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Jimmy Orr

Leland Christensen: A Remarkable Man Who Brought Everyone Together

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor-in-Chief

On the same day that Wyoming Republican Chair Frank Eathorne told FOX News that “in Wyoming, we don’t necessarily embrace the idea of a big tent,” the state GOP became a big tent.

In fact, that tent was even larger. Republicans of all stripes and Democrats came together.

It took the death of one man. One remarkable Wyoming man to open up that Wyoming tent.

Not everyone knew Leland Christensen, the 62-year-old former state senator, county commissioner, deputy sheriff, veteran, father of six, and grandfather of 13 who died on Friday.

But the many, many who did, saluted him. For one weekend, Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman were on the same side.

Arch foes Rod Miller and Joey Correnti were teammates.

Wyoming Equality Director Sara Burlingame and Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) stood together.

Leland Christensen brought everyone together. That’s what he did.

I saw it firsthand. 

I went on the road with Leland and his sons Hunter and Wyatt during his 2016 congressional campaign.

Leland liked everyone. And everyone liked Leland right back.

Line Up With Leland

Our slogan was “Line Up With Leland.”  It could have been “Line Up With Laughter.”  Because laughter was our constant companion as Leland visited all 99 incorporated communities (and many non-incorporated ones) with friends in each town.

No hyperbole. I saw it happen.

He wanted to go door-to-door in every community. He loved being out on the road.

One evening, we were knocking on doors in Bairoil when Leland ran into a friend of his that he hadn’t seen in more than 30 years when the two went to law enforcement academy together.  We stayed there until 9:30 p.m. as the two former cops had us all in stitches talking about the old days.

From Aladdin to Point of Rocks, from Moorcroft to Evanston, Leland had a friend wherever he went.

The only place where Leland didn’t run into someone he knew was in Chugwater.  But that could be excused. It was 2 a.m.

Leland and I had been on the road for weeks and decided to cut a video. The lights went out in the middle of the shoot and that was enough to put us on the ground.

I dropped the video camera and the two of us were howling in the middle of Chugwater, in the middle of the night, for no real reason. Leland saw the humor in everything.

Being with him was like being a little kid with your best buddy in church. You aren’t supposed to laugh. But you can’t help it. And that’s what made it funnier.

Liz Cheney

Our consultant said we had to draw a distinction against his primary opponent and now U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, and polling showed that the residency angle was the best route.

So instead of a mean-spirited ad, Leland insisted on a softer touch. He couldn’t be mean. Let’s make ‘em laugh, Leland said.

So he compared Liz to Sasquatch — an elusive being that was rarely spotted in Wyoming.

It should have been a simple video.  But it took us a full day to shoot because every time he would act like he was on a safari searching for Liz — Leland, Wyatt, Hunter, and I would burst out laughing.

When news of Leland’s ill-health became public recently, Liz Cheney was among the first to wish him well.

That’s the kind of guy he was. Everyone loved Leland.

Town to Town

In Greybull, Wyoming, the owner of a restaurant couldn’t get Leland’s name right. She was an immigrant and in broken English, she kept saying “Lyeland” or “Luland” or “Layland.” 

She had a great sense of humor in her own right.

Cameras were rolling.  The restaurant was full. Everyone — every single person — was laughing.  Even she fell over laughing, smashing a chair in the process.

A train horn blasting in the middle of a video shoot typically isn’t a big deal. But when it happened to Leland and his buddy, Stan Blake, the former legislator from Green River, the two laughed uncontrollably. That led to Wyatt, Hunter, his wife Anita, and me all laughing uncontrollably.

Our second trip to Wamsutter was one of my favorites. Burnt out from the road, Leland drew a blank on what to say about the community.

“Hello Wamsutter,” Leland began. “Second time through Wamsutter. What a …. uhhhh, what am I supposed to say?”

After a couple laughs, Leland bounced back with a solid energy message. You can tell from the video just how fun Leland was and how he brought joy to everything.

Dominos

We were all dominos with Leland. If he thought something was humorous, you couldn’t resist it.

Leland brought that aura with him.  You saw him.  You smiled.  You saw him.  You laughed.  Most of all, if you saw him, you went up to him. You had to say hi. He was a magnet.

I hope Gov. Mark Gordon calls out Leland during his upcoming State of the State address because Wyoming will be able to see that, in fact, we all can stand together.

Just maybe, Leland’s influence will take us a bit further than just that.

It’s worth a try, anyway. 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, his longtime friend, brought Leland onboard the minute she was elected because, as she put it, “I knew I needed Leland on my team because he loved Wyoming people.”

What a gift Wyoming had. What a gift Heaven has.

We all love you, buddy.  And we’ll all laugh again.

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Jimmy Orr: We Love Your Wyoming Sunrises

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By Jimmy Orr, editor

Anyone who is from Wyoming or has lived here for awhile has heard the state described as a small town with long roads.

We use that saying a lot.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Mark Gordon said it when he answered a question about the 20th anniversary of the tragic accident that killed eight Wyoming athletes on Highway 287.

His point was the accident affected all of us in every part of the state.  We could all feel that pain together.

We can all feed good together too though.

And one of the things that makes being the editor of Cowboy State Daily so enjoyable is hearing from citizens all across the cowboy state.

We do when we publish the Wyoming sunrise of the day. 

Not a day has gone by when we haven’t had a new one. 

Just this past week, we’ve had photos of sunrises sent to us from Jay Em, LaBarge, and Vedauwoo.  That covers a lot of ground in southern Wyoming (although Jay Em is more central but who’s counting). We haven’t published the LaBarge one yet but look at these beauties from Jay Em and Vedauwoo.

When the email comes in with the town in the subject line, it’s fun to open up. Because you picture the town before you see the photo. So you’re looking forward to see their perspective.

It’s also fun to see a location that you can’t put a finger on.  

Savery, Wyoming. I immediately think of Baggs and Dixon. I know where it is. I’ve been there. 

But I didn’t have a picture in my head. 

Savery, Wyoming

But now I do and it’s spectacular. Look at the greens and the different shades of yellow. The grass in the foreground. The cows in the pasture and the mountains in the background. 

Don’t know what happened to the bottom part of the sun but that imperfection makes the photo better somehow.

It’s one of our favorites.

Powell, Wyoming

This one from Powell is pretty striking too. The gradient oranges. The deep greens. And the synchronized horses.  Thanks to Shawnee Moon for this one.

I had to Google “Auburn, Wyoming” before I recalled where this town is located and I was bothered by that because I think I’m infallible on knowing every town and location in the state. How could I forget Auburn?

It’s not incorporated and I’m not sure I have traveled on Highway 238 before. Highway 89, of course. Ton of times.

Auburn, Wyoming

But it was great to get a photo from Auburn and now I’ve got to make the trip.

We’ve received photos from every county. That was an easy achievement. Johnson County and Park County may have the most active photographers.

We have not received photos from every community. We have yet to receive a photo from Lost Cabin, Lysite, Sussex, Manville, Hartville, Beulah, Arvada, Spotted Horse, Bill, Van Tassel, and Point of Rocks. For that matter, we are still waiting for photos from Bairoil and Lamont too. And then there’s gotta be a great sunrise photo from Jeffrey City out there.

Those are a few off the top of my head. 

Here’s the deal: you keep sending them and we’ll keep publishing them.

As a matter of fact, we’re going to ask Dave Bell, who is one of the most talented photographers in the country and Pinedale is lucky enough to call him a citizen, to give some tips on how to take the best sunrise photo with a phone.

We’re glad you enjoy the feature and we sure like doing it.

And while I’m at it, I will make my continued appeal to all photographers: Shoot horizontally, not vertically. Thanks

Come on Bairoil, let’s get it together. Send a photo!

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George W. Bush To Hold Fundraiser for Cheney; 2022 Election Is Showdown For Opposing Wings Of Wyoming GOP

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you get the feeling that Wyoming’s congressional race will be the center of the political universe in 2022, you’re probably on to something.

It looks like it might become a showdown for the opposing wings of Wyoming’s Republican Party, in fact.

Is the ideology of the GOP more in line with former President Donald Trump or does the party line-up with former President George W. Bush?

Whatever the answer is, both former presidents have chosen sides in Wyoming. 

Trump is going with Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman and Bush, as it was revealed today, is lining up with incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Bush’s first campaign event for the 2022 midterm elections will be to support Cheney at a fundraiser in his home state of Texas.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone who knows about the connection of the Bush and Cheney families and the acrimony between Bush and Trump.

No one knows how active Bush will be on Cheney’s behalf in the coming year — whether he will continue his work in her support until the August primary or whether the fundraiser will be merely a one-off.

If it’s the latter, it’s still significant and the news was welcomed by former Natrona County GOP Chair Dr. Joe McGinley.

“It is great to see former President Bush lead by example and support a long time conservative such as Representative Cheney,” McGinley told Cowboy State Daily. “The Republican Party is an organization based on conservative values and principles, not hate, anger, vendettas, misleading statements and conspiracy theories.”

McGinley’s views have made him a target of the current state Republican Party leadership.

In a harshly worded letter sent last April, the Wyoming Republican Party called McGinley a “loser,” “dishonest” and prone to “public tantrums.” Hageman signed that letter alongside current state Republican Party Chair Frank Eathorne.

But McGinley does not stand alone. Former Wyoming legislator and former state GOP Chair Diemer True, arguably the most influential Republican in party politics for decades, isn’t a fan of the current direction of the Republican Party.

“The anger that is currently being exhibited within the structure of Wyoming Republican Party is not who the Wyoming Republican Party really is,” True told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“It is a very small group of zealots and it is hard to exaggerate the damage they are doing to civil discourse and the opportunity to truly investigate different ideas which is what representative Democracy supposed to be,” he said.

In that vein, True called the obscene and violent email sent by a Park County GOP official to state Sen. Tara Nethercott “disgusting” and representative of the current state of affairs within the State Party.

“The way Republican politics should work in Wyoming is people have every right to express an opinion and they can express it with great eagerness and passion and then we shake hands and go have lunch together. But that’s not the way it is now,” he said.

“That email is sort of representative of what the [current Wyoming] Republican leadership is doing,” True said.

True said the 2022 election shouldn’t be about Trump and Bush, but should be about Wyoming people and Wyoming politics.

Bush’s fundraising event is scheduled for Oct. 18 and will be co-hosted by many of the Bush administration’s alumni including Karl Rove, former Bush White House Counsel Harriett Miers and former White House counselor Karen Hughes. Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is listed as a co-sponsor as well.

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Jimmy Orr: Bear Obliterates Truck. I Mean REALLY Obliterates Truck

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Jimmy Orr on bear destruction
Jimmy Orr writes: If there was a bear Hall of Fame, this one should get inducted.
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Locking the car doors may seem like a simple task to many of us, but to others it’s an insurmountable burden. A Sisyphean job so onerous that it can’t be done.

That’s why there are so many reminders from the police that hitting that daunting button after exiting a vehicle is a good strategy.

Wildlife officials issue that same call endlessly.

But some dopes individuals don’t get it.

Vehicles are stolen, goods inside vehicles are stolen and bears sometimes turn into Tasmanian Devils and destroy cars.

Happened again on Monday.

A bear opened up a door of a truck in South Park, Colorado, and absolutely obliterated the truck’s interior.

If there was a Hall of Fame for destruction caused by bears, this is a sure-fire nominee.

Now, the animal looked quite content with its surroundings in the first photo shared by Colorado Park & Wildlife (below).

Sure, the rear view mirror was dangling from the ceiling. But outside of that, it looked like he was in the driver’s seat just hanging out. Perhaps smoking a doobie (it is Colorado) and listening to Classic Vinyl on Sirius-XM.

Maybe “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash is just fading and that’s when he realizes he can’t get out. Or there’s no beer in the vehicle. Making it much less desirable than the truck in Larkspur, Colorado, that was broken into in June by a bear that drank the beer inside it before stumbling away.

Regardless, bears seem to break in just fine. Exiting? That’s a struggle.

So what to do?

Rip the crap out of the car.

And it did.

In the second photo, the truck isn’t even recognizable.

It looks like a living room on the TV show Hoarders.

Door panel ruined. Cushions ripped to shreds. Things dangling which aren’t meant to dangle. Absolute annihilation.

Holy cow! We want video.

But there is good news. The bear was released and happily bounded away (photo below).

And the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department was left to issue that same old warning:

  1. Remove anything with a scent from your vehicle.
  2. Make sure to always keep your car doors locked.

See you next time.

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Jimmy Orr: “A Plane Just Hit the Pentagon!” – A Wyomingite’s Memories From the White House on 9/11

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

There was nothing spectacular about the Denver Broncos – New York Giants game on September 10.

