from our long Wyoming winter and it was decided that a trip out to Saratoga and a long long loooong soak in the hot springs would be just the cure we both needed. 

I’ll remind you, that this was late May, and weather this time of year can be iffy at best. For the week leading up to the trip, we watched the weather. By watched, I mean watched every weather forecast we could find. One day it looked great for the trip, the next day it looked a little worse, and as the date approached, the forecast called for blizzard conditions the very next day. This was going to be cutting it close. 

We rolled the dice and decided to go for it. Heading out west from Cheyenne, we made our way to Saratoga in about two and one-half hours, racing straight to the Hobo Hot Spring. We got out of the car and it was already getting cold and windy. We knew what was coming, but would it hold off long enough to get in and get out? This was going to happen one way or another. 

Tucked down in the hot springs’ pool area, we were protected from the wind, and the steam rising from the spring pushed back the impending cold. 

Ahhhhhh! This is Wyoming paradise! The mineral spring, tucked into the side if the Platte River, reaches temps in the 116-degree range in the “Lobster Pot,” which is the small pool inside the main spring. The larger pool is in the hot but comfortable 104-degree range. This is where I would spend the next 90 minutes.

You can almost see your aches, pains and trouble dissolve into the water. You spend a little time among the bubbles floating up from the bottom of the pool, and then you get out and get cool again, then repeat this ritual over and over until you are reborn and the cabin fever is cured. 

It seems this spring really is magic, as I really did feel like a new man. But being a newly born human from the water’s womb …. I was freakin hungry! Time had gotten away from me, and my untested land legs needed something to fuel them. 

Until now, what I failed to mention was this was a late evening trip and it was getting close to 8 p.m. and, like many small towns in Wyoming, Saratoga rolls up the sidewalks early. Hurrying to get back into dry clothes and become publicly presentable, we rushed into town to see what we could grab to eat.

Now, before moving on to the food portion of this column that you’ve been waiting for, I want to take just a moment to proudly introduce a new sister column to Eating Wyoming, written by Cowboy State Daily’s Jen Kocher. 

Her new column is “Drinking Wyoming.” As you might expect, she’ll hit all the watering holes in Wyoming, and help you find the best places to wet your whistle.

Anyway, as we rolled down the street, the choices were few. Then we spotted friendly lights ahead and the name “Lazy River Cantina.” I looked at my friend and we were reading each other’s minds.


We walked inside and it was dimly lit, with tables of diners enjoying a late evening meal. There were young people gathering to laugh, eat and take selfies. That’s what young people do, right? It’s been so long since I was one, that I don’t really know. 

A waitress showed us to a table and went to get us a couple of menus. Looking around, this place reminded me of a place I used to eat at when I really was young. The memories of Taco Viva came flooding back. There were paintings on the walls that reinforced what kind of eatery this is. A luchador, or masked Mexican wrestler, painted on one wall, and on another wall was a woman with sugar skull makeup. 

Being hot from the springs, and a little dehydrated from the heat, I asked our server if they had margaritas. They did indeed have this magic elixir. The server told me they had a house margarita, lime, and strawberry, but when she said mango, I stopped her right there and said, “Yes please!” 

Turning to the menu, I knew I wanted tacos, but what else might tempt me? I see the prerequisite burritos, all of which sounded good. There’s even a chicken tinga burrito. 

Chicken tinga is traditionally made with shredded chicken in a tomato sauce made with chipotle chilis in adobo. That almost swayed me away from the tacos and if that wasn’t enough, there was a long list of enchiladas to choose from as well. 

The waitress returned with a bowl of tortilla chips and the most wonderful salsa. Not too much cilantro and in this case, just enough heat. This would keep me busy as I flipped over the menu. On the other side were starters and snacks like chips and guacamole, cantina nachos, and even hand cut fries smothered in queso cheese. 

There were chicken and steak fajitas, which almost stopped me right there. I mean fajitas are close to tacos, right? 

I’m getting close, because I see taco salads below that. You can get your choice of chicken, beef, chorizo or flank steak. The beef taco salad would be my friend’s choice tonight while I floated on down the Lazy River’s menu, to the taco section. 

There it is! Six different street tacos to choose from, had me salivating before I could choose. 

The “OG Taco” is a traditional seasoned ground beef, cheddar, lettuce taco, served with either a soft or hard shell. The “combo taco” is a soft flour taco spread with beans and wrapped around the OG Taco! 

Then I saw one that grabbed my hunger by the neck and shook it. The “Chorizo Diablo” taco is a white corn tortilla with spicy chorizo, with shredded cabbage, lime crema and cotija cheese topped with pickled red onion.

Since these were an a la carte thing, I was going to have one of these, but with one other. I noticed a “chicken tinga” taco, which is similar to the diablo, but with that adobo seasoned chicken, and guacamole. Below that was “shrimp taco” with grilled shrimp of course, more lime crema, cabbage and pico de gallo. Hmmm? Maybe? 

But there it was! The king of street taco, the “carne asada.” Filled with grilled sliced beef, onions, cilantro, lime crema and cotija cheese, served on a corn tortilla, there’s no doubt why this is the king of the street stand! 

I’m so hungry now that I’m going to stop writing and run down the road to get some tacos to power my way through this. 

Ok, I’m back. Where was I?

Oh yes… Our server returned just in time, and carrying the frozen concoction that was destined to bring down my body temperature to a pre-soak level. I’ll have to tell you that as I’m typing this very sentence, I wish I had one of these mango margarita in front of me now. 

I quickly placed my order for one Chorizo Diablo and one carne asada taco, and then turned to my new friend. 

From the first sip, this margarita was spectacular. The frozen version of a margarita is the Slurpee for adults. If consumed too quickly, it’s a brain freeze-inducing beverage that’s split my skull on more than one occasion. This mago flavored treat did just that, as I attempted to rehydrate too quickly, but I couldn’t stop sipping! Mango anything is my tropical flavored favorite, and this beverage was right there among the best. 

Now that I’m becoming properly cooled down from the inside out, it’s time for the taco! BRING ME TACOS NOW! 

That was the monster inside wanting to be fed, and here they come. The taco salad came to the table first, and this one looks like those you might be familiar with, layered on the bottom with the beef and beans and other goodies, carefully covered by lettuce and topped with sour cream and salsa. The shell isn’t your ordinary dish like the one served at the bell down the street. This one was light and crispy and for me, is the desert of the salad. It demands more salsa for dipping. 

Seemingly in slow motion, with a mariachi band full of trumpet fanfare playing in the background, the two beautiful street tacos were lowered to the table in front of me, guarded by two wedges of lime.

I spun the plate around looking for the best angle to photograph for you. There wasn’t a best angle. That is to say, no matter which direction I spun the plate, they looked like art. 

Drizzled with crema and topped with shredded cabbage, they begged to be folded, and eaten. Which one first? The Chorizo Diablo or the carne asada? I was curious about the diablo, so I went for it first. 

Now a street taco is little bit different from the ones found at your average John or Bell, these are something special. Smaller than a normal yet packed with goodness, these make you stop and savor the flavor.

After the first bite, I did just that. The Diablo’s spicy chorizo played well with the cool cabbage and crema. Not overpoweringly hot, yet it wanted to be chased by a sip of cold frozen margarita. What a great combination. Admittedly, I was hungry, but I’m not exaggerating, that this hit spots I didn’t know I possessed. 

There is a sad side to street taco, and it has to do with the size. They are normally for most mouths, a three bite experience. They sadly leave you wanting more, but there always is more. In this case it was the carne asada queued up and waiting on the plate. This one I squeezed a bit of lime on before gently picking it up and folding it over. 

There’s a trick to eating a taco of any kind, and this one was no different. There’s the “cup it in the palm” approach that attempts to keep the filling from escaping. It’s always fun to watch someone try this way and lose all the filling back onto the plate…amateurs! 

Then there’s my technique. Folding it in half, I tuck one side of the taco in between my pinky and ring finger, then pinching the middle between my thumb and forefinger its filling is practically escape-proof.

The carne asada accepted my Spock-like Vulcan Taco grip, and trying not to over-pinch it, I took a bite.  The corn tortilla was soft and tender and didn’t split like some I’ve had. The meat was grilled and tender and didn’t struggle at all. The flavor of the beef stood out and the lime gave it a perfect zing. Each consecutive bite proved to be equal to the last. That is to say all three bites. 

As with the chorizo taco, this one was gone before I knew it. This time though there was no longing or sadness at its short life. I was satisfied, full and happy. The mango margarita was making slurping sounds, as my straw found the bottom. The only word was more like a feeling: “Ahhhhhh!”

My aches and pain were taken by the hot spring, and the tacos at the Lazy River Cantina took my hunger and slaked my thirst. Life was good.

There was just one thing to worry about, the weather! Yeah, I forgot about the impending blizzard. We made it through the pass back to Cheyenne just in time, because the highway was closed behind us. It was worth the risk though.

My recommendation? Go soak like a hobo in Saratoga, and even if you rise from the healing waters late in the evening, go to the Lazy River Cantina for a taco. Get a margarita and see if you feel the “Ahhhhh”! 

The Lazy River Cantina is located at 110 E Bridge St, in Saratoga Wyoming. It is open from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is closed Sunday and Monday. Catering is also available and the restaurant can be contacted at 307-362-8472 

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Dave Simpson: Liz Pursues The Great White Whale

in Dave Simpson/Column

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Plenty of news out there these days. Let’s whack some current events moles:

– The problem with Rep. Liz Cheney’s Captain Ahab-like determination to see that Donald Trump never gets anywhere near the Oval Office again (her words) is that Trump was so much better at the job of being president than President Joe Biden.

If there’s a drop of pragmatic blood in your body, you have to admit that Trump got some pretty good results,  despite the frantic, non-stop efforts of the back-stabbing Washington establishment to impeach him, indict him, humiliate him, investigate him, nullify him, and in a thousand different ways undermine his administration and the will of the American voter.

Sure, he sent out some “mean tweets,” and he apparently had some randy relationships in the past (like JFK?), and he thought he could trust some people who shouldn’t have been trusted. But Good Lord people, gasoline was $2.39 a gallon! You could walk into any grocery or pharmacy and buy baby formula! Our southern border wasn’t the pathetic joke it is today. The stock market that the cynics predicted would crash when Trump was elected soared from 18,000 to almost 36,000.

We were energy independent, a goal that seemed impossible ever since the gas lines of the 1970s. We hadn’t made a pitiful hash of leaving Afghanistan, and if such a debacle occurred under Trump, you can bet the heads of those responsible would have been on pikes. (He wasn’t afraid to fire people.) We were even – imagine this – making progress in the Middle East.

He was cutting government regulations. Unemployment was low, businesses were relocating back to the U.S., the supply chain was chugging along, and companies that needed workers could find them.

And, if you worship at the altar of vaccines, the man ridiculed for supposedly telling people to inject bleach into their bodies (he didn’t), managed to speed up the vaccine development and approval process from taking years to months. Vice President Harris said she’d never take a vaccine Donald Trump had anything to do with, but then she did, then said we all should.

This is the president Liz Cheney says should never be allowed to be president again? This is the guy she wants to protect us from, even as Joe Biden and his team of politically correct and woke incompetents screw up everything they touch?

Ask someone to list Joe Biden’s accomplishments. Nobody can think of anything other than squandering yet more billions on yet more wasteful liberal pipe dreams, in the hope that more profligacy and wretched excess can stem inflation. It can’t.

More and more these days, I hear people – even some liberals – saying, “I could use a mean tweet about now.”

– President Biden is going to Saudi Arabia in coming days, in part to ask a favor of the country responsible for murdering, cutting up, and disposing of the body of a columnist for the Washington Post. He wants the country he once dubbed a “pariah” to pump more oil, even as he does everything possible to hamstring the energy industry here in the United States.

He prefers dealing with the pariahs of Saudi Arabia over oil executives here, apparently because AOC and the Squad of Green Nuts demands that it be that way.

Call me crazy, but I draw the line at people who cut up columnists and dispose of them in garbage bags. That’s a bridge too for for me, and you have to wonder how the Washington Post feels about it.

– My wife worked on the psych unit at the Cheyenne hospital for six years, and she’s amazed at the current “red flag” debate over identifying those who might be a danger to themselves or others.

She saw many people in those years hospitalized on “72-hour detentions,” after which an administrative judge would determine if they should be held longer. Most weren’t. (The late Al Wiederspahn was one of those judges.)

So in truth, we have a form of the “red flag” here in Wyoming that has been quietly working for years.

But nothing is ever enough in Washington, and there’s always a drive to heap another legislative saddle bag on the overloaded mule of government.

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Rod Miller: Death and Bureaucracy in Wyoming — My Father’s Day Column

in Column/Rod Miller

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By Rod Miller, Cowboy State Daily columnist

(Warning: The following column contains graphic descriptions of state control over human death that some readers may find disturbing. Others may find it oddly comforting.)

During the first hundred millennia of human existence on Earth, death and the disposition of the dead was the province of the family, or the tribe. What we know of burial rites thousands of years ago leads us to conclude that the dead were buried, cremated or fed to eagles with respect and solemnity, according to the wishes of those involved both alive and dead.

For the last couple hundred years, though, government has usurped the roles of both family and religion in the interment of our dead. To me, this fact illustrates the extent to which government has insinuated itself into our lives. And into our deaths.

Modernity seems to have made us fearful and suspicious of death, which I find odd because, along with birth, it is the most common human experience that we all share. We have responded to this fear by investing death with a modern superstition that suits our capitalistic nature.

This new superstition holds no place for tradition or the priest, the shaman, the tribal elder or the family when it comes to the consecration of our mortal coils to the great beyond. Rather than relying on Charon to row us across the River Styx, we now place our trust in bumbling government officials and the entrenched professional “funeral industry” they have created.

We have swapped the sacred mystery of death for a business transaction.

To be fair, in Wyoming a family can still take responsibility for the body of a loved one, and bury Grandma or Grandpa according to their final wishes. The family can hold a service in the home, prepare the body and bury it outside of a cemetery, but they can only do so with permission from the government after a long process of paperwork and bureaucratic angst.

Without a family petitioning the government to have a reverent and humane send-off for a loved one, however, the default legal situation is to rely on the impersonal services of a coroner and a licensed funeral director to handle everything. For a stiff fee, of course.

The following, penned at a time when the funeral industry was flexing its muscle over our corpses, says it best.

“That a child has no such claim, no such exclusive power, no peculiar interest in the dead body of its parent, is so utterly inconsistent with every enlightened perception of personal right, so inexpressibly repulsive to every proper moral sense, that its adoption would be an eternal disgrace to American jurisprudence. The establishment of a right so sacred and precious, ought not to need any judicial precedent. Our courts of justice should place it, at once, where it should fundamentally rest forever, on the deepest and most unerring instincts of human nature; and hold it to be a self-evident right of humanity, entitled to legal protection, by every consideration of feeling, decency and Christian duty. The world does not contain a tribunal that would punish a son who should resist, even unto death, any attempt to mutilate his father’s corpse!” Ruggles, Samuel Ruggles – Law of Burial: Report to the Supreme Court of the State of New-York, 1856

With that in mind, here follows my own Living Will:

(1) I want my sons to conduct my burial, not some unknown bureaucrats.

(2) Under no circumstances will an embalmer replace the rich, warm Outlaw blood in my veins with Prestone.

