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Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson: I’ll Take Rudeness Over Incompetence

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“It takes a kid two years to learn how to talk,” my father used to say, “and the rest of his life to learn how to shut up.”

I thought of that the other day when I read the comments of former President Donald Trump on the death of former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Trump wrote this:

“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the fake news media. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace.”

Donald, Donald, Donald.

He never learned that crucial part my father mentioned about when to shut up. He never learned from doubting the patriotism of John McCain. And, good as he looks in comparison to our current president when it comes to simple competence and awareness, he still hasn’t learned how to avoid walking into every screaming buzz saw of controversy that presents itself.

I voted for Trump twice. I liked the results he got, in the face of relentless, bare-knuckled, dishonest opposition, baseless accusations and dripping, unbridled hatred from Democrats and the majority of the news media. Compare those results – on the economy, unemployment, the border, cutting regulations, tax cuts, facilitating the development of three vaccines, and many other accomplishments – with the train wreck we have in Washington today. (Which, come to think of it, is unfair to train wrecks.)

Criticizing President Biden borders on unsportsmanlike. It’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Who will ever trust our country again after the debacle in Afghanistan? Laughably asking OPEC to boost oil production after doing everything in his power to hamstring our domestic energy industry. Promising to bring a pandemic under control even as deaths in our country this year exceed those last year. Inflation running rampant. Gasoline prices through the roof. Almost two million illegal immigrants streaming across our southern border. And now a supply chain crisis threatening the very gifts under our Christmas trees.

And he’s incapable of speaking to the American people without most of us saying, “What the heck did Joe just say?” Seems like every time he talks, his staff has to walk back at least one bone-headed misstatement.

Suddenly, I don’t hear much from my Democrat friends about competence and the adults in the room.

So what we have is a competent but brash narcissist in Trump, lashing out at dead military icons, as opposed to stunning incompetence on the part of Biden, who, as the old saying goes, “could screw up a steel ball with a rubber hammer.”

Given a choice, I’d take the competent narcissist every time.

It makes you wish the voters could have been more tolerant of “mean tweets,” and that Trump could have learned not to attack guys like Colin Powell when they aren’t around to defend themselves. How easy it would have been for Trump to write, “My condolences to his family.”

Crisis averted.

Trump supporters can be excused for fantasizing about a candidate with Trump’s ability to get things done, but without the proclivity to insult anyone who disagrees, to throw gasoline on every available conflagration, and to use the death of a patriot like Powell to settle scores. Ron DeSantis and Mike Pompeo (have you noticed how much weight he has lost?) come to mind.

(A prediction: Our love affair with politicians who are former prosecutors is over. Don’t be surprised if our next president is a decorated war veteran, or number one in his class at West Point.)

Meanwhile, Rep. Liz Cheney was quick to label Trump’s comments about Powell “pathetic garbage,” which you would expect her to say. But it’s hard not to notice the contempt she increasingly shows to voters of a state that overwhelmingly supported Trump, and which elected her by large margins in the last three elections.

Trump, predictably, has called Liz Cheney a “smug fool,” and said, “to look at her is to despise her.”

Donald, Donald, Donald.

He’s got some work to do on the shutting up part.

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Dave Simpson: A Familiar Problem For Capt. Kirk

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

William Shatner said this week that the tough thing about going into space – where no 90-year-old man had gone before – was getting in and out of the chair in the space capsule here on earth.

Who among us, over age 65, can’t relate to THAT? Only weightlessness can solve that problem.

When it comes to struggling to get in and out of low chairs, many of us have been there, done that.

There was a time when I was young and callow (definition: devoid of feathers), when I thought those chairs that lift your caboose up and on your feet were just for old people. I might have even made fun of them, maybe even in print, back when I was young, reckless, and spry. (I ridiculed diet beer, too.)

Today, however, I realize that even youngsters like me – age 70 – can sometimes use a hand  overcoming the ravages of gravity, leg cramps, stiffness and all-around cussedness when doing something as simple as getting up out of a low chair and heading to the fridge for a beer. (Not a diet beer, which, come to think of it, could be a contributing factor here.)

Maybe a chair that hoists our ballast regions into an upright position might be a good idea. Hark! The scales have fallen from my eyes.

