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Hey GOP! Don’t Call at Dinnertime!

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

THEM AGAIN: There was a time when a phone call from the U.S. Senate would have been a big deal in my family.

That was back in the 1960s when I was growing up in Illinois. It’s hard to imagine today, but back then Illinois was represented in the Senate by two actual Republicans – former Bell and Howell mogul Charles Percy, and smooth-talking Everett Dirksen. Today, Democrats represent Illinois in the Senate.

What we all knew about Percy was the tragic story of the murder of his daughter Valerie at their exclusive north suburban Chicago mansion in 1966. The murder was never solved.

Our other senator, Dirksen, was a giant of the Senate, and was key in gathering Republican support for President Lyndon Johnson’s historic civil rights legislation.

My grandmother, in her 80s at the time, loved Dirksen’s famous voice. It was so smooth and memorable that four records were produced featuring Dirksen reading poems and famous speeches. He won a Grammy for one in 1966. We gave my grandmother one of those albums for Christmas.

I can imagine how excited my grandmother would have been to get a call from the U.S. Senate, and maybe her favorite senator – who we called her “boyfriend.” Little did she know that her youngest grandson would be publisher of the paper in Dirksen’s home town of Pekin, Ill., for 13 years. Dirksen at one time had a private office upstairs in the newspaper building.

That was then. This is now.

These days, with the miracle of caller ID, a call from the U.S. Senate is little more than a nuisance call. We never even bother to pick up.

“It’s those pests from the U.S. Senate again,” we say when they call at about 5:20 p.m., while we’re trying to get dinner on the table. If you make the mistake of picking up, it is some phony baloney “town hall” event to keep support ginned up in Wyoming for our Senate delegation, which is just as Republican as Percy and Dirksen were in Illinois. The calls are no doubt intended to goose donations to the Republican Party

They used to send us fund raising letters, with “survey” questions like this: Are you aware that Nancy Pelosi is the spawn of Beelzebub and is bent on enslaving your cute little grand daughter and ending life as we know it in the United States? Stop her by sending $100 to the Republican Party before dinnertime tonight!

I finally scrawled this on one letter and sent it back: “Stop sending this crap! Republicans need to become actual conservatives before they get a dime out of me. Have you guys ever heard of a balanced budget? You’re as bad as the Democrats! Take me off your mailing list.”

I don’t need a town hall meeting, or a fund-raising letter, to know my senators are Republicans, and conservative basics ought to be obvious without my input or cash. You know, obvious stuff like lower taxes, fewer regulations, strong military, no doing number two on city sidewalks, and that famous chant from Rick Santelli that spawned the Tea Party: STOP SPENDING!

A key problem, however, is that the U.S. Senate is so out of touch and rude that it calls us at dinnertime. If they want my attention, they shouldn’t call when I’m setting the table, chopping salad and popping the Shake n’ Bake pork chops in the oven.

I mean, really. How obvious is this?

OOPS: When the kids were growing up, we always ate dinner at 5:45, always ate together, and if they kids’ little friends called while we were eating, I’d do a not-so-slow burn. I was a real grouch about it.

Then one night, during dinner, the phone rang and I went into my rant. One of the kids picked up the phone.

“Who could be so RUDE as to call while we’re eating dinner?” I demanded.

“Your circulation department down at the newspaper,” my daughter replied. “They want to know if you want to subscribe!”

Hoist on my own petard. Coup-fourre (which Mille Bornes fans like me recall meant “counter thrust.’)

In true Saturday Night Live Emily Litella fashion, I sheepishly replied:

“Never mind.”

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Don’t Paint All Cops With Same Brush

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By Dave Simpson. Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

Years ago, a beefy police dispatcher not so patiently explained to me the difference between a robbery and a burglary.

I was a beginning reporter, and had mistakenly called a burglary a robbery. In print.

A robbery, he explained, is when you threaten someone to steal something. A burglary is when you take something when they aren’t around. Big difference.

I never made that mistake again.

As a newsman, I’ve had plenty of dealings with police officers and deputies over the years.

– A quiet, sincere deputy I spoke to many times – as I recall he grew up on a local ranch – died in a small plane crash, searching for a snowmobiler lost in the mountains. The snowmobiler was later found unhurt, but the deputy and the pilot died in the search.