Just a Monday Night Football game. The Broncos were trying to stay relevant following the departure of John Elway a few years beforehand. We had steaks and martinis and watched it from my friend Rob Wallace’s house in Northern Virginia.

I remember it because of the next day. The events on September 11, 2001 make everything traceable.  What I was doing the night before, the weekend before, the day of, the next day. It’s not just the memory. I can still feel the dread. I can still smell my smoke-filled apartment. Some images are as clear as if they happened last week.

Working in the White House on September 11 doesn’t change the tragedy of the event but makes it surreal.

Not a replay

Going to Starbucks on 17th street following the communications meeting was a daily ritual. Colleagues Mercy Viana (Schlapp) and Wendy Nipper (Homeyer) and I walked back to our offices talking about the day ahead as we always had.

The image on the TV screen stopped us. The Today Show host said she heard the plane lodged in the World Trade Center was a Cessna. They were speculating it was a fluke.

Because of that when Mercy’s phone rang, she picked it up. We had no idea of the enormity facing us or the country. I stood next to the TV, more perplexed than anything.

With absolute terror, I watched as another plane careened into the second World Trade Center building.

“No, no, no, no, no, no” I said to the screen as the images appeared to happen in slow motion.

I remember gasping and not believing what I had just seen. I feel it now. I can feel that same dread. I walked over to my boss’ office and told him what I saw.

“You saw a replay,” he said, cupping his phone.

“I saw a second plane,” I insisted.

“You saw a replay,” he said, waving me off.

Moments later he came into my office and apologized. “Gather the team, we need to have an emergency meeting.”

Emergency

We grouped together at the table in his office. We all worked in the Old Executive Office Building — the giant, grey battleship of a structure on the White House Grounds right next to the West Wing.

I had forgotten my pager (remember it was 2001). I got up mid-meeting to grab it and picked up the ringing phone on my desk.

“Dude, a plane just hit the Pentagon,” said my friend Rob Jennings, a fellow Wyoming friend who worked as a fundraiser in DC.

“Are you sure,” I asked him.

“I just saw it. I’m looking at the burning Pentagon now.”

Rushing back to my boss’ office to let him know, the sirens went off. Moments later, the Secret Service began banging on every office door and yelling for us to evacuate.

“A plane is headed for the White House,” screamed one secret service agent.

The sight and sound of dozens of shaken White House staffers running – literally running — toward the north entrance of the White House is crystal.

As is the memory of being among more than 100 staffers standing in Lafayette Park stunned and wondering what we should do next. I wanted to call my family. I couldn’t. My flip phone fell off while running for the gate.

“A bomb just went off at the State Department,” someone said.

That rumor kept circulating throughout the rest of the day.

Scramble for answers

We all went to the Chrysler Building blocks away to regroup. The most senior of the White House staffers were picked off by the secret service and taken to the Situation Room or other locations.

As a White House spokesman and the Digital Director, my only goal was to get the White House website online again.

It was bad enough from a communications perspective that we couldn’t get the president’s statements up on the website. But it paled in comparison to the enormity of the message we sent the country and the world that the White House site was down. Or missing. Or removed.

Optics are important. And the site going back online (thanks to my friend George Lewis) was every bit as important and comforting as the president flying back to DC after stops at Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.

The next few hours were a blur – not nearly as vivid as the preceding time. We were told to research anything associated with the morning’s events – the date, the time, the locations, etc. Anything that might give us a clue as to why this happened.

When I arrived home that evening, I was struck by how much smoke there was in my apartment. I lived less than a mile away from the Pentagon but my windows and doors were closed. There was no escaping the day.

Haunting images

Like many of my colleagues I didn’t sleep that night and the next few days, weeks, and months were hard as they were for all Americans. But nothing like it was for the families of the victims.

The two images that haunt me the most were not from that day. Instead, the first happened that weekend when we spotted my friend Rob Wallace’s 3-year-old daughter building towers out of wooden blocks and then knocking them down with her toy plane. It was very hard not to cry.

It was impossible not to cry when family members of those lost in Flight 93 came to the White House for a memorial service two weeks later. As all the White House staffers lined up to shake their hands and express our condolences, I still remember that little boy in his little suit who jumped up to me to get a hug. I was told his father was on that plane. I never felt less worthy.

These memories have not faded. As painful as they are, it’s important that they don’t.

Jimmy Orr, a native of Cheyenne, was a White House spokesman and Director of Digital Strategy for President George W. Bush from 2001 – 2005.

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Jimmy Orr: Slavery and Sodomy, The Perils of Spell-Check

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

Spellcheck. Yeah, it’s a nice thing to have but it’s not infallible.

In fact, the “proofreader” nearly cost me my job at the White House.

Some journalists (including me) feel they’re better than spellcheck. They look down on it. They hold on to that title of seventh grade spelling champ with honor.

And then when instances come up where spellcheck has failed them, they point to those as evidence of the limitations of the automated fixer.

Anyone who has mistyped the word “public” and received no admonition can attest to this.

THE EVIDENCE

On Tuesday, we published the most popular daily sunrise photo since we began the feature last spring (using Facebook analytics as our judge).

Easy to see why.  J. Sheehan’s pastoral photograph of the sun lifting above the Little Snake River Valley dotted by cattle on the green fields is gorgeous.

The faint blue melding into intense yellows and oranges over the lush greens is beautiful.

What could ruin this beauty?

Spellcheck.

It recommend — no it changed — the location.

What was once Savery, Wyoming, turned into Slavery, Wyoming.

That kinda takes the romance out of the picture.  It destroys what was great.

Spellcheck be damned.

THE WHITE HOUSE

That version never made it on to our page because I’ve been burned before.  And as The Who sang and as President George W. Bush later mangled, “[ I ] Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

By the way, the president’s version was: “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”  Awesome.

Back when I was working for the White House, spellcheck nearly got me canned.

In charge of all digital communications, it was up to me to update the White House website.

On March 19, 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq.

I placed the president’s video, remarks, and a photo of the televised speech on the website.

I wrote the caption for the photo on the homepage.  

I mentioned the leader of Iraq:  Saddam Hussein.

Microsoft’s “Word” had an issue with the name “Saddam” and said: “Do you mean Sodomy?”

Not paying attention and just clicking on “yes” — which is what happens when you don’t proofread spellcheck — the caption on one of the most significant days of George W. Bush’s presidency, was — to say the least — incorrect.

THE MEDIA

It was discovered by a producer at Good Morning America.

The White House operator called me at 5:15 a.m. Eastern and connected me to the kindly producer who just gave me a heads-up about the misspelling.

I was able to change it and no one noticed.  The producer, instead of playing “gotcha journalism,” was just being decent.

Today, it would be international news. There would be a big siren on Drudge screaming that the White House intentionally did this.

I fessed up to my boss. She was great, as she still is today.

But I did get a warning. This was a Defcon 5 mistake. Absolutely it was.

From then on, I never just clicked on “ok” when spellcheck recommends a change.

You could say that sodomy changed my life.

(Not gonna lie, that last sentence made me laugh out loud).


Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

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Jimmy Orr: The COVID Vaccine and The Price of Tomatoes in Texas

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

You know you’ve touched a button when someone writes: “This must be a slow news day! Why is this news?”

That happened on Monday when we wrote an article on information from the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed a correlation between a county’s vaccine rate and a county’s support of either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

Wyoming is following a national trend. That is, the stronger the county voted for former President Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

Not true in every county. But as a general rule.

Here in Wyoming, the county which supported Trump the most (88% in Crook County) also had the lowest vaccination rate (19.4%).

Teton County, which supported Trump the least (33%), had the highest vaccination rate, 71%.

This story set some readers off. We didn’t hear the familiar: “This must be a slow news day!” Instead we heard the unique: “Why is this a news story? What does this have to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas?”

It has nothing to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas. But we get what the reader was saying.

Then we had the familiar “clickbait” charge and saying we weren’t helping in the healing of America.

It’s not our job to help heal America. It’s not our job to hurt America either.

It is our job to report on the news. And like it or not, the vaccine has become a partisan issue. And the results are hardly surprising.

“Our surveys consistently find that Democrats are much more likely to report having been vaccinated than Republicans, and Republicans are much more likely to say that they definitely do not want to get vaccinated,” wrote the authors of the study.

No, it’s not surprising. But it is fascinating to understand why.

What is the reason behind the partisan divide on a vaccine and what caused it?

Did we write a story to denigrate former President Trump as one commenter suggested?

If that was the case, then certainly we wouldn’t include this paragraph:

“You can go back to 2008 and look at the elections and see exactly the same results,” he said. “It’s not Trump.”

That’s from University of Wyoming political science professor, Jim King.

He went on to say the outcome would be the same if election results going back years were compared to vaccination rates, with counties showing the most support for Republican candidates having the lowest vaccination rates.

“What you’re seeing is generally the counties where you find people who are less trusting of the national government, they tend to vote a higher percentage Republican,” he said. “What you’re seeing is not anything related directly to the 2020 elections.”

That opinion, to us, was really quite interesting. That’s why you interview people who have studied one field for decades. Their insight is valuable.

My guess is the majority of the upset readers didn’t read the article. They looked at a headline or the Facebook blurb and immediately took offense. They jumped to a conclusion. They assumed we were condemning a group.

They saw a ghost.

The COVID vaccine is a sensitive topic. It’s not just Wyoming. It’s worldwide.

Add that to the increased distrust of the media and it gets volatile.

At Cowboy State Daily we will continue to stay away from agendas or biases or tilting of articles to make them more palatable for a certain group.

If we have an agenda, it’s that we are pro-Wyoming. We’re a group of Wyoming journalists who love the state and have chosen to live here.

You aren’t going to like every topic. You aren’t going to like every story. And you certainly aren’t going to like every column.

But all of that is ok.

We do hope that you like our Wyoming focus. And we hope our love for Wyoming is evident.

By the way, the cost of tomatoes in Texas varies between locations. For example, there is a big difference between Houston and Dallas. The former will cost you $2.24 for two pounds and the latter is much higher — $3.40.

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Jimmy Orr: Cynthia Lummis Bodyslams Montana Rep Who Doesn’t Understand Where Yellowstone Is

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Anyone who’s from Wyoming might occasionally get annoyed when people sometimes associate Yellowstone National Park with Montana.

After all, it’s barely in Montana. Only 3 percent of the park is located in Montana whereas 96% is located in Wyoming and the extra 1 percent (if anyone cares) is located in Idaho.

So when Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale had the audacity to say that Montana was the home of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis rightfully body slammed him.

This all took place on social media where Rosendale apparently was celebrating National Park Week and cut a :45 second video where he committed the foul.

“When you think of national parks, there is a reason you think of Montana. We’re home to the two crown jewels of the National Park system: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks,” he wrongly said.

The Western Caucus, a group representing western representatives, tweeted the video along with the error-filled language “Rep. Rosendale of Montana represents Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world, and Glacier National Park, which includes over 1 million acres.”

Lummis, rightfully, reworked that tweet correcting the language.

With a red pen, Lummis corrected the first sentence to read:

“When you think of national parks, there’s a reason you think of Wyoming.”

Then she took to the second sentence where she inserted some language that made the statement correct.

“Rep. Rosendale of Montana represents a tiny part of Yellowstone National Park…” the corrected copy reads.

Rosendale weakly tried to come back by saying:  “They put the show in Montana for a reason.”

Then, Lummis, from the top ropes emasculated Rosendale with one deadly sentence.

“Not our fault the Hollywood is bad at geography,” she said.

Silence. Rosendale couldn’t reply. She annihilated him. 

He should probably resign.

Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines then chimed in saying “I think we should talk.”

Lummis happily obliged tweeting a photo of a Wyoming shirt with a bison and the wording “Yellowstone National Park.”

Game. Set. Match. Wyoming.

Well done, Sen. Lummis. Well done.

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Jimmy Orr: How We Measure Snow in Wyoming — Beer, Children, Cars

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

In Wyoming, they say you used to measure trips between towns by the “six-pack”.

Of course, those days are long-gone now but beer is still a popular part of the culture. So why wouldn’t we use beer to communicate how we’re dealing with a blizzard?

Beer communicates a lot.  Like how much snow you’ve received.

Ask Wheatland’s Tony Montoya. Nearly four cans of beer so far or 23.6 inches, he said in a Facebook post.

Beer can also communicate your readiness for the elements. Like Paul Delap did in Casper.

“I’m ready for a power outage,” Delap posted with ever-western yellow bottles of Coors. “Mother Nature will provide the means to keep our survival supplies refrigerated.”

His planning garnered much applause by other Wyoming citizens.

“Excellent use of available resources,” Michelle Dahl wrote.

