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Jimmy Orr

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

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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

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

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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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