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Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson: We ‘Seal Deals On A Handshake’

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

Want to feel warm and fuzzy about Wyoming?

(I do. Don’t know about you. Maybe you’re one of these sour cranks who doesn’t, but I’m going to assume not. My optimistic mother lived to be 99.)

Check out these emails I got after last week’s column about the distinctly rural habit of giving folks you meet on back-country roads a friendly wave, in the understanding that we won’t let each other get stranded out where the buses don’t run (and, according to our vice president, where you can’t get a photocopy at Kinkos). The wave means we’ll help each other.

This came from Karl in Lander:

“Our Incident Command team was on a fire in Northern California. As I drove down the rural roads I would wave to folks passing me and get the quickest head turn and look or simply a stare. If other Wyoming folks were in the truck with me, we both might wave. That really confused ’em. 

“If local California folks were with me they would say, ‘Why are you waving? You could get shot for that.’ I was kinda having fun with it until the locals said you might get shot.

“Before the environmentalists shut down the northwest logging with the spotted owl ruse, the locals knew the wave. Not so today with the druggies and the welfare state and all the criminals of Northern California. Even 20 years ago it was dangerous out there and it wasn’t from grizzly bears.”

Then there was this from Kevin in Cheyenne, but before that from a ranch in western Nebraska: 

“When I drive back to the ranch at Oshkosh, Neb., I start waving to other drivers when on Highway 30, beginning about Sidney. Yes, if I don’t get a corresponding wave I wonder what is up with that guy???? I tried to get the wave going here in Cheytown, but it didn’t catch on.”

(I met Kevin years ago at a wonderful bluegrass music festival in North Platte, Neb. Sadly, that festival no longer exists. He brought his mom over from Cheyenne to enjoy the music. I was editor of the paper in North Platte for four years, and came to understand that ornery western Nebraskans have a lot in common with feisty Wyomingites. When some western Nebraskans came to the Wyoming Legislature in the early 1980s, asking to become part of Wyoming instead of Nebraska, skeptics in Cheyenne said they ought to “sober up.” If you’ve ever driven across the 454 miles of Nebraska on I-80, you might agree with my late father: “They could take a tuck out of Nebraska.”)

And then there was this email, from Kay in Dubois:

“Saw your column this morning at Cowboy State Daily and had to tell you that it was that friendly wave that drew us to Wyoming.

“When my husband retired from the Pentagon four years ago we downsized, sold the house in Northern Virginia, and took off in our travel trailer thinking we’d never settle anywhere again, just stay on the road. He’s working on a series of novels, I’m acting in film, so half the years in L.A. And the other half traveling.

“But California got crazy … well … more crazy … and conditions being what they were this past year we one day found ourselves in Dubois, Wyoming, and fell in love with the Painted Hills, the indescribably blue skies, and the friendly people.

“The job titles and advanced degrees that once gave us ‘status’ in Washington, D.C., mean nothing here. In Wyoming, know-how is king and the most respected man or woman is the one who can fix, build, and create things. He-men and She-women who seal deals on a handshake.

“Wyoming is a special place. We consider ourselves so very lucky to have found it. We bought property and are preparing to build a house.

“We’re home.”

(I’ve got some wonderful Dubois memories of my own, of the Circle-Up Campground and the Rustic Pine Tavern, on the way to Yellowstone.)

Always remember the famous words of 15-year-old Helen Mettler in 1925:

“God bless Wyoming and keep it wild.”

And don’t forget to wave.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: The Wonder Is That It Still Exists

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

It’s a little gesture that could be misunderstood in most parts of the country.

It could be mistaken for a gang sign in some neighborhoods of Chicago, not far from where I was born, and could get you shot. Or a sign that you’re a guy with some screws loose, a Dudley Do-Right.

Or it could mean you’re up to something.

And yet where I live, it is one of those encouraging traditions that has hung on, even while just about everything else around us has changed.

Out here where the buses don’t run, in the mountains, and out on the lonely prairie, the simple wave when meeting another vehicle on a remote gravel road is more than a friendly gesture. It’s kind of a social contract, a recognition that there’s probably no cell phone reception out here, we’re a long way from a mechanic if your timing belt breaks, and we won’t leave you out here if you’re in trouble.

Worst case, you might have to ride in the back of a pickup with the dog, but they’ll get you to town.