(3) I want my grave dug by a friend, and my sons to wrap me in that old wool soogan that I’ve kept with me most of my life for cold nights. (You’ll find it on top of my bookcase, boys)

(4) Before any dirt is tossed on top of my faithful meat suit, I want to hear the Grateful Dead’s “Ripple” and Bob Marleys “Redemption Song” played loud enough to wake the dead

.(5) I want to be buried in an unmarked grave on the Gangplank. When my grandkids are driving on I-80, they can gesture expansively toward the summit and say, “There’s Grandpa”

(6) If this arrangement pisses off some bureaucrats, I invite them to read the Ruggles quote above more closely, paying particular attention to a son’s responsibility toward his dead father

(7) This testament supersedes my former living will in which my ashes were to be surreptitiously placed into the pepper shakers in Taco Johns throughout Wyoming by four unnamed men.

After all….My corpse, my choice.

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Clair McFarland: Love Between Lice

in Clair McFarland/Column

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

This is a love story about two lice.  

Where their journey began or what electric quiddity brought them together only future bards will know. I discovered them whirling heedless and infatuated in a courtship dance so idiotic it was almost beautiful.  

But first, I took a vacation.  

We left Wyoming last week for Salt Lake City because The Husband is the fun parent and wanted to take our four sons and me to the amusement parks, the golfing balconies, the arcades.  

“Or,” I had offered, “we could ride our bikes to a natural mountain spring, shinny up the trees and watch birds in flight.”  

“HAH!” laughed my middle-born son while packing a snorkel for the hotel pool. “Good one, Mom.” 

The boys ogled Wyoming as we rolled through it and into Utah.  

“That would smash open your bum if you sledded down it,” said Middleborn of Lander’s picturesque Red Canyon.  

“Hey guys, I found a cloud that looks like a leech with a mustache!” cheered the big, sweet twin at the Continental Divide.  

“Walmart lives HERE, too?” shrieked the little, feisty twin when we reached Evanston.  

Yes, yes, the Cowboy State is full of miracles.  

Near Salt Lake City, the Interstate spewed us into an arcade that whelmed with the technicolor vomit of 200 electric games. There, Middleborn won a beach ball from an enormous metal claw large enough to snatch a sugar-drunk child away from the vending machine.  

Not that I ever envisioned such a use for it.  

That night we rode a shimmering escalator to an all-you-can-eat buffet that I didn’t think could handle us, but it did. The Interstate then shot us into our hotel, which is the crown jewel of any vacation because there, you can jump endlessly between two adjacent beds that magically re-make themselves each day. Why even go outside? 

But we did go outside the next morning, to an amusement park so luxurious, our every breath tasted of aerosolized sunscreen and cotton candy.  

“This is it,” said Firstborn, gazing up at the roller coaster peaks with his solemn green eyes.  

Middleborn and The Husband rode tower drops. Firstborn rode the same roller coaster 30 times. The twins put me in a teacup.  

Six giant teacups seating four people each, spun on a merry-go-round platform. We strapped ourselves into the pink one. Little-Feisty discovered that by cranking the wheel in the teacup’s center, he could rotate us faster than the other teacups. And this is considered a “win.”  

“It’s like the planets,” explained Big-Sweet through his flapping cheeks. “We’re spinning around a center, but we’re also rotating.”  

The all-you-can-eat buffet churned under my esophagus.  

“C’mon, help me go faster!” yelled Little-Feisty to Big-Sweet. They both spun.  

I suppressed my nausea by shifting my focus from our puréed surroundings to the twins’ determined expressions; their noses wrinkling, their teeth gritting in the shade of two oversized baseball caps.    

Finally, the ride slowed to a halt.  

“Which way is west? Nobody KNOWS!” roared Little-Feisty with the certainty of a man who’s made his mark on the world.  

I stood and wobbled.  

“Woah, Mom,” said Little-Feisty, glancing furtively at the other riders. “Get it together, OK?”  

The twins walked me to a red roller coaster where The Husband and the other boys met us. Everybody had a riding buddy, and mine was Big-Sweet, who squeezed my hand bloodless as our cart crept to the top of its fearsome precipice.  

In that moment, I glanced at his soft brown hair gleaming in the full sun – and my blood went cold. Two adult lice danced in his hair. I tried to reach for them but, just then, the roller coaster blasted us down a slope, whipped us left, then right, then up another slope and down it.  

The lice had no idea that only gravity and man’s foolhardy inventions stayed my hand from ending their honeymoon in a bloody catastrophe. Big-Sweet smiled and grabbed my outstretched hand.  

Once safely back on the ground, I gripped Big-Sweet’s shoulders and planted him in front of me.  

“Hold still,” I snapped.  

The whole family gathered around us.  

“What is it?” asked The Husband.  

I crushed the bride between my thumb and forefinger. 

“I think he has lice,” I grumbled.  

All the boys gasped.  

I smashed the groom between my thumb and my darling son’s scalp. Then, standing in a rush of adrenaline-hungry Americans, I sifted through every strand of Big-Sweet’s hair. But no more lice could be found.  

“I think you got lucky and caught the first two,” said The Husband.  

“No,” I said. “We have to treat everyone, just in case.” 

He sighed. “OK. I know what that means.”  

“Right,” I nodded. “Evacuate everyone and torch the park.” 

“What – no!” stammered The Husband. “It means we have to go to the store for supplies after this.”  

So we went with The Husband’s plan, not mine. I slathered my own hair in Vaseline and tea tree oil, buzzed and lice-combed Big-Sweet’s hair, then oiled and inspected everyone else’s scalps with a flashlight and a magnifying glass. No one had lice.  

(The Husband was already bald before this.) 

Big-Sweet had, somehow, intercepted two honeymooning lice in a spinning teacup, let them swoon in his warm earthen musk, and carried them unknowingly to their gruesome deaths at the foot of a roller coaster.  

And that’s how all love stories should end, when they’re about lice.  

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Dave Walsh: Remember Wyoming’s Only Win Against A Big Ten Team

in Dave Walsh/Column

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily columnist

Another much-anticipated Cowboy football season is sneaking up on us. 

All Cowboy football seasons are highly anticipated, I suppose, and the 2022 season is no exception. Fewer than 10 weeks remain in the countdown to Wyoming’s season opener. The Cowboys will get the season underway in 70 days in faraway Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 

The Fighting Illini will be the first of four non-conference opponents on the schedule. Tulsa, a brief former league foe, Northern Colorado, a lower-divisional regional foe, and BYU, a former bitter rival, round out the non-league line-up. The schedule that the Mountain West Conference puts forth is always a challenge.

It really is quite a schedule the Pokes have before them. And it certainly gets your attention right from the start. The opener is always important, it’s always a “big” game. This season’s big curtain lifter will take place in Big Ten country, against a Big Ten team. Wyoming will hit the so-called “Big Time” right out of the chute this season, and that’s a “Big Deal.”

Wyoming and Illinois will knock heads for the first time ever on a football field. It’ll be just the 21st time that the Cowboys have played a team from the Big Ten. And that includes all games played against the current members of the Big Ten. 

By the way, there are 14 football-playing members of the Big 10, the three newest members being Penn State, Maryland, and Rutgers. And over the years the Cowboys have faced seven of the 14 teams of the Big Ten. 

The last time Wyoming played a Big Ten team was in 2017. Ironically, that game was the season opener, on the road, against Iowa.

I guess I’m somewhat surprised that Wyoming has played a Big Ten team just 20 times in the 125 seasons of Cowboy football. The Nebraska Cornhuskers were the opponent in eight of those 20 games. Wyoming has played Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin three times each. And the Pokes have played Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern once.

Maybe it’s the success, or in this case, the lack thereof, that has kept the scheduling of games with Big Ten teams down. You see, the Cowboys are 1-19 against the Big Ten over the years. That’s one win, 19 losses, against the Big Ten! Wyoming is 0-8 vs. Nebraska. The Cowboys are 0-3 against Iowa and 0-3 vs. Michigan State. The Pokes have lost twice to Wisconsin, and one time to Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northwestern. Those are the losses. 

It’s that one win, the lone victory over a Big Ten team, that is most memorable.

The one-and-only Wyoming win over a Big Ten team took place during the 1986 season. Wyoming had lost all 11 games it had played against the Big Ten when first-year and “only-year” Cowboy head Coach Dennis Erickson took the Pokes to Madison, Wisconsin, for a game against the Badgers. This would be the third time the two teams had played, and Wisconsin had won the first two meetings in 1973 and 1985. This game was the last time the two met, and this third game was the charm for the Cowboys.

Wisconsin Badger home football games are a very unique experience. Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, is a classic college football venue, with some of the greatest fans in the country. The Badgers always play in front of a full house and Camp Randall was jammed that day in ’86 when 64,954 fans showed up to see the Badgers play the Cowboys. 

And were they ever active! Well before the game, the stadium was full and they started singing! Not just the student section, not just the cheerleaders, but all of the nearly 65,000 in attendance had locked their arms and were singing. They were singing school songs and pop songs. And they would sing, and cheer, the entire game.

Even when the Cowboys took charge and were winning, the fans kept singing. Even after the Cowboys took a 14-3 lead at halftime, they kept singing. And they sang right up to the final gun.

Randy Welniak threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 91 yards. The Wyoming offense clicked for 451 yards of total offense and the Cowboy defense gave up just 227 yards and only 12 points. Wisconsin scored first with a field goal at the end of their first possession, just 3 minutes into the game. But Wyoming scored two touchdowns in the second quarter and led the rest of the way to win 21-12.

And when the game was over, the fans in Camp Randall Stadium sang some more. And when the Cowboys were leaving the field after beating the Badgers, those Wisconsin fans gave the Pokes a standing ovation!

Oh it was a most memorable day, the day the Cowboys beat the Wisconsin Badgers 36 seasons ago. It’s still the one-and-only Wyoming victory over a team from the Big Ten Conference.  

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Bill Sniffin: Fire And Rain, Yellowstone Flooding Disaster Breaks My Heart

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

This is just awful. The flooding in Yellowstone National Park is a national disaster of colossal proportions. Hopefully the federal government will come to its aid soon.

As we celebrate the 150th year of the park, it is stunning to see what is happening up there right now.

During the 150th celebration slightly more than a month ago, Supt. Cam Sholly announced the park was in the best shape ever. As a tourist who has been there every year for 52 years, I totally agreed with him. It was never better.

But now this!

Flooding caused by heavy rains and melting snow has wiped out highways and bridges, contaminated water supplies, cut power, and caused the park to be totally shut down for one of the first times ever in the middle of tourism season. It shut down in 2020 because of COVID and partially shut down during the 1988 fires.

This week, what a nightmare that must have been clearing out all the tourists. Besides all the folks staying at the hotels and inns, there must have been thousands of campers and motorhomes in there, too. Most neighboring towns offered camping sites for folks who could not get into campgrounds.

The north loop in the park will be closed for the rest of the summer. Much of it had been closed for years for construction on the Tower Falls road. Now it is closed again. What a shame.

Although this will mainly be an economic disaster for the towns surrounding the park, there may be some opportunities, too. For tourists headed to the park, perhaps now they can spend more days in towns like Cody, Powell, Greybull, Lovell, Basin, Worland, Thermopolis, Riverton, Lander, Dubois, Pinedale, Rock Springs, Afton, Kemmerer, and Jackson.

The state of Wyoming has promoted four road trip routes through the state all ending up in Yellowstone. There are abundant amounts of attractions in these areas along the way. Let’s hope tourists keep coming.

Those four regional routes offer vast numbers of things to see and do. Tourists can still head to the park but hopefully will spend more time outside the park enjoying our local sites and sights rather than cancelling altogether. Here are those official routes promoted by the Division of Tourism:

Black to Yellow – This route comes from the Gillette coal area and includes Devils Tower near Sundance, Heart Mountain interpretive center between Powell and Cody, and the Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area near Lovell.

Park to Park – Two of the big attractions on this route are the Fort Laramie Historical site and the Thermopolis Hot Springs. Casper, with all it has to offer, is on this route, too.

Rockies to Tetons – This route is targeted to folks coming from Colorado and includes the Oregon Trail, Wind River Indian Reservation, the Wind River Mountains, the Dubois National Museum of Military Vehicles, and Historical South Pass City ghost town.

Salt to Stone – Folks coming from the Salt Lake area take this route which includes Fossil Butte National Monument, Flaming Gorge, the Red Desert, Evanston, Rock Springs, Afton, and Pinedale.

As I write this, it appears parts of the park may open June 19 but there is no way the damaged park can accommodate the 780,000 tourists expected during a normal June.

For years there has been discussion of a reservation system. Perhaps now something like that will be put in place.

This year is the 150th anniversary of what has been called America’s best idea – a national park.

On March 1, 1872, Yellowstone became the world’s first national park. Fewer than 2,000 non-Indians had visited the place way back then, but the photos by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran had so impressed Congress, that Yellowstone National Park came into being.

It is noteworthy that this occurred 18 years before Wyoming became a state. Another side note is that the Wind River Indian Reservation, which today is about the same size as Yellowstone, was also created by treaty in 1872. Both are about two million acres.

The official celebration of the 150th occurred May 6 in the lobby of the historical Old Faithful Inn. There will also be a series of events scheduled all summer long in Yellowstone and in gateway communities.

A big theme was how the park area interacted with regional Indian tribes, including the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes from Wyoming.

We toured much of the park back in May and it was in amazing condition. As Supt. Sholly said, it has never been better. Alas, the events of this past week changed all that.  

In 2021, Yellowstone set a new all-time-record for visitation with 4.86 million tourists. This shows the surge from across the world to visit this wonderful place.

We have been going to Yellowstone for over half a century and it is my favorite place on earth.

Is it worth going? Are you kidding! I love the place. “Like No Place on Earth” was the official slogan for Wyoming’s tourism division a few years ago. I liked the slogan but thought it referred more to Yellowstone National Park than anywhere else in the state.

We spent a lot of quality time at the most heavily-visited part of the park – the lower loop. 

Norris Geyser Basin is the greatest hot spot on earth. It covers a huge area and can be incredibly dangerous. Once a season you will hear about someone getting burned in Yellowstone and most often it happens there.

During our recent trip we were anxious to get to Norris. We have made many trips to Yellowstone in September and October over the past half century and for most of that time, the tourists were “local” – from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. On last fall’s trip, I finally spotted cars with Montana and Idaho license plates parked together. Finally, some locals. Then we noticed they were penned in between cars from Hawaii, California, and Florida. Oh well.

Norris does not disappoint. It was a windy day, which meant big blasts of sulfur every so often. If you like geysers like I do, the smell of rotten eggs warms your heart.

Traffic was light from Norris to Canyon as we headed for Artist’s Point. It was crowded but we found a parking space. At the Point, two guys talking in a foreign language were beside us.

The road south through Hayden Valley was blocked by a big herd of buffalo. The big bulls were right in front of us and snorting at us. I took a photo through my windshield showing the big bull and the park gal in the distance with her bullhorn. I want to point that out because if you saw the photo, you might think I was being one of those idiots who walk right up to bison. Nope. Not now. Not ever.

Our favorite place is the Lake Hotel and specifically, the big sun room. On that day last fall, it was packed with folks all enjoying drinks and watching whitecaps on the inland sea called Yellowstone Lake.

Back when I reported on the trip, I wrote: “Wow, what a day! Certainly, one of the best days ever. Visiting Yellowstone was like seeing an old friend again. And my friend was in fine form.”

Today, what has happened to the park leaves me feeling very sad. Our old friend has taken one helluva beating. Godspeed on getting healed up, old friend.