“Love that Wyoming ingenuity,” Maria Salisbury said.

You can also measure snow depth by your children. Like Brittaney Cree Bales did. She said she “almost lost our 8-year-old out there!”

She was commended for the bright green coat her child wore. Excellent choice in case he ventured out too far.

Cars are an excellent way to measure snow depth. Just ask Susan Edgerton. Snowfall at her house looks to be at about an entire Honda.

Then there’s the standard way you can measure snow — by the snowman.

Casper’s C May Heid asks the right question: “When’s the last time the snow was this perfect texture to make a fabulous snowman?”

No kidding. Picture perfect.

Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White was decidedly more pessimistic. 

“20 inches and now the drifting.  See you in April,” he wrote.

Jeff, we are sorry to tell you. As as 11:30 am, Cheyenne has officially received 26 inches and the storm ain’t done.

See you in May…

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Jimmy Orr: TV Station Reminds Viewers Not To Explore Bear Dens or Feed Bears

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

Sometimes you have to wonder if people really need to be reminded about how to act around wildlife or if reporters are really stupid.

Probably both.

Then again, in North Carolina where people may not be exposed to tourists who try to ride buffalos or pet grizzlies, warnings are probably needed.

Thus, a TV report from WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina where a reporter found it necessary to remind viewers that “if you see a bear or bear den, leave it alone.”

Do we really need this reminder?

Maybe so. The old Gary Larsen “Far Side” comic comes to mind where this exact scenario played out.

In Wyoming, of course, we know the stories.

We saw the video earlier this month of the tourists from Tennessee who blocked the path of the bison herd. Ultimately, one woman was thrown off her snowmobile when two of the animals had enough.

The more egregious of the videos (now taken down) showed the tourists screaming and laughing as they gunned their snowmobiles directly at the herd causing a stampede. Somehow no one was hurt.

To be fair, it’s not always the tourists. 

There was the guy last summer in Choteau, Montana who heard that a grizzly was around his property so he snuck-up to an abandoned barn and peered inside.

Public Service Announcement. Grizzlies do not like to be surprised.

The surprised bear then attempted to rip his head off. And if it wasn’t for his quick-thinking wife who tried to run over the bear in her truck, he may not be alive today.

Occasionally, however — every now and then — reporters who are new to the area can be smarter than all of us.

Case in point: Deion Broxton. He was the reporter who worked in Bozeman last year (now he’s in Iowa) who was doing a report from Yellowstone and saw a bison herd.

He gave the herd some serious side-eye before quickly exiting the scene but gave a great play-by-play as he packed up.

“Oh my God,” he muttered while carefully observing the approaching herd.

“I ain’t messing with you,” he said moments later, while walking off-camera and to his car.

“Oh, no,” he continued while packing his car with his gear. “Oh no, I ain’t messing with you.”

The official social media accounts at Yellowstone National Park praised him and his video was viewed millions of times.

Lesson? We all can’t be Deion Broxton. There are people who need to hear warnings — like in that news report on WRAL.

The last bit of advice from their reporter: “Never approach a bear or try to feed it.”

Ok. We’ll try our best.

And our hope is that we have zero mauling stories to report this year. Fingers crossed.

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Weld County Will Never Leave Colorado For Wyoming

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Before anyone loses any more sleep over it, the chances of Weld County seceding from Colorado and joining Wyoming are essentially zero.

Actually, the more accurate phrase to describe its chances would come from the 1980s novel and book “Less Than Zero.”

Sure, there’s a Facebook page from disgruntled Weld County Coloradoans who appear to want to join Wyoming but the obstacles are too steep.

At a minimum, Weld County residents have to approve it, the Colorado legislature has to approve it, the Wyoming Legislature has to approve it, and Congress has to approve it. 

It’s never going to happen. It’s never going to get past the second step. Colorado is not going to give up a county. Ever.

That’s why it’s easy for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to say he’d love to have Weld County join Wyoming.

“We would love that,” Gordon told KOA Radio in Denver. “From time to time states have said, ‘Gosh, we like what Wyoming is doing,’ and we’d be happy.”

If he were serious, he would be far more measured about it. There wouldn’t be any off-the-cuff conversations about it. It would be kryptonite.

Same with Colorado’s Gov. Polis.  It’s easy for him to take a shot back at Gov. Gordon like elected officials do when respective sports teams battle each other.

“Hands off Weld County, Governor Mark Gordon,” Polis said. “Weld County is a thriving part of Colorado and Weld County residents are proud to be part of our great state. I do hear from so many Cheyenne residents, on the other hand, that they are culturally, economically and socially more connected to Colorado than Wyoming….”

The conversation is all for fun. It’s harmless. It’s friendly banter back and forth between two governors.

In the end, it means nothing because neither Colorado nor Wyoming takes it seriously (outside of a few thousand people on Facebook).

It doesn’t mean those people don’t have legitimate concerns but they’re fighting a battle they cannot win. It would be a Sisyphean Battle — and that’s being optimistic. Colorado would never let them go. And Wyoming would never pursue it.

It’s similar to the ludicrous talk of kicking Teton County out of Wyoming. It’s easy to say. But Wyoming would never let that happen. It would be idiotic to let it happen.

Let’s place this conversation in the location it deserves: fun bar-talk. Nothing more and nothing less.

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Well-Known Wyoming Innkeeper Jim Osterfoss Dies; Owned Nagle-Warren Mansion

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

One of Wyoming’s most well-known innkeepers died on Sunday.

Jim Osterfoss, who owned the Nagle-Warren Bed and Breakfast in Cheyenne for more than 25 years, died at the age of 75.

“His passion was caring for his customers, employees and the community as a whole,” read Osterfoss’ obituary.  “He enjoyed serving on numerous community boards relating to tourism and commerce, and other civic entities such as Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Clubs.  He will be remembered as a loving father, grandfather and friend.”

Osterfoss shuttered the historic building after retiring in November 2019. 

“It’s one of the most important and iconic homes in the State of Wyoming,” Osterfoss told Cowboy State Daily. “President Theodore Roosevelt stayed here. President Taft stayed here. The Vanderbilts and many other titans of the early 1900s stayed here. This was the place to stay in Wyoming.”

Osterfoss was widely admired in many circles including the tourism, legislative, and volunteerism communities.

“God bless you, Jim Osterfoss. You were such a great soldier in Wyoming’s tourism army. RIP, my friend,” wrote Diane Shober, Executive Director of Wyoming’s Office of Tourism, on Osterfoss’ Facebook page.

“Jim was a true tourism professional who taught us all about hospitality, community-building, and being a good person. Cheyenne and its residents will truly miss him,” wrote former Visit Cheyenne Director Darren Rudloff.

“We will miss you old friend,” wrote Chris Brown, Executive Director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. “Thank you so very much for your friendship and tireless efforts on behalf of our industry. Rest in peace.”

Osterfoss’ quick wit was on display during an interview with Cowboy State Daily about his retirement.

He said he wouldn’t “dish any dirt” on the thousands of guests who stayed at his bed and breakfast stating that “whatever happened at the Nagle, stayed at the Nagle.”

When asked if there were any surprises that he discovered at the historic home, he said, “The secret tunnels to the old whorehouses in Cheyenne..”

Really?

The innkeeper paused for a moment and deadpanned, “Gotcha.”

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Gordon Lifts Restrictive Hours For Wyoming Restaurants and Bars

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

Gov. Mark Gordon’s office on Saturday announced that Wyoming restaurants and bars can return to normal hours effective on on January 9.

The office attributed the change in public health orders to declining hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 virus.

“Thank you to the people of Wyoming who recognized the strain on their hospitals and health care workers and acted accordingly,” Gordon said in a release. 

The governor also thanked business owners who abided by the orders adopted in December when coronavirus cases were spiraling upward in the state.

“These have not been easy times for anyone,” he said. “We are not out of the woods yet, but continued personal safety measures while the vaccine is being distributed will enable our state’s schools and businesses to continue to remain open.”

On December 30, Wyoming hospitals were reporting 113 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, down from a peak of 247 on November 30. However, the state reported 223 COVID-19 deaths in December, the highest number since the pandemic began in March. Wyoming has also begun distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, utilizing a phased approach due to limited initial vaccine availability.

The updated health orders, along with additional information on Wyoming’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, can be found on Wyoming’s COVID-19 website.

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House and directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: Grizzly 399 and Her Four Cubs Romping Through the Snow

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

For those of you (us) who can’t get enough of Grizzly 399 and her happy family, there’s a new video captured by tourists last week that show the bears traversing through the snow, across the highway, and back to more snow.

As we discussed in our year-end roundup of the most popular stories on Cowboy State Daily, anything to do with Grizzly 399 and her cubs are of huge interest to our readers.

You would think they would be curled up in an enviable many-months-long state of slumber right now, but in the spirit of the recently celebrated holidays, the available food must be a gift that keeps on giving.

If you wince when you see the bears run across the road, you aren’t alone. We just hope that motorists continue to use extreme caution as they travel in the Grand Teton National Park area.

Part of the fun from this video is the play-by-play. The adults are just as thrilled as the children in the car.

It appears that one of the participants is “Facetiming” the events as you hear someone over the phone who sounded strikingly similar to Gomer Pyle say, “Golly, that sucker is big, Kurt. You better move, Kurt!”

Those sentiments were echoed by one of the children who quickly agreed: “Daddy, move!”

The driver did not move (which was a good idea). We might have rolled up the windows but it all turned out ok.

The most excitement came when the onlookers saw the four cubs bounding through the snow.

Gomer reeled off another “Golly” before the whole car gasped and laughed at what they were seeing.

“Is that not awesome, Kyle?” the driver said to Gomer.

“Oh man, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Gomer said.

We have to agree. It was spectacular. And a great way to bring-in 2021.

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Jimmy Orr: Cowboy State Daily’s Most-Read Stories of the Year

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor Cowboy State Daily

It’s that time in the calendar when news organizations look back at the biggest stories of the year and provide some commentary.

That’s what Cowboy State Daily’s Bill Sniffin and Jim Angell are doing and there are no people better than doing that.

This column is a bit different.  This is just about numbers. The stories that generated the most traffic because — most likely — of social media. 

Something caught someone’s attention and the sharing took-off.

These stories aren’t the most important but they generated the most readership.  It’s likely because of coronavirus-fatigue. People were looking for stories that didn’t remind them of the coronavirus.

That’s not to say people weren’t reading coronavirus-related stories. They were. By category, there was nothing bigger than stories about the pandemic and we did over 900 of them.

The top ten stories, however, it appears gave people a break from the bad news.

Let’s dig in….


10. Fat Grizzly Bear Gets Into Another Altercation While Guarding His Bull Elk

This was the story about the Yellowstone grizzly that downed a bull elk and took a couple weeks to eat it. In the meantime, photographers and videographers by the hundreds — it seemed — gathered to document the bear’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A wolf sauntered by (if wolves can saunter) and decided he might have a snack. Fatty the Bear, as we called him, was not in a mood to share and let the wolf know.

As we wrote in the September 30 story, we could empathize:

We’ve all been there. It’s late on Friday. You have a few thousand beers. You order a large Meat-Lover’s special and hork down a couple of slices David Hasselhoff-style before you pass out upside down caught in the steps of a spiral staircase.

It’s a story as old as time.

You wake up the next day craving more of your pizza only to find it gone.

You learn from that experience to guard your food.  [FULL STORY]


9.  Grizzly 399’s Cubs Stop Traffic To Wrestle & Play With Cones; No Tourist Gets Mauled

If the story was about Grizzly 399 and her cubs, chances are it performed very well on Cowboy State Daily. 

We loved writing about the five-some. This family of bears gave us welcome escape during the pandemic.

Even though we wished — often — that tourists would just leave them alone, we also realized that when someone took a photo or video of the bears, we could write about it.

This story was simple. It was just about the four cubs who had fun playing with some traffic cones. 

To make it better, a tourist decide to narrate the fun on his iPhone while sitting in his RV.

As we wrote: “From the video, it sound like Chris Pipes could be a former TV anchor. He described what he saw like someone might do the play-by-play of the Rose Parade.”  [FULL STORY]


8.  Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx Escapes to Wyoming 

No chance of a Pulitzer on this. But who cares? It’s a fun story.

Having been a Mötley Crüe fan since 1983 and knowing about Nikki Sixx’s successful battle with addiction, this was a story — when we heard about it — that we wanted to jump on.

It’s a human interest story.

It’s fun how we heard about it as well.  One of our readers texted us and said she was walking down her street in Teton Village and passed Sixx, his wife, and their daughter. And they were all very friendly.

She was reluctant for us to report about it as she thought it could be TMZ-like, which we understood.