I used to like to get down on the floor to play with my dog Mitch (a Labrador Retriever, the Cadillac of Dogs). But these days, putting too much weight on a knee, on a hardwood floor, when getting back up can result in an appointment with the orthopedist and a month of physical therapy. (No kidding. I wouldn’t lie, about this.)

It’s an ugly thought, but if you were to deposit me in one of those beanbag chairs that were popular back in the 1970s, it’s more than likely that getting me back into an upright position would involve first responders, and maybe a hoist. So ixnay on beanbags

We are not, however, alone in this plight, fellow oldsters.

Turn on the television these days and it’s a non-stop parade of advertisements for products designed to make us limber again, able to play a brisk game of tennis, able to get a good night’s sleep on $250 sheets and $29 pillows, able to let us walk into a room without forgetting what the ding-dong heck we came into the room to get, and to goose our all-around friskiness and make our spouses happy, to boot.

They say the prime targets of advertisers are folks way younger than I am, but I say the dollars spent on these ads tell a different story. Our Social Security-fired geezer dollars are in high demand.

Lately, I’ve been wondering whether to take “Balance of Nature” – two little bottles of pills – that can apparently give you the vim and vigor to become a senior decathlon champ, or an old guy who can paint swell pictures and build intricate ship models. Or should I take “Relief Factor,” which explains why Pat Boone is still so active at his age, which helps Joe Piscopo stay buff, and gets Larry Elder out on his speedboat and walking his dog on the beach.

Most enticing is the Relief Factor ad with the young rodeo champ, who says it helps him the day after getting thrown by a raging bull. That might even be enough to help me recover from getting out of a low chair at my daughter’s house.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee makes a strong case for taking something called “Relaxium Sleep,” claiming that it helps him snooze through the night, maybe even without pit stops. Another old guy says something called “Prevagen” helps him stay sharp enough to compete with the young smart alecks at work.

Take heart, fellow McDonalds senior discount coffee drinkers. If William Shatner can hoist himself in and out of a recliner in a spaceship at age 90, without taking along a steamer trunk full of these products, we can probably get along, for a while longer, without a chair that hoists our weary backsides.

(Shatner may show up in Relief Factor ad any day now.)

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Dave Simpson: So Much For ‘Bringing Us Together’

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

More entries to the “Who’d A Thunk It?/You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” file:

– If you were surprised to learn that a person who once assisted people who spiked trees to endanger loggers now heads the Bureau of Land Management, you might be even more surprised to learn who has been nominated by feisty President Joe Biden to be comptroller of the nation’s banking system:

A person who wants to dismantle the private banking system, so that the Federal Reserve would hold all bank accounts. A person who wants a central bank digital currency, like Venezuela and China are adopting. A person who deleted her masters thesis, “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in the Capital” from her resume, and refuses to give a copy to the Senate committee considering her nomination.

A graduate of Moscow State University who attended on a Vladimir Lenin Personal Academic Scholarship. (Now there’s a school Wyoming won’t be meeting on the gridiron anytime soon. You never see t-shirts from that school around town.)

That person would be Professor Sarle Omarova of Cornell University.

And here you thought the plan to make banks report all transactions over $600 in your account to the feds was extreme. Kind of pales in comparison to China/Venezuela-like digital currency, don’t you think?

This from the man who promised to bring America together, to have us eating S’mores and singing Kum Bah Yah around the campfire. This from the president who was going to bring “the adults in the room” back to Washington.

No, the Bureau of Land Management head (Tracy Stone-Manning) and now this comptroller nominee reveal the true in-your-face nature of the Biden Administration, courtesy of the most ardent nut-ball extremists of the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Makes you wonder what comes next, don’t it?

– Also along the lines of the In-Your-Face Movement is the revelation last week from Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Federal Bureau of Investigation will now be turning its attention to parents who kick up a fuss at school board meetings.

Now, instead of getting in dutch with the school security guard, or a local cop, sheriff or prosecutor for speaking your mind too enthusiastically, you could be in trouble with J. Edgar Hoover’s G-men and G-women. (G-persons?)


Maybe you thought it was a good thing that parents are showing up at school board meetings across the country, getting involved in their kid’s education, showing community involvement. After all, haven’t we been scolded for years for not getting more involved in our pubic schools?

Not, however, if you plan to ask icky questions about what they’re teaching your kids. Or if you have a politically incorrect opinion about masks or vaccines. Or if you want your kids to have a choice about vaccines, like some teachers do.