– In another town, a police chief took a dislike to our paper, and started calling everyone arrested John Doe, Mary Doe, Bob Doe, to be difficult. So we put the “Doe Report” on the front page of the paper each day, reporting on the ongoing woes of the Doe family. After a week of ridicule, the chief went back to releasing real names.

– Also in that town, a police officer who was on the school board, tired of what he considered unfair coverage in the newspaper, wore his bulletproof vest, on the outside of his shirt, to a meeting. To make a point. (Sensitive guy.)

– At the crash of a private airplane up in the mountains, I saw Highway Patrol officers and sheriff’s deputies loading body parts into body bags. Imagine your job including that task.

– A justice of the peace in one town had an ongoing feud with the sheriff, accusing the sheriff of making faces at him from the back of the courtroom. The sheriff said I should sit in on some court sessions to see the best show in town.

So I did. And one day, that justice of the peace allowed a state legislator to plead guilty, in private, to drunk driving. In the hallway afterwards, I repeatedly asked the justice of the peace why the plea was taken behind closed doors.

“Arrest that man!” the JP said to a a sheriff’s deputy, pointing at me. “I don’t see anybody,” replied the smiling deputy. Word that the JP tried to arrest a reporter quickly spread around the courthouse. When I got upstairs to the district court, the District Judge laughed and said if they had arrested me, he would have put me “on work release.”

– Once, when my brother was overdue getting to our house in Illinois from Ohio in a snowstorm, a friend who was the former police chief offered to get in his car and help search for him. (Turned out my brother was OK.) When I moved away, that former chief gave me a framed copy of Voltaire’s quote, “I may disagree with what you say, but shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

– A veteran police officer in Illinois was part of my coffee group at a place called “Common Grounds.” He liked the fact that I referred to him as “a friend who is a cop,” instead of “a cop friend.”

A talented woodworker, he had a beautifully restored 1950s-era pickup truck, and he loved to ride his Harley. When I moved from Illinois to Nebraska, he pulled a trailer loaded with my stuff, then helped me unload.

He told me once that he never had to draw his sidearm in all his years on the job.

I’ve seen plenty of law enforcement folks over the years – some great guys, some ornery, a whiner or two, a couple heroes, and one who drove 1,600 miles round trip to help me move.

Point is, making sweeping generalizations about “all cops” is just as wrong as lumping peaceful demonstrators with looters.

I’d bet that every officer mentioned in this column is appalled by that calmly homicidal cop in Minneapolis who choked the life out of George Floyd.

Some guys just shouldn’t be cops, but it’s my experience that those cases are exceedingly rare.

I know I never ran into one.

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Dave Simpson: Digital News: We’re Losing Plenty In This Process

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Imagine a digital news source that would tell you what happened at your city council’s Tuesday evening meeting first thing Wednesday morning.

Every time they met, not just when some big issue comes up.

Imagine 800, maybe 1,000 words letting you know what the most important action taken was, then going down the list of lesser items on their agenda. What council members had to say, how they voted, and who missed the meeting would all be right there in the story.

Imagine a digital news source that would include a list of calls answered by your police department and sheriff’s office, and what the problem was.

Imagine that this news source would take the time, every day, to go to the courthouse, and prepare a long list of property exchanges, marriage licenses issued, charges filed by the prosecutor, and court actions. Over at city hall, a list of calls answered by the fire department and city ambulances would be jotted down, and listed in this digital news source.

Then, this news source would also have a list of people (if they chose to be listed) admitted to the hospital, and births at the hospital. If you spotted a friend’s name, you could send flowers, or call and ask if they would like you to check on their house while they are in the hospital.

Now, let’s say your school board wants to raise property taxes, but your tax bill is so full of incomprehensible words like “mils” and “multipliers” and “extensions” that you don’t know what the ding-dong heck is going on. Let’s say your digital news source had a person on staff who could write a story explaining it, so you know what effect this would have on your house payment. 

Let’s say the local Weed and Pest Board wants to add your favorite plant to the list of noxious weeds that you’re responsible for eradicating. You don’t even know where that board meets, but you want to protect your beloved Russian olives. Let’s say that handy news source gets wind of the change, and does a story all about it.