By the same token, however, the couple took to Instagram to announce their departure from Los Angeles to Teton County so we thought they weren’t being shy about it — so why not write it up?

There were great photos of the rocker along with his baby daughter in their airplane and in subsequent Instagram posts, he was really quite complimentary of Wyoming.

Although the story generated a number of “who cares?” comments and “he should stay in California” mean-spirited remarks on our Facebook page, there were also plenty of people who were welcoming as well.

For the record, we do recognize Teton County as part of Wyoming although a vocal number of commenters believe Teton County should be kicked out of the state.


7. Grizzly Attack Victim Videos His Exposed Bones Immediately After Bear Encounter “Just In Case He Didn’t Survive”

Another bear story. People love bear stories. Except this gentleman. He hates bears.

Shannun Rammel was attacked by a grizzly earlier this year. People could say he brought it on himself as he snuck up on the grizzly in an abandoned shed (never a good strategy).

Regardless, you gotta admire his ability to be calm under pressure.

After getting attacked, he asked his wife to film him on her phone so he could tell the story of the attack in case he expired.

“You can see my bones and my tendons,” he said. “He ripped into me pretty good there.”

As we wrote:

His wife told the TV station that when she saw her husband “getting thrown like a rag doll,” she came up with the idea of running over the bear in their truck.

“So when I punched the truck, he stopped and looked at me, dead straight in my eyes,” Jammie Rammel said. “He got off Shannun and turned around and got out of there,” she said.  [FULL STORY]


6.  Snow Possible In Wyoming This Weekend. Because It’s 2020

The weirdness of 2020 continued with two freak summer snowstorms. One that happened in late August and a huge one that occurred right after Labor Day weekend.

This story just previewed the first one and Ellen Fike presented it in full context:

As the 10 biblical plagues continue to curse Wyoming and the rest of the world, a portion of the state will see another favorite friend: snow.

This storm didn’t generate a lot of snow but the next one sure did. [FULL STORY]


5.  Hikers Run From Grizzly While Onlookers Laugh

This was a shocking story because of what could have happened. 

The video is insane. You see a grizzly running down the same path where three hikers and a baby (AND A BABY!) are hiking.

Hikers from a close ridge are filming the action and letting them know to make some noise.

Instead of making noise, the hikers (on the same trail with the grizzly and THE BABY) start to run.

The other hikers yell at them “Don’t run. Don’t run!!!”

Then the hikers start laughing (the ones who are safe filming the whole thing). Thankfully it ended okay.  As we wrote:

To be fair, the bear didn’t show any interest in pursuing those hikers and it was a really nervous situation so it’s not as though he was cheering on the grizzly like he was watching a gladiator fight in Ancient Rome.

“Thank goodness that it all went well afterwards,” he said. “Other than that it was a beautiful day for a hike down to Hidden Lake.”   [FULL STORY]


4.  Surprised Hiker Captures Video of Grizzly Barreling Down on Two Mountain Goats

Guess what?  Another grizzly story.

This one is another close call. A grizzly is running full speed (as far as we can tell) after a couple mountain goats down a mountain trail and comes to a fork in the road.

The bear has a decision to make. Keep running after the mountain goats (who can run quite fast) or take the other trail where he would run into humans (who are really slow).

Thankfully the bear chose to stay on the same path. But it was close.

The video was a bit wobbly but we understood.

We don’t blame the hiker for the wobbly video.

After all, if we were just feet away from a grizzly barreling down the mountainside in full pursuit of two mountain goats, our video might be wobbly too.

No word if the mountain goat survived. The hiker, for some reason, chose not to run after the grizzly to get the footage.  [FULL STORY]


3.  25% of Wyoming Stay-At-Home Workers Boozing During Work Hours

Only one direct coronavirus story scored in the top 10. Out of more than 900 coronavirus stories we did that may seem a bit surprising.

It doesn’t to us. As we already mentioned, by category, traffic to coronavirus-related stories dwarfed everything else.

But there was also coronavirus overload.  People looked to the fun bear stories or the wacky weather stories to escape.

And this one is kind of a hybrid coronavirus and wacky human interest story.

A poll from alcohol.org polled 3,000 American workers and found out that 25% of Wyomingites who worked from home due to the coronavirus were drinking on the job.

In the Rocky Mountain West, we were number one!  As we wrote:

Does 25% seem high to you? Of our neighboring states only one has a lower percentage of boozers (and it’s not Utah).

Only 22% of South Dakotans are taking advantage of not having a boss around.

Hawaiians flat-out don’t care. A full two-thirds of them are opening up the hatch while working on TPS reports.

The lowest state?  Arkansas with only 8% admitting to honking the hooch.  [FULL STORY]


2.  Yellowstone Tourist Trips And Falls When Charging Bison Takes After Her

This wasn’t the biggest Bison versus Human story of the year (that’s coming up) but this was still one heck of a story.

It’s still amazing to us that no one is hurt.  The video, again, is insane and shows a couple idiotic tourists who believe bison are tame, cute puppies who just want to be petted.

They don’t. And this bison was not happy. But because the woman played-dead, the bison left her alone.

We don’t know if that was a good strategy or not. The best strategy is not getting out of your car.

And then there was the moron who “tried” to help.  As we wrote:  

Reports are that the woman was not injured. 

No word on the condition of the man, appropriately dressed in green shorts and sandals, who tried to pick up a tree branch (and failed) in an effort to look like he could actually do something against a 2,000 pound bison.  [FULL STORY]


  1. Woman Violently Attacked By Bison; Pants Ripped Off During Encounter

You knew this had to be number one.  The story that sparked a National Park Service gingerbread cookie in its honor.

The story of a female biker who left her motorcycle to go pet a bison in Custer State Park.

She didn’t lose her life but she lost her pants.

As we wrote:

One of the bison’s horns got caught in the woman’s belt and “swung her around violently.”

“She was apparently saved when her pants came off and she fell to the ground unconscious,” an eyewitness said.  “[A]t that point, the attacking animal ran off along with the rest of the herd.”

Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechalev told the outlet that the woman escaped serious injury in the incident.  [FULL STORY]

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: The Danger of Competitive New Year’s Day Resolutions

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a good idea to have a goal and if starting on January 1 makes sense, then more power to you.

If joining up with another person or people to accomplish a New Year’s goal makes sense, then that’s a good idea too.

If, to make things more interesting, you bet against a friend to see who can accomplish their goal first, then that’s another good motivator.

That’s what my friend Jonathan Downing and I did a quarter of a century ago but it ended up backfiring for us.

In the late spring of 1994, we both joined on to the Rob Wallace for U.S. Congress campaign in the primary and then the Jim Geringer for Governor campaign in the general election. Both of us were in our 20s when we had working metabolisms.

In my experience, campaigns are never good for weight loss. But they are great for weight gain — need it or not.

Both of us entered the campaign with our weights in a similar range: the mid 180s. Not too bad for people who are 6’0.

By the time campaign season was done, we both had ballooned to the mid 220s. Eventually I would see my weight hit the dreaded 250 mark. And I believe Jonathan (although unconfirmed) toppled 1,000 pounds.

The usual things are to blame. Being on the road for hours, fast food, drinks, late nights, fast food. And fast food.

In January 1995, we went to work for Governor Jim Geringer. Our offices were right next to each other.

Alarmed at the 40 – 50 pound weight gain, we decided to have a competitive New Year’s resolution. See who could get back down to 185 the quickest. Or, at least, who was lighter by the end of the session.

Everything started well. 

Then came January 2.

Because we had spent so much time together, we acted like brothers. Teenage brothers.

We continually tried to sabotage each other.

This was no different. 

After having a lunch salad at the Egg and I (the closest restaurant to the Capitol), I would swing by Taco John’s to pick up a couple super burritos and place them on Jonathan’s desk. Every day.

It proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for him.

“Jonathan horked those burritos down like a human vacuum cleaner. Bits of potato would spit out of his office as he would attack the side dish with the ferocity of a diesel-powered blender,” I wrote while discussing this strategy in the Los Angeles Times.

He was just as devious.

Going to the Hitching Post for a reception was a nightly event. My plan was to have a Diet Coke and forego any snacks.

But then came a secret admirer. A young, attractive woman started sending me Bacardi and Cokes (dozens of them).

Thinking it would be rude to spurn the drinks from the young, attractive woman, I drank them and the food that would inevitably follow.

I never saw the young, attractive woman although she really had a thing for me. The waitress only told me about her.

Turns out there was no young, attractive woman. Jonathan was behind the drinks and paid the waitress to say that. 

We sent pizzas to each other’s houses. Dairy Queen Blizzards would appear out of nowhere. 

I remember opening up my desk drawer to find a still warm chili dog. Jonathan, not checking his chair before sitting down, sat on a plate of nachos.

A day didn’t go by without some type of sabotage.

By the end of the session, we had both gained upwards of 20 pounds. We both lost.

In the years that followed, however, we achieved weight loss goals at separate times.

Back in 2017, I recall see Jonathan in the grocery store. He looked pre-1994 campaign weight. He looked great.

I asked him how he did it.  No carbs, he said.

A week later, I saw him in the same store but carrying out a full cake. I asked him about the no carbs diet. He said the cake was just to celebrate the weight loss.

He continued to celebrate.

Sadly, so have I.

The only moral of the story is if you want to successfully achieve a New Year’s resolution don’t ask Jonathan to help you, you probably want to be really careful in choosing your New Year’s resolution partner.

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Jimmy Orr: In Less Than Two Weeks, Cowboy State Daily Will Be Two Years Old

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By Jimmy Orr, executive editor

In less than two weeks, Cowboy State Daily will be two years old and I am thrilled to have been part of it the entire time.

When founder Annaliese Wiederspahn asked me if I wanted to join her in starting this endeavor, I jumped at it.

One, because journalism is in my blood. From the time Larry Birleffi hired me at KFBC radio in Cheyenne to being on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times as Managing Editor, journalism is my one true passion.

Two, because it was a chance to work with Annaliese. We had known each other for 25 years and following her professional and entrepreneurial path, I knew if she was starting something, it would be great.

We immediately brought in former Wyoming AP Bureau Chief Jim Angell, legendary Wyoming television broadcaster Bob Geha, and the best videographer in the state of Wyoming — Mike McCrimmon.

And between the five of us, we created something really fantastic.  In the legislative arena alone, our experience was unparalleled. 

Our brand new digital news organization, in fact, had more combined journalism experience than any other media outlet in the state.

And for the five of us, it was an opportunity to continue to do something we all loved: journalism. Straight journalism. No bias, no slant, no preference in either direction.

Annaliese, among other things, started the daily email newsletter called “Coffee Break” which was another way for people to receive the news.

I asked my college friend Don Day to join us with his daily weather forecast which soon became the most clicked-on item in the morning newsletter.

When Annaliese left to run her mom’s successful Senate campaign, I decided to do double duty. Not only remain as executive editor but continue what she started with writing and publishing the newsletter. The fun for me is finding the variety of Wyoming stories out there and presenting them in both an informative yet entertaining way.

As fun as it all is, you have to bring in money to exist. So she reached out to Bill Sniffin and asked him to take the helm of publisher and he spends his time trying to raise funds to keep Cowboy State Daily going — as well as writing his columns. He also brought on his friend Dave Simpson, a 40-plus-year journalist who writes a fantastic weekly column.

The news industry today is not easy. Technology has completely upended it.

 The competition is fierce now and it’s everywhere. You are no longer insulated by geography. You have to offer real value to gain and keep an audience. What separates you from everyone else?

When someone clicks on a story, they better get something from it. It’s kind of like the old Wendy’s ad “Where’s the Beef?”

It better be more than two sentences, an embedded tweet, and a hashtag all surrounded by a a collage of hyper-obnoxious ads.

The readers deserve a full story. 

I feel fortunate to have been in the middle of the technology disruption while both at the Christian Science Monitor and at the Los Angeles Times. We did some really innovative things at both locations and, as a result, both are strong publications to this day.

As long as you produce quality content and have a team of real journalists, you stand a chance. Especially if everyone enjoys what they’re doing. 

We do. This weekend we published two really fun stories.

I wrote about my time at the President George W. Bush White House and putting a videocamera on the president’s dog’s head and creating a national media sensation.

And we published Jim Angell’s story about going out and testing and rating 10 holiday drinks all in the same afternoon. I was the videographer that day and, frankly, ran out of time. I didn’t have the time to edit it. So we sat on the footage for a full year and I spent eight hours on Sunday editing the video.  It’s a lot of fun.

We had a couple really good columns this weekend too. Rod Miller reached out to me with his new column on Cyrus Western’s tweet and Matt Micheli sent me his column on Christmas and the Power of Light (which we will publish later today).