And thanks to all the staff and hard-working folks trying to fix our great park.

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Cat Urbigkit: Uncovering Sublette’s Secrets

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

There’s bad blood between the Sublette County Commission and Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson. Crosson claims there is a “deep state” operating in Sublette County and has been vocal with his complaints against a county administrator, sheriff, and other county government leadership. Here’s a backgrounder by the Pinedale Roundup’s Brady Oltmans.

Even Crosson’s annual budget request submitted in April this year included a dressing-down to the board of county commissioners, which Crosson claimed “miserably failed to uphold the three basic conservative Republican core values of low taxes, small government, and fiscal responsibility.”

The conflict with the County Attorney Crosson hasbecome so extreme that the county commission requested the presence of law enforcement in its business meetings when Crosson is in attendance.

That bad blood may be impacting how the Sublette County Commission is responding to a taxation conundrum the county now faces.

Last week, when the Sublette County Commission met for its regularly scheduled commission meeting, on its agenda was an item noted as the “fire mill levy discussion.”

Unable to attend the meeting, I listened to the recording of the meeting that evening, but found the commission never addressed that agenda item.

I attended the commission’s budget workshop the next day and learned the commission had discussed that item behind closed doors ­– during one of four executive sessions held during the business meeting.

The Fire Mill Levy

When Sublette County unified its five local fire departments into one countywide department in 2015, it continued to tax a portion of a mill for fire protection in the unincorporated areas of the county. Residents of the incorporated towns have never been subjected to the county tax.

Sublette County Unified Fire provides fire protection for all the county, including in the three incorporated towns of Pinedale, Big Piney, and Marbleton which receive the service for a token $10 per year per town – similar to the law enforcement services provided by Sublette County to the towns. None of the towns in Sublette County have their own police or fire departments.

But state statutes didn’t envision such a scenario for fire protection. Fire protection could be extended by the towns out into the county, but the statutes didn’t address the reverse.

State law reads: “The board of county commissioners of any county contracting with any municipal corporation, private organization or fire department in return for fire protection service may make an appropriation in its annual budget for the purchase of fire equipment or for the maintenance and support of the fire protection and may annually levy a tax of not more than one (1) mill on the taxable valuation of the property in the county except property within any incorporated city or town or rural fire district.” (emphasis added)

Sublette County is no longer contracting to receive fire protection service, and instead, is providing that service throughout the county by its own department – yet has continued to levy the fire mill tax throughout the unincorporated areas of the county since taking over fire services in 2015.

If the county budget simply included the costs of fire protection services in its overall general fund, there wouldn’t be an issue, but state law also requires that proceeds from the fire mill levy be kept in a special fund that is used solely for the purpose of fire protection.

If the fire mill has been inappropriately levied by the county since 2015, what then? Since the county never levied more than the maximum 12 mills allowed by law, is this all no-harm, no-foul? Probably not.

Hiding Public Business

Last week, county officials conferred in small groups to discuss the fire mill issue – in small enough groups to avoid a quorum which would violate state law requiring deliberations about public business be held in public. Written correspondence viewed by me indicates the issue has been discussed since at least November of 2021 – that’s about eight months of keeping this taxation issue on the down-low.

As the Sublette County Commission prepares to adopt a new budget assessing the maximum 12-mill levy next month under the same structure that is now under question, it has failed to inform its taxpayers that there may be a problem, let alone the details.

To my knowledge, Sublette County hasn’t been threatened with litigation, and there is no legitimate reason whatsoever for Sublette County to keep this issue hidden from its taxpayers for all these months.

Taxation is surely public business, and, as the Wyoming Supreme Court has noted in the past, “The courts, legislature, administrative agencies, and the state, county and municipal governments should be ever mindful that theirs is public business and the public has a right to know how its servants are conducting its business.”


This column is the first step to opening the door and letting the sunshine in – an airing of the public’s business.

But the door needs to be thrown wide open – and they’d best prop a rock against it because the public is going to want in the room for the discussion.

You can bet that the energy industry that pays more than 90% of the property taxes in Sublette County will take notice. Have they been inappropriately taxed? If so, what is the financial recourse? Those are the tough questions the commission will soon face.

Wyoming’s ad valorem taxation laws provide for refunds in the case of illegal taxation.  Wyoming Statute 39-13-109 (c) reads: “Within one (1) year following an illegal assessment, levy or collection of taxes an action may be filed in district court to enjoin the illegal assessment, levy or collection. The action shall be against the county assessor in the case of an illegal assessment, the governmental entity which levies an illegal levy, the county treasurer if the levy is entered on the tax list, or against the governmental entity if the taxes were collected and paid to the entity,” and “If any person pays any tax, or portion thereof, found to have been erroneous or illegal, the board of county commissioners shall direct the county treasurer to refund the erroneous or illegal payment to the taxpayer.”

As a representative of Cowboy State Daily, I filed a Wyoming Public Records Act request for documents concerning the fire mill levy, including a memorandum from the Sublette County Attorney’s office to the Sublette County Commission – a memorandum which County Attorney Mike Crosson will neither confirm nor deny exists, but does indeed exist.

I also notified the Sublette County Commission Chairman and the Sublette County Clerk that handling this very public business in executive session was improper and requested that the commission release the memo from Crosson’s office and that the entire issue be fully discussed and debated in public.

I am confident they will do so, in part because there are numerous county officials uneasy with how this issue has unfolded.

Which brings me back to the bad blood. We won’t know all the legal issues and advice the County Attorney’s office has provided to the County Commission until that information is publicly disclosed.

If the County Commission is balking from legal advice because it’s tainted by the bad blood with County Attorney Crosson, it needs to get over it and do its duty for the taxpayers of the county.

If the commission feels it needs specialist legal counsel to help work through this, tell the Sublette County Attorney that, in a public meeting. Let Crosson explain why or why not that may be justified. But don’t let bad blood, or the questioning of motivations, hinder resolution of this tough issue.

If the Sublette County Commission has been notified by its legal counsel that it has improperly imposed a mill levy, and yet choses to stick its head in the sand by adopting a new budget with the same tax-levy structure, it will be rightfully accused of a dereliction of its fiduciary duty.

If a previous county attorney made a mistake, or there was an oversight when the county reorganized the fire service in 2015, the county must move forward by acknowledging and correcting the mistake. It must prepare for the potential ramifications in its new budget. It cannot simply hide this public business any longer.


1.  I work for the Sublette County Commission as an independent contractor, writing and compiling an annual budget report.

2.  I once worked under the supervision of Sublette County Unified Fire (SCUF) Chief Shad Cooper when I served as public information officer for an interagency Covid-19 response team. My son is a wildland firefighter now employed by SCUF. I have great respect for the work of SCUF under Chief Cooper’s leadership.

3.  I have numerous friends and acquaintances working in Sublette County government, and as elected officials. I respect citizens who serve the public as elected officials, and my criticism in this column isn’t a reflection of my personal feelings towards any commissioner. In addition, I hold Sublette County Sheriff KC Lehr in high esteem and believe he runs a top-notch department. (Unlike a previous sheriff.)

4. My dog in this fight – first and foremost – is as a long-time advocate for government transparency.

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.

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Aaron Turpen: Don’t Take Those Gas-Saving Tips Too Seriously, Although Some Have Some Merit

in Aaron Turpen/Column

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By Aaron Turpen, automotive columnist for Cowboy State Daily

Memes, clickbait, and other information fodder on the internet are full of “tips” for saving at the pump.

With gas prices being so high, it’s no wonder these are a hot topic and prime targets for getting your attention. But most of those tips are wrong. Some are so far gone, they’re not even fertilizer anymore.

But rather than just debunk the clickbait manure, we should also look at the ones that do have some merit. So here’s a little bit of both.

“Fill up in the early morning when the ground temperature is cold.” This one is hilarious. It plays on the idea that a “gallon” is less than it is when it’s cold. Pumps dispense fuel by volume, so obviously that volume is bigger when the liquid being pumped is cold.

That could be true, if you want to do the physics to figure that out, but it doesn’t apply to fuel. Fuel is stored underground. Where it’s basically always at the same temperature. That’s why your grandparents kept potatoes in the root cellar and your basement is cooler than the rest of your house.

“You should refill the tank when you are down to half.” This one has some merit. Not for the reasons often touted, which include something about gasoline vapors “wasting” fuel by occupying the top area of your tank instead of staying liquid so they can pump into the engine.

Vapors evaporate and eventually return to the liquid state. And the amount we’d be talking about is miniscule compared to the amount of fuel anyway. But, keeping your vehicle’s fuel tank fuller rather than emptier most of the time has other upsides. Namely it keeps your fuel pump from working too hard.

Most fuel pumps are cooled by the fuel around them and if there is no fuel to cool them, they can overheat and wear out early. Plus your fuel lines and injectors will stay cleaner because the junk that gathers in your fuel settles to the bottom of the tank where the pump will start sending it if the tank gets towards empty.

“Don’t fill up at a service station being refilled by a fuel tanker.” This one is an old one and it sticks around because it’s largely true. While most places to fill your tank have particulate filters to keep junk from ending up in your fuel tank, you have no way of knowing how clean or up-to-date those filters are.

The tanker filling the fuel tank below ground is likely stirring up sediment from the bottom as it does so. If the filters aren’t up to the task, that sediment will end up in your car’s fuel tank.

“Fill up on Wednesday. It’s the cheapest day of the week for gas.” Not actually true, though it likely was a few years ago. Before the advent of digital signage that allowed the station to change prices at the press of a few buttons, signs were changed manually.

To avoid looking bad, fuel stations often only changed those signs on Sunday night or early Monday morning when the “new week” would be perceived as a logical time when people would expect price changes.

Often, around Thursday afternoon or night, service stations would then change again to a “weekend rate” when most travel happened, hoping to capitalize on higher traffic. With the advent of more competition on the market and digital signage that can change in seconds, though, that’s no longer the case.

Stations can and often do change prices daily, with fluctuations of a few cents according to various market trends as reasoning. Some gas station chains don’t have immediate control over the price settings, they are updated via satellite or internet at a central location instead.

“Grocery store savings deals can save money at the pump.” This one is true. There are exceptions to every rule, but for the most part, those places that offer savings via membership programs are often the lowest-priced place to get fuel.

Assuming you have the membership points or whatever other requirements are needed. And as with all things, buyer beware. The simple math may say “Oh, I’m saving a lot!” while the longer math may show that the prices paid in the store to get those savings at the pump aren’t actually worth it.

“Fuel system cleaners can improve your fuel economy.” This one is a half-and-half. It’s true if your vehicle is older, as time does cause some buildup in the engine and injection systems that can reduce economy.

In a vehicle that is fairly new and which doesn’t have many miles on it, however, these cleaners won’t be doing much good. As with all things, consider what the manufacturer recommends and what your trusted mechanic says is best for your vehicle. Go with experts. Not some random article on the internet. Even if it was written by me.

“Premium fuel is a rip-off.” This is another grain of salt truism. For most vehicles most of the time, premium fuel is not going to improve fuel economy enough to pay for itself or keep your system “cleaner” than will a lower grade fuel.

There are exceptions. To start with, ethanol fuel, even in a mix like E10 or E15, provides lower fuel economy because of the lower energy density of ethanol versus standard gasoline of the same grade. Ethanol, however, is usually a bit cheaper than is straight gasoline, so the tradeoff is likely worth it.

Next, some vehicles require that premium-grade (91 octane or higher) be used in their engines. This is especially true of performance vehicles, high-pressure engines (such as some Ford Ecoboost and Mazda Skyactiv designs), and many turbo/supercharged luxury models. Most vehicles requiring premium fuel will say so right on their filler port.

There are other fuel saving tips floating around as well. Let us know if you’ve seen any you aren’t sure of. Most of them are probably bunk or half-truths, but there are always a few gems.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Dave Simpson: Worth The High Price Of Gasoline…

in Dave Simpson/Column

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

I’m out and about lately, and it’s about ding-dong time.

Time to put some miles on the Ranger, even at $4.69 a gallon gasoline (thanks Joe, and we’re not buying that “Putin’s fault” crap), after a winter that saw plenty of snow, and enough spring wind to knock down a brick outhouse.

I’d never leave Wyoming, but the relentless, punishing, door-slamming wind this year made me think for the first time, “Does the wind blow like this in Arizona?”

If you told me 20 years ago that Gillette would become one of my favorite towns, I’d have been taken aback. Nonplussed. Many times I heard Rawlins and Gillette lumped together. They were the red-headed step children of Wyoming towns.

But then I spent the coldest winter of my life in Rawlins, 1979-80 – cross-country skiing to work on several occasions – and came away liking the place, and the ornery folks I met there.

And today, after a daughter who used to say she wanted to live in London instead married a guy from Gillette, I have new respect for the city once known as Donkey Town. I agree with the buttons Mike Enzi once brought to the Wyoming Legislature that said, “I Kind of Like Gillette.”

Gillette is a place where you can wear your work clothes to any restaurant in town. It’s a working town, with more Super Duty company pickup trucks than you could shake a greasy wrench at, heavy equipment everywhere, and lots of die-hard, flag-flying Trump supporters. This year you see Harriett Hageman signs from Douglas to Gillette.

Like Mark Twain, reports of Gillette’s demise are exaggerated, and there’s an energy industry hiring boom going on now, as our greenie friends learn where electricity for their swell electric cars comes from.

Two red-headed, blue-eyed grand daughters, both under four, have us doing the Cheyenne to Gillette milk run pretty often. Heading to Gillette, the perfect place to stop for lunch is Penny’s Diner in downtown Bill, Wyoming, where the Penny’s Burger will not disappoint. They don’t get a lot of traffic at Penny’s – it’s there primarily for railroaders – and the employees are so darned happy to see anyone come through the door that the service is great.

Going home, the perfect lunch stop is The Soda Fountain in downtown Chugwater, where the malts are to die for, and the BLT I had was very good.

For those who drink too much coffee, I highly recommend the rest stop north of Wheatland – where the view of Laramie Peak is spectacular – and the rest stop in Wright, a park-like setting where a guy could even go fishing. Both are well maintained.

This time of year, I go through Laramie a lot, and this summer I’ve got to try the Reuben Sandwich at the Alibi Wood Fire Pizzaria and Artisan Bakery, which was featured recently on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-in and Dives on the Food Network. (I spent my formative years at the Alibi, back when it was just a bar across the street from the Boomerang.)

Fieri also visited J’s Prairie Rose in Laramie, where I had an excellent lunch two summers ago, although I remember when it was called “Sally’s Steakhouse” many decades ago. (The girl who would become Mrs. Simpson tried to squirt me with a ketchup packet at Sally’s late one night after the Buckhorn closed, and ended up squirting herself. It’s a fond memory that still makes us laugh.)

Fieri also visited Sweet Melissa’s Cafe in Laramie, where I had the best grilled cheese of my life several years ago.

For my money, the best BLT around is at The Bear Bottom Bar and Grill in Centennial, where my son used to prepare the green chili pizzas, and sometimes tended bar across the street at The Trading Post. (I could spend some quality time in Centennial.)

And don’t miss the brewery-restaurant over at the Saratoga Inn, where they make an impressive Reuben, and a great glass of beer.

Maybe something strong from the brewery can help us forget Joe’s $4.69 gasoline.

Wyoming’s at it’s best this time of year. It’s worth the price of gasoline to get out and about.