Let’s say that local college kids propose a “pub crawl” from bar to bar for next weekend, and the city manager figures that a 100-pound coed will be dead halfway through the crawl if she drinks a drink at every stop. The manager gets a reporter to do a story, and the pub crawl is canceled. And you knew all about it, because you read about it right on your cell phone or other device.

Let’s say your kids finished college and left boxes of junk from their old dorm rooms in your garage, and you’ve been stumbling over them for years. You decide to have a garage sale and sell their futons, beer signs and lava lamps, and a little ad in this news source, for not much money, ensures a nice crowd on Saturday morning. Simple. Easy.

Now, here’s the hard part. This digital local news source attracts young people fresh out of college, willing to work for minimum wage if necessary, with grand hopes of moving up in the news business. They are motivated to do some good stories to show prospective employers at the next step up on the career ladder. They work hard, then move on.

Imagine all that stuff, plus a nice write-up when your daughter has a big wedding in town with all your friends and neighbors in attendance.

Back to the real world.

Our local paper canceled its Tuesday edition last month, cutting costs to survive dwindling revenues and the national move from the printed page to digital news sources. A couple years ago they canceled their Monday edition. It has never been tougher to run a local newspaper.

Your coverage of local issues has never been more threatened.

I’m not suggesting that buggy whip companies should have survived Henry Ford’s mass production of automobiles. How we get our news has changed dramatically. New digital sources are showing up, and that’s reason for optimism.

They’ve got a long way to go, however, in providing the gritty local stuff we’ve been receiving from our local papers for decades.

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Dave Simpson: We’re Less Deplorable Than Before!

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Articulate Ball-of-Fire Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said this last week:

“There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people…”

(This quote has to be accurate, because it appeared in The New York Times.)

Biden was addressing a group of democrats by video from his basement rumpus room, and he was surprisingly coherent.

(Forgive me, but this reminds me of a school superintendent I once encountered who said student achievement scores would improve if the town could just attract a better grade of parent. Smarter parents would translate to smarter kids, and better test scores. The town was unimpressed by his logic.)

As positive people, who turn frowns upside down, and insist on seeing glasses half full, it behooves us to see this as possible good news. Because it was just four years ago that Hillary Clinton, also running for president, estimated that half the people who supported her opponent Donald Trump – which would translate to 31.5 million voting Americans – were a “basket of deplorables.”

Whether or not this translates into meaningful progress depends on how you do the math.

If you take all the people in the United States, and apply Joe’s 10 percent number, that gives you 33 million of us who are “not very good people,” or just slightly more than Hillary’s estimate of how many lowlifes like us were in the basket of deplorables back in 2016. (Not good.)

At 15 percent of all the people in America, hard-charging Joe figures that 49.5 million of us are “not very good people.” (Even worse.) This would mean that more of us had oozed to the deplorable side of the political spectrum in a mere 3.5 years, which is no doubt Donald Trump’s fault, because, well, everything is, darn him.

According to this way of looking at the world, a higher stock market and lower unemployment – until the big coronavirus home confinement hit – made us (yes, I proudly count myself as deplorable) even more deplorable than before, and more not very good people-ish.

However, if you never took a statistics class like I never took a statistics class, you know that as soon as you cite numbers like these, some smug statistics grad will tell you that you don’t know your caboose from a hole in the ground.

So, let’s look deeper.

Hillary beat Trump in the popular vote by 3 million votes, meaning that a total of about 128 million people voted in 2016. (That factors out those who are not yet old enough to vote, and who haven’t had time to become deplorable yet, under the influence, no doubt, of their deplorable parents.)

Factor Joe’s 10 percent “not very good people” into that, and you come up with a mere 12.6 million of us who are not very good people. Bump it up to 15 percent, and you still only have 19.2 million not very good people. This is progress, people.

Take the higher estimate of not very good people, compare it to Hillary’s 31.5 million deplorables, and we’re talking real, measurable improvement. Positively granular. Even under the highest estimate of not very good people, an impressive 12.3 million of us have somehow slithered out of the basket of deplorables. This is a 39 percent decrease in deplorableness, which is enough to make even statistics grads bark their approval.

