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

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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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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.

Jimmy Orr: Cheyenne’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Church Has a Wonderful Ghost Story

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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

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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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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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