(I’m glad the FBI wasn’t involved when I attended school board meetings back in Illinois, trying to stand up for retired folks on fixed incomes attempting to hold onto their homes in the face of property tax increases. A school superintendent once told me he thought the schools might be able to get along on annual increases of twice the rate of inflation, but it would be tough. Twice what that guy trying to hold on to the family home gets in Social Security increases. Think about that.)

Mind your manners, Mom and Dad, when you attend a school board meeting. The attorney general, school authorities, the teachers unions, and now the FBI are watching, and they’re not amused by your antics.

And to think, Garland could have ended up on the Supreme Court.

– And then, of course, there’s the frantic full-court press by the Nuts in Congress Caucus to heap $3.5 trillion on top of the trillions already spent on every crazy rat hole Bernie Sanders and his wild-eyed pals can pound borrowed dollars down. Except Bernie doesn’t think $3.5 trillion is nearly enough. Think about that, too.

And the message from Dissembling Joe: He doesn’t care what you think. Get used to it, pal. Suck it up. Elections have consequences.

Together is about the last place these adults in the room are bringing us.

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Dave Simpson: Which Wyoming Town Is The Most ‘Typical’ Of The Cowboy State

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

“Where is the most typical town in Wyoming?” 

My grouchy neighbor asked that last week.

I’ve written about this guy before. Out of our little settlement of about 50 cabins high in the Snowy Range, I am this guy’s only friend. 

My other neighbors identify him by saying, “You know, the guy nobody likes except Dave. Dave is his only friend.”

He admits that other than me, he has no friends on the mountain. That’s because when he was building his cabin – a hurry-up deal because he wanted it closed in by snowmobile season – he would tell folks who came by to welcome him to the neighborhood that he didn’t have time to waste talking. He can be rude. Yells at kids who get too close when he’s felling trees.

I just laugh when he says something rude. The last thing I want is a fight with a neighbor. We’ve become pretty good friends.

He has deep Wyoming roots, and his question intrigued me. He knows I have a daughter in Gillette.

“Gillette is not a typical Wyoming town because of the coal boom,” he said. “The boom brought a bunch of Okies and Texans to Gillette as well as Midwesterners looking to make some good money. A lot of ’em stayed and the place benefited from huge inflows of outside money.”

It took a while, but I’ve come to agree with those buttons Mike Enzi and his delegation wore to the state Legislature back in the 1980s that said, “I kinda like Gillette.” It’s a hard-working community where you can wear your work clothes to just about any restaurant in town and fit right in. I used to compare Gillette to Rawlins, but these days it’s more like Laramie, with plenty of nice restaurants, a great rec center, and lots of traffic on Highway 59.

(And two granddaughters.)

But, it’s not your typical Wyoming town.

Neither is Laramie, where I lived for six years back in the 1970s. There’s nothing typically Wyoming about our only university town, where 11,000 students goose the dickens out of the economy every August through June. And it has one of the best downtown business districts in the state.

(My old pal Greg Bean – remember him? – once said you always think you’ll run into someone you know in Laramie, but you never do. Lots of turnover.)

Rawlins has the penitentiary, and when I lived there the coal mines in Hanna were booming, so you can’t say it is typically Wyoming. I met some nice folks in Rawlins during my year as editor of the Daily Times. But typical? Not a town with a Death Row.

You’d be crazy to suggest that Jackson is typically Wyoming. A business editor at the Star-Tribune once said of the Tetons and Jackson – “I want to go there when I die.” Typical? No way. Same goes for tourist mecca Cody.

Former Star-Tribune Editor Phil McAuley used to make fun of Sheridan’s polo fields, and connection to British royalty, so we can cross it off the list. Nearby Buffalo could have been a contender, until it was dubbed the best place in America to retire in a Wall Street Journal story. What a non-typical burden.

Cheyenne isn’t typical because of state government, the air base, the railroad, and close proximity to Colorado. An old friend from Casper calls folks like me who live in Cheyenne “greenies,” and “jet butts.” Lander? Don’t they all wear those waffle-stomper boots and eat granola? Not typical.

I always liked Casper because it seemed like a city that didn’t need a state facility to keep it alive. But I think it’s too diverse and big to be a typical Wyoming town. Rock Springs could be a contender, except it benefits from mining and the power plant.