(I used to say “gnarly, Dude” at moments like this, but my wife won’t let me say that anymore. Forget I said it.)

Apparently what makes us deplorable and not good people is our fondness for keeping our doctor if we like our doctor, keeping our insurance if we like our insurance, secure borders, an aversion to late-term abortions, not saddling our grand kids with huge, crippling debt, a general appreciation for capitalism over socialism, and a general belief that big government screws up more than it fixes. (As some say, government could “screw up a steel ball with a rubber hammer.”)

Shame on us for thinking crazy stuff like that. Despicable, huh?

The good news is that we may be appreciably less deplorable, even if our democrat friends are doing the math.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: No Frontier Days? Cowboy Up!

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist Cowboy State Daily

There’s gotta be a pony in this pile of manure…

That was the punchline from a Ronald Reagan story, about the couple with two sons, one a pessimist, the other an optimist.

“What should we give the boys for Christmas?” the wife asked. “It doesn’t matter what we give our little pessimist,” the husband replied. “He won’t be happy with anything. But let’s give our little optimist a pile of horse manure. He’ll figure there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.”

(I miss Reagan, don’t you? Remember when he was pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, and Sam Donaldson shouted a question at the president? The turkey kicked up a fuss, and Reagan turned to the bird and said, “That’s tellin’ him, boy!”)

(Remember when Reagan was touting the virtues of the Individual Retirement Account? He cited Moses, who lived 600 years, and said, “Imagine what he could have accumulated in his IRA!”)

We learned last week that the biggest event of the year in our town – Frontier Days, when 500,000 people come to a city of 60,000 – is canceled this year. That’s because you can hardly pack the town full of tourists for rodeos, concerts, multiple parades and free pancake breakfasts with everyone wearing pancake-blocking masks, and staying six feet away from each other. How do you whoop it up at a time like this?

A few years ago, I was getting an oil change downtown. The manager lamented the onset of Frontier Days.

“For the next week,” he said, “if it isn’t a parade blocking traffic, it’s a free pancake breakfast.”

That’s our town, but just about every town has one. In Central Illinois, Pekin has the Marigold Festival, because that was hometown hero Everett Dirksen’s favorite flower. (If that isn’t enough to make you put on your dancing shoes, I don’t know what is.)  In Mattoon (pronounced MAT-oon), Illinois, it was (no kidding) the Bagel Festival, because Lenders baked a lot of bagels there.

In our favorite town in Wisconsin, they had a fall festival in which a helicopter swooped over the main intersection, dropping hundreds of ping pong balls on the crowd. Elbow your friends and neighbors out of the way, stomp them if necessary, and you might get a ball with a cash prize printed on it.

Standing in a long line, sweating in the heat and humidity, waiting for your chance to score a butterfly pork chop, or a roasted turkey leg, was never my idea of fun. Local festivals tended to drive me out of town, and I’m told that a lot of Cheyenne residents plan their out-of-town vacations to coincide with Frontier Days. (I tend to come down from the mountains for a day or two, just to see the Air Force Thunderbirds buzzing the town.)

Summer will be a more subtle pleasure this year, one of the few positive aspects of the long coronavirus lockdown, and I hope the folks who love standing in long lines, sweating, waiting for a butterfly pork chop, can adapt.

Better than any local festival I ever attended is the smell, on a summer afternoon, of sagebrush after a rain. It’s the most wonderful smell you can imagine, and I always stop the truck, roll down the windows, and breathe it in for a while. There’s nothing like it, and if you don’t agree, you need to take a long, hard look at your priorities, young fella.

Years ago, my father had a big garden in Wisconsin. On vacation, I could send my son out behind the house with a steak knife, to cut a handful of asparagus, right out of the ground, for dinner. In the morning, we could pick fresh raspberries and put them on our bowls of cereal.

(My father, in retirement, once told me, “This is the good life,” and he was right.)

A crackling campfire high in the Rockies, with the Milky Way in all it’s glory above, is enough to make a guy sit back and wonder what the heck this life deal is all about, anyway.

There’s a pony in this 2020 pile of manure, if we look hard enough.

