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Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson: What In Sam Hill Does That Mean?

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By Dave Simpson, columnist


It’s one of those words that you’d like other people to think you know the meaning of, but which, if someone put a .44 to your head, you’d have to admit that you don’t know what the ding-dong heck it means.

(Ding-dong is an expression which people who know the meaning of heterodox are unlikely to use. I use ding-dong all the time, to add emphasis. And zing. I also used to use the exclamation, “Gnarly, Dude!” until my wife made me stop. I don’t know why.)

Many otherwise smart people are hazy on what heterodox means. I asked my aforementioned wife – who has more advanced degrees than you can shake a stick at, and actually knows what “T-cells” are – and she had to think awhile before coming up with what in Sam Hill heterodox means.

(Sam Hill was a Michigan surveyor in the 1800s who “allegedly used such foul language that his name became a euphemism for swear words,” according to Wikipedia, so it has to be true. Another source says it’s a euphemism for “hell.”)

A political pundit used the word heterodox on TV the other day, and even though I spent many years as a reporter and editor, and am proud to say I’m an “inveterate” reader (chronic, repeated, habitual), I didn’t know heterodox from Hydrox Cookies. (I miss them.)

Turns out – according to the dictionary they made me buy when I was a college freshman – heterodox means “departing from or opposed to the usual beliefs or established doctrines, especially in religion.”

(My wife would be wont to say, “Then why in Sam Hill didn’t you just say opposed to usual beliefs  instead of heterodox?” She can be kind of touchy.)

Instead of saying heterodox, a normal person might say “hare-brained notion,” or “cock-and-bull story,” thought up by someone experiencing a “wild hair.” That’s how folks who aren’t pointy-headed intellectuals talk. And heterodoxy, adding the “y,” is apparently the habit of telling cock-and-bull stories to assuage one’s wild hair. Simple as that.

Of course, people on television, who make way more than normal people and have much better hair, have to say things like heterodox because that’s the way beautiful people at cocktail parties talk.

That’s why they also use the word “tranche.” This one wasn’t even in my old college dictionary, so I had to turn to the computer to find a definition.

Turns out tranche, according to something called “Investopedia,” is “a French word meaning ‘slice’ or ‘portion.’”

Normal people like us might be tempted to say, “Well, why in the dickens didn’t you just say ‘slice’ or ‘portion’ then?” (I’m giving Sam Hill a rest here.)

People on the stock channels on TV, and some political reporters, like to slip in the word tranche to imply that they know French, in reference to yet another big slice or portion of money, usually borrowed federal money, that is being moved in installments to wherever, for whatever reason. (Probably to no good.)

You could substitute “boatload,” or another “load” expression I can’t use here, instead of tranche. But then people wouldn’t think you know French. And we can’t have that.

Back during the last administration (I can’t even remember the name of that last president, can you?) the pundits were fixated on the word “dystopian.” You heard it all the time to describe our sorry state. It means “an imagined world or society in which people lead dehumanized, fearful lives.”

(Journalists are a sunny, optimistic bunch, aren’t they?)

The good news is that with our new president, nobody in the press corps is using the word dystopian anymore. (Call me heterodox if you like, but I’m feeling kind of dystopian today.)

Speaking of the press corps, they like to call each other “colleagues.” I never worked at a paper large enough to have colleagues, just “people I work with.” Sad.

Years ago, the word “gravitas” (depth, heft) shot to the top of the charts, and all God’s journalists had to work it into their stories. But they plum wore it out, and you hardly ever hear it anymore.

Maybe heterodox and tranche will go the way of gravitas.

We can only ding-dong hope.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Landlords

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

It is said that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys the boat, and the day he SELLS the boat.

(The second day tends to be happier.)

Painful, hard-earned experience tells me the same can be said for rental property.

For the past 15 years, I have been driving past a rental house along a busy road that leads into town. Back when we were fixing up run-down houses and selling them for a profit (very little profit, trust me), this house popped up on our radar screen.

I must have done something good sometime in my life, because karma kept us from buying the place.

In those 15 years, I’ll bet I’ve seen two dozen renters move into the place, then move out. When they moved out, there would usually be a big pile of junk by the door. The landlord would haul off the junk, and a few days later new renters would appear.

