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Jim Hicks

Jim Hicks: And Then It Got Cold . . . And We Mean Really Cold . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

A week ago it got cold in Buffalo. 

And then each day seemed to be a little colder as the low temperatures sank past the minus 20 mark.

Finally it looked like Sunday might be a bit better (warmed to 4 below), but along came wind with gusts of 30 miles per hour.

Going outside to do any chores gave a new meaning to “wind-chill.” 

And this week it warmed all the way into the low 30’s and it seemed like summer was back. We’re surprised we didn’t see some wearing shorts.

Younger people are able to ignore this kind of weather. They load up the snow machines or strap on skis and have a good time.  We can remember those days.

Now winter catches most of the older residents by surprise. We suddenly realize we are moving slower that before . . . and that was already pretty slow.

Nobody says things like . . . “let’s run to the grocery store.”  Now it involves a planning session with “list making”, checking prices in the newspaper insert and taking an inventory of the refrigerator because we can’t remember what looked at for more than 10 minutes.

But senior citizens are almost always positive and believe they will be full of energy when it warms up next June.

That’s when a “new adventure” will begin. Most seniors we know value every day, and also know that wealth has less to do with the bank balance. It’s more about family and friends.

After a discussion on this issue, the Bench Sitters came up with a few thoughts about the “fourth quarter” of life.

One remarked he realized he was getting old when his kids started looking like him and his grandkids had turned out to be perfect.

We all know going out is fun, but coming home is even better.

It’s alright if you forget names. Most of those people thought you had died years ago anyway.

It’s this time of life when you become aware you are not going to be any better at doing puzzles, figuring out how much to tip or playing golf. In fact, you know you are no longer really good at anything.

It’s when you know there were certain things always at the top of your bucket list, and now you don’t give a darn if you do them anymore.

When did you start sleeping in the recliner with the television at 400 decibels? Then you wake up at 2 a.m. and stagger off to bed . . . where sleep is now impossible. You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed.

We won’t talk about the sick jokes Mother Nature plays on your body as the aging process moves along. You know — veins that stand up on the back of your hand, the crepe skin, vanishing muscle mass and thin or disappearing hair.

Freckles have changed to “liver spots” bruises appear with no memory of an injury while toenails grow so fast they seem to need clipping twice a week.

Your clothes closet is packed, and less than a quarter of those items will fit anymore. That’s OK because most of it is out-of-style.

This is the time of life when the actors in movies that are on the television seem to all speak in “whispers”, and so do a lot of people you meet.

It’s hard to find a television program you like. So mostly it’s a diet of re-runs of M.A.S.H., All in the Family, Everybody Loves Raymond and Golden Girls.

Any music later than the 1980’s doesn’t have a melody, and “rap” is an absolute mystery.

But you remember when there were lots of stores downtown . . . places where you could buy dresses, shoes, suits, shirts and even pajamas. When you stopped at Ellis Hardware the items you bought were in a paper bag and not sealed in plastic so tough you need a hammer and a cleaver to open it. It was the same at the grocery stores.

But the best part of these days is the absolute knowledge that old songs, old movies, and old friends are the best.

We’ve got to stop writing about grey hair.  People are going to get the idea it’s on our mind too much. Be happy, don’t worry about aging and we’ll write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Another Good Reason For Keeping In Touch

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnnist

One of our favorite Bench Sitters said it right this week.  

When a friend asked him about being excited to see 2020 over and the start of the New Year, he quickly replied . . . “at my age any new year is a great accomplishment. Pandemic or not, it’s a gift to be here.”

While we try to remember to stop dating things with “2020”, there have been a few other random thoughts from the members of the “older and wiser” coffee group.

–We can’t help but wonder if John Elway has been kicking himself for not drafting Josh Allen after he watched him play as a Wyoming Cowboy in the Potato Bowl in Boise a few years back. That was a multi-million dollar mistake.

–They tell us it’s hard to sell a 2021 daily planner.  Most of those from last year are still empty.