All we need to do is cowboy up.

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Dave Simpson: That ‘Powerful Odor Of Mendacity’, Dispatches From the New Abnormal

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

– Looks to me like our progressive friends – who were never much impressed by a growing economy, record low unemployment, and a Dow Industrial Average that almost reached 30,000 – are suddenly showing interest in the economy, now that the coronavirus has thrown a monkey wrench into the works.

If the economy was still as strong as it was as recently as February, the prevailing argument on the left would be that it’s just an extension of the great work of Barack Obama and his ball-of-fire VP Joe.

But, now that we’ve gone through some rough months, it’s all Donald Trump’s fault, as if he cooked up the coronavirus on a hot plate in the White House basement.

Go figure.

– Call me greedy and selfish if you will, but I’ve always thought it is preferable for me to be conservative with your money, than for you to be liberal with my money.

– Fox reporter Griff Jenkins was doing a story about the dilemma faced by politicians who want to keep the economy shut down despite the urgent need of Americans to get back to normal. He said if these lawmakers support staying locked down, they are “shooting themselves in the foot to spite their face” with the voters.

(A vastly mixed metaphor is a much-needed moment of levity these days, and I think the waggish Jenkins did it on purpose.)

– In the excellent book “First Man,” about the Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969, a NASA official said going to the moon made other countries want to be like the United States. Such a feat spoke volumes about our nation, and the amazing things we could accomplish.

Contrast that with the difficulties experienced over recent weeks in simply distributing much-needed (borrowed) money to people and businesses after our politicians shut the economy down, resulting in massive layoffs.

It turns out that, far from the accomplishments of previous generations, our politicians and massive bureaucracy can’t even GIVE AWAY MONEY in an effective manner. We can’t even blow through trillions without turning the recipients against us.

“What took you so long?” is about all the reaction you hear.

And these are the people, and the bureaucracy, that some are hell bent to put in charge of our health care.

It reminds me of a line by the great Merle Haggard:

“Stop rollin’ downhill like a snowball headed for hell.”

– Shouldn’t we all laugh out loud when spendthrift politicians – on both the right and the left, although the ones on the left are less apologetic about it – nevertheless say they think government ought to live on a budget, like the rest of us, and that someday real soon, any day now, they’re going to get serious about reducing our huge debt?

Don’t we owe it to our kids and grand kids to laugh out loud when politicians say that?

It brings to mind a line from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” when the ailing Big Daddy says this:

“There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity.”

– If that dynamic, hard-charging Joe “C’mon Man!” Biden gets elected in November, imagine the sea change we will see in the news media.

The vast majority in the news biz would be transformed overnight from Trump-hating Dobermans, spotting every conceivable flaw in Trump and rubbing our noses in them, to fawning lapdogs getting thrills up their hind legs at every goofball liberal give-away scheme that Biden and his squad of wild-eyed revolutionaries can come up with.

(If Biden gets elected, bury your life savings out in the back yard, in coffee cans.)

– There is, however, some good news to report.

The American people, indomitable and resourceful in times of adversity, are clearing grocery shelves of margarita mix, according to east coast grocer Stew Leonard, Jr. He said last weekend they can’t keep the stuff in stock.

And, I have it from a reliable source (Facebook, so it has to be true) that there’s a new treat this year at summer campfires:

S’Mores made with bacon, instead of graham crackers.

Despite it all, is this a great country, or what?

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: Temperatures Soaring Over Masks

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

TOGETHERNESS: An editorial in our local paper last week said failing to wear a mask in public “reeks of selfishness and lack of compassion.”

Reeks!

This week in the paper, a letter writer gave a columnist and other letter writers the dickens for suggesting that masks are optional. Such opinions are “bringing together a lack of character with a selfish lack of interest in the welfare of ” others. People like that are  “full of (reference alluding to raw sewage).” 

People who don’t wear masks, the letter continued, “suffer from a demagnatized moral compass. Giving two whoops in hell for other people” is beyond them.