For a while, a renter was doing car repairs in the driveway. Then someone appeared to be renting equipment out of the place. And every time I drove by, I would thank my stars that it wasn’t me looking for a buyer, or a renter, or hauling off junk left by the last renter.

In the latest iteration, the pile of junk left by the renters was so big that they brought in a dumpster to haul it off. On top of the pile of junk in the dumpster, I spotted a toilet and a bathtub.

Now that’s some serious repair work.

Every time I drive by, I pity the poor landowner, and think, “I feel your pain, brother.”

At one point years ago, we were renting out two houses that we couldn’t sell. We were living 900 miles away. So we couldn’t keep an eye on either place. And a property manager wasn’t much help.

We learned the hard way that there are two kinds of renters – very good renters (bless them) and very bad renters. Not much in between.

One of those houses had some nice drapes that I paid plenty for when I lived there. It didn’t take long for the cat owned by one of the first renters (I specified no pets, but how do you enforce that from 900 miles away?) to shred those drapes and saturate the tatters that were left with (there’s no nice way to say this) cat pee. Ever spent much time around cat pee?

The drapes and all of the carpeting went to the dump.

In the basement, someone had painted a very large purple unicorn on the wall. As unicorn portraits go, it was well done. But I’m just not a unicorn guy. The sprinkler system I had installed was never turned on because nobody wanted to pay for the water. So the lawn, which no one ever mowed, went to seed.

The crowning blow was when a renter moved out without paying the rent (pretty much par for the course), and stole my refrigerator. I reported it to the police, but they told me that would be a “landlord/tenant dispute,” and they weren’t about to pursue it.

Stealing a $300 refrigerator seemed like a felony to me.

As a landlord, I was an innocent lamb being led to slaughter. I wasn’t nearly tough enough.

I learned that to be a landlord, you need the disposition of a prison warden, with a demeanor that tells renters you eat puppy dogs for breakfast, and kittens for lunch.

When you’re young, landlords can seem mean and unreasonable. Get a few years under your belt, however, and it is the occasional bad renter – probably with a cute little kitten in tow, brim full of pee – who is the cruel one, destroying the house that was once your pride and joy.

Two of the happier days of my life were the days we finally sold those two houses.

My heart goes out to the guy fixing up that house I see on my way into town every day. I had some damage, but I never had to replace a toilet and a bathtub.

Hug a landlord today.

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Dave Simpson: Both Sides Get Their Share Of Crazy

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“There’s lunatics out there, and some of them are on our side!”

That’s a quote from noted cowboy poet and veterinarian Baxter Black, and I think it about sums up our country at this point. Turns out we’ve all got some lunatics on our side, and anyone who pays attention to the news darn well knows it.

(I heard that Baxter Black quote last weekend on the Clear Out West Radio Show, hosted by Jim and Andy Nelson. I never miss it. I didn’t know I was the family “pot wrestler” until I heard a poem about cowboy cooks on COW Radio.)

A guy has to keep up with the news to know who among us is trending toward the high end of the open-ended lunacy scale. So, let’s catch up on some current events:

– For months now, I’ve been seeing a car parked at the grocery store with this bumper sticker (mentioned here once before):

“Ted Bundy was a Republican.”

Now, I’m a registered Republican, so you’d think that I’d be offended by this driver reminding us that brutal serial murderer Ted Bundy – executed in the Florida electric chair in 1989 – was at one time an up-and-coming young Republican in Washington State.

I find, however, that I am amused by the bumper sticker, because it is such a concise (five words) summation of this person’s political beliefs. Not many of us could distill our politics into a mere five words, and the world would be better off if we could. We could get on to talking about other things, things that might actually make a difference.

Nevertheless, it occurs to me that there is a perfect bumper sticker response to Bundy being a Republican:

“John Wayne Gacy hung out with Democrats!”

(There’s a photograph of the Chicago-area serial killer – executed by lethal injection in Illinois in 1994 – with former First Lady Rosalynn Carter in 1975.)

Both parties, apparently, get their share of serial killers.

– A guy at exercise has a t-shirt that says, “De-fund the Media!” (I didn’t tell him about my former line of work.)