We do a lot for such a small staff. Thankfully Ellen Fike joined us this year and she has a variety of talents. Not only is she a great writer but she’s really funny. And she’s been doing a lot of stand-up lately.

She won’t post the video (although it’s funny). But you can read about her standup experience here. Ellen is the engine of Cowboy State Daily.

Difficult policy story? No one can decipher it like Jim Angell. Plus, he has the historical knowledge only rivaled by the Casper Star’s Joan Barron and Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck to put it all in perspective.

When Annaliese and I sat down with Jim in late December, 2018 and he said “yes”, we knew with Jim as our anchor, we could build something really solid.

We really do a lot for a small staff and I’ll tell ya, it really is a labor of love. We all do it because we love it.

We all do it because we like to write. We all do it because that’s what we do.

There’s nothing more satisfying that writing a good story. Even when it’s one of my throw-away “If there were a criminal’s handbook…” stories. I write them because they are fun to write.

Cowboy State Daily has no bureaucracy. We have no hierarchy. Bill can write a column whenever he’d like. So can I. So can Jim Angell. So can Ellen Fike. We thrive because we’re not a top-down organization. 

We all work together. 

Thanks for reading us. Thanks for following us on Facebook. Thanks for reading our daily newsletter (I really do enjoy writing it) and it’s been my mission (thankfully successful) to grow our subscribers. It’s been a really good year.

Here’s to a great 2021!

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Jim Angell Rates 10 Holiday-Themed Drinks (Yes, He Had a Designated-Driver)

in Jimmy Orr/Column/Jim Angell
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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

NOTE: This story was filed in December, 2019 (before the pandemic).

Seasonal adult beverages have been associated with Christmas for as long as the holiday has been celebrated.

From Bob Cratchit’s gin punch in “A Christmas Carol” to the “flaming rum punch” mentioned by Clarence the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” cocktails and mixed drinks have been a fixture in countless holiday celebrations.

So in the spirit of the holiday (pun intended), Cowboy State Daily set out to visit 10 Cheyenne establishments to see what they could offer up in terms of holiday drinks.

Since I have the most experience at taste testing (see my in-depth review of carnival food at Frontier Days), I won the enviable job of trying out special holiday drinks around town.

Some were warm, sweet and inviting, like a grandmother’s hug. Other’s were refreshing and brisk, like a walk on a snowy winter’s night. But they were all delicious.

As you can see in the accompanying video, I gave each drink a score on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. I based my scores on one simple idea: how universally enjoyed the drink would be.

Now, I have to note a couple of things here:

I did not drive. My beautiful Irish bride was kind enough to take the wheel.

I did not finish all the drinks put in front of me. That would have been dangerous. Although I must admit, some were too good to give up on.

So here is a list of the establishments we visited in the order we stopped, along with a brief description of the drink I enjoyed at each stop.

1.Poor Richards

The drink: Poor Richard’s Winter Storm

Ingredients: Kahlua, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Frangelico, coffee.

Poor Richard’s has been a favorite Cheyenne restaurant of mine since I moved here. The food is wonderful, the service is great and the bar is intimate, quiet and well-stocked. 

The Winter Storm is a coffee-based drink, with the kick coming from coffee, orange, almond and hazelnut liqueurs. It is a great drink for those seeking something warm and somewhat sweet without the overwhelming taste of alcohol.

2. The Albany

The drink: Irish Coffee

Ingredients: Irish whiskey, sugar, coffee, whipped cream, creme de menthe.

The Albany has been operating as a restaurant since 1905, although under some different names in its early years. The history in this building is palpable and it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a meal or a drink.

The Irish coffee is a staple for cold weather and every establishment has its own twist on it. At The Albany, the twist comes when the bartender pours creme de menthe on top of the whipped cream topping the coffee itself. The minty finish is a wonderful addition to the traditional flavor of the coffee and whiskey.

3. The Metropolitan

The drink: Old Fashioned

Ingredients: Rye whiskey, brown sugar, simple syrup, bitters, orange bitters and a brandied cherry.

The “Met” is one of Cheyenne’s newest restaurants and is generating quite a few positive reviews. Its list of specialty cocktails is impressive, as is its collections of top-shelf liquors.

The Old Fashioned isn’t really a holiday drink, but it is a classic, something often associated with the elegance and glamour of the “Rat Pack” years of the 1950s and 1960s. To put it simply, the Metropolitan’s Old Fashioned is the best I have ever tasted. Complex and well balanced, it would appeal to someone who wants just a hint of whiskey flavor backed up with mixers that in themselves are not too strong. So grab one when you’re feeling like belting out “New York, New York.”

4. Rib & Chop House

The drink: Chop House Peanut Butter S’mores

Ingredients: Peanut butter whiskey, hot chocolate, whipped cream.

Rib & Chop has restaurants scattered across Wyoming and by some accounts, it offers up the finest steak in the state. Its bar is always lively and inviting.

I’ve got to be honest:  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a peanut butter whiskey. And once I learned there was, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to try it. But Rib & Chop’s Peanut Butter S’mores is a delicious dessert drink featuring — believe it or not — the great taste of peanut butter and chocolate. Sort of like dunking a chocolate bar into a tub of peanut butter. This is going to be popular with anyone who likes to end the night with a sweet drink.

5. Little Bear

The drink: Little Bear Nudge

Ingredients: Frangelico, Amaretto, Irish cream, hot coffee, whipped cream and sprinkles.

Talk about historic — the Little Bear has been around in one form or another since an important stagecoach line ran between Cheyenne and Deadwood, South Dakota. The atmosphere is wonderful, like a neighborhood bar and restaurant, and always inviting.

The Little Bear Nudge is another coffee-based drink getting its flavors from the hazelnut and almond flavored liqueurs, along with the Irish cream. The Irish cream adds an interesting taste to the hazelnut and almond and cuts the strong flavor of the (home-ground) coffee to yield a pleasantly balanced drink that is sweet, but not too sweet. The green sprinkles, it was explained, are just there for decoration.

6. Uncle Charlie’s

The drink: Gingerbread martini

Ingredients: Pumpkin-flavored Irish cream, butterscotch-flavored schnapps, half-and-half cream, cinnamon.

Uncle Charlie’s has been a popular gathering place in Cheyenne for years, particularly famous for its happy hour snacks and treats. It’s always fun and there’s always something going on.

On our arrival, bartender Pam created — on the spot — what I consider to be the most Christmassy of all our drinks: the gingerbread martini. She pulled it together while we waited. And the name doesn’t lie — the mixture of the pumpkin and butterscotch flavors yields a gingerbread taste. Served cold in a martini glass, it’s an instant Christmas classic, sweet and creamy. Make sure you ask for it when you visit.

7. Peppermill

The drink: Rachel’s Reindeer Revenge

Ingredients: Vodka, peach schnapps, cinnamon-flavored whiskey, holiday Red Bull (plum flavored)

The Peppermill is a very popular spot on Dell Range, with numerous pool tables, video games and various special events occurring through the week.

The drink created by bartender Rachel was slightly sweet, but not cloying. The carbonation provided by the Red Bull gave it a certain lift and left it very light on the tongue. The peach schnapps reduced the influence of the vodka and whiskey, creating a very easy-to-drink cocktail that was very refreshing.

Plus, we were given the honor of naming it, so there’s that.

8. The Office

The drink: Peppermint Cranberry

Ingredients: Peppermint schnapps, cranberry juice, splash of soda water.

The Office is one of Cheyenne’s newer establishments and has received extremely good reviews for its food and specialty cocktails.

The one made specially for me during my tour, the peppermint cranberry, was the first at The Office, but not the first for our experienced bartender. It was like drinking a candy cane. The bright red color made it visually appealing and the strong peppermint flavor, boosted by the carbonation, made it a very refreshing drink. An excellent choice for an after-dinner drink.

9. Alf’s Pub

The drink: Irish coffee

Ingredients: Irish whiskey, Irish cream, coffee

Alf’s is famous in Cheyenne for hosting a number of charitable events, raising more than $2 million in the last several years for donation to various causes. It’s a friendly bar with a “neighborhood pub” feel.

The Irish coffee at Alf’s was basic and comforting — kind of like an old friend. The Irish cream helped blunt the edges of the coffee and smoothed out the wonderful Irish whiskey. Served in a standard coffee mug, the drink stayed satisfyingly warm throughout.

10. Paramount Ballroom

The drink: The Land of Nod

Ingredients: Brandy, butterscotch liqueur, spiced rum, apple cider, cinnamon, orange, cloves and cranberry, all topped with butter.

The Paramount has gained fame as a Cheyenne home of specialty cocktails. The atmosphere is upscale and bright, making it a perfect place to meet after work or before dinner.

The Land of Nod tops the list for Christmas cheer on the warm drinks list. The various flavors blended beautifully and the butter melted on top of the drink gave it a smooth, warm finish. Although it tends toward the sweet side, the orange peel and cloves help keep it from being too sweet, all while adding a very “Christmassy” nose.

So that was my trip. I’d encourage anyone to stop by any of these establishments if they get a chance at any time of the year — don’t wait for Christmas!

Remember, though, if you’re going to try to replicate my five-hour journey, do it safely. Bring a designated driver. And, if you can, somebody to record the experience. The fear of appearing in an online video doing something, well, undignified should keep you on your best behavior.

Slainte (Gaelic for cheers) and Merry Christmas!

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Jimmy Orr: How ‘Barney Cam’ Made George W. Bush’s Dog a Web Star

in Jimmy Orr/Column
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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor, Cowboy State Daily

This time of year, I always think back to my days at the White House.

I served as a White House spokesman and digital director for President George W. Bush’s first term (2001- 2004).

The Internet was relatively new and I was in charge of what we did online including a series of Christmas videos we did with President Bush’s dog Barney which caused a media sensation. We called it Barney Cam.

When Barney died in 2013 and I was serving as Managing Editor, Digital, for the Los Angeles Times, the editor asked me if I would write about it as a send-off to the First Dog.

It was easy to write. It’s a great Christmas story. This appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on February 6, 2013. Hope you enjoy it. (The video is embedded at the bottom of the page).


“Mr. Orr, this is the White House operator.”

As a White House spokesman, I received phone calls like this all the time. But this was the first time the president’s secretary had ordered me to report to the Oval Office immediately. Before 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

It was December 2003. Iraq was all over the news. We were closing in on the capture of Saddam Hussein. But — and the nation should be thankful — this wasn’t my domain.

President George W. Bush had another reason for calling for me now.

Barney Cam.

How it happened

Whenever I’m asked to speak about my tenure in the White House, the conversation always shifts to Barney, the Scottish terrier whom the president regarded as the son he never had.

After Barney died Friday at age 12, I found myself thinking about how he became an Internet sensation.

In 2002, the White House was still closed to the public after the attacks of Sept. 11. I ran the White House website, and we wanted to use the Internet to better connect with citizens.

Our first attempt to bring people in to the White House — virtually — was a big hit. Millions of viewers went to our site to see President Bush give a personal video tour of the Oval Office.

During a brainstorming session, my deputy, Jane Cook, mentioned that the theme for the White House Christmas was “All Creatures Great and Small” — a tribute to presidential pets.

People liked our videos. People loved Barney. Why not strap a video camera to the first dog’s head, chase him through the White House so viewers can see the Christmas decorations from his vantage point, and stream it over the Internet?

I decided to pitch the idea at the morning communications meeting in the West Wing, where a couple of dozen communication staffers gather to plan the day.

When Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, asked me what was on my agenda, I swallowed hard and then said, “As you know, Dan, White House tours are still closed due to terrorist concerns. And the theme for this year’s Christmas at the White House is ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’

“So it’s only logical that we have a Barney Cam, Dan, which is where we strap a video camera on Barney’s head and have him run through the White House looking at decorations while Christmas music is playing in the background.”

I smiled.

Dan looked at me as though I’d grown another head.

After about 10 seconds of dead silence, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer chimed in: “That. Is. Awesome.”

His validation was all it took.

“Brilliant!”

“Good thinking.”

“Great idea.”

There was one problem. I had fully expected to be turned down. What I had was an idea, not a plan.

My friend Noelia Rodriguez, who was First Lady Laura Bush’s press secretary, called me 30 minutes later.

“Mrs. Bush loves Barney Cam,” she said. “She’s going to show the video at the children’s hospital instead of reading a Christmas book for the kids.”

“Whoa, Noelia!” I said, beginning to feel panicky. “This is just a theory!”

She told me to turn on CNN — now.

The first lady was there. Live. Talking about the holiday decorations at the White House. Then she mentioned that she would be introducing a cute video starring her dog Barney at the hospital in two weeks.

“Get it together,” Noelia said.

The plan

We scrambled.