On the facing page, an unnamed emailer (back in my editing days, people had to sign their letters) unloaded on a letter writer who does not wear a mask:

“People with your attitude are just as irresponsible and self-absorbed as most 16-year-old boys. … While you are out there socializing at the pub or restaurant or library because you are immortal, you may just get COVID-19 and then infect a bunch of other people. If that happens, I hope your conscience condemns you to a life in Purgatory.”

Purgatory! (Better than Hell, I guess.) Folks reeking of selfishness. Our mask-less brothers and sisters “full of… sewage.”

Are you sure we’re all in this together, like we keep hearing?

Even the ones headed for Purgatory with demagnatized moral compasses?

I WEAR ONE: Trying to avoid  Purgatory, or worse, I wear a mask I found in the garage from my drywall sanding days. It’s kind of ratty, and I can’t wear my glasses when I use it because they fog up. So I can’t read small print when I shop, and I tend to run into posts. 

I buy the argument that I’m protecting others from anything I might have picked up. But I’m not into scolding those who disagree.

Where I live, it’s about half people wearing masks at Walmart, and half not. Fewer masks at the home improvement store. So if you wanted to pick fights with people not wearing masks, you could be fighting all the time.

I hope someday soon masks with our favorite sports teams, university mascots, or preferred brand of pickup trucks become available. I’ll need a Ford Ranger mask before this is over.

FURIOUS: I remember the days when politicians were sheepish about our national debt. They promised to “get control of spending” every time they raised the debt limit. 

Ha, ha, ha. That’s a good one. A knee-slapper.

Today, however, when we have already spent trillions in borrowed money to battle this virus, and Democrats want to spend another $3 trillion in borrowed money, some politicians are ANGRY at anyone who suggests not heaping on more debt.  

Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio, railed on the floor of the House last week:

“Are you KIDDING ME?” he yelled at Republican House members, waving his arms in fury. “Where do you guys LIVE? Food lines at our food banks AROUND THE BLOCK? In the United States of AMERICA?”

It’s too much to expect, I guess, that politicians who have already racked up $25 trillion in debt would suddenly understand how a checkbook works, and stop spending when the money runs out. That’s beyond them.

A cynic once asked why I care about the debt. 

“We’ll be dead before the day of reckoning arrives,” he said.

I can’t look my little grand daughter in the eye, however, and buy that argument.

HO HUM: Another day, another investigation of the president, this time for firing an inspector general late on a Friday. You could get worried about this, if it weren’t just the latest in four years of steady attacks on anything the guy we elected president says or does. Even the pills he takes.

This could be different, I guess. Maybe they’ll get him, this time.

Maybe this time, Ralphie gets his BB gun for Christmas.

A THEORY: I suspect that some of my Democrat friends want this country shut down all the way to election day, after which they figure that articulate ball of fire Joe Biden will step in and solve all our problems.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Dave Simpson: For This Nomad, The Long Trek Is Over

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist, Cowboy State Daily

From an old bench at the edge of our place east of Cheyenne, you can watch freight trains fight their way over Archer Hill, making their way east and west on the Union Pacific Railroad.

Either way, the locomotives work hard to put that hill behind them. You can hear them throttle back once the hill is crested.

I take the dog out there every morning, and again every afternoon. He loves chasing rabbits, while I marvel at the sound and the feel of 4,500-horsepower locomotives – sometimes five, six, seven of them in a row – hauling the mile and a half-long trains that keep America supplied with new cars, lumber, frozen food, coal, grain, oil, fruit – everything you can imagine. A woman in North Platte once said the sound of locomotive whistles is the sound of America thriving.

Just beyond the tracks is Interstate-80, and from our old bench you can see the cars and trucks heading east and west on that vital American artery as well.

For years, long before we owned our place here, in the first week of August I would be in one of those cars heading west on I-80, along with one of my kids, unaware that we were passing by land that would someday become our home. On the way west, it was always with intense anticipation of two weeks in the mountains.

When my son was finally old enough to “go to the cabin with dad,” he was so excited that he slept the night before we left Illinois in his t-shirt, cargo shorts, and little hiking boots, so there wouldn’t be any chance of being left behind. It was that kind of family ritual.

The trips were always timed to coincide with the end of mosquito season, after one cold night wiped out the swarm, and the perfect warm days of August in the mountains arrived. They don’t last long. It can snow after Labor Day.