Problem is, much of the media has already been de-funded. According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper advertising revenues are down 70 percent over the last 20 years. And research done by the University of North Carolina shows that more than 1,800 newspapers have closed since 2004.

I understand not liking the mainly liberal mainstream media. But this is a sad development for those who want our local news.

– Humorist Garrison Keillor once observed that “a great newspaper is a great newspaper,” but a bad newspaper is “a joy every day.”

As an old editor, I made my share of mistakes, maybe more than my share. (Oh, the stories I could tell.)  But Keillor is right that catching the local editor in a misspelled word, an incorrect name, or a bone-headed mistake is one of the true joys of subscribing.

– Another guy at exercise has a t-shirt that says, “There’s BEER in them there hills!” which makes me smile. And another guy arrives in a fur coat over his exercise clothes, looking for all the world like flamboyant Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

A stocky guy wears a t-shirt that says, “Eat more SPAM!” And a lady at Walmart this week had a t-shirt that said, “I don’t get drunk. I get AWESOME!”

– One thing I’m not noticing at exercise lately is guys walking around buck naked in the locker room. (I once wrote that they act like they’ve got a winning entry in the county fair.) I haven’t had to divert my eyes from a naked guy in quite some time. So we can all thank our stars for that.

– In a podcast this week, Bill O’Reilly mentioned something he’s been hearing lately from observers in Washington:

“If it ain’t broke, Biden will break it!”

– And lastly, I mentioned to my wife the other day that spotting corned beef on sale at our local grocery store for 99 cents a pound was more exciting than anything that has happened to me in a long, long time.

Pretty sad, huh?

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: Who Cares? Let Our Kids Pay!

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“Why do you care about the debt?”

A guy I have known for decades asked me that question five years ago.

He added, “We’ll be dead by the time the day of reckoning arrives.”

Simple as that. No brainer.

I replied, “How can you look at your grand kids and justify this kind of debt?”

It was a stunning moment of realization. I didn’t have grand children at the time. But it didn’t seem to make a hill of beans difference that this guy’s grand children would someday be saddled with the debt we run up every year,

“We’ll be DEAD!” he repeated, as if I somehow didn’t understand.

As our esteemed lawmakers in Washington go about heaping ever more debt onto our $27 trillion national debt, let’s give some thought to what this all means.

–  If you suggest that $27,000,000,000,000 in debt is a tad much, (gosh, do you THINK?) you may be thrown into the Hatfield/McCoy maelstrom. If you are a Hatfield, a McCoy throws it in your face that the Hatfields raised the debt, so who are you to talk about debt? And they hate you.

And if you are a McCoy, a Hatfield throws it in your face that the McCoys raised the debt too, so who are you to talk about debt? And they hate you, too.

(There’s a certain symmetry to this.)

We apparently hate each other more than debt, and few seem to notice that whoever we elect, they have spent about $1.36 for every $1 they actually collected over the last 20 years. And that’s how you end up with $27 trillion in debt. (Shazam!)

And don’t forget – it’s a BIPARTISAN debt.

Few make the point that all of us – or more accurately, all of our grand children – will end up paying for the wild spending of both the Hatfields and McCoys, who in the 50 years since I graduated from high school only managed to balance our annual budget five times.

(Don’t try that in the private sector. Back in my working days, if I had submitted a budget spending $1.36 for every $1 I brought in, I would have been out of work as soon as my budget arrived at the home office. Lickety split.)

Can’t we even agree that normal people like us, solvent Republicans and Democrats alike, have to rein in these world-class spendthrifts from both parties? Are we so stupid, or so steeped in hatred for each other, that we can’t even agree on something as obvious as THAT?

Good Lord, how did we end up with so many big spenders running our country at one time?

– Bear in mind, $27 trillion in debt will soon be a quaint memory, as the $1.9 trillion Covid relief blowout is being followed by a $2 trillion (maybe more) “infrastructure” blowout, to be followed by another trillion dollar blowout for whatever Joe Biden and his wild-eyed progressives dream up next. Even some Democrats (like former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers) think the orgy of spending has gotten out of hand.

Suddenly trillions, instead of hundreds of billions, are the coin of the realm.

And few seem to care how much of this money is borrowed.