We were able to secure a lipstick-size camera to attach to Barney’s collar. But Barney didn’t wear a dog collar. He didn’t need to. Some dogs have microchips. Barney had the Secret Service.

When we put a collar on Barney, he protested by lying down. Then he started howling, loudly.

This would make a pretty lousy holiday video.

A colleague reassured me: “Don’t worry about it. Barney will get used to it. He’ll tire after a while, and then we’ll start shooting.”

Dale Haney — the White House groundskeeper and caretaker of presidential pets since King Timahoe, President Nixon’s Irish setter — stopped by a little later and offered a warning.

“The president loves Barney like a son,” Haney said. “He hears Barney howling like that, he’s gonna think you’re torturing him.”

The last thing I needed was for the leader of the free world to think I was torturing his dog. We removed the collar.

Instead, we just had a couple of people chase Barney around the White House on their knees with a video camera to get the right perspective. That included going out in the snow. Numerous times. I would have done it, of course, but I was the director.

‘I can’t believe we’re airing this’

The video was just Barney running through the White House chasing a big red ornament and stopping in all the major rooms to look up at the decorations. The soundtrack was Christmas music.

Laura Bush unveiled the video at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. All three major news networks carried the entire 4½-minute video live.

At about the four-minute mark on CNN, the newscaster said, “I can’t believe we’re airing this.” I had to nod in agreement.

We put the video on the White House website, and the traffic was so huge it brought the site down briefly. That week, the video was downloaded 600,000 times. This was in 2002. Pre-YouTube. And pre-mass broadband. If you wanted to watch the video, you had to have patience.

The sequel

In fall 2003, White House colleagues began coming to me, asking what we would do for a Barney Cam encore. We knew we had to do a sequel and had already named it. “Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded.”

One problem. We had no plot. But just as in Hollywood, that was inconsequential.

Eventually my friend Bob DeServi (another White House communications staffer) and I came up with one. The New York Times noted: “The plot of the video is more complex than last year’s video, which had no plot.” It was a cliffhanger, actually. Barney was ordered by Chief of Staff Andrew Card to put up the holiday decorations, but Barney preferred to play with his ball.

This year, everyone wanted a part. After the previous success of Barney Cam, as well as the White House video tours, there was great demand to appear in the video. I remember talking to Bartlett, telling him that, to make the sequel complete, we really needed the president.

“The president has a lot on his plate,” Bartlett said. “Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the economy. I’m not going to ask him.”

Mr. President

Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., I was awakened by the phone call.

“Whatever I did, I’m sorry,” I said.

Ashley Estes, the president’s secretary, said: “No, it’s fine. The president needs you to come in right away.”

I said, “Why?”

The president wants to film “Barney Cam II.”

I was rushed to the South Lawn upon my arrival at the White House. Barney was in position. The president and his personal assistant, Blake Gottesman, were walking out to the South Lawn.

Blake came up to me and said, “Jimmy, would you like to brief the president?”

I had always thought that if this were to happen, the topic would be a little more glamorous. Maybe like national security. But I’d take this.

“Mr. President, as you know, today we are filming ‘Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded.’ Mr. President, here’s your motivation.

“Barney has been ordered by the White House chief of staff to put up the holiday decorations, but he’d rather play with his ball. If you could lecture Barney about the importance of hard work, that would be great, sir.”

The president nodded and said, “Yeah, I can do that.”

We put a lavalier microphone on the president and began recording. On his way out, he was getting into his role, saying, “Oh yeah, I can do this.”

The president gave a performance that can only be described as masterful.

Pointing to his office, he said: “Barney, this here’s the Oval Office. This is where I do my job, Barney. And when the chief of staff gives you a job to do, you do the job, Barney.”

He was out there for 20 minutes lecturing Barney. I was having an out-of-body experience.

Blake told me during the filming that the president needed this. “It was a welcome break,” he said.

One week later, the president would announce that Saddam Hussein had been captured.

Show time

The first lady unveiled the video at the children’s hospital. There was tremendous news coverage of this event, with news networks breaking into their regular coverage to air it live. One network even had a banner that read: “Breaking: ‘Barney Cam 2′ released.”

Visitors swarmed the White House website. It was the most-viewed video of President Bush’s entire first term. Emails came in by the thousands. More Barney videos followed.

Now President Obama’s dog, Bo, has his own Christmas videos.

But Barney was the first. He let Americans, and the president, forget their problems, if only for a little while.

———-

Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: National Park Service Re-Enacts Bison De-Pantsing Event With Gingerbread Cookies

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7703

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Whoever is running the social media account for the National Park Service is having fun.

For Thanksgiving, they made fun of the Idaho man who tried to cook a chicken over Old Faithful (or whatever thermal feature it was).

A few months ago, they advised not tripping your friend if a bear starts running after you. They say there are better solutions. (We say, don’t knock it until you try it).

And now, just in time for Christmas, they are using a festive gingerbread person to remind people that selfies with wild animals is really a dumb idea.

We all remember the biker from Iowa who jumped off her motorcycle in Custer State Park to pet a bison and ended up losing her pants.

The National Park Service is reenacting that special moment on Facebook with not only a gender-neutral gingerbread person but three charging Gingerbread bison.

No pants are involved in the re-creation. One might assume that this amount of detail is not necessary to get the point across.

We just like the photo but they have some good tips to accompany it (in case you don’t know that taking selfies with wild animals is stupid).

— Wildlife may appear calm and docile but can be unpredictable and easily startled. Really? You wore the hat with the giant pom pom? Remember to use a zoom lens on your camera. If you are close enough to take a selfie, you may lose more than your gumdrop buttons. 

— We get it—national parks have some photogenic scenery, but do not put your life at risk for a picture. Stick to trails and boardwalks. Use caution, watch your step, and keep your eyes on the trail and not on your camera while walking. Oh, snap! That branch came out of nowhere! No it didn’t.

— If a photo opportunity catches your eye while driving, pull over to a safe location to capture the shot. Distracted driving puts you and others at risk. Remember to look both ways for oncoming traffic before crossing the road.

By the way, you know how you hear those disclaimers at the end of shows that “no animals were hurt during the filming of the presentation”?

Just the opposite on this post.

“P.S. Many cookies were harmed in the making of this post. Like really bad. So many crumbs.”

HA!  Nicely done, National Park Service.  Nicely done.

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Jimmy Orr: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock Is A Hypocrite

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It only took about eight hours, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a very weak conditional non-apology for lecturing citizens to not travel over the Thanksgiving holiday right before he stepped on a plane to Houston.

Instead of saying he was wrong for telling people to avoid travel while he was boarding a plane to Houston, he instead apologized to Denver residents who saw his comments to be hypocritical.

So, really not an apology at all.

In the wishy-washy statement, Hancock admitted he “urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

“What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job,” Hancock said. “As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.”

Hancock then, astoundingly, played the victim in the next paragraph by saying that he recognized that his decision disappointed “many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone.”

The issue was not whether he was going to spend Thanksgiving alone.

The issue is that he told Denver citizens not to travel.  The issue is he told Denver citizens to host virtual gathering instead of in-person dinners.

Then he chose to travel to attend an in-person dinner.

That’s why there is so much warranted criticism.

He goes on to weakly apologize again — not for his actions — but if people were offended by what he did.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel,” he said.

Yes. It is absolutely conflicting with your guidance because your travel was not essential travel.

“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” he said.

No. Denver citizens should not forgive these actions.

Try again, mayor. Apologize for being a hypocrite. Apologize for saying one thing and doing another. Apologize for putting yourself above the people you are supposed to lead.

Apologize to all the elected leaders who got in to public service because they honestly care about people. Because with one fell swoop, you hurt all of them.

Lastly, why does Cowboy State Daily care? Outside of being geographically close to Denver, why would we chime in?

Because Wyoming is blessed with so many public servants who actually do care.

Wyoming is blessed with many public servants, in the legislature for example, who make a pittance but they serve because they love their state and they are trying very hard to make it better.

When any elected official knowingly misleads the public and then on top of that won’t acknowledge the deceit, it poisons all of them.

Try again, mayor.

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‘In-N-Out’ Gets Closer to Wyoming But Cowboy State Daily Is Not Impressed

in Jimmy Orr/News/Column/Food
7406

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2020 has been an awful year by any standard. 

The coronavirus, the Charlie Brown Halloween special being removed from broadcast TV, and the Chiefs winning a Super Bowl have made it one of the worst years in recorded history.

If there is a bright light on the horizon, it’s that vaccines for the virus look promising and — for some — the In-N-Out hamburger chain is getting closer to Wyoming.

Three locations in northern Colorado are scheduled to open by the end of the week.

“Our construction work continues to move forward for our locations in Colorado Springs, Aurora and Lone Tree,” Denny Warnick, In-N-Out Burger Vice President of Operations, said to Denver’s 9 News. “We are still on track to open our first three Colorado restaurants by the end of the year, and of course our distribution center will need to be operational by that time to support these locations.”

That doesn’t do much good if you live in Wamsutter, Lysite, or Recluse. But if you’re in Cheyenne or Laramie, you’re only a couple hours away to grab what many believe to be the best burger ever made.

At Cowboy State Daily, while we appreciate In-N-Out, our hearts go to other chains.

Bill Sniffin, a self-described connoisseur of fast food, has two favorites.

“As I travel around the country, we tend to sample various fast food joints.  In Texas, we like the local Whataburger chain. But when it comes to a national chain, the Five Guys Burger joints served up a delicious hamburger with a sack full of French fries.  Good service and tasty food. Our favorite,” Sniffin said.

Sniffin said he is not a fan of In-N-Out Burger.

“Their products remind me of the earliest days of McDonald’s and Henry’s Hamburgers 50 years ago,” he said. “Very simple and not very tasty. I will never understand the long lines I see at various In-N-Out Burger joints across the country.”

Ellen Fike, like Sniffin, gives the nod to Five Guys.

“I’ve only had In-N-Out once and I will admit, it was cold by the time we got back to the hotel,” Fike said.

“While Five Guys does have one of the best burger chains around, the secret to their burgers is to never eat them in the restaurant,” she said. 

“I find that when you order one and take it home (or have it delivered), the burger has time to melt the cheese (which is, in fact, the best cheese out there) and let all of the flavors meld together for a tasting experience like no other! However, their fries could win an award for ‘most disappointing’ or ‘most soggy’” she said.

Jim Angell, who ate every food item at Cheyenne Frontier Days last year, couldn’t narrow his favorite down to just one either. Arctic Circle and A&W are tops on his list.

“Arctic Circle — This chain has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid and there was a franchise I passed by every day on the way home from school,” Angell said.

“Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t always pass. Often I stopped for second lunch. The burgers are always seasoned well, the veggies are fresh and the fry sauce is to die for! And best of all, the fries are large and always perfectly cooked — not underdone, not burnt to a crisp. And generally, somebody is pretty liberal with the salt shaker. Always makes my heart pump a little faster. Really,” he said.

“A&W — Another childhood favorite, Angell said. “Before it closed in my hometown, A&W was THE place for a quick meal. The hamburgers are always fresh and well seasoned and the preparers are always generous with the condiments.” 

“I have a soft spot for the cheese curds as well, a relatively new addition to the classic restaurant’s menu. And let’s not forget the root beer. For many of us, this was our first exposure to the soda equivalent of ambrosia and it was a memory that stuck. Nothing beat someone bringing a jug of A&W root beer home on a hot summer night. Certain outlets even had a winter treat made of warmed up root beer with whipped cream and cinnamon on top. Quite good!” he said.

Jimmy Orr, who was suspended from McDonald’s during his high school days for making a giant phallic symbol out of hamburger meat (roughly 30 patties) to try to make his colleagues laugh, said Fatburger was his all-time favorite.

“Any hamburger chain that is bold enough to use the word ‘fat’ in its name is telling you something,” Orr said.  “They are focused on taste and taste only. They don’t care about anything else.”

“You bite into the hamburger and it oozes all over you,” he said. “The best way to eat a Fatburger is to put a garbage bag over your head. Well, actually, make a hole in the garbage bag and then have it drape over you.”

“The burger is so juicy and so large — and somehow so explosive — that it will ooze all over you by the time you’re done,” he said. “It just oozes.”

As a result of eating too many Fatburgers, Orr and a colleague launched competitive diets and is chronicled in the Two Guys Lose Weight blog at the LA Times.

In one blog post, Orr mentioned his favorite meal at Fatburger to his former trainer and what kind of workout was needed to counteract that 2,620 calorie meal. His trainer advised running a marathon.

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Jimmy Orr: Wyoming’s Time-Change Bill Passed This Year; So Why Are We Moving Our Clocks Back?