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Bill Sniffin: Can Liz Cheney Campaign Rise From The Political Ashes?

in Column/Bill Sniffin

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney is hoping her appearances on the primetime Jan. 6 hearings will boost her reelection chances out here in Wyoming. I am not so sure.

She presented a powerful figure and even looked presidential. Her poise was impressive. Democrats and Independents across the USA were thrilled. Republicans? Again, I am not so sure.

Her main primary challenger Harriet Hageman does not need all the GOP primary votes to defeat incumbent Cheney – she just needs more than Liz gets on Aug. 16.

Hageman will get both pro-Hageman votes and anti-Cheney votes. If polls show the race is close, former President Donald Trump will come back to Wyoming to cheer on his designated candidate. Trump despises Liz Cheney. This is personal. Trump might make two more trips, if necessary. Her actions were a slight to him because of her earlier vote to impeach him. And now with her high-profile role as vice-chairman of the Jan. 6 hearings, the stakes just got higher.

The Jan. 6 hearings

The Jan. 6 Congressional hearings are an attempt to convince the American people that then-President Trump orchestrated the riots where thousands of people attacked and invaded the U. S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021.

With her anti-Trump stance, Cheney has become one of the most high-profile politicians in America. She is the darling of the mainstream media, which universally hates Trump.

Trump cannot afford to have Cheney win this race.  

Although this is a Republican primary, I can see four distinct types of voters in this race: Pro-Cheney, Anti-Cheney, Pro-Hageman, and Democrats for Cheney.

If the Republican primary were to be held today, here is an early prediction:

Pro-Cheney – 35,000.

Dems for Cheney – 10,000.

Anti-Cheney – 25,000.

Pro-Hageman – 30,000.

This would result in a 10,000-vote victory for Hageman over Cheney.

Although Cheney has raised over $10 million compared to Hageman’s $2 million, her success in this race will come down to one simple goal. She must convince thousands of Wyoming voters over the next two months to change their minds and vote for her. This could be a tough sell.  

Cheney’s job is to move the needle. She recently got off to a good start with a testimonial TV ad featuring dependable Republicans like Jack Speight, Rita Meyer, and John Turner praising her. These are all prominent members of the moderate wing of the state’s Republican party.

Despite her new-found media influence, what hurts Cheney is that she has lost most of her political clout in Washington, D.C. In most things GOP back there, she has become a pariah. She used to have amazing powers in the past but today in the U. S. Congress, much of that has disappeared.

Let’s talk about styles. Politically, Cheney and Hageman are not far apart, except for the Trump factor.

Hageman’s uniform is her black dress, her black hair pulled back to emphasize her flashing eyes, and her turquoise jewelry. Not sure I would recommend that attire to a candidate running for serious political office, but it is her walking and talking logo.

Liz, meanwhile, has adopted an improved Hillary Clinton look. She is all business with slacks, a blazer, and big hair. As a mother of five children, Liz presents a pleasant appearance looking trim and ready to go to work.

Both gals are mentally sharp. If you are taking either of them on, you better bring your “A” game. Their debates will be fascinating. This could have the look of a Heavyweight Boxing Match.  

Liz’s secret weapon will be the 10,000 Democrats, Independents, and other Trump-haters who will cross over to vote in the Aug. 16 primary. I talked with two of them this week, Tom Jones and Alan Culver, who said they are definitely crossing over on election day. A statewide Democrat leader told me that every single Democrat he knows will be crossing party lines to vote for Liz.  

Harriet’s secret weapon is that no matter how hard you campaign, it is very hard to get voters to vote in that mid-August primary. Voters would just about want to be doing anything in Wyoming in late summer rather than stopping what they are doing and going to the polls. Hageman’s supporters will go to the polls. She needs to get 55,000 of them.

Last big fight was 2018

The last GOP contested primary like this was in 2018. Voting were 117,752 Republicans, 19,459 Democrats, and 2,598 independents. Estimates were that more than 8,200 Democrats and Independents changed their party affiliation on election day to help elect moderate Mark Gordon over conservatives Foster Friess, Sam Galeotos, Taylor Haynes, and Hageman.

Harriet spent $1 million and got 25,052 votes in that 2018 GOP governor primary including gaining extensive name recognition. She ran a very efficient campaign spending less than half the money that Gordon, Friess, and Galeotos each spent, yet, she polled well. She was the top Republican vote-getter in five counties in that race, Campbell, Converse, Platte, Goshen, and Niobrara.

That same year in 2018, Liz outpolled Rod Miller 75,183 to 22,045 in the U S Rep race. The total was about 110,500 votes counting write-ins and other candidates.

A recent WPA Intelligence poll of Wyoming Republican primary voters conducted on behalf of Club for Growth PAC from May 24-25, 2022, showed that Hageman led Cheney.

The poll shows Hageman leads Cheney by 30 points and has the support of a majority of Wyoming Republican primary voters.

  • A majority (56%) of primary voters would support Hageman if the election were held today.
  • Just one-quarter (26%) would support Cheney.
  • State Sen. Anthony Bouchard is at 12%. Six percent of primary voters are undecided.

Republican operative John Brown of Lander, who supports Cheney, said: “I’ve seen a lot of Hageman signs, especially up near Buffalo and Sheridan. It looks like that’s her stronghold. However, Cheney signs have just been distributed, and I’ve seen a few in Lander, but I’ve seen more in Riverton, which surprises me! I’m tempted to predict Harriet will win based on what I’ve seen early in ‘sign season.’ However, I suspect we’ll see more Cheney signs than you might expect,” he said.

Pat Henderson of Sheridan felt women would put Cheney back in office because of their disdain for Trump. He said: “I met my bride in college, married very shortly after. We have a daughter. We have grand-daughters. The ladies that I know in Sheridan and statewide are mostly married, have daughters, and now granddaughters like us. They do not support Hageman in large part because of her association and fawning to Trump as well as his vulgar actions. I do not support Trump or Hageman nor do many women and men friends and colleagues that I know in considerable part due to these severe character flaws.”   

This is shaping up to be the most expensive political campaign in Cowboy State history. If Hageman spends $2 million for 55,000 votes, it would be $36 per vote. If Cheney spends $10 million for the same number, it would be $181 per vote.

Two months during a primary season can fly by quickly. Hageman will now be caught up in parade season. Cheney has confined most of her campaign appearances to more intimate groups.

Cheney has the money and Hageman has the momentum. Unless there is some bombshell scandal coming, it looks to me like this race is Hageman’s to lose. Stay tuned.

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Rod Miller:  Hometown Knucklehead Makes National News

in Column/Rod Miller

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By Rod Miller, columnist

I see that a hometown knucklehead got some national ink by being busted with the Patriot Front in Idaho. These stalwart patriots (small p) were crammed into a U-Haul trailer as they were on their way to disrupt a Pride parade in Coeur d’Alene when their skit was ended by the cops and they were charged with criminal conspiracy.

First off, you have to be a real asshole to be busted in Idaho for cosplaying a Son of Freedom or whatever. Our boy apparently fills that bill. And he came by it honestly.

For decades, these closed-minded fringe beings have lurked in the dark corners of America – in dim meeting halls in the deep web, in the shadowy places of their tribe’s secret hive mind. And in Cheyenne.

They’ve convinced themselves that they are some sort of original priesthood of Melchizedech, receiving revelations that trump the United States Constitution. They’ve appointed themselves Avenging Angels, sent here to put us all on a firmer doctrinal footing. By force, in necessary.

They go by many names in many different parts of the country. What they have in common is that they think they know what’s best for the rest of us, and they the have guns to prove it.

Well, that and the fact that they’re overweight and have no sense of fashion.

They’ve been here quite a while, and we’ve known about them for decades. One of these extremist groups, The Order, murdered Denver talk show host Alan Berg in 1984. They were from Idaho, but staged their final assault in Denver from southern Wyoming.

Extremism is no newcomer to the soil of Wyoming. Its been our neighbor for years.

Even the Chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party admits membership in The Oath Keepers, an organization recently indited for seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6 insurrection.

Did you just hear the collective gasp when I referred to January 6 as an insurrection? Yep, those are the folks I’m talking about.

I have personally seen these thespians parading around downtown Cheyenne during some liberal event. They march from food truck to food truck dressed in the latest tactical finery from, fingering an AR with one hand, munching on a taco with the other. Impeccable trigger discipline always on display.

They are WyGO wermacht, oath-bound to Romeo Bouchard. They have the bit in their teeth and they won’t stop until they have restored our Constitution to some unknown place in their own minds.

I think it was Molly Ivins who said, “I’ll support someone who rips up the flag over the Constitution instead of someone who rips up the Constitution over the flag.”

Our homegrown Rambo and his Patriot Front frat brothers showed precisely how much respect they have for our Constitution when they conspired to thwart other citizens’ First Amendment rights.

I think these extremist types want to inspire some sort of patriotic zeal in us, or get us all nervous with fairytales of the endtime. They must believe that, if we could just open our eyes and see the wisdom of their path, that we’ll follow them like lemmings over the nearest cliff.

Maybe they focus-grouped that approach and it seemed to make sense at the time. Maybe somebody got a Big Rock Candy Mountain revelation about how things should really be, and everyone bought into it in the zeal of the moment.

But it turns out to be little more than fodder for satire. Difficult satire, I admit because this stuff really isn’t funny.

And all that these gomers inspire in me is contempt. I hope I’m not alone.

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Dave Walsh: The Largest Home Crowd At War Memorial Where The Cowboys Won

in Dave Walsh/Column

The clock is ticking.  We draw ever closer to one of our favorite seasons of the year.

Summer?  Well, yes.  Fall?  Sure, and that is really closer to the “season” I’m talking about.

We are very near the real start of the season of which I speak.  The participants will start preparing with fall drills in just weeks.  We’re talking football, of course.

And any who are associated with the great game are getting close to the start of what is now, this season.  The games begin, at all levels very soon. 

Cowboy Football is now just twelve weeks from their 2022 opener, and War Memorial Stadium will welcome its first Cowboy home crowd in just thirteen weeks.

Anyone who has ever attended a Cowboy football game in War Memorial Stadium will tell you.  Anyone who has sat in the stands, and truly experienced Cowboy Football LIVE! and in person, will attest to it. 

They will tell you that Cowboy Football, in War Memorial Stadium, is different.  They will tell you that Cowboy Football, in War Memorial Stadium, is special, it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind experience.

And like any other football venue in America, if you add in a big crowd, well, now you’ve got something even more special.  The players, and the game itself, are the “stars” of the show.  They are the attraction, that attracts the fans.  And the fans become such a part of the sights and sounds that make up the total experience.

The Cowboys will play their first home game, in War Memorial Stadium, on September 3rd.  The Pokes will take on Tulsa, and no doubt, are hoping for a big crowd.  Big home crowds are always the goal, and that holds true for all teams, in all sports. 

Any participant will tell you that there is a direct effect that the supportive energy passed from fan to participant is palpable.  The positive energy and intensity that is transmitted is truly a thing, it’s real.  And the more the merrier.

And that set me to reminiscing.  It has brought me to a recalling of some big Wyoming games played in front of big Wyoming crowds. 

We recently recalled the Cowboy Basketball game staged before the biggest crowd in Arena-Auditorium history.  The Cowboys won that game, and an outright Mountain West Conference Championship, in 2002.   

So what about Cowboy Football?   What has happened in front of Wyoming’s largest crowds in War Memorial Stadium?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been at Wyoming’s eight highest-attended home games, including the Pokes last five sellouts in War Memorial Stadium. 

I was broadcasting those games from the Wyoming Radio Network booth, with windows open, and crowd-involved.  And which big-crowd game at the War was the first game I thought of? 

It wasn’t the CSU game in 1997, with the biggest crowd ever in Laramie of 34,745.  It wasn’t the BYU game in 1990, with the second-highest attendance of 34,231. 

And It wasn’t even the 3rd-biggest crowd ever in War Memorial Stadium for the Nebraska game in 2011 that came to mind. That was the last sell-out crowd for a Cowboy game in the War with 32,617 in the crowd. 

Maybe these top-three all-time attended games didn’t first hit me because the Cowboys actually lost all three.  In fact, Wyoming has lost 6 of their 8 highest-attended home games ever.

The first big-crowd, big-game that came to mind for me was a game the Pokes played before 32,210 active and intense Cowboy Football fans in 1988.  And the Cowboys won.  It was a War Memorial Stadium record-crowd, and is still the fourth-best home crowd ever. 

And there were many other things going on that made this a very big game.  The Cowboys played the UTEP Miners that Saturday afternoon in November, in a game that was nationally-televised. 

The Pokes were 9-0, after pummeling their arch-rival, Colorado State, in Ft. Collins, the week before. 

The Cowboys were ranked 10th in the country going into the game, and a Wyoming win would give the Cowboys a second-consecutive outright Western Athletic Conference title.  It was 42 degrees and sunny, with a 20 mile-per-hour breeze. 

And it was the Cowboys, in front of that record crowd, who would breeze to a 51-6 victory.

The Cowboys rolled-up 507 yards of total offense that day.  Hall of Famer, Randy Welniak, threw for 3 touchdowns, and ran for another. 

Dabby Dawson carried the ball 16 times for 134 yards, and Sean Fleming kicked 3 field goals, one a 52-yarder.  And the Cowboy defense held the UTEP running game to an astounding minus-60 yards rushing, on 20 attempts.  That’s minus-3 yards per carry!

It was the biggest crowd for a Cowboy victory in War Memorial Stadium history, and remains so, some 34 years later.  And it was the 1988 Cowboys, to be inducted in this year’s UW Athletics Hall of Fame, who did it.

Rod Miller:  Real Estate Porn – The True Threat To Wyoming

in Column/Rod Miller

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By Rod Miller, columnist

If you want to understand why the state you love in changing around you, don’t blame the library for carrying books that describe people diddling. Blame your doctor or dentist for purveying Real Estate Porn.

Look at those glossy yachting magazines on the waiting room table in your urologist’s office. Golfing magazines, too. In fact, pick up any magazine dedicated to what rich people do for recreation.

Then follow your nose to the sagebrush-scented centerfold, featuring the latest offerings of Wyoming ranchland by Christies or Sothebys.

You’ll see a smiling real estate broker dressed to the nines in urban cowboy, Buffalo Bill, ten gallon, bolo-tied finery. The belt buckle he is sporting cost more than I’ve spent on Copenhagen and Pabst Blue Ribbon during my entire lifetime.

He wants to make your life complete – if you are on the Forbes list, that is – and sell you your own piece of heaven in the Cowboy State. He pitches the half dozen or so properties featured in the thumbnail photos.

In each image, the landscape in Wyoming is a lush green, and you can almost see the aspen leaves shimmer. To the knowing eye, each photo was taken during the 72 hour window in June when Wyoming actually looks like this.

The captions all read, “The only thing missing in this picture is YOU.”

His spiel begins with: “You are one of those rare, self-made men, Alpha to the core. You’ve beaten all your competitors, and you deserve to stand on your mountaintop. We have just the mountaintop!”

Thus begins the pornography.

Translated from Real Estate Porn into our local Wyoming vernacular it means, “You have your trophy wife, trophy yacht and trophy helicopter. Come to Wyoming and buy your trophy booger farm!”

The rest of the turgid, purple prose in the ad can likewise be translated.

When the ad says, “Fly-fish a blue-ribbon trout stream mere steps from your front porch.”, it means that you’ll need to stay at a motel in town during runoff because your ground floor will be two feet underwater.