The emperors, from both parties, have no clothes

– Think this tidal wave of borrowed money isn’t having an effect?

If you listen to the experts on TV, you might get the idea that inflation is well under the control of our high-powered officials in Washington. If only that were true.

The real estate section of our local newspaper lists what I would call shacks selling for $200,000. Real estate agencies are crying for listings, as sellers take advantage of a hot market, and buyers put the free federal dollars flowing into their accounts to use.

Priced steaks at the grocery store lately?

And a standard 2-by-4 at the lumberyard in our town now goes for $6.98. Six years ago, when I finished my basement, I was paying $3 for that same 2-by-4.

Tell me, folks. Are we so stupid that we believe flooding the market with all this borrowed money isn’t having an effect?

I rest my case, Your Honor.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: She Might Need New License Plates

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“You wouldn’t believe the rude comments I’ve gotten,” the lady told me.

“And the notes stuck under my windshield wipers.”

She was a little older than I am – increasingly unusual, because I’m 70, and older people are getting harder and harder to spot. It’s all young squirts these days, especially at the gym. More young squirts than ever. Squirts everywhere.

And as people my age are wont to do, she struck up a conversation with me, a complete stranger, in a parking lot, as I walked from my pickup toward the door to the gym I go to most days. (Exercise is what keeps geezers like me spry. And feisty.)

For some reason, folks our age are more willing to talk. Maybe it’s because we’re no threat to anyone anymore. If someone doesn’t want to talk, and doesn’t respond to our friendly efforts to strike up a conversation, well, that’s their problem. Not ours. Their loss.

A 70-year-old guy isn’t going to run off with your trophy wife, so what’s the problem?

Waitresses at restaurants call guys like us “honey” and “sweetie,” because the notion of us being any conceivable threat to anyone is flat ridiculous. So they re-fill our cup of senior discount coffee and call us “darling” because we’ve reached the harmless little old man stage. Kind of sad.

The lady was standing by her red sedan, pointing out that the car directly in front of her car was identical. She said that happens a lot. So she has to check the license plate to be sure it’s hers.

And that’s where the problem was. Big problem. She was quick to point it out, before I noticed, and maybe drew some untoward conclusion and walked off in a huff.

Her license plate? A vanity plate including the capital letters:


Holy cow.

“It’s not what you think!” she said before I could say anything. She apparently thought I might be offended, convinced that she was some kind of nut. Someone who agreed with the 75 million people who last November voted for the guy (I can hardly remember his name) who wore a hat with those letters on it. Remember him? Big crowds turned out to see him. Nice wife.

“My grandchildren call me Maga!” she explained. And she got the vanity plates before those letters became fighting words, words that could get a Big Gulp poured on your head if you wore a MAGA hat into a fast food restaurant. Before you could get beat up in Portland for wearing a t-shirt with those letters emblazoned upon it.

“It’s OK,” I said, explaining that I have a MAGA t-shirt hidden away in my closet, given to me by a relative in 2016. It fits perfectly, but I’ve never had the guts to wear it to exercise, or anywhere else, figuring that in the current climate, the letters MAGA are fighting words. I don’t need a Big Gulp poured on my head.

“People say awful things when they see that license plate,” she said. “And they leave notes under my windshield wipers.”

Poor thing. But I suspect her life will get better now that our country has decided that the very last thing we want to do is make America great again. Maybe someday soon Maga will stand for grandma again, or some other harmless thing.

You hardly ever hear that phrase anymore, maybe because the masters of social media have decided that the very act of thinking about making America great again is blasphemy, akin to questioning election results. Something like that could get you “de-platformed,” and sent to Facebook Purgatory. (No cute grand baby pictures for two whole weeks!)

And, with things going so swimmingly under the guidance of Joe Biden and his giggling vice president, the last thing any of us want to do is to make America great again.

Been there. Done that. That’s so 2017.

And now we’ve moved on to secure borders, fiscal restraint, and administering vaccines – which we all know is far more difficult than creating vaccines.

The adults in the room.

Interesting times, wouldn’t you agree?

Giving Grandma the dickens for her vanity plates.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: That 79-Cent Pizza Had Potential

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Problem is, a lot of us – tens of millions of us – have memories like this:

When we first started out, I had a college degree, but I was making $2.50 an hour. That works out to $100 for a 40-hour week. But I was the happiest guy in town because I had my foot in the door to the only career I ever wanted.