— To keep a good attitude, we have always tried to avoid negative people.  Now the policy is to avoid those who are “positive.”

— It’s ironic we used to get so mad when the kids snuck out of the house, and now they are telling us to stay home all the time.

— Covid has done what a lot of women have long wanted to accomplish.  You know, cancel sports, shut down the bars and keep men at home.

— The “good news/bad news” part of the vaccines is “there are plenty of doses, but hard to get one”.

Last week one of Sven’s favorite readers shared a poem we’d like to share. We should know who the author is, but can’t find that out for certain.

Jake, the rancher, went one day to fix a distant fence. 

The wind was cold and gusty and the clouds rolled gray and dense.

As he pounded the last staples in and gathered tools to go,

The temperature had fallen, the wind and snow began to blow.

When he finally reached his pickup, he felt a heavy heart.

From the sound of that ignition he knew it wouldn’t start.

So, Jake did what most of us would do if we had been there.

He humbly bowed his balding head and sent aloft a prayer.

As he turned the key for the last time, he softly cursed his luck.

They found him three days later, frozen stiff in that old truck.

Now Jake had been around in life and done his share of roaming.

But when he saw Heaven, he was shocked — It looked just like Wyoming!

Of all the saints in Heaven, his favorite was St. Peter.

Nobody was keeping’ score — In Heaven, time is free.

‘I’ve always heard,’ Jake said to Pete, ‘that God will answer prayer,

But one time I asked for help, well, he just plain wasn’t there.’

Peter listened very patiently and when Jake was done,

There were smiles of recognition, and he said, ‘So, you’re the one!!’

That day your truck, it wouldn’t start, and you sent your prayer a flying,

You gave us all a real bad time, with hundreds of us trying.’

A thousand angels rushed to check the status of your file,

But you know Jake we hadn’t heard from you in quite a long while.’

‘And though all prayers are answered, and God ain’t got no quota,

He didn’t recognize your voice, and started a truck in Minnesota’

Be good and well write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: We Can Still Make Christmas 2020 Special . . .

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

There is no doubt about it. Christmas 2020 is going to be a little different for most of us. Many won’t be able to attend church services and fewer place settings at the table when the special meal is served.

One of our friends saw this as a special opportunity to make Christmas special by reaching out to others in every way we can. That phone call to and old friend or relative you haven’t seen for years . . . delivering some cookies or other goodies to the neighbors you know don’t have family to join them . . . a small gift or simple “thanks” to the mailman, the clerk in the grocery store or any other person who provides service or help to you during the year.

Not a bad idea.

But we will survive and will all place a lot more value on Christmas 2021as a result.

Why are some people so organized while the rest of us seem to be in a whirlpool of demands on our time we can’t seem to get things done on time?

You know the people we are talking about.  Those are the ones driving clean cars and pickups. 

They live in neat and orderly homes, all the tools in the garage are neatly hung in the proper place and they start sending out their Christmas cards as soon as they clean up from Thanksgiving dinner.

Here in Buffalo, Sven and Maudie are sure not in that group.  Sometimes they don’t know whether to send Christmas cards or wait another week or two and send Valentine wishes.

A few years back the Bench Sitters got into a discussion about the many essays that have been written about the meaning of Christmas.

One of our favorites is from a writer by the name of Oren Arnold. He was born in 1900, was a newspaper writer who went on to be a successful author.

Arnold said he had been most influenced by five other writers . . . and he named them . . . Mathew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. This guy said “humor is the calisthenics of the mind.”

One of his most often quoted thoughts was about “Christmas gift suggestions.” His ideas were:

To your enemy, forgiveness

To an opponent, tolerance

To a friend, your heart

To a customer, service

To all, charity

To every child, a good example

To yourself, respect.

Another American writer by the name of Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon wrote, “Remember this December . . . love weighs more than gold!”

Every family has special stories about Christmas. One of ours goes back many years when Hollis Voiles (owner and chef at the old Busy Bee Café) would dress up in his Santa suit and make a few “calls” for families on Christmas Eve.