“So where is the most typical town in Wyoming?” my grouchy neighbor asked. “Gave this some thought and came up with – open the envelope – Riverton. Place is mostly untouched by tourism, no nearby attractions, diverse ranching and farming economy and populated by ordinary Wyomingites. Lusk came in second.”

My guess is some will disagree. But, beware.

This guy can be pretty rude.

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Dave Simpson: Pay Like Everyone Else Does, Joe!

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“Let’s not talk about the numbers,” (wide eyes, wild hand gestures) “and dollars. Let’s talk about the values.”

That was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, talking to reporters last week.

Old Russian saying: “The circus left. The clowns remain.”

Seems kind of appropriate, these days in Washington.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was in a snit last week (he does snits better than anyone), fulminating at Republicans who were refusing to go along with Democrats in the latest installment of the raising-the-debt-ceiling clown-car show. Schumer said Republicans are “playing with fire” if they don’t vote to raise the debt ceiling to avoid another government semi-kind-of-you-know-shutdown.

Schumer’s nemesis, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said last week that “Americans know a train wreck when they see one.” We’re left to wonder WHICH train wreck. There are so many.

So, let’s get this straight, for the benefit of those of us out here in Flyover Country, where you can only raise the limit on your credit cards so many times, and max out so many cards before someone figures out what you’re up to, and you suddenly have to live under the horrible burden of paying some of that money back. (The HORROR!)

Apparently, spending over $1 trillion and change on the much ballyhooed “bipartisan” infrastructure bill that is still in the works doesn’t strike Chuck as “playing with fire.” (These infrastructure fans apparently haven’t been out for a ride lately, and seen the construction tying things up already. No, we need an additional trillion in flag persons, orange cones and dozers.)

Neither, apparently, does the prospect of an additional $3.5 trillion – but maybe as much as $6 trillion, depending on who does the math – for the nutty additional cyclone of spending that is on the way, strike Chuck as “playing with fire.”

Abandoning our $800 million embassy in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, and billions of dollars worth of weapons, vehicles and aircraft apparently doesn’t strike Chuck as “playing with fire” either.

Same goes for opening our southern border to just about anyone, sick or not. That’s not “playing with fire” either.

Or accumulated debt to the tune of $28 trillion already. That’s not “playing with fire” either.

No, the only thing that amounts to playing with fire is not going along with the regular federal government charade of raising the debt ceiling. Now THAT, according to Chuck, is playing with fire. And who among us, living on a budget, doesn’t get a good laugh every time these spendthrifts utter the words “full faith and credit of the United States government?”

Meanwhile (and I watched so many Saturday morning westerns on TV as a kid that I’m always tempted to follow the word “meanwhile” with “back at the ranch”) President Build Back Broker says that $3.5 trillion he wants to spend, which you recall could be as high as $6 trillion, is completely “paid for,” as if Daddy Warbucks has promised to pick up the tab. Oh yeah, we’re dumb enough to believe that. Keep mumbling, Joe. That’s what you’re good at.

(Anyone else noticed that Vice President Giggles looks a lot like Nurse Ratched, standing behind Joe, keeping an eye on a potentially difficult patient? That’s why she can’t spend time at the border. She’s tending to Joe.)

The icing on the cake last week was the news that the Bidens may have underpaid their “fair share” of federal income taxes by a whopping (wordsmith Edwin Newman always asked when a number begins to whop) $500,000, through the use of one of those icky (but maybe legal) loopholes dreamed up by, you guessed it, Joe’s longtime pals in Congress.

(It takes a special kind of hypocrisy to spend a career screwing up the tax code, then attacking anyone who uses the Rube Goldberg system you created to pay as little in taxes, legally, as possible. That is the syrup of ipecac of hypocrisy.)

If Joe actually owes a half million in taxes, he needs to heed the words of, well, himself:

“Step up! Step up and pay like everyone else does!”

You can see why Pelosi and her pals don’t want to talk numbers.

And, “The clowns remain.”

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Dave Simpson: Want The Lowdown? Ask A Smoker!

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

At first, I couldn’t figure out what I liked about the bar a mile down the road from our house.

Every week or two I would stop in for an ice-cold glass of Coors. The friendly bartender always remembered what I wanted. The same group of cowboy-hat-wearing regulars were in session down at the end of the bar, and there was free popcorn, but you had to go get it yourself. Nice place.