While most folks say “thank God it’s Friday,” I  liked my first job so much that I said, “thank God it’s Monday.”

The boss had “a drawer full of resumes” from guys wanting my job, and the message was that I shouldn’t get too big for my britches. (I later figured out that getting too big for your britches meant asking for raises.) But I always thought fondly of the old guy who gave me my first chance to make it in the business I would stick with for, well, going on 48 years. He gave me my chance.

I was lucky enough to catch on with a graduate student in anthropology, who would go on to become the mother of my children, but whose main attractions at the time included $287 a month pay for her work as a graduate assistant at the university in town.

Smart as the dickens, quick as a hummingbird hopped up on caffeine, she knew how to keep a rented roof over our heads and food on the table for $687 a month, minus taxes, social security, and the rest.

At the time, you could buy a frozen Totino’s pizza for 79 cents. She would jazz it up with chopped onions and what she called “sprinkle cheese” (still does), and feed the two of us for under $1.

You could get free cow hearts at the university agriculture department, and she cooked them up in the Crock Pot a couple times, but it didn’t catch on. (Kind of chewy.)

I’ve joked that the budget was so tight that we got each other library books for Christmas. But I wouldn’t trade those years for anything. There’s nothing like putting stuff back on the shelves at the grocery store, because the check you would write at the checkout counter might bounce, to make you appreciate the better times that would ultimately come.

Later, after the kids arrived, we always looked for the worst house on a nice block, and figured out how to fix it up. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you’re not afraid to ask for advice, maybe get a “how-to” book at the library, and be willing to make some mistakes along the way. At one point, we were fixing up an old house in Illinois while making payments on houses we couldn’t sell in Colorado and Wyoming. And we never missed a payment.

I wouldn’t trade those years for the world, either.

I’ve got a cabin in the mountains, but that wooded acre was dirt cheap in 1981, and the cabin is built out of logs we cut right there on the land. (Forty years later, I’m still putting the finishing touches on that little cabin).

Through living close to the bone, both working, faithfully investing in our retirement accounts, and fixing up houses, we ultimately arrived at a comfortable retirement.

And that’s my point.

We’re not special. Millions of us have the same story to tell – hard work, frugality, and common sense adding up to a successful life in a great country.

Folks like us, however, are shaking our heads at a federal government that, while we were pinching our pennies, was spending about $1.36 for every dollar they collected in taxes, amassing a $27 trillion debt along the way. A government that is about to add another $2 trillion in debt for “infrastructure,” with more grand trillion-dollar plans after that.

Even Larry Summers, fiscal guru under President Obama, is questioning the wisdom of this massive spending explosion.

This kind of profligacy has no relation to the lives most of us have lived. And it’s hard to escape the logic of economist Herbert Stein: “If something can’t go on forever, it won’t.”

Maybe this orgy of debt doesn’t frighten you.

But, it scares this penny-pincher to death.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: Hey Baby, They’re Playin’ Our Song

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

The Shirelles probably said it best:

“Mama said there’d be days like this.”

But, mama didn’t say those days might last for years. Or decades. And, as the Supremes lamented, “There ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.”

I was a few steps ahead of the posse when it came to overindulging in the news. Newspapers, TV, talk radio – I said I could kick the current events habit any time I wanted, but a family intervention was a real possibility.

What did they expect from an old reporter? But, with the proliferation of all-news stations, talk radio and social media, it can get out of hand. So I decided it was time to get the breaking news monkey off my back.

A conservative friend said folks like us are simply exhausted by the fight. It’s the full-court press from the Democrats, who are determined to spend us into oblivion, add two states, open our borders, pack the supreme court, kill the filibuster, and cement a permanent majority. And our side is feckless, incapable of stopping the runaway liberal train. (Never have the words, ‘It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to,” been more appropriate.)

As Merle Haggard sang, we’re “rollin’ downhill like a snowball headed for Hell.”

So maybe it’s time to check out for a while. As Eddy Arnold sang, “Make the world go away. Get it off my shoulders.”