It was a tradition for Hollis and he loved the job. His only problem was having too many requests for the evening. He needed to show up, empty his sack and get going as quickly as possible.

Hollis entered the house with a big white bag over his shoulder and greeted all the little ones with a robust “Ho Ho Ho.”

He sat down in the easy chair, opened the bag and started to hand out gifts as every little face stared at him in absolute awe . . . except for one. This three-year old was sobbing and rubbing his eyes.

“What’s the matter?” we asked.

“He’s sitting on my apple!” the three-year-old replied.

We hope nobody sits on your apple this Christmas.

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Jim Hicks: Always Take Your Stock Trailer Along For Potty Breaks

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

Anyone who has owned a horse or stock trailer knows that if “push comes to shove” they can be used for a bathroom in a pinch. 

Some true stories just can’t include names, but rest assured this one is factual.

About a week ago one of the early morning coffee group (now gathering at an undisclosed location with proper social distancing) told a story on himself.

He was pulling his empty trailer back over the mountain to Buffalo and was stopped to wait for a “pilot car” at a highway construction project west of Powder River Pass.

“I had enjoyed too much coffee before I left that morning and really had to go,” he said. “So I walked back to the trailer and took care of the problem.”

As he was closing the door on the trailer a driver from a car behind him walked up, smiled and said . . . “Could I use your bathroom?”

Trailer owners who have taken advantage of this option will also tell you it is important to make sure the trailer door doesn’t latch behind you on most models. 

It’s possible to lock yourself inside and no way to get out without some help.

A couple of years back a local lady found herself in serious need of a “rest-stop” so she pulled off to the side of the highway, got in the trailer and took care of the problem.

While she was “going” she was struck with a cold and chilling fact. When she had pulled the trailer door closed, she remembered hearing that latch fall into place. There was no physical way to open it from the inside of the trailer.

She stuck her arm though the opening on the side of the trailer and waved frantically at passing cars for nearly 40 minutes.  

That just wasn’t working and no one even slowed down. But ranch girls are resourceful.

When she started waving her bra . . . it didn’t take long before she heard the tires squealing on a passing vehicle.

Two young men walked back to see what the signal was all about. After some joking around about the situation they freed the young woman and she joined them in the laughter.

Meanwhile, back down on the Main Drag in Buffalo this week one of the Bench Sitters got a lot of attention when he announced he had come up with a great “Covid Test” anyone could do right in their own home. 

“It’s inexpensive and you get fast results,” he claimed.

“Take a glass and pour a decent shot of your favorite whiskey into it. Then see if you can smell it . . . if you can smell it then you are halfway there. Then drink it and if you can taste it then it is reasonable to assume you are currently free of the virus.

“I tested myself six or seven times last night and was virus-free every time, thank goodness.

“I will have to test myself again today because I have developed a headache, which can be one of the symptoms.”

We knew at once he was pulling our leg.  All of us with the exception of one who will remain unnamed.  With a straight face he asked . . . “Will that work with beer too?”

We hope you found some shade this week.  Monday was a scorcher for sure.

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Jim Hicks: Hosting Wyoming Tour Sure Reminds Us Of Our Blessings

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By Sagebrush Sven (interpreted by Jim Hicks)

This past week Sven had the opportunity to take some friends from South Dakota on a little mountain tour. They had driven over our Bighorn Mountains in past years, but never had the opportunity to see much of the area.

As we headed up Crazy Woman Canyon, Wes and Cathy were amazed at the rugged natural beauty of the stream and rock formations. 

It seemed nearly every possible camping site in the canyon was being used. This makes us wonder how people get some of those larger campers into those spots.

After the compulsory photos by the elevation sign at Powder River Pass, we doubled back to Sheep Mountain Lookout.

A summer rain shower hit as we climbed toward the lookout, and turned to hail as soon as we reached the end of the road. 