Real Estate Porn says, “There’s a three hundred sixty degree view of mountains anywhere on the ranch. Not a neighbor to be seen.” The real world says that a quarter mile away, tucked down in a valley right across the property line is a very well-concealed meth lab policed by bikers.

When Real Estate Porn says, “Watch the sun come up and go down on your ranch, nothing obstructs your view. The night sky is like a bowl of stars from horizon to horizon.”, everyone in Wyoming knows that means that you are living somewhere in the Red Desert and nothing obstructs the wind, either.

And the moon and stars only look like that when it is twenty degrees below zero and the power is out.

“Your drive home passes through the most beautiful scenery on Earth” means that you’ll need to chain up all four, and you’ll have to walk the last half mile through (fill in the blank).

Real Estate Porn describes how the coyotes will sing you to sleep at night. What the coyotes are really singing is, “Buy more Shih Tzus!! They’re easy to catch and delicious.”

And yet they keep coming, these titans of industry and commerce who want to top off their resumes with the word “cowboy” by owning a ranch in Wyoming. They have swallowed the bodice-ripping descriptions of Wyoming by real estate pornographers hook, line and sinker.

These are the folks we should keep a close eye on, and not our librarians.

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Cat Urbigkit: Risks & Rewards of Storytelling

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

Ranchers sometimes complain that their views aren’t reflected in mainstream reporting, but when invited to do interviews, we often decline. We let our designated industry spokespeople do the talking, and while that may work, it also results in reporting that remains distanced and insulated from what is happening on the ground and reporters are kept away from witnessing a rancher’s connection with animals and lands.

I’m one of the ranchers who often declines interviews, but I try to weigh the merits of the requests rather than automatically saying no. Because I’ve written extensively about conflicts with wolves, we get frequent requests from film companies wanting to visit, but most of these requests are declined, for a variety of reasons. When it’s obvious that we’re just a stop on the way to film wolves in Yellowstone, there is little incentive for our involvement.

This year, we were contacted by a production company working on a science-based series focused on the intersection of people and predators. I liked what seemed to be their honest curiosity about the issue and its complexities, and we agreed to host the film crew. Their visit coincided with our lambing season, and my family scrambled to have all the ranch work covered while my time would be spent with the visitors.

I met with the first two crew members to explain what to expect. As they drove into the lambing grounds, if a lamb suddenly jumped up and ran toward their vehicle, please stop, shut off the vehicle and wait for a ewe to retrieve the lamb.

That happened numerous times, as newborn lambs, startled by the sudden stimuli, raced toward the moving object. While the crew stopped and waited, ewes approached to claim their babies, giving an opportunity for filming the close bond and communication between lambs and their mothers.

I also explained that the sudden presence of a group of people approaching the lambing flock would not been seen by the livestock guardian dogs as a welcome presence, but as a threat or intrusion in the otherwise tranquil landscape.

The last time a film crew came to the ranch, a videographer tried to follow behind a guardian dog while holding a large piece of recording equipment low to the ground, getting a dog-level view. The dog, Panda, had barked and warned the guy to back off, but when he persisted, I had to quickly step in as the enraged dog wheeled around to take out the equipment.

I shared that story with the new film crew, so they were careful enough with Panda, but when one filmmaker tried a similar maneuver with guardian dog Harriet, I once again had to jump in front of the filming to intercept Harriet as she lunged to take down the equipment stalking her. {For the record, Harriet’s full name is Harriet the Horrible, and she suffers no fools among her flock with its newborn lambs.}

It quickly became apparent that Panda still held a grudge against film crews, so I ended up driving him to our camp where he was tethered away from the visitors. Harriet generally sulked amid her sheep, tolerating the crew since I was present. The other dogs either watched from scattered locations in the brush with their sheep, or left to chase coyotes.

It was a two-person crew for the first two days, but on the third day, three more people arrived. The show’s host and I had a good conversation sitting on the ground as we bottle fed orphan lambs I had transported to the location specifically for that purpose.

I wanted the crew to get to know some sheep up close, to share some of what we ranchers see, feel, and experience. That proved key to the success of the entire adventure as each crew member made a connection with our animals. Lambs followed us around as we walked, and they chewed on cables and tried to stick their noses in lenses as they busily tasted everything in the world around them.

The visit mostly went off without a hitch, but there were a few bumps. We had agreed to allow some drone filming, so long as the device was kept high enough not to disturb the sheep.

The drone operator got a little too enthusiastic and came in too low, so when I saw a ewe move away from her twin lambs, I yelled from a neighboring hilltop to get the drone up higher. By the time I had walked back to the crew vehicle, they jokingly expressed relief that I had left my Henry rifle down at the road and didn’t have it with me when the drone moved too low.

In the three days the crew were here, they were able to witness our young herding dog Fly as she moved a yearling steer away from a ewe in labor, without disturbing the ewe. They filmed Harriet’s tenderness as she tried to nap while being pestered by a lamb.

They watched me feeding salty crackers to an adult ewe who was penned at camp as she recovered from a difficult birth. They watched Awbi, a large guardian dog, gently roughhousing with small herding dog Fly, and were able to see how each type of dog does its very different job in the presence of the other.

When we hiked to the top of a hill where Harriet was perched early one morning, we found Harriet was keeping watch atop a coyote den. They learned why guardian dogs are so valued and treasured by those share their lives with these magnificent beasts. They witnessed these canine cousins of the wolf that spend their entire lives in service to another species – a species considered prey by their wild relatives.

When the professional filming was concluded, each of the five crew members took turns holding lambs and taking selfies on their phones. They were tickled to learn that lambs like to cuddle and fall asleep with friends.

Our last task was to film me reading aloud from one of the books I’ve written for children. The crew wanted to do this in my house, but I suggested since the book was about sheep and their guardian dogs, perhaps it would be more compelling if there were lambs present during the reading.

While waiting for equipment and lighting to be retrieved, I sat down with the book in an outdoor chair and set a sleepy lamb across my lap. That’s when the crew understood that this read-aloud had some real potential.

They moved my chair into the middle of a small pen with a half-dozen young lambs, and I proceeded to read the book to the attentive lambs as they chewed on the edges of the pages, and my fingers, with one lamb sleeping in my lap the whole time.

In the end, three days of filming a segment about our experiences with wolves resulted in many hours of footage of beautiful sheep and their guardians thriving in wild landscape, and each crew member had been personally charmed by those sweet lambs.

Two young filmmakers were able to witness a ewe giving birth. They were initially taken aback while watching the ewe’s labor, but soon marveled at the beauty of new life as the lamb and its mother vocalized to each other and the lamb began to try stand on its legs for the first time.

I pointed out the lamb as we passed a few hours later, so they could see the bright white lamb already walking alongside its mother. I learned that neither filmmaker had ever seen a birth of any kind, and I’m confident this was an experience they will never forget.

The show is expected to air next year, so we’ll have to wait to see what makes the final cut. But as a shepherdess, I’m content that what began as a discussion about wolves became an intimate view of sheep ranching in Wyoming.

Reporters and filmmakers can only get these views if we allow these glimpses into our lives and provide opportunities for personal experiences. There is risk involved, but the rewards may be significant.

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.

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Dave Simpson: Still Four Feet Of Snow? You Betcha!

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“The mountains are calling,” naturalist John Muir wrote to his sister in 1873, “and I must go.”

I know the feeling, but nature isn’t cooperating. Not yet.

As of  Monday morning, the government reporting station at Sand Lake in the Medicine Bow National Forest showed 50 inches of snow still on the ground – four feet, two inches.

Looks like a longer wait than the usual Father’s Day opening of Cabin Season, when Old Dave heads for the hills.

This will be Year 41 at the cabin. Getting to our little settlement of about 100 lots on private land over the hill from Turpin Reservoir may take a couple more weeks. It’s called Overlook, way up in the Snowy Range in Carbon County.

Moose often saunter across my land. There are black bear reports, but I’ve only seen one. (A cinnamon.) Plenty of deer. I hear elk, but never see them. Lots of hummingbirds and camp robbers. Chipmunks. Foxes.

When I spent six years at the Laramie Boomerang, and then a year as editor of the Rawlins Times, I had no idea that an acre of land midway between those two towns would soon be my getaway. It’s at 9,800 feet, and from the top of the Overlook you can see all the way to the back side of Casper Mountain, 100 miles away.

Lately, we have to cut our way in with chainsaws when the roads finally open up, as trees killed by the bark beetle infestation a dozen years ago fall as their roots rot away, often blocking roads.

My old college roommate from UW and I built the log cabin when I worked at the Casper Star-Tribune. We stacked logs for three summers, 14 footers, because that’s the longest log two guys with youthful exuberance but not much sense could handle. Then we built a roof, but didn’t get the end walls finished  in time, and a wet spring snow brought the roof down.

So we put it back up, with a bunch of cables, jacks, pulleys and come-alongs.

The cabin is 135 miles from Casper. But then my boss sent me to the paper in Craig, Colorado, and it turned out Craig was 135 miles from the cabin, too. Kismet, I guess. I got to know that wonderful road between Encampment and Baggs. (I saw what sure looked like a mountain man once  – a guy in buckskins on horseback near Aspen Alley. He asked for a beer, but I didn’t have one.)

When the kids were little, a trip to the cabin was a rite of passage. We drove all the way from Illinois for our two precious weeks in Wyoming, drinking Mountain Dew and eating Werthers caramels along the way. After a week at the cabin, we’d hit Saratoga for groceries and to do laundry. The kids loved the public pool. I loved Hobo Pool. Then pizza by the river, and back to the cabin.

They used to run sheep near Overlook, and you could hear them in the nearby meadow at night, and the occasional bell. Wonderful memory. The sheep herders killed a few mountain lions every summer, but now that they don’t run sheep up there, we hear there are more mountain lions. About five years ago I heard one outside the cabin in the middle of the night – there isn’t a word for the growl/scream it made – and I was glad to be behind log walls.

It’s a wild place, beautiful, but unforgiving at times, 50 miles from the nearest emergency room (been there, done that, three times). And the weather can be crazy. Snow is always a possibility at our Labor Day picnics.

Not for the faint of heart, but you wouldn’t believe the Milky Way on a clear August night.

My gear is stacked up in the garage, ready to be loaded into the pickup for Season 41.

I’ll conclude with something more contemporary than John Muir – Canned Heat’s 1968 take on getting away from it all, “Going Up the Country” by Alan Wilson:

“I’m gonna leave this city, gotta get away.

“ All this fussing and fighting, you know I just can’t stay…”

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Rod Miller: Corner Crossing With Dollars

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Photo by Mike Vanata

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By Rod Miller, columnist

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll repeat myself here. A year ago in April, I wrote about the persistent problem of access to public land in a column about Rep. Cyrus Western’s HB122. This was before corner crossing stepladders and trespassing drones muddied the waters even further.

But the subject is worth visiting again.

The Bureau of Land Management just purchased 35,000 acres of private land near Casper to add to the store of public land in the Cowboy State. BLM did two things with this purchase. First, they increased, by several miles, the amount of recreational access to popular fishing sites along the North Platte River.

Second, the BLM proved once again that the best tool for unlocking land and making it accessible to the sporting public is the good ol’ American dollar.

After all, this is Wyoming and we identify as capitalists. If we want something, we pay for it.

This purchase used a pot o’ dough called the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is appropriated from federal offshore oil and gas income. The purchase price was north of twenty million bucks, as I understand.

But this is a win for capitalism and the market, as well as for fly fisherpeople.

When all the haranguing and emotional hand-wringing about access to public lands fails, and when the appeals to egalitarianism and social justice don’t buy you even a step, there still remains one tool in the box that will get the job done. Money.

You really don’t need a fancy, all-terrain stepladder. You just need a checkbook.

Now to be sure, the government CAN take private property for a public purpose through eminent domain. If the federal government wants to condemn an easement across private property to reach every single public acre in America, it can certainly do so under our Constitution.

But it cannot do so without paying fair market value for what it takes. It still comes down to money. And condemnation cases are usually lengthy, costly and agonizing legal struggles made worse by a complicated appraisal procedure.

It is easier and quicker to simply do an arms-length, willing buyer-willing seller transaction, and avoid all the drama. And, without the rancor and acrimony of an adversarial condemnation proceeding, folks have a chance to be friends when the ink is dry on the deed.

As of this writing, both the Wyoming Legislature and a federal court have yet to weigh in on the gnarly problems of corner crossing and ownership of airspace above private land. And its anyone’s guess what those outcomes will be.

But whatever is decided in legislative chambers or courtrooms will involve money, one way or the other. And it will just be a more complicated, expensive and time-consuming way to involve money than a simple cash in the marketplace.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a program whereby recreational access across private land is purchased using funds derived from license and stamp fees. This fund should be supported by every Wyomingite who cherishes access to public land every bit as aggressively as legal funds for lawsuits.

Those same folks should be loud, insistent voices for Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Those of us who believe in opening more land to public access should be shaking these trees for money, instead of waiting for legal miracles.

Money has been securing land for Americans since Jefferson and Napoleon cut their deal for New Orleans. It worked then, and it works now.

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Dennis Sun: Beef, It’s Looking Up All Around The World

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

For those involved in the beef industry, the last few days have been somewhat positive. These days we’ll take any positives and sit up a little taller in the saddle.

Of course, the big news is the rain most of us have received lately in our region, and our favorite weatherman, Don Day, says more is on the way. We’ll take it. 

As of May 31, the Casper area has received seven inches of precipitation for the year. Over Memorial Day weekend, I’ve been holding rain dances, weather permitting.

While the cost of inputs and inflation are really hurting us, lamb and beef demand is high and predicted to go higher. Hopefully this will mean more dollars to the feeders and producers.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) held their spring conference last week, the first in-person conference since 2019. Those attending were from the U.S., Asia, Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, the Caribbean countries and Europe.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said, “To date, demand for U.S. red meat has been as strong as I’ve seen in all my years in the meat business, and remarkably resilient. But the question in my mind is, at what point do these inflationary pressures start to constrict disposable income for the global consumer? At what point will we see a crack in demand?”

The good news is he thinks the new foodservice and retail trends which exploded during the pandemic are likely here to stay. One speaker, author and consultant, Peter Zeinan, projected food insecurity will rise around the globe and said conditions are ripe for regional famines.

He continued to say, “While American farmers and ranchers face sharply higher input costs, their production and supply chain challenges are not as drastic as in many other regions of the world.”

So, despite significant obstacles, he emphasized U.S. agriculture is well positioned for robust growth over the next 10 to 12 years.

I was reading an article from Progressive Farmer, DTN saying the three bullish factors continuing to bode well for the feeder cattle market are beef cow slaughter, supply/demand mechanics and U.S. beef exports. A large minus for feeder cattle are the high grain prices.

As the article read, we have to realize 2021 was a record year for beef cow slaughter. Out of the 52-week calendar year, there were 18 weeks in 2021 when beef cow slaughter exceeded 70,000 head, which is incredibly unusual. 

But in 2022, there has only been one week when beef cow slaughter hasn’t exceeded 70,000 head. This was partially brought on by the drought. Fewer beef cows means demand for these cattle should strengthen, which should send prices higher too.

This past week at cattle auctions, cows were bringing upper $80 and bulls around $115 per hundred weight. These are prices we haven’t seen for some time.

The U.S. beef exports in 2021 were great and so far in 2022, exports have risen by over seven percent. This year-over-year growth in beef exports is a strong supportive factor in our U.S. beef cattle market.