So I fired up the oldies stations on the satellite radio in my pickup, and I’ve replaced most of the news I was consuming with blissful, mindless nostalgia. Much of the time these days, I’m back in high school. And to quote those great 1960s philosophers Herman’s Hermits,  I think “I’m into something good.”

“Matty told Hattie,” Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs told us, “about a thing she saw. Had two big horns and a woolly jaw. Woolly Bully!” How’s that for getting the world off your shoulders? Feeling any better yet?

Where did Betty meet the Leader of the Pack, you ask?

“I met him at the candy store.”

 Obviously. Who could forget?

A liberal reporter friend who covered politics told me that no matter how hard we try, Republicans can’t dance. Can’t loosen up enough. Or our rock ribs get in the way. He may be right.

But, we can sometimes get jiggy, and turn the volume way up when “Do the Mashed Potato” comes on the radio.

One of the best songs of my formative years was “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys, which featured two of the most gloriously frisky lyrics of the late 1960s: “She’s givin’ me the excitations,” and, “I don’t know where, but she sends me there.” If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you need to take a long, hard look at your life, mister.

Those were our salad days, covering the gamut from “Give Peace a Chance” to “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road,” from “Satisfaction” to “Bird, Bird, Bird – Bird is the Word.”

Young kids today won’t understand, but a song called “MacArthur Park” included the lines, “Someone left the cake out in the rain, and I don’t think I can take it, because it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have the recipe again.” What the ding-dong heck was that all about? We didn’t know either, but it shot up the charts.

(Turns out it was about lost love. And we should show respect, because the guy who wrote it – Jimmy Webb – also wrote “Wichita Lineman.”)

I was crestfallen when I learned that “Afternoon Delight” wasn’t about what we all thought it was about. The songwriter said it was about a shrimp and Brie dish at a Washington, D.C. cafe. What a letdown. “Skyrockets in flight?” Cheese? Give me a break.

These days I’m like a high school kid bombing around town in my dad’s ’62 LeSabre, with Bob Dylan or The Dave Clark Five turned up way too loud on WLS.

I still consume more than the recommended daily allowance of news. But oldies help the medicine go down.

Again, the Beach Boys:

“I don’t know where, but (it) sends me there.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: So Much For Those Lucky Oysters

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

I ate oyster soup on New Years Day, because that’s supposed to bring good luck.

A fat lot of good it did us.

Next year I’ll try black-eyed peas. I hear they might bring good luck, too. They have to get better results than the oysters.

A moment of silence please for those who thought 2021 simply had to be better than 2020. The poor dears have to be standing out on a ledge about now, ready to jump.

Let’s touch some bases:

– Answer me this: Who paid for those “Biden Please Let Us In” t-shirts that many of the people streaming toward our southern border are wearing? Is there a bargain t-shirt shop somewhere along the route to the United States?

Or is someone here – in need of cheap labor, or democrat votes – giving those shirts away?

Tell folks that our new president is against a border wall, for amnesty, and against deportations, and many will head our way. You’d think the new administration – self-dubbed “the adults in the room”  – would have figured that out.

After $1.9 trillion was appropriated for Covid relief without a single Republican vote, and now that chain link and razor wire surround our Capitol, shouldn’t Republicans be the ones asking, “Biden, Please Let Us In?”

– We have been protected in recent weeks from Peter Pan, Dumbo, Dr. Seuss, Yosemite Sam, The Muppets, and Mr. Potato Head. Who cares about China, Russia and open borders when innocent children could be subjected to The Muppets? (Those two grouchy guys in the balcony look like Republicans. Clearly something had to be done.)

Gender sensitivity led the makers of Mr. Potato Head to drop the “Mr.” So now, a Potato Head can be either male or female, which should be obvious when looking at members of Congress. Plenty of Potato Heads of both genders in that bag of spuds.

– How far do we take this “equity” deal that our liberal pals keep talking about? If someday Bill Gates still has a bigger house than I do, have we really achieved equity? At what point do we confiscate his house and give some of it to me? Answer me that, Bullwinkle.

Equal opportunity is the goal, not equal outcomes. I like the idea that my little grand daughters might someday do great things, and have big houses like Bill Gates has.