As usual, a 15-minute wait was all it took for the sun to come back out and the vistas to re-appear as the clouds rolled southeast.

Noticed a “dirt bike” parked with no rider in sight.  When the hail stopped he emerged from the outhouse. It might have been a long wait in there unless someone had left a magazine.He seemed glad to get going in that clear fresh air again.

Although the lookout can be rented out by those seeking adventure, it was empty the day we visited. Again, it appeared every possible camping spot along that road was filled.

The next stop was Tiehack Reservoir where nearly a dozen people were fishing from the dam. It was hard to estimate how many people were using the camping and picnic spots, but it’s obvious this has become one of the most popular recreation areas on the Bighorn National Forest.

It was interesting to see the City of Buffalo is drawing considerable water from the reservoir right now. And it will refill next spring with ample water tumbling down over the spillway.

The little tour proved once again we often forget how fortunate we are to live at the foot of the Bighorns. Even with a proliferation of camper trailers on the mountain, our guests kept talking about the vast expanse of scenery.

Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to get an “out-of-town opinion.” And the day was a great reminder of a major blessing we take for granted too often.

In other news, the 2020 Johnson County Fair and Rodeo is now in the history books, and considering concerns about Covid-19, fire danger, hot weather and a few other things . . . it was a great one again.

The Saturday morning parade may not have drawn as big a crowd as in the past, but over 50 entries made it a good one.

One of the Bench Sitters said he was a little late that morning, and coming west on Hart Street he noticed all the tourists were being diverted north on Lobban Ave.

He was following two out-of-state cars and wondered what the conversations might have been as they traffic moved north at about 3 miles per hour. Just out of interest he kept following the two cars.

When they finally ended up on the truck-bypass at the north end of town, he said it was easy to tell they were completely lost.

Interesting traffic plan, and a lot like navigating an endless circular series of security instructions on an internet site.

That’s about all this week except the observance on one of the older members of the Bench Sitters group.

As he struggled to get up out of his chair he said, “A horse gets up with his front feet first, a cow gets up with its hind feet first, and elephant can use all four to rise . . . and I need both legs, two arms and . . . give me a hand will you?”

Hope you are bouncing out of your chair these days. Stay cool and we’ll drop a line again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Getting So Dry In Wyoming, The Rain Gauges Are For Sale

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BUFFALO — You can tell when things get to be to hot and dry in this part of the country.  That’s when the Bench Sitters stop talking about politics, virus and local rumors. Instead they are talking about hot days, dry winds and fire danger.

A lot of ranchers get a worried look anytime there is a lightning strike or a puff of smoke over the ridge. 

Most will point out this is pretty early in the season to have such a drought underway.  The word down at the feed store is about people already looking for extra hay.

Hard to believe it was eight years ago we had some fun with a Kaycee area rancher over weather conditions like this.  

Sagebrush Sven’s column in July of 2012 might be worth re-reading just for fun. 

It read (in part) as follows:

Those “brown spots” in lawns testify to hot dry winds sucking the moisture out of the land. We see hay bailing machines nearly following directly behind the swathers. 

Speaking of dry conditions, one of the Bench Sitters noticed a small classified advertisement in the Wyoming Livestock Reporter a while back.  That ad said:

 FOR SALE: RAIN GAUGE, ALMOST NEW. ONLY USED ONCE, NEVER BEEN EMPTIED!! BEST OFFER. IT’S NAMED “LUCKY.” BOB HARLAN, 307-267-9571. Bob Harlan ranches down Barnum way. Sven just had to drop him a note:

Dear Mr. Harlan:

We live in the northern part of Johnson County, east of Buffalo, and nobody here has ever seen a “rain gauge” up close.

Is there any way to drain “Lucky” other than turning it upside down?  Is there any kind of drain valve on it?

How many moving parts are on this rain gauge you call “Lucky?”  Would we have to grease this thing every spring?  

Before making an offer we really need to know how many feet of rain “Lucky” will measure.