At first I thought it was the western ambiance – rodeo art and big taxidermy – but I finally figured out what it was that was different, and it will shock and maybe appall you:

The place smelled like the bars of my college days, because they let folks smoke cigarettes.

Now, I don’t smoke. I haven’t for 45 years.  And I’m turned off like everyone else by thick cigarette smoke. But the cold beer and the subtle aroma of someone’s cigarette down at the end of the bar was a blast from the past, a memory from early adulthood, enjoying a cold one, an opportunity to take stock, uninterrupted.

Our sense of smell is key in sparking memories. The first office I worked in was a fascinating combination of the cigarettes smoked by the editor and my fellow reporter, the oil used to keep the ever-clacking United Press International teletypes lubricated, and the ink and solvent they used on the press down in the basement.

I can smell it as I write this, and I lament the day smoking was banished and hard-core newsrooms started to smell no more interesting than government offices or insurance agencies. (Sadly, that first newsroom I worked in is now a commercial laundry. I couldn’t go back and smell the place if I wanted, or see my old Royal typewriter with the missing backspace key.)

Pungent memories.

At my father’s funeral 25 years ago, one of my older brothers told a story about building a boat with our dad down in our basement. The two of them would accomplish a task – fashioning the keel, a rib, or the transom – and then they would take a break, and my father would smoke a Camel cigarette as he contemplated the next step.

Years later he would give up smoking with the aid of cinnamon-flavored toothpicks. My guess is he missed those smoke breaks, and the pause to gather his thoughts.

(At that funeral, my brother told another story. The time came to paint the underside of the deck of the boat – a pretty impossible place to maneuver. “Nobody would know if we left it unpainted,” my brother said. “But, WE would know,” my father replied. And the underside of the deck got painted.)

One last story about smoking.

Long after lighting up a cigarette in a newsroom became a firing offense, and newsrooms started smelling like every other boring office in town, the smokers still found refuge out behind the building, rain or shine, hot or cold, gathered in a little group, enjoying their smoke-break and conversation.

At one paper, there was a picnic table by the back door, where our smokers would convene, greeting folks as they made their way to or from the parking lot.

It ultimately occurred to me that the inter-departmental communication that went on at that picnic table, or out on the loading dock at another paper, was far more effective than any department head meeting, or all-staff meeting I ever attended.

From then on, if I really wanted to know what was going on – who was mad at whom, who was about to quit, what caused that new dent in the company van, and the very juiciest gossip – I would ask a smoker. They usually had the answer, and would roll their eyes that the boss was always the last to know.

I’m sure the smokers still gather out behind those offices – one of the last things to survive from our rough-and-tumble “Front Page” past, sharing the latest gossip.

Our world is no doubt more healthy since our smoking days went up in smoke.

But, that whiff of smoke from the other end of the bar sure sparks a lot of memories.

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Dave Simpson: Still Think 2021 Has To Be Better?

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Confession is good for the soul, so I guess it’s time to ‘fess up.

About a year ago I wrote that I couldn’t imagine Americans putting the presidency in the hands of the political party that was making such a galloping mess of things in violence and riot-torn cities like Portland, Ore., Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, New York, Washington – the list is long.

But – unless you believe the election was stolen, and I’m not walking into that brier patch, even though I question where the questions went – I was wrong. Ding-dong wrong.

Americans, according to the election results, apparently preferred the party that has made such a goat rodeo of things in our major cities, and embraced a candidate who consistently devolves into indecipherable word salad whenever he wanders off script, over a brash, often rude, boasting guy who often made us say, “Gosh, I wish he hadn’t said that.”

The results of the first eight months of the Biden presidency demonstrate that the word salad guy couldn’t organize a trip to the grocery store (prices are up, Joe), much less a withdrawal from Afghanistan. And he’s opened our southern border to, well, pretty much anyone who shows up. All he’s good at is undoing everything the rude, boasting guy did, giving away money we don’t have, and promising to give away trillions more.

The rude, boasting guy was no great shakes on spending money we don’t have either, but the southern border was far more secure, and I believe heads would be rolling if he botched the withdrawal from Afghanistan as badly as the word salad guy.

So I’ve learned my lesson well. We prefer doddering, incomprehensible incompetence over mean tweets. Jot that down.