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you recall those ancient times before the pandemic, you might remember that legislation was passed that opted Wyoming out of, according to many people, one of the most horrible things humankind has ever created: Daylight Saving Time.

The bill, championed by Rep. Dan Laursen, passed both houses and was signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon.

So why does Wyoming have to move its clock back? Why aren’t we like Arizona or Hawaii?

Because there was a slight hitch in the bill. 

And we don’t begrudge Laursen at all for his legislation. In fact, there are those who think he should be recognized as a national hero, he should be on every denomination of our currency, and should be put in both the Rock and Roll and the NFL Hall of Fame for his efforts.

The problem is that in order for Wyoming to opt-out of the twice yearly time-changing, four other western states would have to pass the same legislation.

That way it wouldn’t get too wacky when you drive from a neighboring state. Instead, it would make more sense if there were a block of states that recognized the insanity of changing times and all opted-out.

Understandable. Chances are the bill wouldn’t have passed if Laursen tried to do a Wyoming standalone bill. He’s been pushing this bill tirelessly like Sisyphus for five years.

And every year, the giant boulder smashed him into the ground. But he didn’t give up.

And finally this year, Dan got it done. Supporters believe he should have received a ticker tape parade.

Dan’s bill now gives a nudge to Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah.

It tells them, hey Wyoming did it. Join ‘em. 

“Jump in, the water’s fine,” as they say.

That, supporters say, is the genius of Dan. That’s Dan’s plan. That’s why Dan is The Man. He provided the other states cover.

All we gotta do now is get one of ‘em to pass the same bill next year. And then maybe two of ‘em in 2022.

And then the time-changing is over.

But what time do we pick?

Last year, Sen. Ogden Driskill said who cares if we’re on daylight time or standard time — just pick one and keep the clock there. That seems reasonable.

That’s why we’re in a standing mode although the bill passed.

Dan laid the groundwork for a momentous, historic, some would say magnificent thing to happen. Now we just need to be patient.

It’s not easy this year. After all, moving the clock back this year gives us one more hour of 2020.

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2018.


Jimmy Orr on the Passing of Jimmy Orr

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7132

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

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I never met Jimmy Orr, the former NFL wide receiver who played with the Baltimore Colts and the Pittsburgh Steelers, who died on Thursday at the age of 85.

But I sure knew about him. And I spoke to him on the phone.

My grandparents were big Baltimore Colts fans and loved the team’s football coach, Don Shula.

When I was born as the fifth generation of my family to have the middle name of “James” and it was decided I would be called “Jimmy,” my grandma decided the NFL star of the same name should know about it.

She wrote Jimmy Orr a letter announcing my existence to him.

A few months later, a football arrived in the mail which said “To Jimmy Orr, See you in the NFL, from Jimmy Orr.”

I still have the football.  It’s in the same shoebox that it’s always been in (in some other box in the basement). The ink has faded somewhat but was still legible the last time I checked. 

In ninth grade, we were given the assignment of writing about someone famous and the catch was you had to try to call them. If they got back with you, that was a bonus. But you had to make the effort.

Jimmy Orr was legitimately famous. 

First-round draft pick. Super Bowl champ. Two-time All-Pro. And was most-known for the missed opportunity that the Colts had in Super Bowl III.

I was barely alive at that point. But the story has been told to me countless times from older NFL fans who wanted me to know about it.

Orr was wide open near the end zone waving his hands frantically. But the quarterback, Earl Morrall didn’t see him.

As Baltimore Sun sportswriter John Steadman wrote: 

“Morrall then wasn’t able to locate his primary receiver, Jimmy Orr, who, when realizing he wasn’t being recognized, began to frantically wave his hand at the 10-yard line. He resembled a man on a life raft signaling a passing ship in hope of rescue.”

Morrall didn’t see him and the guaranteed touchdown never happened. And the big underdog, the upstart Jets, went on to win that game, as Joe Namath boldly predicted.

That story has been told to me dozens of times.

Most memorably by Jimmy Orr himself when he did pick up the phone after I tracked him down in Atlanta.

We talked about the play. We talked about the NFL. And he asked me about me.

I most remember that he was more interested in my life than telling me about his life as a former NFL star.

Growing up I would be asked if I was related to Jimmy Orr or the more famous of the sports Orrs — Bobby Orr — all the time.

When I lived in Boston I was asked the question of Bobby at least weekly.

I finally gave up and said he was my uncle. That’s a good lie to tell in Boston. I feel no shame.

Although I never met Jimmy Orr, and we’re only connected by a 54-year-old football and a 40-plus year-old phone call, I’m saddened by the news this morning. The kindness he showed the 14-year-old me I’ll never forget.

Thanks for memory, Jimmy. 

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr launched “The Sports Show” with Woody Paige and Les Shapiro in 2015 and advised Clay Travis on “Outkick the Show” from 2017 – 2020. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2018.

The Haunted Bell Tower of St. Mark’s Church in Cheyenne

in Jimmy Orr/Column
7091

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

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Rick Veit tells a good ghost story.

The pastor of Wyoming’s oldest church — St. Mark’s Episcopal in downtown Cheyenne — has had fewer people in his congregation this year, of course, because of the pandemic.

However, even when there were no people allowed in the church because of the coronavirus and he was doing his sermons via streaming video, he did have one attendee.

That’s because when Rick Veit became pastor in 2005, he inherited that churchgoer: the ghost of St. Mark’s church.

Although the story is spooky enough and the setting is spooky enough, Rick’s buoyant personality makes it difficult to get too unnerved by the subject matter.

But the subject matter is outstanding.  The ghost of St. Mark’s Church is a great ghost story.

And it’s that way because it’s not violent and it’s not gory and it’s not a slaughter-fest like so many over-the-top movies.

This is a genuine spooky story. Campfire-type stuff.

The type of ghost story that plays in your head rather than hits you over your head.

The History

First of all, St. Mark’s is a gorgeous stone structure built way back in 1868.

It was modeled after the church mentioned in Thomas Gray’s poem “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard” that was built in 1080 A.D.

So, it’s naturally spooky.  It’s not a church that used to be a K-Mart. 

The ghost story of St. Mark’s is rooted in truth. Elements in this story can either be independently verified or were told me to as fact. 

I know this because — 42 years ago — I spoke to Rector Eugene Todd. 

Todd is the missing link to the whole story. He’s Scooby Doo. He solved the mystery.

I interviewed him when I was in seventh grade and was fascinated with this ghost story that became nationally known when it was the subject of 15 whole minutes on the TV show “That’s Incredible.”

Incidentally, Cathy Lee Crosby, one of the hosts of the show, told the story which only made it better because next to Loni Anderson, Crosby was the highlight of TV back in 1978.

The Legend of the Ghost

Many people know the story of the St. Mark’s ghost.

I remember — so vividly — hearing it for the first time while sitting in Todd’s office alongside a colleague. I was equipped with my Radio Shack tape recorder, he with a Kodak Instamatic camera.

If the ghost was going to present himself that day, we were ready.

Todd told me, as he told many people, the story of two Swedish stonemasons were hired to build the church tower. They were illegal immigrants, he said.

They were hired because Americans — back then — didn’t have the masonry skills needed to build structures of this kind.

They didn’t speak the language well. But they knew how to build a church tower.

Until that day. The day one of the two lost his footing and plunged to his death in the basement of the tower.

(That part about not being violent or gory? There were no chainsaws or axes involved, so this gets a mulligan).

The other stonemason — the surviving one — freaks out. He doesn’t speak the language. He shouldn’t be in America.

What do you do?

The logical thing: bury your friend in the wall.

There aren’t any other stonemasons around.  There’s no foreman.  He doesn’t have to report to a union. This is the wild, wild west.

That’s what he did. Stuffed his pal —like a burrito — into the wall and built around him.

The next day, however, he continued to be freaked and decided to leave town.

He pulled a Butch Cassidy, got out of Dodge, and headed down to South America.

Now, the Cheyenne locals weren’t happy. They were promised a steeple. And all they got was an unfinished bell tower.

So the rector called in some American workers and they finished the tower.  No steeple. No bells. Instead of a Ferrari, they got a Dodge Caravan.

But they built an office. The rector’s study. It’s still there today.

By that time, a new rector was at the church and he was excited about the office.

To get there, you had to go through the basement of the tower and go up dozens of steps in the spiral staircase.

The Rector’s Study

When Cowboy State Daily went up there last year, things were as I recalled them as a 13-year-old. The smell was musty. It was full of shadows. And despite Rick’s upbeat personality, it was kinda creepy.

The rector’s study is plain. It’s just a landing. The wood squeaks. Gothic windows. Very drafty. Quite chilly. 

In the daylight, it’s spooky. At night? Don’t know. I was given the option last year of doing a sleepover up there. I passed.

I don’t know if it was fear of the ghost or fear of no bathroom access. Rick said he would have to lock us in as the lock only works on the outside.

The basement feels more like a dungeon, complete with old Freddy Krueger-like boilers. There’s only one way out of that study — and it’s through that dungeon.

Someone did escape through the window from the rector’s study a few years ago, but that’s another story (and it’s true as well).

Whispers And Voices

Back to the turn of the 20th century. The new rector, who was excited about his new digs, quickly changed his mind about the office. 

He heard whispers. He heard knocks. Muffled voices in the wall.

He opted for another office instead and the tower was declared off-limits.

In the late 1920s, times were good in Cheyenne as they were everywhere else in the nation. The decision was made to finish the tower.

No steeple. But plenty of bells. An extra 60 feet was added on to the structure.

During the construction, workers heard voices. And the churchgoers heard voices. Lots of whispers. According to one report, someone heard a disembodied voice say “there’s a body in the wall.”

Todd didn’t tell me that. Neither did Veit.

But it’s awesome to think about.

The rumors persisted throughout the decades that the church was haunted and people continued to say they heard sounds in the wall. Knockings. Faint whispers.

Scooby Doo

So how did Todd solve the mystery? How do we know about the unfortunate stonemason and his body-hiding friend?

This is where it gets fantastic. And deserving of a movie.

The way Todd told it to me was very straightforward, matter-of-fact, unembellished. And I’m not relying on my memory. Instead I have the report I wrote in eighth grade and I’m still miffed that I received a B-plus on it.

Regardless…

Todd was summoned down to a nursing home in 1966 — after one year on the job — because an elderly man needed to talk to him.

He was told that the man pleaded with the staff to find the current rector at St. Mark’s in Cheyenne.

It was his dying wish.

So he went.

Todd said the man was in ill-health. Frail. On his deathbed.

He said it pained the old man to speak. And Todd had to lean in to hear the elderly man’s barely audible voice.

The man held on to Todd’s hand and trembled as he began to whisper.

During that conversation, the man told Todd that he was hired to build the bell tower with his friend.

And when his friend fell to his death, he buried him in the wall.

He wanted to confess. He wanted to get it off his chest.

He told Todd the whole story.

The rector, as I recall, was cool with that. Told him it was ok.

The elderly man, his burden now lifted, died the next day.

Although now I think it’s a fantastic story, back then I was so freaked out, I couldn’t wait to leave the church.

That’s where the story really should end.  It’s a great story.  As-is.

The Sequel

But, like any sequel, the story gets ruined when you try to top the original (except Rocky II and The Godfather II).

Same here. 

Back in about 1980, a psychic from Denver went up to the tower along with a DJ from a Denver radio station with plans to spend the night.

I remember listening to the broadcast when they became so frightened that they demanded to be let out of the church.

To the 15-year-old me, that was all bluster and trying to get ratings. I was an expert. This was a friendly ghost. Not necessarily Casper. But not malevolent.

There was nothing sinister in Todd’s voice as he discussed the ghost he shared the church with for 27 years.

Forty years later, there was nothing sinister in Veit’s voice when we discussed the ghost, and he’s been there 15 years.

The Ghost Today

Veit explained to me that the purpose of a bell tower is to give glory to God.

“To reach up to the heavens and to remind people that we are connected to heaven,” he said poetically.

As for the ghost, Veit said, he’ll believe it when he sees it.

“There have been stories of people walking around here that aren’t actually people.  There are sounds that occur, people’s voices, the organ playing by itself,” he said.

“I am still the skeptic, however.”

But he told the story of being down at the church one night with a youth group when they heard a great sound.

“We heard this enormous banging start to happen and we nearly jumped through the roof it was so frightening,” he said.

“We think it was the boiler,” he said laughing.

Veit said it is exciting to be in the church when things like this happen.

“I would like to see the ghost actually,” he said cheerfully.

A year later, Veit has nothing new to report.

The church (with ghost included) remains a wonderful structure in downtown Cheyenne.

Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who is a former spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was the Managing Editor, Digital, for the Los Angeles Times.