For all of my adult life, this little country gesture has existed, even as just about everything else has changed. I estimate that when out in the boondocks, about 90 percent of the drivers you meet on dirt roads give you the wave as you pass. It’s so pervasive that if you wave, and someone doesn’t wave back, you wonder, “What’s that guy’s problem?” He’d be no help if you were in some kind of trouble.

(Years ago, the auto repair guys Click and Clack said the magic words when you have a problem are, “I’m in trouble, and I need your help.” Only the worst people won’t help if you say those words. That even works in town, in many cases.)

Years ago, I was coming down out of the mountains on a rough dirt road in Carbon County, about five miles from Interstate 80, when I came upon a flat-bed 18-wheeler delivery truck from the Lowe’s home improvement store 100 miles away in Cheyenne, pulled off to the side of the road. On the other side of the road was an older couple, beside their car, which had a flat tire. The Lowe’s driver was changing their tire for them.

Couple weeks ago, we got a delivery from Lowe’s here in Cheyenne, and I told the driver about that incident out in the country, helping the couple with the flat tire.

“That was me,” he said with a smile. I told him how impressed I was, and that I’ve felt pretty good about shopping at Lowe’s ever since.

That’s what the wave is all about. That far out in the country, that driver probably had a difficult day ahead of him, with a huge truck, rough roads, and a remote destination. But he didn’t think twice about stopping to change a tire for that older couple.

The wave has its limits, though.

Years ago, I moved from Wyoming to Colorado (it was temporary), but still spent lots of time in the Wyoming mountains. I had to buy Colorado license plates, and noticed a distinct drop-off in the number of folks who greeted me with a friendly wave. I was suddenly “a Greenie” (Colorado plates are green), no doubt heading for a prime Wyoming fishing spot like the Miracle Mile, and not nearly as welcome as before. Later, when I had Illinois plates, then Nebraska plates, the reception wasn’t nearly as frosty.

There’s just something about Greenies, I guess.

Once when I was in college I bought an Austin Healey Bug-Eyed Sprite for $600. I noticed that people in other sports cars would give you the “peace” sign. But it was sort of a snooty, exclusive deal, like we were somehow better than the people driving Gremlins and Pintos.

The wave is much more than that. Clear evidence that when the chips are down, we’re better people than we often get credit for being. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Forgive me for this Dudley Do-Right moment, but it’s one little thing to feel good about as just about everything else changes.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: In Defense Of Prissy Fussbudgets

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

Had enough bad news for a while? Tired of the bickering in Washington, the wild spending, and the prospect of invaders from space?

Let’s root around for some different column fodder this week:

– Be honest now. 

If a guy took you to a golf tournament and every time a golfer hit the ball he screamed “IN THE HOLE!” would you ever go out with that person again? (Interestingly, you never hear female spectators at golf tournaments scream “IN THE HOLE!” Only guys do this. I think they’re the same guys who paint their faces team colors and mug for the TV cameras at football games.)

If you suffered through a date with such a person, wouldn’t you give that guy his walking papers at the door that night?

“I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work out,” you’d have to say. “I wasn’t aware that you’re a meathead.”

You don’t hear “patrons” scream “IN THE HOLE!” at The Masters, because the people in charge –in the past it was a guy whose first name was “Hootie” – rule with an iron fist. Boors, apparently, are whisked off and tortured at Augusta, and rightly so.

But now, in subsequent tournaments, the knuckleheads have returned. Detroit last week. Two weeks ago at The Travelers tournament in Connecticut. Before that, the PGA tournament in California. The horrible “IN THE HOLE!” people are back.

I used to think the people who run The Masters were prissy fussbudgets who get a little carried away.

But sometimes it takes extreme measures to deal with a guy who screams “IN THE HOLE!”

More power to the prissy fussbudgets.

– Golf is the only sport I watch anymore. I like the pastoral setting. And golfers don’t feel the need to scold us about our politics. Golf may be the final refuge for people who just want to watch a sporting event without thinking about politics.

– At the liquor store recently, the guy in front of me had on a t-shirt that said, “Cleverly Disguised as a Responsible Adult.”

Pretty funny. But then the guy lived up to his t-shirt, and kept everyone in line behind him waiting as he thought up sure-fire lottery ticket numbers for numerous tickets. He stared at the ceiling as he came up with the numbers, sometimes saying, “No, that’s not right,” and revising his pick.

I checked the news, and didn’t see anything about a local man winning the lottery, so our wait was for naught. 

Sometimes the t-shirt says it all.

– Is it just me, or are people on television and radio talking faster and faster every year? My wife will blame it on my geriatric ears, but increasingly these days people I would like to listen to are talking faster than I can listen.