By the way— do you happen to have a smoke gauge, hopper counter or a copy of the book called “Raising Cattle and Sheep on Dust and Ashes?”  

We are headed for Wheatland to pick up a load of wind next week and will call you when we come through Kaycee.

Meanwhile back down on the Main Drag we found out local members of the Procrastinator’s Club were rushing around this week trying to get their annual Income Tax reports done and in the mail. Even with the deadline extended from April 15 . . .

Some of us just never learn. 

And the rest of us are apt to learn the “hard way.”

It’s important to concentrate on what you are doing. Letting your mind wonder when you are doing a task (even a dull one) can have bad results

Many years ago Maudie was cookin’ supper and I noticed her right ear was all red and swollen.

She wouldn’t tell me the reason for quite a while.  But I kept on the subject and by the time we were eating dessert she finally looked a little embarrassed, looked down and said . . . “Well, I was ironing and the phone rang . . .”

And that’s the same reason I don’t swat mosquitoes when I’m sharpening a knife anymore.

Stop and think about this for a minute.  You probably have more than one similar experience.  We know of more than one local who learned about nail guns the hard way.

We hope you stay out of trouble and get a chance to make someone grin a little if you can. In the meantime we’ll keep a safe distance and write again soon.

Clouds Of Cotton, A Billion Moths, Plus Covid Curtail Buffalo Activities

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Column by Jim Hicks

BUFFALO – After mom finished cleaning up the mess the kids made in the kitchen while they “fixed breakfast” for Dad last Sunday, she had to get busy cooking that special “Father’s Day” dinner.

A lot of moms noticed that Father’s Day just happened to be the longest day of the year too.

Summer has officially arrived, but 2020’s version may be different than usual because of the threat of the pandemic that can even touch a remote place like Johnson County.

Some days most of the people shopping in the grocery stores are wearing masks, and other days almost no one. Perhaps most of us feel it’s really not much of a threat, but in the back of our minds a lot of doubt remains.

The shut-down of the most popular “coffee spots” has sure done some serious damage to the local “rumor mill” for many people in this community who are not tied to their computers or smart phones.

We used to think there were some things which could only be passed along by leaning over and whispering to the guy across the table. But now that kind of stuff shows up on the internet and social media and nobody seems to think anything about it.

One of the Bench Sitters says Will Rogers must have been thinking about all that when he wrote: “There are some men who learn by reading, a few learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.”

He also remarked “people say there is nothing that will get your mind off of everything like golf. “But I’ve never been depressed enough to take up the game. They say it will make you so mad at yourself you will forget to hate your enemies.”

We suspect that’s why the last several Presidents have played so much golf.
Another Will Rogers idea that sure fits today: “Last year we said things couldn’t go on like this, and they didn’t . . . they got worse.”

Understand not everyone has the miller-month problem, but those pesky critters continue to “bug” our place. A pan of soapy water by the kitchen window will “harvest” at least two dozen every night. They are supposed to move to the mountains for cooler temperatures.

Summers in Wyoming are great, but this one looks like a “cotton year” for certain.
Clouds of cotton are starting to blow down the streets and seem to stick to everything imaginable.

The stuff plugs up coolers, air cleaners on lawn mowers, window and door screens and causes many people to sneeze and wheeze.

Those “grape –like clusters of cotton seem to be hanging from every branch of the old cottonwoods around Buffalo. This may be one of those years when a little hail might help the situation.

And finally, this week we heard a story that just might be true. An older lady was in a long line of cars at a local drive-in restaurant. She was reading a message on her cell phone when the car behind her started honking.

She had not seen to line move forward one car-space. She looked back,
and the young girl in the car behind also gave her the “one-finger” signal.

So, when she got to the “pay window” she said she wanted to pay for her meal and also for the order for the car behind her. She took both receipts and when she got to the “food window” she collected her order and the one for the car behind hers.

Smiling as she drove away, she knew the girl behind was going to have to go through the line again to order and get her food. Don’t mess with old people!

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