After our two weeks in the mountains, we would get up at 4 a.m., board up the cabin, and around breakfast time we would be one of the cars headed east on I-80, visible from land that would years later become our home, hurrying back to Illinois. There wasn’t much eager anticipation expressed on the trips back home.

(One year, heading back east, we stopped at a convenience store in Cheyenne, and my son bought Mountain Dew, Slim Jims, and “Pop Rocks” candy. The clerk looked at me like the world’s worst dad, letting his kid have such a breakfast. But we’d been up since 4, and on the road for hours. It was lunch for us.)

Our home in Illinois turned out to be a great place to raise a family. We still have good friends there, friends who would never consider living anywhere else. A friend who served as mayor of our town said once the “taproot” was set, folks tended to stay, and grow to love the place.

But, while our kids consider that town their hometown, we were nomads, going wherever my boss told me to go. It was the job that was most important, the career, and whether it was Wyoming, Colorado or Illinois, when the boss said go, we lined up the moving van. At one point we owned houses in all three of those states, and it was tough, but we never missed a house payment on any of them.

Over those years, I met folks who were the opposite side of the coin. They loved where they lived, and wouldn’t let any job or opportunity take them away. I envied them. They had a peace of mind about their surroundings that fly-by-nighters like us seldom experienced. I’m still not sure which side of that coin – to favor place or opportunity – is right or wrong.

It took many years before we were able to pack up our stuff and get back to the place we always liked best, where the dog and I now take our walks every morning and afternoon.

From my worn bench, as I watch the cars and trains go by, I’m thankful that this old nomad finally found his home.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: It’s Almost Time To Get Out of Dodge

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If ever there was a summer to head for the hills, this is it.

Where I go in the summer – way up in the mountains, just shy of 10,000 feet – folks prefer to stay six feet away from each other, if not more.  We’re not huggers. And you’d have to work hard to come up with a crowd of 10 people or more.

This will be my 39th year up there, in a small log cabin that an old college roommate and I built with our bare hands, lots of sweat, and the smallest chainsaw Homelite ever built. (At $79, it was all I could afford.)

The place is 14 feet by 14 feet, because a 14-foot log was the longest two young guys with more muscle than sense could lift. The place became a lifetime project, and still isn’t finished.

Pretty soon, when the snow up there melts (last time I looked there was still six feet of snow on the ground), I’ll be leaving my in-town problems behind and heading for the simpler life.

And when my cabin season is over come September, I’m hoping the picture down here in town will be clearer.

Some issues I hope will be resolved by then:

– My inalienable right to get a haircut has only this week been restored by our governor (just in time to avoid a Billy Ray Cyrus mullet). But I still can’t walk into our local McDonalds and enjoy a senior geezer discount cup of coffee.

 If someone told me a year ago that politicians could “close” an economy, I would have said, “no way!” We’re all scared of what this virus can do – especially to the over 65 crowd like me – but the notion of politicians forcing businesses (even churches!) to close would not have occurred to me. I didn’t think they had that much power.

– You can call people who want to get back to work impatient and ill-advised, I guess. But you’re wrong if you call them selfish, which I see in comments and social media posts. Getting back to work, earning a paycheck, taking care of your family and paying your bills can be called a lot of things, but selfish isn’t one of them. Being out of work now, after all, isn’t their fault.

If anyone is unreasonable in this equation, it’s those who demand that everyone see things the same, staying home, not making a living.

– Maybe by September we’ll know when you accumulate enough “anecdotes” that results aren’t “anecdotal” anymore. From what I can tell, the only way results aren’t anecdotal is if you set up a trial that takes months or years, hoodwink half the people into taking placebo sugar pills, and see if they don’t get better, while the people who took the actual pills do get better. (Sucks to be a placebo recipient.)

– As it stands now, that drug HCQ has it’s supporters, and some folks say it saved their lives. But it lost media favor when President You Know Who expressed optimism for it (an unpardonable sin). Then along came something called “Remdisivir,” which looks pretty good, except the president is hyping it now, so there must be something wrong with it, too. Drugs are partisan now, at least in the media, so the best advice is to be an Independent so you can take all the drugs.