That said, I was RIGHT, however, in a column I wrote at the beginning of this year doubting the commonly-held belief that 2021 simply had to be better than 2020.

Maybe I hung around newsrooms for too many years, with journalists who sometimes boiled over from skepticism to full-bore cynicism, but I asked this question early this year:

What makes you think 2021 will be better than 2020? Maybe it will be worse. Ever think of that?

Turns out I was right, sadly prescient,  and it was only six days into the new year when a hoard of idiots, lunatics, rubes, stump-jumpers and a guy wearing body paint and buffalo horns stormed the Capitol to kick off what would become a Boone-and-Crockett grade rotten year. It even turned Liz Cheney into the darling of the democrats, someone we hardly recognize anymore.

The democrats and the media – I can hardly tell them apart – blame it all on the rude boasting guy who called on demonstrators to protest (this is a direct quote) “peacefully.”

Later that month, the boasting guy was too busy licking his wounds to save two Senate seats in Georgia, and handed the Senate over to the massive spending (even more massive than our guys), government-loving socialism fans of the left.

“Oh yeah,” I thought, “this sure doesn’t look like an improvement over 2020. And it’s only January!”

Then the governor of New York had to resign and give his Emmy back because he couldn’t keep his paws off the help, and lied about the great job he did fighting COVID. President Word Salad fired up his commission to pack the Supreme Court. And the price of gas rose by over $1 a gallon, as we hilariously asked OPEC to boost production while we did everything possible to torpedo production here. (Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.)

Then a new and improved model of COVID burst on the scene, and the messaging from Washington  was just more confusing, contradictory word salad.

When I figured things couldn’t possibly get worse, President Biden royally screwed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan. A high school kid could have told you to pull out the folks with the weapons last, not first, to protect Americans, and the Afghans who helped us for 20 years.

Remember when we were told these people would be the “adults in the room?”

Some adults.

Still think 2021 will be better than 2020?

I rest my case, Your Honor.

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Dave Simpson: Half A Hundred Years Of Columns

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

I’ve been waiting half a century to write this column.

I planned to write it, then Cowboy State Daily Publisher Bill Sniffin beat me to the punch, writing last week about our columnist pals in Wyoming who have been writing for around 50 years, folks like Bill himself, and my old Casper Star-Tribune compadres Joan Barron and Sally Ann Shurmur.

“Hey, wait a minute!” I said when I read Bill’s column. “I’m in that club, too!”

It was on a ship, the S.S. Universe Campus, somewhere between Los Angeles and Honolulu, in the first week of September in 1971, that I wrote my first newspaper column. I was a student in a wonderful program called World Campus Afloat, and I figured it was the perfect time to try new things, like writing for the ship-board daily newspaper, The Helm.

I don’t remember what that first column was about. But on that ship, they showed movies every night. I think I watched “Citizen Kane” a dozen times,  and everyone enjoyed “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” A column I wrote about an actual trip to Outlaw Cave up near Kaycee – allegedly an actual haunt of old Butch – was well-read. It was on that trip around the world, writing every day we were at sea, that I fell in love with newspapers.

In Laramie, where I landed my first newspaper job, I was too busy writing news to write columns. But I did write one about my oldest friend, who in the early 1970s came up with the concept of the automatic kitty litter box. It had two levels, a home-made conveyor belt, a motor scrounged from a discarded washing machine, and a drawer to catch kitty’s leavings.

It worked great, except for two problems. It set up a thick cloud of dust. And it was so loud the cat wouldn’t get within 10 feet of it. Still makes me laugh.

When I worked in Casper, I covered a murder trial in Sheridan. I noticed that the look on the face of a parent of the homicide victim was strikingly like the look of the mother of a defendant in a murder case down in Rawlins, which I also covered. The shell-shocked, agonized look of the parents of a victim and a perpetrator were the same, and clearly asked, “What happened to my child?”

In Craig, Colorado, I wrote a column in 1986 about the birth of our daughter Alison (I called her Blanche in my columns), reporting that a dose of Demerol caused the arrival of our daughter to progress “like the German blitzkrieg into Poland.” They used that column for a while in Colorado to let prospective dads know what they were in for.

One of my favorite columns involved the time in Illinois when I looked out the window of our house and saw a guy walking his yappy little dog on my lawn. The dog left clear, solid evidence that he had visited.