In these times, it is great to read on positive overtones, and it is a great time to head to Cheyenne June 8-11 for the Wyoming Stock Growers Association 150th Anniversary Celebration and summer convention. 

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Clair McFarland: A Death-Defying Family Forage 

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Nothing in this column is meant as advice.  

We get more serious about foraging every year. The first year we tried it, we sprinkled dandelion greens on our sandwiches. The second year, we made spruce tea. Now my four sons and I race from the house in thirsty sockless sneakers with canvas pouches looped around our necks, nosing along the wild fuzzy hills for mustard seeds, cactus blossoms and Russian thistle sprouts.  

You can’t pick the Indian paintbrush because it’s the Wyoming state flower, according to my middle-born son.  

“But its blossoms are edible,” I protest.  

“Mom,” says Middleborn, as serious as a raven, “you wouldn’t like it in jail.”  

I doubt I’ll go to jail for poaching flowers, but I do all I can to uphold Middleborn’s occasional reverence for law and order. 

The Indian paintbrush isn’t the state flower in Colorado, so there’s nothing but high gas prices stopping me from loading up the boys, heading south, and harvesting a whole crop of dainty blossoms. And when a lawman pulls us over on I-80 with a trunk-full of plants, I’ll say “trust me officer, it was legal in Colorado.”  

But there’s plenty to forage right here in Wyoming. The lilacs taste terrible but they make a fine garnish. The blue mustard blooms taste of radishes. The dandelion roots can, reportedly, be plucked, washed, toasted, and ground into coffee, though I’ve never had the patience to test the theory.  

Then there’s the wild onion: Curse of my sanity – trophy of my appetite.  

“Before they flower, wild onion plants strongly resemble death camas, a plant that also has a bulb but is deadly if any part is eaten,” reads a foraging handbook by expert weed-eater Caleb Warnock.  

Not just deadly: the death camas is the deadliest plant in the West. Poison symptoms include vomiting, excessive salivation, tremors, weakness, loss of muscle control, convulsions, coma, and death.  

Pretty flowers, though.  

I admit, something in me wanted desperately to test the effects of the death camas. I wondered just how much it would take to sicken or kill me. Could get away with nibbling a leaf or a petal? Could I build a slow immunity and become the only human being living on death camasses? 

Even in the finest stages of life, there’s a dark cooing chord of the human soul that longs to taunt death, to stand up to it.  

Middleborn and I hiked a three-mile loop this week in the rain, popping wild onion bulbs from the mud with the butt-end of my knife. On our way home the slope spit us into a sprawling lowland near the canal.

And there were the death camasses.  

Middleborn plucked them all and bore them home in a muddy bouquet in both arms, so that none of the neighbors’ cows would have to die. Ever.  

I bit my lip and thought of the meatloaf in the oven.  

Once home, we laid the death camasses and wild onions in separate piles on the countertop while the other three boys oohed and aahhed around us.  

“Hold out your hands, touch the leaves,” I urged. “Smell the bulbs. Learn the differences.”  

The Husband walked into the kitchen and found us with our hands and noses buried in towering heaps of weeds, sniffing wetly through the mud.  

“What’s going on in here?” he asked. 

“Mom’s showing us the poison!” chirped the little, feisty twin.  

The Husband backed slowly out of the kitchen. I popped an onion bulb into my mouth. The boys’ eyes widened until they resembled the love-gaze of a catfish.  

“Mom, NO!” begged Middleborn.  

“It’s OK,” I purred. “It’s a wild onion, I promise.”  

“But what if it’s not?” 

“Well, then, I only ate one. You can watch me for symptoms the rest of the evening,” I said.  

“She’s gonna DIE!” bellowed Middleborn. “Take the camas to the ‘mergency room so they can make an antidote!”  

Middleborn stuffed a death camas into his pocket.  

“I am NOT gonna die,” I said. “I’d lose control of my bowels long before that point.”  

All four boys took a step away from me.  

The clock ticked, plucked up its courage, and ticked again. I didn’t die.  

Carefully, Firstborn and I scooped up the death camasses and carried them to the dumpster. We then shelled the wild onions from their fibrous brown husks and packed them into a Tupperware, while Firstborn absentmindedly drew figure eights on his inner calf with his big toe, the way he has since toddlerhood.  

Middleborn watched me with his wide green eyes. I still hadn’t died.  

We lured The Husband back into the dining area with meatloaf, had a nice dinner, and finished the evening with a board game and a brutal argument about whether salamanders get married.  

I tucked Middleborn into bed last.  

“Mom. Why were you OK with eating the death camas?” he asked.  

“Because I knew it was a wild onion,” I murmured back.  

“Would you ever eat a death camas?”  

I thought for a moment.  

I thought of Middleborn, how he still “borrows” my knuckle to scratch his nose. And Firstborn, how he can be coaxed into my arms when he’s gushing about the evolution of army tanks. And the twins, how they argue that the other “no, not me,” should have the last piece of watermelon.  

“No,” I said, stroking his downy temple with the side of my finger. “I’d never eat a death camas.”  

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Dave Walsh: The Old Rivalry Is Back As Wyoming Will Play BYU This Year

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By Dave Walsh, columnist

Athletic competition is so interesting.  Sports, and the games people play, draws a great deal of interest from folks that just get a kick out of watching others compete. 

There is a distinct passion for the “game” that those people play.  But any and all sports, team or individual sports, have become a natural curiosity for so many. 

The true fan relishes every game that their favorite team plays. The real sports fan enjoys every moment that their favorite athlete competes. Every game on the schedule is special, and every game will provide its own unique experience. 

Wyoming fans show these traits every time the Cowboys and Cowgirls play.  Every gameday is important. You only get so many. College football teams, for example, are only “guaranteed” a dozen games a season, at the most. 

Other sports play more games, but any player will tell you that they are all important. They’ll also tell you that some games are more important than others. They’ll say conference match-ups carry a bit more weight, and they’ll admit that “rivalry” games are even more intense.  And from what I’ve seen over the years, Wyoming fans feel the same way.

Cowboy football is just a little over twelve weeks away from its season opener. The Pokes will begin the 2022 season at Illinois for a first-ever meeting with the Illini. 

The Pokes will play two more non-conference games before taking on the Air Force Falcons in their first Mountain West Conference game of the year. And then, on September 24th, the Cowboys will play Game 5 on the schedule, their final non-conference game of the year. 

And it will be a game that most certainly will have a “rivalry” feel for Cowboy Football fans. I’m not sure that Wyoming players will have that same intensity that a game against a rival brings, but any veteran Cowboy football fan will absolutely feel it when the Pokes take on the BYU Cougars in Provo.

This year’s Wyoming-Brigham Young football game doesn’t have all the traits that most rivalry games have, but it has the history. 

These two don’t play in the same conference, like most rivals do. These two don’t play each other on a regular basis, and haven’t since the 2010 season.  The Cowboys and Cougars haven’t met on a football field in six years, not since the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. 

But for nearly a century, from the time they played one another for the first time in 1922, until that last meeting as conference foes in 2010, Wyoming played BYU 77 times.   

They first met as league foes in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference in 1922, continued as conference rivals in the Skyline/Mountain States Conference, the Western Athletic Conference, and the Mountain West Conference until 2010 when BYU left the Mountain West.   

This season’s Wyoming – BYU game will be a rivalry “re-kindling” of sorts. 

For so many years, particularly for fans in the western half of Wyoming, this game was the biggest game of the year. 

There was just a natural extra bit of intensity that the match-up generated each year. And it didn’t matter where the game was played, it could have been played on the moon. The fan fervor followed. 

Now, BYU fans would always say that Wyoming wasn’t really a major rival, they would claim the Utah Utes were their main rival. But for many Cowboy football fans, the Cougars were the enemy, and the Cowboys number one rival.

A Wyoming victory over BYU was a bit more fulfilling than other wins. And that held true in all sports.   These two could have been playing a tiddlywinks match and it would draw a crowd, and it would be intense. 

Cowboy football fans will long remember the win in a Laramie snowstorm over Jim McMahon and the 13th-ranked Cougars in 1981, the Cowboy victory in Provo in ’87, and of course, the Wyoming win over the Cougars the next season in Laramie. 

It was the ’88 season opener and Wyoming’s first-ever night game played in Laramie and War Memorial Stadium.

The Cowboys have had many rivals over the years. There are front-range rivals like the Air Force Falcons. 

There are bordering state, long-running rivals like the Utah State Aggies.  There seems to be a newly-developing rival in Boise State.  

And then there’s Wyoming’s longest-running rival, their most intense rival, the Colorado State Rams. And again, this is a rivalry that involves all sports. The Border War is as intense for the Cowgirl Swimming and Diving team, as it is for the Cowboy Football team.

This year’s Border War will be staged in Ft. Collins, Colorado, on November 12th. And it will be as wildly intense as ever. The Wyoming-CSU football game will be the 114th in a series that has covered three different centuries, and started in 1899.  Now that’s history, and that’s rivalry.            

So, this season Cowboy Football will play two games against a pair of old rivals.  Every game is special.  But those played against a rival, even more so.    

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Rod Miller:  Snake Oil Sales in Oil City or Why I Didn’t Go To Trumpfest

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By Rod Miller, columnist

I didn’t make it to Trump’s “Really Huge Ultra-Maga Grab-’Em-By-The-Wallet Pep Rally” the other day. I forget why I missed it. I think I had to take Good Dog Henry to the park or something.

But I read about it, and saw the pictures. I talked to folks who were there. And everything I have heard about this goat%#*@ confirmed to me what P.T. Barnum (or maybe it was H.L.Mencken) said regarding showmanship, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the average American.”

I am quite certain that ex-president (emphasis on “ex”) Trump didn’t leave Casper with empty pockets. But I doubt that the audience could say the same. Snake oil sells and its a bull market!

By all accounts, the event was a rousing, chest-thumping, RINO-bashing extravaganza of tribal bonding and ritual sacrifice of good fashion sense – sorta like a Grateful Dead concert except without good acid or really cool people.

I am ambivalent about Trump since he lost the election so gracelessly. To be sure, he can still attract a crowd. But so can a car crash or two dogs stuck together in the middle of the street. There are simply some things from which we are unable to avert our eyes.

I consider Trump to be the Pickett’s Charge of American Tea Party populism, the high water mark of MAGA. Its all downhill for him now, and gravity is not on his side. He has, in the parlance of our times, shot his wad.

His influence will continue to wane as more and more of us re-engage our bullshit detectors. His hardcore serfs will continue to roll coal and wave flags, but already their efforts seem defeatist and half-hearted.

Many faithful will leave the church because the snake handlin’ is over and a miracle didn’t happen.

And, speaking of Mike Lindell!! For Trump to trot this huckster out as some sort of paragon of our constitutional republic is a plot twist worthy of Mencken. The “My Pillow Guy” is indeed a sweaty man in a suit, sporting a bad 80’s pornstar mustache, and wearing an invisible tinfoil hat.

This polyester pimp had the gall to criticize how we in Wyoming conduct our elections! He rambled about dark, sinister forces that had stolen 20,000 ballots in the last election in the Cowboy State. What he lacked in facts or evidence for this bizarre assertion, he made up for with MAGA zeal.

Lindell has said that he’s spent thirty million bucks trying to prove that Trump won the 2020 election. Apparently, the U.S. judicial system disagrees with him, and he is being sued for defamation by a voting machine manufacturer. His track record speaks for itself.

For him to bring that tired old act to Wyoming and accuse us of insecure elections, and for ANY Wyomingite to applaud his tapdance at Trump’s pep rally, proves yet another Barnum truism – there’s a sucker born every minute.

If that is the level of political leadership that Trump brings to Wyoming to support his chosen candidates, then those candidates have my sympathy. The box score for Trump’s endorsement of favored candidates this year isn’t a pretty sight.

I don’t think that Trump’s Jello-Wrestln’, Monster Truck- Pullin’, Brandon- Chantin’ extravaganza made Liz Cheney lose much sleep. But, if it didn’t move the needle, it probably sold a ton of t-shirts and coozies, so there’s that.

And I guess everyone had a good time and met some new friends. And Good Dog Henry and I enjoyed our time at the park.

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Bill Sniffin: Reflections On The Force Of Trump At Ground Zero Wyoming

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Photo by Matt Idler

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus

Could it be that Donald Trump must have sold his soul to the devil many years ago? It appears he may have traded his soul for eternal youth.

Why? Because a man of his age and physical build should not have his energy. He behaves like an athlete 20 years younger than his 75 years. In three weeks, he will be 76, my age. I know something about how a man should act at this age, even an active man. A great many 76-year-old men act a lot more like our current president Joe Biden (79 years old) than act like Trump acts.

Trump is a physical anomaly and he was on full display last Saturday at his political rally in Casper with 10,000 of his closest friends.

One hundred minutes of listening to Trump at a live event is a political experience that I have not experienced in my long life of watching politicians light up crowds.

It was one hell of a speech. A one-of-a-kind speech. With barely a note, he railed against his enemies and touted his successes.

Photo by Bill Sniffin

He is aggressively endorsing candidates and he is putting his money where his mouth is. He is flying all over the country holding Save America rallies to promote support for his designated candidates.

Here in Wyoming, he has endorsed Harriet Hageman in her race against three-term incumbent U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the 2022 GOP primary.

Hageman gave a fine 12-minute speech using the theme “we are fed-up.” It was well-crafted and well-received. But she was just a warm-up act. Trump is the greatest political showman of a generation. He had the crowd screaming and jumping out of their seats. It was part pep rally and part rock concert. Surely, there has never been an event quite like this before in Wyoming political history.

As he asked the crowd: “Is there anything more fun than a Trump rally?” Hard to argue with that.

The crowd agreed with Trump that our current president is both a disaster and an embarrassment. Trump screamed it is time to take the country back from Joe Biden and his incompetent progressive schemers and dreamers that are destroying our country. Trump yelled at the crowd: “Wasn’t it better a few years ago?” 

My wife Nancy and I had planned to also take in some events on the periphery as Cowboy State Daily sent political reporter Leo Wolfson to handle the hard news coverage. Photographer Matt Idler was charged with taking spectacular photos of the events. (Note: The combined coverage by the Cowboy State Daily staff was extraordinary.)

My job was going to be hanging around the fringes and report on the interesting things that popped up in front of me.

I had applied for both press passes and general admission passes. I never heard back on the press passes. Both Leo and Matt received theirs. 

The plan was they could cover the big event inside on Saturday and I would hang around the outside with the expected 10,000 overflow crowd, which could be even more interesting.

The press tent opened at 10am and it seemed that it might be worthwhile to appeal my case. Surprisingly, they had my name in the database and very nicely invited Nancy and me into the building with our passes around our neck. This was going to be great! I was going to be a live witness to this amazing event.

Photo by Bill Sniffin

This was a lucky break because the folks waiting outside for those general admission tickets did not get in until after 1 p.m. Some folks paid as much as $500 to get “expedited” entrance. Plus, the majority of the folks were in the longest line I have ever seen – was it a quarter mile long? It went on forever.

So, we joined other members of the press in a comfortable press area and I pondered what this was going to be like?

In an earlier column, I had predicted this could be the biggest political crowd in Wyoming’s history. It needed to surpass the estimated 16,000 by Barack Obama in 2008 during a visit to Laramie. Some preliminary estimates were that 20,000 might attend this Trump rally, including by me.