Ben Shapiro, on the radio, talks so fast that about half of what he says flies by me like a corn husk in a tornado. Candace Owens tries to keep her words-per-minute down, but puts the pedal to the metal when she gets emphatic. There are other examples.

Harry Nilssen said it best: “Everybody’s talkin’ at me. But I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Only the echoes of my mind.”

– Pat Boone should be an inspiration to us all. Eighty seven years old, worth an estimated $50 million, and showing up every whipstitch in television ads. 

He’s a natural to advertise walk-in bathtubs. But when he advertises health supplements from a golf course, wearing knickers, well, all this oldster can think about is those awful knickers.

You’d think a guy that rich could buy a decent pair of pants.

– About those space aliens Navy pilots keep spotting: Can you look at the Milky Way on a a moonless, clear summer night, and believe we’re the only ones, out of all those stars and their circling planets, who can travel in space? Are we the only ones who can send a rover and drone to a neighboring planet?

I doubt it.

– And finally, reporter Lara Logan used a term recently that I think sums up the state of things pretty accurately:

“Holy Guacamole!”

(And she said it slowly enough to understand.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: The Tale Of The Big Cardboard Box

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

One woman, five and one-half hours, and a screwdriver.

Five hours MY FOOT! Better yet, my CABOOSE! To quote President Joe Biden, “Malarkey!”

But it said so right there on an internet review – one woman, five and one-half hours, one screwdriver. I tell you, this is enough to convince a guy that everything we read on the internet may not be the gospel truth.

Chew on that for a while.

As God-fearing loyal Americans, we decided to do our part to defeat COVID-19 by following the pleas of our leaders in Washington, and spend every penny they send us in COVID relief, as fast as possible, so the virus will know we MEAN BUSINESS, My wife and I didn’t get the virus, so far, and since we’re retired, lock downs did not cause us to lose paychecks. Nevertheless, our government kept sending us borrowed money, so we finally decided to shake loose of some of it.

We had this old shed, which had been shot full of holes by hail. So we decided to replace it.

Normally, I would have built a new shed from scratch. But with 2x4s shooting up to $8 and $9 apiece, from what I was used to at a little over $3, the lumber alone would have been prohibitive.

So my wife found a shed kit at a home improvement store, and an internet review by the woman who claimed she put the thing together, with only a screwdriver, in five and one-half hours. So we ordered it.

I’m fairly handy, flipping several houses, and finishing three basements since I gave up the News Biz. My wife figures that, given that experience, I ought to be able to finish jobs in less than the advertised time. Experience, however, has taught me to double or triple the estimated time. And this time I was right. Way right.

I knew I was in trouble when the thing arrived on a flat-bed 18-wheeler truck, with a forklift hanging off the back. Two guys used the forklift to unload a huge box onto the driveway, then shoved it into the garage – no mean feat, because the box weighed 350 pounds. Now, how much sense does it make to put something into a single box that weighs 350 pounds? At that weight, if it tipped over, it could squash you like a cockroach. Where are our safety experts when we need them?

So it sat in the garage like a beached whale while I struggled for about a day and a half to demolish the old shed, and hauled it to the dump. Then I had to prepare the base for the shed, which took another day and a half, and two sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood at a shocking $82 per sheet. I figure the day I spent $164 on two sheets of plywood will probably be the day when lumber prices peaked. So look for prices to come down.

The instructions said it takes two people to assemble the shed, but the lady who said she did it in five and one-half hours didn’t say anything about having a helper. So I figured if she could do it, so could I. And things were going OK, putting up panels and screwing them together, until the wind came up. And suddenly it was like building a house of cards in a wind storm. But I kept at it, and the walls only fell down a couple of times, before I got it propped up with clamps, sticks, rope, a shovel, an old folding chair and lots of swearing, then screwed together. I figured if the neighbors were watching, they must have been laughing themselves silly.

It’s finished now, in a mere five and one-half DAYS, not hours. The cardboard box was too big even for my wife to save. (She lets loose of cardboard boxes like giving up her firstborn.) She cut it up and put it in the garbage.

If it’s true that the lady who wrote the review really put her shed up in five and one-half hours, with only a screwdriver, well, I know one thing for sure:

I’d like to get a look at her.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: He’s Made Up His Mind About Trump

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“We are both better people than Donald Trump, Dave,” my cantankerous neighbor said last week. “We have proven character and responsibility. Trump has neither.

“Put that in your column!”

Well, OK.