– Could someone explain how “herd immunity” ever gets going if the herd is social distancing? If all the cows are six feet apart, or sheltering in place in their bovine basements, how does this herd immunity get any traction? Don’t we have to be a herd to get herd immunity?

– I’m betting we’ll have enough masks come September. I notice that “Shamwow Vince” – the funny, loud-talking guy who used to hawk car care sponges on TV – is back, selling some pretty nice looking face masks.

Is this a great country, or what?

– And finally, I notice that the governor of California has closed the beaches. If a governor can close the beaches, could a governor close the mountains?

I better get up there as soon as possible.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Dave Simpson: Trump Column Unleashes the Beast

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

By Dave Simpson, Columnist

We keep hearing that “we’re all in this together” in this crisis, (did you remember to wash your hands?), but that doesn’t mean we’re getting along very well.

First, an aside: About 30 years ago, an unhappy column reader invited me to take a dip in the local sewage lagoon. I taped that letter to the wall, a reminder that there are a lot of unhappy campers out there. I was also grudgingly amused by his creativity.

I was new to Illinois at the time, and another unhappy column customer dubbed me “the Big Wind from Wyoming.” One day a local business took $90,000 in annual advertising away from us, in the wake of our coverage of some controversial issues. Ouch. (It didn’t change our reporting.)

Another aside: A longtime friend who is liberal met me at a local bar in Casper, Wyo. – Frosties it was called, and it still exists – a few times back in the 1980s. We had a good time debating politics over pitchers of Coors. We liked each other – still do – even though he saw me as a money-grubbing Republican who would snatch porridge away from starving orphans, and I saw him as a wild-eyed Democrat who would pound hard-earned tax dollars down every crazy liberal rat hole he could find.

We laughed a lot on those occasions. I’m not sure that’s possible anymore. (Recently, when I asked for viewing suggestions, he came up with two Michael Moore movies, but did not include an “lol.” I did not respond with an “lol,” not wanting to press my luck in these contentious times. We do what we have to do to hang onto old friends.)

Which brings us to what I wrote last week in this space. I said that while I often wish Donald Trump would say things differently, avoiding his habit of walking into screaming buzz saw issues with the media and Democrats, I continue to support the job he has done as president. And I included the appraisal of my wife – a well-educated person – that Trump “has our back.”

She predicted, “You’re gonna get some flak over this one,” and once again she was right. (I hate it when she’s right.)

Most readers were supportive, saying they felt exactly the same way. Trump rambles, he blusters, he blowtorches reporters, and he sometimes gets carried away. But we support the results he has gotten, cutting regulations, appointing judges, and until recently, helping take the stock market all the way from 18,000 to almost 30,000. That’s good for our life savings.

The column reached a remarkable 2,549 people on Facebook [Simpson’s personal page], and was re-posted 34 times. Most were in agreement. I hope it’s taped to some refrigerator doors.

About a dozen didn’t like the column at all. While some were polite, asking what Trump had ever done to have my back, there was some amazing name calling. One dubbed me a “synaptic dendrite of the GOP” (smile when you call me that, mister), and called Dick Cheney “a war criminal.” He suggested I might drive one of those “coal roller” pickups that spew smoke. (Not true, Your Honor.)

Another person posted on Facebook that he would rather not respond to my “unbridled idiocy,” but wondered nonetheless why anyone could like Trump. He found my explanation lacking, and called Republicans “mouth breathers.” Another unhappy customer raised the ante, calling Republicans “booger eaters.” (This, from the folks who claim to have a corner on compassion, intellectual superiority, and articulate debate.)

Two called me both stupid and ignorant. I “disgusted” another.

One asked, “Isb you. a (blanking) idiot?” obviously so worked up that he botched the typing.

Answer: No, I isn’t.

Another unhappy column customer (hey, they’re FREE!) offered this: “If you can support him (Trump) and sleep at night, you have no moral compass.” To which my wife responded, “if you support the Democrats who murder full-term babies, I question YOUR moral compass.”

Feisty, ain’t she?

We may all be in this together, like everyone is saying. But don’t look for much love over there on the other side if you like the president.

The name calling is enough to blow your hat in the creek.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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