Well, if ever there was “column material,” that was it. In my next column, I noted this curious event, referring to the dog’s leavings as “small caliber.”

At the time, I had a Labrador Retriever that one vet told me was “the biggest Lab I ever saw.” I wrote that it was my intention to respond to the owner of the little dog in kind, and while the term “shock and awe” would come along years later, my dog Woody would be delivering the mother of all responses, reminiscent of the 16-inch guns of the Battleship Missouri.

In 1996, Time Magazine wrote a feature before Father’s Day about being your kid’s best friend. My father had about four months left to live, and I wrote a column saying that he and I were never best friends. But he built boats and cabins with me and my brothers, headed the building committee when our church burned down, taught me and every one of my friends to water ski, was a gifted carpenter and gardener, continued his work day as a civil engineer at his desk at home every weeknight until Johnny Carson came on, and served a couple terms on our local village board.

He wasn’t my best friend, I wrote, but he was the best example I could have had on how to be a dad.

When my mom wheeled him into the dining room at the assisted living place where they lived the Saturday that column appeared, my dad got a round of applause. That Sunday, the Presbyterian minister in town read that column for his sermon.

I figure there have been at least 2,600 Dave Simpson columns over the last 50 years, about the deaths of beloved Labrador Retrievers, scraps over local issues like property taxes and bringing a federal prison to town, and every other topic you can think of. I’ve never had a week go by that there wasn’t something worth 700 words in a column.

It occurs to me that at age 70, with 50 years of newspaper columns in my saddle bag, it might be a good time to call it quits.

No way.

These days, column writing is the only activity that doesn’t make my joints sore.

And I’m having way too much fun.

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Dave Simpson: Trying To Fill Some Very Large Shoes

in Dave Simpson/Column

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

So much news, so little summer left.

Let’s make the rounds:

– The very large shoes of Rush Limbaugh are being replaced (not filled) by a number of able talk radio practitioners. And in much of Wyoming, we have impressive access to some of the best.

(The mere mention of Rush makes you a target of withering ridicule, especially on social media. But I don’t care. I tell my daughter not to read the comments – many of them vicious – when something I’ve written ends up on Facebook. The vociferousness out there is stunning.)

On KGAB in Cheyenne, where I live, the Rush time slot (10 am until 1 pm) is filled by former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who is increasingly popular. I’ve enjoyed his podcast for over a year now. And I love it when he calls  Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki “Peppermint Patty.”

On venerable KTWO in Casper (I’ve enjoyed the voice of Bob Price for almost 50 years), they went with Glenn Beck, who many of us have listened to for years. His “Happy Days are Here Again” bit with sidekick Pat Gray following a GOP election victory was so funny I had to pull my pickup to the side of the road, I was laughing so hard.

Down in Fort Collins, on KCOL, they went with Clay Travis and former CIA agent Buck Sexton. Pretty solid, and they inherited the official Limbaugh Excellence in Broadcasting imprimatur.

Most interesting, in my opinion, is the choice of KOWB in Laramie, where the Rush time slot is filled by Jamie Markley, David van Camp and Scott Robbins, who broadcast from my old neighborhood, Central Illinois (Peoria). Their combination of current events outrage and laugh-out-loud humor comes closest to recreating Rush’s belief that being entertaining is paramount. Lately, when I can get KOWB on the radio, I’m listening to Markley, van Camp and Robbins.

Interesting that it takes at least seven talented guys, with 14 feet, to try to fill Rush Limbaugh’s two shoes.

Whatever your choice, conservatives have an impressive number of voices on AM radio in much of Wyoming.

– It’s clear that the big shots at the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House never had a boss like I had.

I shudder to think about the reception I’d have gotten if I called my boss to tell him I’d abandoned the building I spent $800 million to build, gave away over 200 aircraft and billions of dollars worth of the latest weapons to our worst enemies, and couldn’t keep the promise I’d made to save people who had helped us for 20 years. And that we were depending on the very people we fought for 20 years to help us leave.

The silence on the other end of the phone would have been deafening.

Then, “You did WHAT?”

We hear a lot about the value of a business background in our government officials. Accountability – having to explain boneheaded decisions to a thrifty, impatient boss – and consequences like losing your job, are sadly rare at the highest levels of our government.