The Reader’s Digests I read when I was a kid had a regular feature called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” I’ve had several of those characters in my life. There was the guy in college who invented an automatic cat box that sifted out the byproducts of Little Kitty automatically. (Problem was, it was so loud and dusty the cat wouldn’t get within 10 feet of it.)

Then there was the news editor in Nebraska who would fight you to the death over any issue she felt strongly about, but had such a kind heart that she always had a pack of rescue dogs at her house. The windows of her van were covered with nose prints.

Then there’s this old guy up in the mountains. Very well-educated, independent as a pig on ice, and so ornery that most of our neighbors wrote him off as a curmudgeon years ago.

The first year he was up there, he was working frantically to get his cabin done by winter, so he could snowmobile there. Folks would come by to talk, but he didn’t have time, and he was pretty blunt cutting off conversations. Word got around that he was a tough old boot.

So I didn’t bother him. Then one evening, at the height of mosquito season, he showed up at my place, asking what to do about the swarms of blood-sucking predators. I lent him a lantern gizmo that repels bugs, and we’ve been friends ever since.

He sometimes doesn’t bring enough food. (He forgot most of his food at home last week, arriving with just a package of brats and an orange.) So I invite him to dinner at my place. He’s a whiz with mechanical issues, and he fearlessly cuts down trees for me, even though he’s five years older than I am. When we get to talking, about all kinds of stuff, an entire evening goes by in a flash.

He told me a year ago, when the COVID disaster was hitting a peak, that Trump would lose the election. I thought he was just being pessimistic. But he said presidents in that scenario don’t get re-elected.

Darned if he wasn’t right.

Lately, since the election, he’s decided that even though – like me – he liked much of what Trump accomplished, he has decided that as a person, Trump just doesn’t measure up. A few weeks ago he called my attention to a story about Wyoming’s U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney in the Wall Street Journal, which described her favorably as a feisty, fearless westerner standing up to the flawed leader of her party.

And I thought, “Jeez, another guy with a burr under his saddle about Trump.”

As we sat on the porch last week, staring into the campfire, he said Trump’s just not like us. He said he never liked the side of Trump that couldn’t resist pouring gasoline on any raging fire, and never could separate his ego from any discussion.

Yes, I replied, but you surely can’t dismiss the booming economy until COVID hit, the low unemployment, the (then) encouraging signs of peace in the Mideast, the improvement in border security, the development of multiple vaccines, and the reductions in mindless regulations that occurred during Trump’s watch.

He couldn’t, however, forgive Trump’s frequent rudeness, and his focusing on himself when those two Georgia seats in the Senate were up for grabs.

I maintained, however, that results are more important than manners. We’ve had plenty of pretty good presidents who were guilty of mistakes, misdeeds, even philandering. It seems to come with having an ego so huge they think they should lead the free world.

What I want, and I think my ornery neighbor agrees, is a president who can match Trump’s accomplishments (unlike the mess we have in Washington today) while outmaneuvering the ferocious opposition that awaits any Republican president.

Two old guys staring into the fire, trying to make sense of politics.

I suspect it’s happening all over the country.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Maybe We’re Being Led By Idiots

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

A note pad and the stub of a pencil are always at the ready on the table next to my recliner, so I can jot down column fodder.

Lately, I’ve got a whole stack of notes, because, as the fortune cookies say, “May you live in interesting times.” We’re living in interesting times, friends. Let’s check some notes:

– Multiple times, I have seen reports from the Texas border, featuring local sheriffs lamenting the flood of immigrants surging across the border onto ranches and into their jurisdictions.

(I once interviewed a university chancellor from Nebraska, and made the mistake of referring to “illegal aliens.” You’d have thought I reached across the table and slapped him in the face. He was shocked at my craven insensitivity. Seemed like plain English to me.)

Almost every one of those Texas sheriffs on TV was wearing a 10-gallon cowboy hat. It made you smile, and think, “Well, at least Texas is still Texas.”

Remember Bum Phillips, coach of the Houston Oilers and then the New Orleans Saints? He was famous for wearing cowboy hats, except during games in indoor stadiums. He explained that his mother had a rule:

“Don’t wear your hat in the house.”

– When politicians who are already $28 trillion in debt ask “how are we going to pay for” additional spending, try not to laugh. I know it’s tough. But, try.

– Imagine scrimping and saving all of your life so your kid could someday go to a fancy Ivy League college like Yale. Imagine your kid getting top grades and high entrance exam scores, and finally getting admitted to Yale.