– I’m old enough to remember when President Gerald Ford fell down the stairs from Air Force One, and how “Saturday Night Live” made fun of him. Ford was a college football player, maybe our most athletic president, but he was depicted mercilessly as a klutz. You can make the case that it helped launch Chevy Chase’s career.

At least Ford fell while going DOWN the stairs, unlike Joe Biden, who fell three times last week going UP the stairs to Air Force One.

We’ll see if Democrat Biden becomes the joke they made of Republican Ford. Don’t bet on it.

– Passage of the $1.9 trillion Covid bill in Congress reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw: “Whatever You Do, Don’t Tell Them What Comes After A Trillion!”

Our country has managed to balance its annual budget just four times in the 50 years since I graduated from high school. Talk about Potato Heads.

– Normally, I wouldn’t make fun of a guy for a slip of the tongue. I’ve said here that guys my age, much less Biden’s age, aren’t as quick on the download as they once were, and should be enjoying cups of senior discount coffee at McDonalds, with other geezers.

But, some guys just have to be the leader of the free world. So, if they keep the nuclear launch codes close at hand, it’s OK to ask if they’re still in possession of all their marbles.

So, when President Biden called Vice President Kamala Harris PRESIDENT Harris last week, and couldn’t remember the name of his defense secretary the week before, it was OK to notice.

Imagine what our pals in the media would have done if Donald Trump had made those mistakes.

Or if he fell three times in one trip up the stairs to Air Force One.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: Miss Frances Didn’t Mince Words

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

We called them “Franisms,” and our friends couldn’t wait for the next installment.

My mother-in-law, Frances Elvira Wood, came to live with us 10 years ago. She was 86 at the time, and didn’t mince words. That’s where her salty Franisms came from.

We started posting them on Facebook.

Every week she would get her hair done at the local cosmetology school, where she paid  $7, plus a $1 tip.

“A dollar doesn’t go very far,” Fran said, “but that’s what she gets.”

One day on the way home she told my wife Caryl, “I had a new girl today. She didn’t have any tattoos or purple hair.”

“Maybe she doesn’t like that,” Caryl replied.

“Just give her a month,” Fran replied, “and she’ll look like the rest of ’em.”

Driving past a tattoo parlor in town, she said, “I hate tattoos. They just ruin a pretty girl.”

Another time she told Caryl, “All those girls wear six-inch spike heels.

“They deserve to fall on their faces for such stupidity. And I’m not helping them up.”

She told me the students were “little devils” when they took up all the parking spaces in front of the beauty school, so they could smoke cigarettes in their cars during breaks, requiring Fran to walk half a block with her two replaced knees and a walker.

The tattooed, purple-haired beauticians liked her anyway. When I get haircuts, the barber often remembers “Miss Frances” from the beauty school. (Must have been those $1 tips.)

For years she went to Walmart with Caryl every Sunday, and shopped in a motorized shopping cart. One day, as they were checking out, she said, “Every woman in here is two ax handles wide and covered in tattoos.”

“You can tell who’s been eating the potato chips.”

I did my share of driving Fran around town, because Caryl was still working as a nurse practitioner in the psych unit at our local hospital.

One day we were stopped at a stop light. An obviously disturbed guy walked across in front of us and gave us the finger. Far from offended, Fran broke out laughing, and said, “He’s probably one of Caryl’s patients!”

Fran was not impressed by the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics: “This is the damndest mess I’ve ever seen. It’s so loud I had to take out one hearing aid.”

She was equally brutal one day when a bouquet arrived.  “That’s not a very nice bouquet,” she said. “They just threw in a bunch of crap and filler.”

One morning in 2017 Fran fractured her hip. An ambulance took her to the hospital, where a surgeon repaired the hip.

After the surgery, Caryl reported that her mom was “doing pretty well,” considering. She told Fran she was heading home.

“Go home and go to bed,” Fran replied in a croaky voice, “and stay off that damn computer.”

She told her nurses, “I have been deaf for years and it used to bother me. But now I don’t give a damn that I can’t hear what you girls say.”

After her surgery, she said,“They give you drugs, and when you’re out they toss you around like a sack of potatoes.”

“They said I might not walk again. Bull—t! I’m not going to lay around in this bed for the rest of my life!”