Although Trump was only there for a brief time Saturday afternoon, Wyoming Republicans were busy from Friday morning on. We got to Casper Friday and attended one of these warm- up events.

We drove all over Casper Friday afternoon and saw three big Trump stands selling tee shirts, hats, banners, flags, and other paraphernalia. I am sure they sold lots of stuff but I did not see anybody visiting the stands in the 40mph winds.

Our Friday activities included attending the special premier of a pro-Trump movie called “2000 Mules.” 

Kim Praeuner, a banker from Newcastle, sat next to Nancy and me during the screening of the movie. Kim said she is a big Trump fan because she worries about her grandkids’ future.

The documentary offers some compelling evidence that there were irregularities during the 2020 presidential election. The film showed endless examples of stuffed ballot boxes and middle of the night activities in the contested states.

The Rialto Theatre in Casper was sold out by enthusiastic Trump fans and the electric-powered reclining seats were just fantastic. The movie was a little dry and it was tempting to take a little nap – but I didn’t.

The loudest reaction was a chorus of boos when Liz Cheney was featured in one opening scene.

GOP State Chairman Frank Eathorne introduced the movie to the audience. He said he had met with the movie’s producer Dinesh D’Souza and arranged this exclusive premier showing in Casper. Eathorne believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. “This movie shows the smoking gun. I hope as many people as possible can see it,” he concluded.

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Aaron Turpen: Would An Electric Car Fit Your Wyoming Lifestyle?

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Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

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By Aaron Turpen, Cowboy State Daily automotive columnist

The question posed in the title is a fun one because most people have a knee-jerk answer for it. Usually not a nice one. But considered on their merits, there are use cases for electric vehicles in Wyoming beyond the golf course and rental scooters downtown.

For whatever reason, many Americans seem to equate electric vehicles with politics. Sure, like everything else, there are some politics involved, but for the most part, an electric vehicle (EV) is just a thing. It’s a tool just like tin foil and a hat are tools. Having either or both may or may not make a statement about you, but in the end, an EV is a tool of transportation.

Even if we derive that EVs are somehow “anti-Wyoming” because Wyoming produces energy, that’s still a short-sighted assumption. Wyoming produces energy and electric cars use energy. In fact, we as a state would stand to make more money because more electrics would mean more energy is required and we are a net producer of that energy.

So lets consider what lifestyles can and could be utilizing an EV soon.

The clearest use case is for commuters. Whether driving 20, 50, or 100 miles on a commute (one way or round trip), an EV means that drive is a whole lot cheaper. Most of the electric vehicles currently on the roads with Wyoming plates are a second or third car for a household and are used primarily to commute either to work or through daily driving needs. The cost difference to drive an electric vehicle daily versus putting gasoline in the average four- or six-cylinder vehicle for the same job can be substantial.

On a commute of 50 miles per day (which is about double the national average), an EV would save someone paying $4 per gallon at the pump a whopping $986 per year. That’s assuming the gasoline car is achieving 35 mpg, which is about 8 mpg higher than the national average right now.

At 250 miles per week, that’s 13,000 miles per year. Those miles divided by 35 equals 371.5 gallons of fuel for $1,486. If gasoline prices somehow drop to the now-dreamy $2.85 per gallon of pre-pandemic days, that’s still $1,059 in fuel.

The average electric vehicle uses about 0.35kWh per mile and the current electricity price in Wyoming is about 11 cents per kWh. Meaning an EV uses about $500 in electricity for that same year. Those savings don’t account for the additional cost savings coming with less maintenance and lower brake wear also associated with electric vehicles.

Given that most electric vehicles now have a range of at least 150 miles per charge and most are well over 200 miles per charge, the “range anxiety” thing is a little overblown.

And the winter “stuck in a snowstorm” scenario making the rounds on the internet has been debunked thoroughly as an EV would actually keep the passengers warm longer than would an idling gasoline vehicle of any size, assuming all other things are equal (amount of fuel/charge and attempted temperature level in the vehicle).

And with no tailpipe emissions, there’s no danger of the tailpipe being clogged as snow piles up, becoming dangerous for the vehicle’s occupants.

The next use-case scenario that makes sense for an electric vehicle in Wyoming are vehicles with fixed mileage requirements. Delivery vehicles and the like, which work on more or less set routes with set parameters for expected mileage each day.

These vehicles are not only predictable for electricity usage and mileage needs, but would also see less maintenance and costs associated with them over time thanks to no requirement for routine oil and filter changes, lower brake wear, and so forth.

Those who routinely use a truck to haul trailers, heavy loads, and so forth are not yet going to find an EV that matches that workload.

Long distance drivers (meaning more than 100 miles each way) are also not likely to be served well with an EV as they are now. But for those who only do those things occasionally or who routinely drive shorter distances, there is a solid argument for going to an electric option.

As more and more of them enter the market (like it or not, that’s what’s happening), the choices for an EV will also grow quickly.

Your politics may dictate that you cannot fathom an EV for any reason. That’s fine, but don’t pretend it’s for any reason other than those politics.

Logically, an EV makes sense for a lot of people. And the infrastructure to support them is coming thanks to tourists who are beginning to appear in Wyoming driving their EVs from their home states.

Aaron Turpen is an automotive journalist living in Cheyenne, Wyoming. His background includes commercial transportation, computer science, and a lot of adventures that begin with the phrase “the law is a pretty good suggestion, I guess.” His automotive focus is on consumer interest and both electronic and engineering technology. Turpen is a longtime writer for Car Talk and New Atlas.

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Eating Wyoming: Eating Yak Meat With Cosmetics Mogul Jeffree Star

in Eating Wyoming/Column

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

This past Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of people gathered early in Casper on a Saturday morning so as not to be left out of a big event that was about to take place. An event so HUGE that people lined up for hours to get in. 

Now, you might think that I’m talking about the big Harriette Hageman-Donald Trump rally over at the Ford Wyoming Center, but you would be wrong. 

Let me take you back to the Friday before and you’ll understand. 

It’s late evening when I get a text message from my editor Jimmy Orr and he had an assignment for me. The conversation went like this…

Jimmy: “Hey Tim! How would you like to cover a story tomorrow for Eating Wyoming?” 

Me: “Sure thing. What ya got?” 

Jimmy: “You know who Jeffree Star is?” 

Me: “The YouTube makeup guy here in Casper?”

Now I’m thinking he got Eating Wyoming confused with something else, but then…

Jimmy: “Yeah, he’s selling yak meat tomorrow from his ranch in Casper.”

Me: Yak? Oh cool! This should be interesting. I’m in!”

Are you all caught up now? No? Don’t know who Jeffree Star is? I’ll quickly fill you in and explain how he came to raise yaks in Wyoming. 

Jeffree Star is an entrepreneur and the founder of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, a cosmetics line estimated to be worth over $1.5 billion. Star is also a YouTuber and has one of the platform’s largest followings at 16 million subscribers.

A former Los Angeles resident, Star left the glitz of LA and moved to the quiet of Casper, purchasing a ranch at the foot of Casper Mountain. 

In my interview with Star, he explained that he always wanted “…a lot of land in the middle of nowhere.” 

With all this land now at his disposal, Star decided to take up yak ranching. But why yaks? Even more important, what is a yak? 

While traveling in the Swiss Alps years ago, Star came across, as he described it, a sea of yaks grazing on a pasture. It must have been a scene straight out of the film “The Sound of Music.”

Having never seen a yak, he asked “Are these hairy, horned cows?” 

Later he explained to me that these animals are the divas of all bovines, and thus he fell in love with yaks. 

Fast forward to his new, though animal-less, ranch in Casper. He had all this land to use, yet never thought about raising animals.

But then, remembering those Swiss divas, Jeffree realized how awesome it would be to raise yaks.  One problem, he didn’t know anything about raising them. 

Quickly Googling “yaks in Casper,” he found the only place in Casper that’s raising them, Prairie Wind Yak Ranch. Star reached out to the owner Sunshine Schultz, who gladly invited him to come on down to her ranch. 

It was at this ranch where Sunshine and Star would meet (see what I did there?) and he would intern, learning all things yak. Learning their behavior, how to care for and groom them, even learning to trim their hooves with a grinder. 

As he describes it, “It was everything out of my element, but it felt natural and fulfilling.” 

Starting out with six yaks on 600 acres, the yaks had more than enough room, but as Star would put it, “Where are they? They get lost in the landscape.” So the Star Yak Ranch was born. 

It wasn’t until he tried the meat and looked up its nutritional value that Star started thinking about the meat production side of ranching. 

“It’s the perfect meat for people that can’t have most red meat, and it’s really good,” he said.

Today, Star Yak ranch has a full-blown, genetically controlled breeding program, with 120 head in four different pastures.  

Currently the ranch has about 40 pregnant cows waiting to increase the herd’s numbers. All the livestock are DNA tested, tagged and entered into an online registry with 

However, only a few lucky pampered yaks are pets. The rest are destined to be dinner. 

This is a true prairie-to-plate operation and 2022 is the first year for the sale of Star Yak Ranch meat products.

If the lines at this first sale were any indication of interest, those 120 cows better get busy for next year too! 

Now you should be all caught up. 

When I arrived at Star’s warehouse in Casper, there were already cars lining the road, waiting for the sale to begin. I queued up and entered the small room in the front of the building, where four 8-foot chest freezers were loaded with beautifully vacuum-packed cuts of all kinds. 

There were about twenty cuts available, ranging from ground yak to ribeyes, tenderloins, roasts and even yak tongue, which Star says is one of his favorite cuts. 

I selected a few cuts to sample and patiently waited for an opportunity to talk to Star about his ranching operation. As I waited, the line outside grew longer and longer and longer! The tiny front room was quickly filling up with customers.

Some people were there as much for a meet as for meat, that is to say, to meet Jeffree Star. Star posed for photos with folks who were eager to try what was on sale. Consequently, I had to wait my turn in line. OK, not actually in line, but off to the side as Star expertly worked the crowd. 

After patiently waiting, I was given a nod to follow Mr. Star back into the quiet of the warehouse, where I would conduct the interview for this article. 

I’ll have to admit, I love people who are passionate about what they do, whether it’s a hobby or profession. Star is obviously passionate about yak ranching, saying he’s really embracing the Wyoming ranch life. 

The culture here is much different from his native Huntington Beach, California, but as he said, his neighbors have all been inviting and happy to show him what it takes to be a Wyoming rancher. 

After one of the easiest and most fun interviews I’ve ever done — one in which Star was excited to share his new passion for ranching — I returned to the front room.  I had expected the crowd would have thinned by now, but to my surprise, it was even bigger than before.

Looking outside, there was a line of people that had to be at least 75 deep! Not wanting to take up more of his time, I thanked Jeffree, paid for my yak, and somehow made it through the multitudes to the outside. 

Now I have a box full of yak in hand but what was I to do with it? Like most of you, I’ve never cooked yak. I picked out several cuts to try, eventually settling on making a yak chili with yak stew meat and ground meat. 

In the interview, Jeffree suggested cooking yak slowly, and in the case of burgers, not overcooking it. After all, it’s extremely lean, over 90%! I could have used a slow cooker for my chili, but being curious and impatient, I broke out my Instant Pot pressure cooker and really, who doesn’t have one these days? 

I used traditional chili seasoning but you should feel free to use your favorite recipe. The seasoning in this case wasn’t as important as the meat. 

I loaded up the pot and set it for 53 minutes, with a 15 minute natural pressure release. Most of the time I’ll use beef in my chili and it often comes out dry, but in this case, I was in for a surprise. 

At this point, you might be asking, “What does yak taste like?” Well, being in the bovine family, I would find out the meat is much like beef, but then again completely different. 

I was surprised how amazing yak is. Even after pressure cooking, it retained an almost sweet flavor. The stew meat I used was tender and not dry at all. 

There was no gamey taste, as with other super lean cuts like elk or venison. The yak had a very clean taste that didn’t overpower the dish. 

Honestly, going into this article, I didn’t know what to expect, having never prepared yak before, but I would use it again. The leanness of the meat has obvious health benefits and as with other Wyoming ranch products, it’s always good to know where your food comes from. 

If you would like to try yak for yourself, and I highly recommend that you do, look for Star Yak Ranch on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news on sale times.

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Cat Urbigkit: Gun Violence And Silencing the Language of Hate

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

Last week’s massacre of elementary students at a school in Texas, coming so soon after another deadly rampage in a grocery store in New York, generated many sincere but inadequate expressions of “thoughts and prayers” and once again predictable declarations for and against gun control. There were plenty of people making statements, but few were actually communicating.

It seems that earnest deliberations directed toward reducing gun violence and mass shootings are a rarity. Those who dare to discuss whether universal background checks or instituting age limits on certain firearms may reduce gun violence are promptly labeled “gun-control advocates.”

For some, any regulation addressing gun safety is seen as an attack on the Second Amendment. But how is regulation of gun safety any different than the voter ID requirements pushed by many of the same constitutional rights advocates? Using the same standard, aren’t voter ID laws an attack on voting rights? Doesn’t that mean those who advocated for such laws are “voter-control advocates?”

Just as predictably as Republicans pointed to mental health issues and the presence of evil in society as the cause for gun violence, Democrats pointed to gun ownership in America as the root cause. Both sides are busy issuing statements, attempting to score political points while blaming the other party.

Conservatives blame godless liberal policies for violence, while liberals blame the Republican religious-like worship at the altar of the gun, or claim they are captive to the gun lobby. Anyone within either camp who notes that the opposing party just might have a point is condemned.

That’s where we are at as a nation, stuck in a quagmire of virtue signaling instead of working to save lives. There are a few points both sides should agree on: anyone who would shoot and kill a group of innocent people is deranged; and we need to reduce the risk of such attacks in the future.

Since I don’t envision many of our political leaders crossing the aisle for in-depth policy discussions on this issue (especially in an election year when all the action is focused on playing to the base), I suggest that the first step we all can take is to silence the language of hate.

None of us should be engaging in language that promotes hate or hatred of anyone. We must reject political candidates who engage by claiming their opponents “hate you.”

Reject their narratives that call their opponents communists or fascists and other such deceitful pettiness aimed at dehumanizing their opponents. Reject their efforts to invoke fear and distrust. Reject the stoking of hatred and violence that they claim are merely jokes or hyperbole. Reject their claims that every elected official they disagree with is corrupt.

If their campaign is centered on “fighting the enemy” don’t expect them to come to the table to talk solutions. Their rhetoric indicates a desire to continue to fan the flames and make headlines, not seek out solutions. Our political opponents are not our enemies.

As President Abraham Lincoln stated in his first inaugural address: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Lincoln concluded his address with this: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

It’s time to call up those better angels, and the words we use in doing so matter.

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.

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Dave Simpson: Dave’s Hard-Learned Lessons For The Grads

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

A high school graduation party for a young man I shadowed on his first day walking home from grade school reminds me that it’s time for Dave’s Hard-Learned Lessons for the Grads.

(The young man’s mom drafted me – her next door neighbor – to do surveillance, and make sure the little guy got home safe. He dawdled a bit, but made it, and never knew I had his back.)

He’s heading off to Casper College now. So let’s ply him and his fellow grads with some Wisdom from the Geezers:

– Speech you don’t agree with isn’t a crime, Dearies, and might actually do you some good. Any college that protects you from speech, and provides “safe spaces,” therapy dogs and Play-Doh if your tender sensibilities are bruised – well, that school isn’t worth the powder to blow it to Hell.