Then imagine picking up your local paper and reading about the New York psychiatrist who gave a lecture at a Yale symposium titled “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” in which she said, “I had fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step.”

Wouldn’t that give you a whole different feeling about your local community college? Or a plumbing apprenticeship?

– One of the true blessings in my career in newspapers is that I was able to retire before it became necessary to refer to individuals by their preferred pronouns. Keeping it straight who wanted to be called “them/they” instead of “he” or “she” would have made a tough job tougher. Good luck to them young editors out there.

– My daughter went to grad school at Duke University (no brag, just fact), and that was enough to turn me into a Blue Devils basketball fan. (I figured I wouldn’t live long enough to see the University of Wyoming back in the championship game,)

So I noted with sadness the announcement last week that coach Mike Krzyzewski will retire next year.

Over the years, I have become numb to the use by sportscasters of the word (?) “winningest.” It’s enough to make an English major blanch. But this time, one report I heard put me over the edge:

Coach K is “the MOST winningest” coach ever, she said.

(Lord, what have we done to deserve this?)

– One of the New York newspapers greeted the release of President Joe Biden’s proposed $6 TRILLION budget with this bold headline:

“HOG WILD!”

Republicans probably took satisfaction in that headline, but in truth, if Democrats are Hog Wild, Republicans are Three Quarters Hog Wild. You don’t get to $28 trillion in debt all by yourself.

– An electronic billboard in my town posted this message a few weeks back: “Shots in Arms, Checks in the Bank – Thank a Democrat!”

Without even addressing the question of who played a part in making those vaccines possible, the “checks in the bank” part should have ended with this:

“Thank your Grand Kids.”

– And finally, given our open southern border, crime in our big cities, the wild federal spending spree, and a panoply of other things to keep you up at night, give some thought to this quote from pundit Ben Domenech:

“Consider the possibility we are led by idiots.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Everybody’s Doing Gain Of Function

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

This just in: “Gain of function.”

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

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

Nobody wants to be a dweeb.

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

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

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

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

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

Bingo! That’s  the ticket! Success!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Remember: Montani Semper Liberi

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

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

I grabbed a pad and pencil and jotted it down.

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

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

Translation: “Mountaineers (are) always free.”

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

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

For me, it’s like Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoes will drop, we all know.

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

And there will be two brand new little mountaineers…

Always free.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Advice You Won’t Hear At Graduation

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Time once again for Dave’s Swell Advice to the Graduates, some hard-learned wisdom from a guy who has made many mistakes.

Sprinkle this advice in with the boring stuff you get during your commencement ceremony, and maybe you won’t buy an expensive time-share at some resort. Or help someone in Nigeria free up untold millions. Or get a big, ghastly tattoo that will be unrecognizable when you arrive at Assisted Living.

Without further ado (a word you might use if you had been paying attention in English class), on with the swell advice:

– It’s easier to take out the garbage than to argue with your spouse about who takes out the garbage. Trust me on this. The sooner you give up on the notion that you’re too cool to clutter up your life with mundane tasks like doing dishes, folding laundry, and mowing the lawn, the sooner life will get better. But, not much better. (I hate to be the one to break this to you.)

– Don’t be one of these idiots who holds up traffic in the parking lot at Walmart, waiting for the perfect close-in parking space. Have compassion for your fellow Walmart shoppers. Over the years, I’ve lucked into having the closest parking space several times, and I’m here to tell you that it wasn’t nearly as sexy and wonderful as I expected. My life wasn’t suddenly transformed, It only saved me a few minutes. And people weren’t impressed when I bragged about it.

It’s like your team winning the Super Bowl. The next season starts before you know it, and the fans whose teams didn’t win the big game hate you. Park further out. It’s good exercise.

– Most of what you see about romance is pure bunk. Don’t plan your life around what you saw in a movie. Granted, your first true love may be like being hit by lightning, but nobody could stand being hit by lightning every day from then on. Wake up. Smell coffee.

– Look for a spouse who will be there, decades later, when the anesthesia wears off after some doctor a third your age replaces your bum knee, or overhauls your rotator cuff. Think less in terms of spending your life with a super model (they get old, too), and more along the lines of a loyal Labrador Retriever, who can be trusted to shake his hind leg when you scratch his belly just right.

– Don’t have separate checking accounts or credit cards. A spouse looking over your shoulder will save you a boatload of trouble, Skippy. And if you can’t trust the person you want to marry with a checkbook or a credit card, don’t have children with that person. If you don’t take this simple advice, it will be like being married to a member of Congress, tossing fiscal discipline to the wind.