When they tried to dismiss her from the hospital earlier than expected, she said, “If you send me home tomorrow you might as well call the undertaker!” She got two more days.

Two weeks ago, Fran was in the hospital again, this time with internal bleeding. She told Caryl, “I’m going to strangle my doctor for ordering all these blood draws.”

“You have a different doctor here in the hospital,” Caryl explained. “It isn’t your regular doctor’s fault.”

“Then who do I strangle?” she replied.

Frances Elvira Wood, age 96, passed away peacefully two days later, with Caryl holding her hand.

The day before, passing in and out of consciousness, she told Caryl, “I’m going to kick your (let’s say caboose).”

That was my mother-in-law.

Feisty to the end.

We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: We’re Just As Bad As The Democrats

in Dave Simpson/Column

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Readers respond to recent columns:

– A column I wrote about the death of Rush Limbaugh netted over 140 comments on Facebook, many of them skewering me for having listened to Rush for 32 years. They beat me like a rented mule.

In that column, I asked “…why is it so controversial to want a government that isn’t running up catastrophic debt…?”

To which a critic cited the amount the national debt increased under Donald Trump. (Plenty.)

The assumption was that I only blame Democrats for the debt. Not so. I have written here many times that I blame both parties for spending our grand children into crushing debt.

In fact, I tend to blame Republicans more than Democrats, because Democrats make no bones about spending us into oblivion. Republicans promise to do something about the debt, but never do. At least the Democrats are honest about their determination to outspend drunken sailors.

So it’s a continuous, bipartisan, spendthrift bacchanal, as our world-class porkers from both parties use borrowed dollars to reassure their own re-election.

And shamelessly mortgage the future of our grand kids.

– A month ago, I wrote about a ride I took on a B-52 bomber back in 1981, flying over South Dakota, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho. The crew practiced mid-air refueling, then flew at 500 feet (very low) diagonally across Wyoming, simulating bomb drops near the towns of Douglas and Powell.

In that column, I mentioned a Wall Street Journal article, which reported that the aging B-52 will be in use until 2050 – a full 90 years after its design and entry into service. Two B-52 replacements – the B-1B and the B-2 – have not panned out. The B-1B developed problems with it’s movable wings, and the B-2, at $2 billion per plane, was deemed too costly.

That sparked this email from a reader in Palmdale, California:

“Dear Mr. Simpson:
“I enjoyed your story of flying low in a B-52.
“Am writing you to comment on the reason the B-2 bombers became $2B aircraft.
“B-2 production was humming along when the Berlin Wall came down and soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was now over. The requirement for the B-2 in the arsenal re-evaluated.

“The first cut to production was from 132 to 75, then later to 21. The $2B to build each airplane is due to the non-recurring expenses being charged to just 21 aircraft.
“Think of it as if General Motors built the Saturn factory in TN, engineered the product, tooled it up, built up a supplier base, trained workers, produced 21 cars then suddenly ceased production, and shut it down. Those 21 cars would each carry a very heavy price tag.”

Well, that explains it. Thanks to my Palmdale reader.

– In a column last week, I mentioned old retired guys – like me – who have taken over the cooking duties in their homes, giving their wives a break after they cooked for decades. I cited a poem titled “Pot Wrasslers” by the late cowboy poet Curley Fletcher. And that elicited this response from “a Wyoming gal in Colorado:”

“Dear Mr. Simpson:

“I love that you are working at being the at home Pot Wrassler! It sounds like you are getting pretty brave and creative. Cooking is actually fun, I think, and a science.

“Too many people, at least in the cities, don’t bother cooking anymore – prepared deli meals, fast food, or God help us all, UBER Eats. Now that is certainly NOT even close to Pot Wrassling. Those folks wouldn’t last a day on the cowboy trails.

“Thanks for a fun article. Keep Wrassling.”

Years ago, when I ran a newsroom in Nebraska, I noticed that the younger staff members went out to lunch or dinner pretty much every day. Then I would hear them complain that they just never seemed to have enough money. I told them they ought to quit spending money eating in restaurants so often, and buy a Crock Pot. Put a cheap hunk of meat in there with some carrots and potatoes, and there’s your dinner for a couple days.

Nobody ever took my advice.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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