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Jimmy Orr: Bipartisanship And Civility is Happening in the Reddest State in the Nation

in Jimmy Orr/Column
7057

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

People often talk about the good old days when bipartisanship and civility were alive and well.

Of course, we romanticize things in the past. We talk about the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil being on opposite sides of the fence but having a mutual respect for each other.

Although true, there are plenty examples in our nation’s history where civility was not the order of the day — and many opine that what’s happening today is no different than it has ever been.

Regardless, bipartisanship and civility are happing here in Wyoming. You might have to look around for it but it’s there.

Take a look at Republican state Rep. Bill Haley’s endorsement of Democrat Rep. Stan Blake on Monday morning.

“I’m proud to support Stan Blake for re-election. He’s done a lot for wildlife conservation, hunting, and keeping public lands in public hands,” Haley said on a video he posted to Facebook Monday morning. 

“Please support Stan. He is a good man and deserves your vote,” he said.

We’ve seen other displays of it as well.

Last week, Democrat Rep. Sara Burlingame and Republican Rep. Tyler Lindholm posted two humorous videos where they highlighted their differences while highlighting their friendship.

In one video, Lindholm is shown in Burlingame’s kitchen extolling the virtues of Libertarianism and Ayn Rand to Burlingame’s son.

Lindholm asked Emerson Burlingame if he has ever heard of Ron Paul, the former Libertarian congressman from Texas who is also Sen. Rand Paul’s father.

“It’s just like ‘Who is John Galt?’ except better because he’s real,” Lindholm said of the character in Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged”.

“Who is John Galt?” the younger Burlingame asked Lindholm.

Cracking a wry smile, Lindholm said they would talk about it sometime when his mom wasn’t around.

“That’s ok. Everyone should go through their Ayn Rand phase but you should grow out of it by the time you are an adult,” Mom Burlingame said.

In an earlier video titled ‘Capitol Showdown’, the two are shown outside the State Capitol lightheartedly arguing over everything from the type of licorice they prefer to what BLM really means (Bureau of Land Management or Black Lives Matter) to favorite food.

The civility they show each other isn’t anything new. They’ve been friends despite disagreeing on nearly everything.

On a Zoom call on Saturday, they discussed the videos and why they did them.

“People have a lot of anxiety about how divided we are,” Burlingame said. “And if you can model for people that you genuinely do not have to agree with each other to still be friends, that’s important.

“I know he loves Wyoming and I would never doubt that,” she said.

Lindholm agreed. He said just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you have to hate them.

“I don’t agree with Sara hardly ever because she’s crazy, but I don’t hate her. I like her. She’s a fun person to be around. She’s just wrong,” he said laughing.

The reaction to the videos has been mostly good, Lindholm said.

“There have been some Republicans who have bitched about them but most find them for what they are intended to be — fun,” he said.

He said he was surprised that a few looked at it negatively.

“It was not like I was endorsing her or she was endorsing me or I had somehow switched to Biden or anything,” he said.  “It was a fun video about friends who can disagree politically but can still find time to enjoy each other’s company.”

It’s not just happening on the state level either. Former U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, an overwhelming favorite to be the new U.S. senator from Wyoming, is also known for being civil with political adversaries.

“Even Ed Markey, who is just an extremely liberal member of the Senate, he and I found one sliver of one issue that we worked on together in the time I was in the House,” Lummis told the Casper Star-Tribune. “You’re talking about one of the most liberal members of the House, Ed Markey, and clearly one of the most conservative, me. If he and I can find agreement, on an issue, I can find an agreement with almost anybody.”

————-

Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who is a former spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was the Managing Editor, Digital, for the Los Angeles Times.

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Jimmy Orr: Kristi Noem’s Brilliant Social Media Succeeds Again

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This is how we do social distancing in South Dakota.

Posted by Governor Kristi Noem on Wednesday, September 23, 2020

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If there is any doubt as to why some politicos look to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem as the future of the Republican Party, her social media feed could provide a clue.

Noem has continually used her Facebook page during the pandemic to promote South Dakota as a destination for tourism or to relocate.

It’s an impressive strategy in the way that she threads the needle. She doesn’t minimize the seriousness of the pandemic but at the same time plays up individual responsibility instead of government mandates.

She has a cheery yet biting message.

Her latest Facebook post is just fun. 

Carrying a shotgun and clad in an orange hunting vest in a South Dakota cornfield, Noem announces: “This is how we do social distancing in our state.”

“Bird” yells someone off camera.

Noem stops to take three shots as a pheasant drops from the sky.

“Less COVID, more hunting,” she laughs. “That’s the plan for the future.”

Is it working?  Absolutely it does.

175-thousand views in just five hours for the governor of the 5th smallest state in the nation isn’t too bad. On Twitter, it’s been viewed 1.5 million times.

Video views, of course, aren’t everything. But it tells you people are paying attention to her.

Social media is the most powerful way to get your message across and she’s doing it better than anyone else. Gov. Noem is the one to watch.


Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who is a former spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was the Managing Editor, Digital, for the Los Angeles Times.

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Jimmy Orr: Don Day Says Wyoming Will Get Break From Smoke Soon

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Before Wyoming’s weatherman Don Day left for a fall hunting trip, we tracked him down to discuss the smoky air that is affecting many areas of the state.

Day said it will take 24 to 48 hours but we should be getting a break from the smoke due a rainstorm that will hit the Pacific Northwest over the weekend.

“There’s going to be rain moving into Washington, Oregon, even far northern California and that’s going to really help reduce the coverage of the fires,” Day said. 

He said the rain won’t extinguish the fires but will give firefighters some help.

The cold front will act as a broom, Day said and will push the smoke out.

“It will bring upper level winds that will be faster and stronger,” he said. “It may not completely get rid of the smoke, but by Sunday and Monday the smoke will be greatly reduced.”

If you’ve felt like the smoke has hung around for a long time, you’re not imagining things. It’s the time of the year.

“The thing to remember about high pressure this time of year is the winds aloft — the prevailing winds — are very weak,” he said.  “So when you build up a lot of smoke, there’s nothing to push the smoke out. It kind of lingers and hangs around until the weather pattern changes or the fires go out.”

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Jimmy Orr: Unknown Medal Of Honor’s Welcome at DIA Proof Americans Still Love America

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It is dispiriting to see the rioting, looting, and violence occurring in major cities across America, and that feeling is exacerbated by the relaxed attitudes of the so-called leaders of these communities who allow the destruction to happen with very little effort to stop it or penalize those responsible.

It’s anti-American behavior. And the leaders, by their dismissiveness, are promoting an anti-American sentiment.

That’s what made Saturday’s bold and unexpected display of patriotism at Denver International Airport even more special.

Vietnam War veteran Harvey “Barney” Barnum, a Medal of Honor recipient, was honored by a group of active U.S. military members as he disembarked from a plane.

The Marines weren’t alone. Travelers, their curiosity piqued by the group of Marines lined up in dress blue uniforms, stopped and asked what was going on.

One Marine explained that the group was honoring a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War.

Because there are so few of these people left, he said, the Marines try to greet them whenever one arrives in Denver.



One of the greatest parts the ceremony was how quiet it got as people neared the gate.

Many stopped. Some placed their hands on their chests. There was a feeling of reverence.

When the 80-year-old Barnum — who had a brisk, authoritative step — walked down the rampway, it got even quieter.

There were those on the moving sidewalk who started walking backwards so they didn’t miss it.

Barnum, accompanied by his wife, left the rampway, entered the airport, and offered a crisp salute, which was was immediately returned.

It was pin-drop quiet. Time froze. There weren’t a lot of dry eyes.

The veteran shook hands with the greeters, thanked them, and began walking away.

The crowd, which had expanded to hundreds now, applauded and cheered as he walked away.

Did the crowd know who they were applauding? Most likely did not.

Did the crowd know why this American hero received the Medal of Honor? Most likely did not. (Everyone should read his story).

The crowd stopped and applauded anyway.

This should give all of us hope that despite the actions by groups of criminals in major cities and the leaders who seem to endorse the lawlessness, most Americans yearn for something better and will stop and applaud that something better — even if they don’t know what or who it is.

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Jimmy Orr: “A Plane Just Hit the Pentagon!” – A Wyomingite’s Memories From the White House on 9/11

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6300

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

There was nothing spectacular about the Denver Broncos – New York Giants game on September 10.

Just a Monday Night Football game. The Broncos were trying to stay relevant following the departure of John Elway a few years beforehand. We had steaks and martinis and watched it from my friend Rob Wallace’s house in Northern Virginia.

I remember it because of the next day. The events on September 11, 2001 make everything traceable.  What I was doing the night before, the weekend before, the day of, the next day. It’s not just the memory. I can still feel the dread. I can still smell my smoke-filled apartment. Some images are as clear as if they happened last week.

Working in the White House on September 11 doesn’t change the tragedy of the event but makes it surreal.

Not a replay

Going to Starbucks on 17th street following the communications meeting was a daily ritual. Colleagues Mercy Viana (Schlapp) and Wendy Nipper (Homeyer) and I walked back to our offices talking about the day ahead as we always had.

The image on the TV screen stopped us. The Today Show host said she heard the plane lodged in the World Trade Center was a Cessna. They were speculating it was a fluke.

Because of that when Mercy’s phone rang, she picked it up. We had no idea of the enormity facing us or the country. I stood next to the TV, more perplexed than anything.

With absolute terror, I watched as another plane careened into the second World Trade Center building.

“No, no, no, no, no, no” I said to the screen as the images appeared to happen in slow motion.

I remember gasping and not believing what I had just seen. I feel it now. I can feel that same dread. I walked over to my boss’ office and told him what I saw.

“You saw a replay,” he said, cupping his phone.

“I saw a second plane,” I insisted.

“You saw a replay,” he said, waving me off.

Moments later he came into my office and apologized. “Gather the team, we need to have an emergency meeting.”

Emergency

We grouped together at the table in his office. We all worked in the Old Executive Office Building — the giant, grey battleship of a structure on the White House Grounds right next to the West Wing.

I had forgotten my pager (remember it was 2001). I got up mid-meeting to grab it and picked up the ringing phone on my desk.

“Dude, a plane just hit the Pentagon,” said my friend Rob Jennings, a fellow Wyoming friend who worked as a fundraiser in DC.

“Are you sure,” I asked him.

“I just saw it. I’m looking at the burning Pentagon now.”

Rushing back to my boss’ office to let him know, the sirens went off. Moments later, the Secret Service began banging on every office door and yelling for us to evacuate.

“A plane is headed for the White House,” screamed one secret service agent.

The sight and sound of dozens of shaken White House staffers running – literally running — toward the north entrance of the White House is crystal.

As is the memory of being among more than 100 staffers standing in Lafayette Park stunned and wondering what we should do next. I wanted to call my family. I couldn’t. My flip phone fell off while running for the gate.

“A bomb just went off at the State Department,” someone said.

That rumor kept circulating throughout the rest of the day.

Scramble for answers

We all went to the Chrysler Building blocks away to regroup. The most senior of the White House staffers were picked off by the secret service and taken to the Situation Room or other locations.

As a White House spokesman and the Digital Director, my only goal was to get the White House website online again.

It was bad enough from a communications perspective that we couldn’t get the president’s statements up on the website. But it paled in comparison to the enormity of the message we sent the country and the world that the White House site was down. Or missing. Or removed.

Optics are important. And the site going back online (thanks to my friend George Lewis) was every bit as important and comforting as the president flying back to DC after stops at Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.

The next few hours were a blur – not nearly as vivid as the preceding time. We were told to research anything associated with the morning’s events – the date, the time, the locations, etc. Anything that might give us a clue as to why this happened.

When I arrived home that evening, I was struck by how much smoke there was in my apartment. I lived less than a mile away from the Pentagon but my windows and doors were closed. There was no escaping the day.

Haunting images

Like many of my colleagues I didn’t sleep that night and the next few days, weeks, and months were hard as they were for all Americans. But nothing like it was for the families of the victims.

The two images that haunt me the most were not from that day. Instead, the first happened that weekend when we spotted my friend Rob Wallace’s 3-year-old daughter building towers out of wooden blocks and then knocking them down with her toy plane. It was very hard not to cry.

It was impossible not to cry when family members of those lost in Flight 93 came to the White House for a memorial service two weeks later. As all the White House staffers lined up to shake their hands and express our condolences, I still remember that little boy in his little suit who jumped up to me to get a hug. I was told his father was on that plane. I never felt less worthy.

These memories have not faded. As painful as they are, it’s important that they don’t.

Jimmy Orr, a native of Cheyenne, was a White House spokesman and Director of Digital Strategy for President George W. Bush from 2001 – 2005.

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