– It helps if you can find a person who thinks like you do about spending. My wife and I joke about crawling under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges. We’re both cheap. Likewise, if you’re a person who believes that you only live once and you must have every crazy geegaw and jimcrack you can jam into a garage, find someone who is just as nuts as you. You’ll be bankrupt, but at least you won’t have to argue about it.

– If you’re headed off to college, be aware that you’re about to encounter some of the craziest people you’ll ever meet, and most of them will be professors. Campuses are nut houses these days, so if you can’t be something impressive like an engineer or a doctor, give some thought to being a plumber. You might make more money as a plumber.

  • Save some money from every paycheck. A healthy savings account is your best defense against a jerk boss.
  • Don’t eat at restaurants all the time. Get a Crock Pot.
  • Take this advice from my wife (who is smart): “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s pretty much all small stuff.”
    In summary, be sure to follow that advice about not holding up traffic at Walmart. I might be the guy behind you.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: One Voter’s View On Liz Cheney

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10903

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I’ve voted for a Cheney for one federal office or another eight times.

(That ought to chase off any Democrats still reading.)

On the wall next to my desk is a framed letter dated April 26, 1979, from Rep. Dick Cheney. He thanked me for interviewing him when I was editor of the Rawlins Daily Times, and for sending him photos I took of him outside the Times office. One photo was used in his newsletter.

I was impressed that a member of Congress didn’t have a photographer (or anyone else) with him when he visited. He was frugal.

He went on to bigger and better things, so I hung his letter on the wall. People who see it might be impressed that he called me “Dave,” and signed it “Dick.”

Every time Cheney came up for re-election, I voted for him. He seemed like a businesslike, no-nonsense Republican. If he disliked the media, he kept it to himself. Later, when Cheney ran for vice president, I voted for him again. Twice.

Then, when his daughter Liz ran for Congress in 2016, I voted for her. I agreed with her conservative stands. I voted for her in 2018 and again last year.

I have friends who consider her a carpetbagger. But she went to high school back east because her dad was in Congress. (Many of us tended to live where our fathers worked.)

I have Wyoming friends who were born in other states and moved to Wyoming, and friends who were born in Wyoming and now live in other states. All God’s children were born somewhere, and have a right to weigh in on politics.

It was apparent early on that Liz Cheney didn’t much like Donald Trump. The Cheneys are a buttoned-down, confident family of politicians, and Trump’s tendency to pop off, attack those who disagree, and occasionally be crude surely wasn’t the Cheney family cup of tea.

(Funny thing, though, is that before Trump, the last guy I recall who was hated so thoroughly by liberals and the media – some of whom now profess a touching, newfound love for Liz Cheney – was Dick Cheney.)

As a member of Congress, however, Liz Cheney voted in support of Trump initiatives 92 percent of the time. She didn’t embrace Trump’s style, but she mainly supported his policies, which went a long way to secure the border, cut taxes, spark signs of accord in the Mideast, make us energy independent, boost the economy and cut unemployment.

Then came January 6, and rioting inside the U.S. Capitol. Liz Cheney joined the rush to impeach Trump for allegedly encouraging the riot, and for disputing election results.

Like it or not, plenty of Americans are still scratching their heads over that last election, when many voting rules were changed due to the pandemic. But if anyone questions anything, they are dismissed as tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists. Nuts.

I can’t remember a time when simple questions have brought such condemnation, and even banishment from public discourse, onto those who dare to doubt. But that’s where we are.

And my congressperson joins those who think that asking questions amounts to believing “the Big Lie” that the election was stolen.

Liz Cheney was removed from her leadership position last week, which seemed logical to me because she is at odds with a majority of Republicans in the House.

If you favor Ronald Reagan’s policy of “taking half a loaf,” you have to wonder why Cheney jumped so quickly to impeach the president she agreed with 92 percent of the time. She could have simply not joined the rush to judgment, which was quickly rejected in the Senate.

But, she joined.

Lately, she says she will do everything in her power to keep Donald Trump from becoming president again. She apparently wants to lead the snakes out of the Republican Party, a modern day St. Patrick.

Really? She abhors the guy she agreed with 92 percent of the time? The guy I agreed with about 92 percent of the time? The guy who seemed to be getting some good results?

That’s who my congressperson can’t abide?

For the first time in decades, next election I’ll probably be voting for someone not named Cheney.

Go figure.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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