– If you go to college, you’re going to meet some crazy people, and some of them will be in charge, Make the best of it. Pick up what you can. Don’t become a socialist. (Have you considered trade school?)

– It’s easier to take out the garbage than to argue about it with your spouse, significant other, partner, them, they, whatever kettle of fish you’re into. (It’s OK to mutter while you take out the garbage, but not too loud.)

-If your spouse does things that irritate you, like not zipping closed the cheese wrapper (I plead guilty), or leaving socks lying around (ditto), say, “I don’t know who these people are who come in our house at night and leave socks lying around, and don’t zip up the cheese!” Your spouse will get the message.

– If you require breathless, never-ending love, like in the movies, you’re in for some disappointments, Bunky. Breathless love is exhausting, overrated, and sooner or later someone has to stop making goo-goo eyes and take out the garbage. (See above.) Look for someone sturdy, who won’t blow away in the Wyoming wind, and who will be there for you when the anesthesia wears off.

– There’s a place in Heaven for the spouse who breaks the silence after an argument that has you both convinced you’ll never speak to each other again. Even if it’s just, “Pass the salt.”

– If you’re looking for unconditional love, get a Labrador Retriever. Works every time.

-If you want true freedom, save a little bit out of every paycheck. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up, and by the “oh, what a good boy am I” feeling you get. The freedom to say “I quit” is the best defense against a bad boss.

– Always try to be the best at whatever job you have, and you’ll be amazed at how you almost never have a bad boss. (In college, I had a factory job and was known as “Fast Dave, the Fastest Caustic Stripper in the Business.) Show up on time. Stay late. Get the job done. Hitch up your pants.

– If you want to get a tattoo, wait a week. Think about it. Go to exercise and look at some of the tattoos that looked cool long ago, but look like road rash today. Do you really want to look at the same thing for the rest of your life?

– Don’t expect some politician to make your life better. They usually do the exact opposite. Making your life better is your job, not theirs.

– Don’t spend more money than you make. That simple lesson has eluded generations of politicians. Unlike politicians, you can’t spend more money than you make indefinitely. It’s the road to ruin, Bullwinkle.

– Get a used car. New car payments destroy a tremendous amount of wealth, and that new car smell won’t survive kids.

– Buy a fixer-upper house.

– You’ll probably never save a million dollars. But if you invest, you can get there. Because you have the gift of time. (Is this a great country, or what?)

– Everybody gets to be a little crazy about something. For my wife, it’s Elton John concerts. For me, its a little cabin in the Snowy Range. No harm done.

– Stay in Wyoming.

(It’s the best.)

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Drinking Wyoming: Chugwater’s Stampede Saloon — Great Country Music, Stiff Drinks = Well-Won Hangover

in Drinking Wyoming/Column

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Merwyn “Mer” Nilson greeted us at the door of the Stampede Saloon and wanted to know if we’d brought our dancing shoes. We had. That’s why we’re here, to check out a place we’ve heard plays good live classic country music, which surprisingly is hard to find in Wyoming.

Already, we liked what we saw on the outside. A bone-colored, one-story stucco building with a long wooden porch and twinkly lights off a historic main street with hulking buttes in the distance. It looked like it had been plopped down out of a Western movie, complete with a covered wagon parked at the far end of the porch.

Mer, too, fit right in with the Western décor in his pearl snap cowboy shirt and cinched bolo tie.

The big open room was cluttered, in a good way, with old posters and other old West relics, including a well-worn piano pushed against one wall.

Mer led us to a table in the back next to the kitchen and beneath a full-length mural depicted a dozen or so cowboys and Indians shooting it out on a dusty, smoke-filled prairie.

Around us, families were hunched over plates at their tables while a little girl in a sparkly dress twirled on the edge of the dance floor where the band was busy tuning instruments. The room was full of cowboy hats and a steady hum of conversation and laughter.

This is what I thought all bars would look like in Wyoming, but as I’ve learned they’re rarities. And though I love dancing and live music, I rarely go out to hear it because I’ve outgrown the crowds of drunk dudes (and women) who slobber over your shoulder as they bump into people and pick fights — a description which unfortunately fits a lot of bars.

The Stampede was a refreshing blast to the past that was both welcoming and fun, not to mention properly lit, which in my experience is pretty hard for lots of bars to pull off.

Already, I liked the place and especially liked Mer, who took a moment to sit down with us and give us the low-down.

We’re in luck tonight, he said, because the best country music band in the world – Dakota Country – was playing. Admittedly, he might be a bit biased – though not inaccurate – given that his son Lance and daughter-in-law Lilly used to be in the band before giving up life on the road to buy the Stampede Saloon in Lilly’s hometown of Chugwater about three years ago.

Mer and his wife Margie, both in their 80s, sold their place in South Dakota to move to Wyoming to help the couple run the restaurant and bar.

Lance and Lilly’s music connections explained why the saloon in this off-the-beaten-path town of just over 200 had just about that many cars parked out front. Prior to this, Lance and Lilly had spent 37 years on the road playing music with some pretty heavy hitters, including playing backup for Johnny Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Jim Ed Brown and others as well as opening for country music legends like Charlie Pride, Sawyer Brown, Mel Tillis, Gene Watson, the Bellamy Brothers and more.

Today, Dakota Country still draws a huge crowd when they come to play in Chugwater, especially when Lance and Lilly join them on stage between washing dishes and slinging drinks in the bar.

Lance and Lilly have used their music connections to bring other big acts to Chugwater while also encouraging a whole new generation of musicians with monthly open mic nights, regular karaoke contests and an annual songwriting contest. 

We’re in luck yet again, Mer said, because tonight happens to be the songwriting contest finals and we’ll be among the judges in the crowd.

For his part, Mer, a former salesman and marketing rep, not only survived a couple of plane crashes during this days on the road but also is apparently single-handedly keeping country music and bluegrass alive with the largest album collection of anyone I’ve ever met. In short, he’s an interesting guy, but he’s got work to do tonight and can’t stay long.

Because we’ve arrived late, we’ve missed the buffet that is open some weekends but we’re able to order a plate of onion rings (our favorite) from the bar along with pretty stiff drinks, which you will never hear me complaining about.

You will also never hear me complaining about judging a songwriting contest because those four songwriters rocked, right down to the woman who warned “not to mess around with a fat old woman with white hair” who cut off her philandering cowboy’s pant legs with one warbly little tear.

She won my vote, as did the band. After a night of dancing and well-won hangover, I can safely say that the trip to the Stampede Saloon was well worth the nearly four-hour drive from Gillette and the overnight hotel stay at the Buffalo Lodge. As Lance said, it’s a great place to kick up your heels, have a bite to eat and make memories.

After all, isn’t that what life’s about?

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Dave Walsh: University of Wyoming Sports, A Family Affair

in Dave Walsh/Column

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By Dave Walsh, Cowboy State Daily

I love the “life lessons learned” as a participant in athletics. There are so many things one experiences when competing. 

Handling the highs and lows, and moving forward. The value of teamwork and dedication, to name just a few. And, of course, the support of others who are dear to you, is so important. 

And how about when It becomes, very literally, a family affair. Like when brothers play with brothers, or sisters play with sisters. It’s a deep connection with tradition and history when a son or daughter ends up playing where their father or mother played.

We have seen this wonderful show of tradition and sheer affection for the programs at the University of Wyoming for years. I just think it is so interesting, and a great show of respect, when a next-generation of Cowboys and Cowgirls end up representing Old U-Dub in competition. It’s the same feeling a Wyoming alum gets when a son or daughter attends UW. We see it in all sports at Wyoming, and it’s especially out front and a common occurrence for Wyoming football.

Just last season we enjoyed the senior year of an outstanding Cowboy linebacker, Ty Muma’s son, Chad Muma. Chad would go to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. 

Cowboy Offensive Tackle, Frank Crum, returns this season for the Cowboys. Frank is a third-generation Wyoming Cowboy. Father Gary and grandfather Earl both wore the Brown and Gold. Jack Walsh, the son of former Cowboy, John Walsh, will suit up for the Pokes this season. Nic Talich enters his first season for the Pokes, the redshirt-freshman linebacker carries on the Talich name. Cory Talich and Jim Talich were outstanding Wyoming linebackers a generation ago.

Many seasons ago, when I first went into the Wyoming Radio Network broadcast booth, a Cowboy linebacker by the name of Tim Gosar was making plays for the Pokes. Gosar was a Pinedale native, a junior that year, and would play his senior season in 1985. The very next season Tim’s younger brother, Gaston, would become a Cowboy, and the next season, in 1987, Pete Gosar would become a Wyoming football player. 

Tim was the first of three Gosar brothers to play for the Cowboys. Gaston and Pete would play together on the same Cowboy football teams for two years. It was back then when the Gosars performed so well for the Cowboys, and Pinedale became “Linebacker City”.

About that same time, in the mid-1980’s, the Earl brothers, Craig and Sam, from Rawlins were playing for the Cowboys. Jim and Marty Eliopulos, brothers from Cheyenne, were Cowboy linebackers in the 1980s Jim and Marty’s Dad, Alex, wrestled at Wyoming.

About a decade later, right at the turn of the century and the new millennium, a pair of Wyoming locals, who happened to be brothers, were playing Cowboy football together. They, like the Gosar brothers, played the same position. The two brothers from Wheatland played quarterback, and played it well. 

First came Casey in the year 2000. His younger brother, Corey, would letter for the Pokes in 2002, and would serve as Casey’s back-up for two seasons. 

And a Bramlet would hold down the starting quarterback job through the 2005 season. Casey and Corey Bramlet would both be named “captains” their junior and senior seasons. Casey Bramlet still holds Cowboy career passing records for yards, attempts, and completions. He threw for 9,684 yards, was a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2004 NFL Draft and would play four seasons in the NFL with the Bengals, the Atlanta Falcons and the Miami Dolphins.

Of course, this display of tradition and loyalty within families has been going on for as long as Cowboy Football has been played. The renowned Simpson family has been represented. Father Milward Simpson was a senior on the Cowboy Football team in 1920. The former Wyoming governor’s son, Alan, lettered for the Pokes in 1952. 

Over the years there has been a so-called “passing of the torch” by many. I suppose it’s somewhat natural to become a fan as a youngster of the school and team that your mother or father or sister or brother attended and played for. And it’s very natural to want to compete for the Cowboys and Cowgirls if your mom or dad or sister or brother did.

It’s very much a team effort, a family effort, when it comes to carrying on the family name in the Brown and Gold.

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Rod Miller:  Regulate Our Militia, And Regulate Them Well

in Column/Rod Miller

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Armed Americans are killing our schoolkids while they study. They routinely kill them by the dozens for various reasons all across our country. Let me repeat that, armed Americans are killing our schoolkids.

The murderers of our children are excused – if not of their acts, but of their tools of murder – by a populace that has been conditioned to accept firearm ownership as a symbol of our unfettered Constitutional liberty under the Second Amendment.

This acceptance has created a deadly inertia that prevents us as citizens from keeping our kids alive in school.

But these atrocities are NOT the work of a “well-regulated militia”, the opening words of the Second Amendment and the semantic justification prohibiting the “infringement” of private ownership of firearms.

These horrific acts are perpetrated by private citizens with hate in their hearts and nothing but freedom on their minds. These are not the acts of a “well-regulated militia”. These are the acts of armed thugs.

How are we to stop this horror? Thoughts and prayers sure as hell aren’t getting the job done. We Americans are long overdue in bringing this insanity to a screeching halt. Why don’t we act?

It might be because we have tied one of our own hands behind our back in how we look at the Second Amendment. Maybe we have convinced ourselves that it is all about protecting guns.

And maybe the gun lobby is complicit in our self-delusion.

Maybe we need to read the Second Amendment not as a Constitutional prohibition of firearms regulation, but rather as a Constitutional requirement for the regulation of people owning firearms. I don’t think that the term “well-regulated militia” could be any more clear.

What if every gun owner in America was required, as a prerequisite of gun ownership, to belong to an organized and regulated militia? How would that violate the Constitution?

The Second Amendment’s authority could be used to gather all gun owners into an armed citizens’ militia intended (as I think the Framers intended) to protect the nation instead of terrorize it. And they would be given the training and discipline to do it much better than they are doing now.

What if, as a condition of gun ownership, citizens were required to submit themselves to military discipline like a rigid chain of command, regular conditioning and training, a military code of conduct, advancement by merit and other regulations of their behavior? That is certainly one valid way to look at the Second Amendment.

This well-regulated militia could serve as a civilian adjunct of our National Guard, and be called to active duty in times of emergency. They could not only help the National Guard protect our borders and our schools, they could also help fill sandbags during floods, rescue folks from blizzards and otherwise make themselves useful.

They would learn that being an armed citizen means a lot more than shooting bad guys or kids. Succinctly stated, they would be inside the tent pissing out and not outside pissing in.

I see no reason why Romeo Bouchard, Aaron Dorr and the whole WyGO crew wouldn’t jump at the chance to do something that actually helps protect gun ownership instead of just flapping their gums about it. They should be the poster boys for this well-regulated militia and what it can do to fulfill the promise of the Second Amendment, and not just hand models for Glocks.

Meal Team Six and the Wyoming Full Gospel Gun & Glee club should be right up at the front of the recruiting line for this effort. With a little discipline and training, they might not look like such imbeciles when they go strapped.

A well-regulated militia that deserves the name would help protect the state and the nation in times of need. The would be responsible gun owners. They would not consider their fellow citizens and their school children as little more than target practice.

We tried thoughts and prayers and kids keep dying in school. Let’s try something else. Lets try a well-regulated militia for once.

Rod Miller is a life-long Republican and Wyoming native. Born into a ranching family that has been in the Cowboy State since 1867, he ran against incumbent Liz Cheney for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat in 2018.

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Hageman Energizes Crowd At Trump Rally With Vow To Fight Cheney, Democrats

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics
Photo by Matt Idler

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Vowing to fight against Democrats in Congress if elected to replace U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, Harriet Hageman told her cheering supporters on Saturday she is determined to defeat the three-term congresswoman.

Hageman, speaking to about 10,000 people at the Save America Rally at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper, offered a laundry list of items she intends to battle in Washington, D.C.

“We’re fed up with the Democrats who want to destroy our country and take away our rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution,” she said.

Hageman took the stage around 4:25 p.m., following a series of national and state political figures who all expressed their support for her in her GOP primary race for Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

Her promise to defeat Cheney brought an enormous roar from the audience, with nearly every spectator standing up. 

Photo by Matt Idler

She referred to Cheney as a “Virginian,” and said constituents have told her they are fed up with the federal government, baby formula shortages, gas prices, fertilizer prices, illegal immigration, fentanyl and the overall supply chain.

She also criticized the Green New Deal and attacks by the Biden Administration on fossil fuel industries.

“In short, we’re fed up with inflation,” she said.


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Hageman ramped up from here, moving on to bread and butter conservative talking points and Cheney.

Hageman started her speech promoting her Wyoming heritage and upbringing.

“I know what it means to ride for the brand,” she said. “I have fought for Wyoming and will fight for you in Washington D.C.

Hageman, a land and water attorney, said she will protect Wyoming residents’ liberties and said on Aug. 16, “we’re taking our country back.”

Hageman entered the race for U.S. House in September and won Trump’s endorsement just hours later.

Cheney and Trump have been at odds since Cheney began criticizing Trump’s claims that the presidential election of 2020 was stolen from him.

She also voted for his impeachment an allegations he incited the invasion at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Photo by Matt Idler

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