– It looks to me like the organizers of the Lallapalooza music fest in Chicago did a better job of preparing for possible eventualities than our president did preparing for our departure from Afghanistan.

In the immortal words of the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko, “I may be wrong, but I doubt it!”

– Other dog owners may have been appeased (not me) by the news that upon further deliberation, disgraced former Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York would NOT be abandoning his dog when he left the governor’s mansion, as previously announced.

It took about a day for the revelation that he would give away the dog for public reaction to pierce his thick gubernatorial skull.

You show me a guy who would ever consider giving up his dog, and I’ll show you a guy who would get frisky with the help, lie about the great job he did fighting the pandemic, and have to give back the Emmy he got from his moronic, moon-calf celebrity pals in Hollywood.

Certain things reveal a lot about a guy. Willingness to jettison your dog speaks volumes.

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Dave Simpson: Forget The Bear, Fear The Black Flies

in Dave Simpson/Column

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By Dave Simpson, columnnist

The breaking news from my little patch of woods high in the Snowy Range of Wyoming is that a black bear made off with my neighbor’s six pack of Miller Lite beer last Friday.


We’re used to bears getting into garbage and coolers, foolishly left outside. (I keep everything inside.) But stealing a guy’s beer is a clear escalation of hostilities. A low blow.

Some black cherry sparkling water was also stolen. Cans punctured by bear teeth were found near my neighbor’s cabin. But there’s no sign of the missing beer.

We’re used to bears getting into stuff. Another neighbor found a punctured can of WD-40 lubricating spray a couple years ago, which was no doubt a disappointment to the scrounging bear. Another neighbor had to use bear spray on a persistent bruin trying to raid a bird feeder on her deck.

However, in my 40 years of summering up here, on private land surrounded by the Medicine Bow National Forest, I have seen precisely one bear. That was 10 years ago, when I spotted a smallish cinnamon-colored bear crossing the road ahead of me while hiking. And I once found a hummingbird feeder on the ground at my cabin, the base chewed up by a bear. But that occurred while I was away.

Figuring, incorrectly, that bears were becoming an increasing problem, I bought some bear spray in Saratoga, but the clerk who rang it up said she prefers a .44 under her bed. That was 10 years ago.

And I decided to buy a .44 Special pistol from an old friend in Illinois.

Getting a pistol from Illinois to Wyoming proved quite a task. Even the Illinois State Police couldn’t tell me, if I was stopped in that state, with the pistol in my pickup, without a valid Illinois Firearm Owner Identification card (impossible because I didn’t live in Illinois), if I could be charged with a felony. So we had the pistol shipped from one federally-licensed gun dealer in Illinois to one in Cheyenne, at a cost of about $100.


Since then, I’ve only shot the .44 at a shooting range. It’s kind of a cannon, not nearly as fun to shoot as my .22.

Other than the missing beer, and some strewn garbage and a few toppled coolers, we seem to be getting along pretty well with the bears – seldom requiring even warning shots.

Mosquitoes are a much bigger threat, but they weren’t as bad as usual this year. Some cold nights in late July must have killed them off, a couple weeks earlier than usual.

Worse than ever this year, however, were the little black flies, ankle-biting menaces that don’t give up without a fight. I finally resorted to flypaper strips, and snagged about 100 of the little devils in a weekend.

The hummingbird population is about normal this year, but far lower than we used to see in the 1990s. But a couple years ago I talked to a lady at Ten Mile who said she was just about going broke buying sugar for her swarms of hummingbirds. So I guess it’s a location deal, not climate change. (Whew.)

I notice that even with a half dozen feeders, one dominant hummingbird chases the others away. Greed and selfishness aren’t limited to humans, I guess, even when there’s plenty for everyone.

I’m seeing more deer than usual, all bucks to far, the biggest a four point. In previous years it was mostly does. And for the first time in about five years, I’ve twice spotted a fox lurking on the other side of my fire pit at dusk.

Best of all are the moose. Two cows walked past my cabin window a couple weeks ago, close enough and large enough to block the sunlight. And the next week a majestic bull crossed my place, so close that I had to back away. I couldn’t believe how quietly such a huge animal made his way through dense woods.

We’ve been blessed with some wonderful rainfall this summer, so the forest is lush and green. September promises to be spectacular.

The only bad news is my neighbor still hasn’t found that missing six-pack of Miller Lite.

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