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Broncho Grillhouse: Southern Cooking In The Middle of Wyoming, Made The Right Way!

in Eating Wyoming/Column
12109

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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

I have only been through Torrington once, and that was while trying to get around the traffic jam following the Great Eclipse of 2017.

I never really had a reason to stop … that is, until now.

While visiting friends in Goshen County, I had a chance to visit Torrington. This time I wanted to to do more than just find a quick way through town — like find an outstanding restaurant for a bite to eat. 

Like most small towns in Wyoming, there’s more to Torrington than meets the eye.

Doing a little research, I found out that Torrington has a golf course that’s been around for more than 60 years. The Cottonwood Golf Course was created in 1959, and is an 18-hole course, with a particularly challenging back nine.

Torrington also has an abundance of parks and a 1.5-mile walking path for you to stretch your legs on. There’s also the Goshen County Homesteaders Museum, featuring a wealth of information on genealogy dating back to the area’s first settlers in 1834.

Housed in the historic Union Pacific Depot, the museum even has the county’s very first automobile on display. The museum is open Monday through Friday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

All that activity will surely work up an appetite, but where to eat? I had gotten many recommendations.

However, while looking up directions, I noticed that most places to eat were listed as “near Broncho Grillhouse.”

Ok, that piqued my interest.

If a restaurant is known well enough to be used as a landmark for other restaurants, it has to be good.

Finding my way over to 1918 Main Street, I headed inside to see what they had to offer. The Broncho is owned and and run by Tiffany Leslie, a Torrington resident who became the owner in 2019, four years after the restaurant opened.

The restaurant is associated with the Broncho Bar, a Torrington staple for decades that is also owned by Leslie.

“I worked my way up through the steps,” Leslie said. “I started out as a bartender in the bar side in 2010, and worked my way up from there.”

Walking in, I notice the place was packed! That’s a good sign is you want good food.

I don’t mind a wait if it’s worth it, and plenty of people there seemed to agree. My wait wasn’t long, as a hostess had me seated right away, a server approached my table and my drinks were set in front of me before I knew it.

Looking at the menu, I see there are the requisite burgers — a Wyoming staple — as well as appetizers and even breakfast served until 1 p.m. There’s even a salad bar, with an all-you-can-eat option. 

In the menu, under the heading “Put On The Feed Bag,” I noticed “Chicken Fried Chicken.” The description read “Breaded chicken breast served with mashed potatoes and country gravy.”

Now, having grown up in the South, I know what country gravy it. It’s normally a sausage gravy, the kind served with biscuits and gravy. 

I should stop here and say that I have been to a lot of places in Wyoming that claim to make sausage gravy, and many times, I’ve been disappointed.

Normally I get back a gloopy white paste that someone put sausage on top of, or worse yet, no sausage at all. But I keep searching for someone in the state that can make it the way they do south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

You might say that sausage gravy is my white whale. When asked about the gravy, Leslie gave all the credit to her chef.

“He’s been working in a kitchen since it was 16 years old, and he came to me one day and said ‘Let’s give this a try,’ and people love it,” she said. “Our chicken fried steak is hand breaded daily and the same gravy goes on top.”

That settled it. I had to try the chicken fried chicken. However, I swapped my mashed potatoes for onion rings.

After a short wait, out comes my meal, and it looks promising. I can already see the sausage IN THE GRAVY! It smelled wonderful too. 

On the side of the chicken cutlet smothered in gravy were, as promised, golden fried onion rings, and next to that, green beans. Oh, but these beans weren’t fresh from a can, they were fresh from the farm!

There’s a huge difference between canned or frozen and fresh, and these fresh green beans were cooked perfectly. Nice crunch and not overdone and soggy.

As I tucked into my lunch, I look over at my friend’s lunch, a thick Ruben sandwich. Like my search for perfect gravy, his must-have item, when on the menu, has always been a Ruben.

This Ruben was loaded with lean corned beef, sauerkraut and served on marbled rye. All I heard was “Mmmm!” so I assume it was to his liking. But back to my country classic.

From the first bite, it was obvious this was a winner. The chicken was tender, the breading was crispy and what can I say about the gravy? It was, as promised, REAL sausage gravy. Not too watery and not gloopy. It wasn’t overly salted and it had just the right amount of sausage flavor. 

The size of the chicken cutlet alone made this a good value and the addition of the fresh sides made the meal worth every penny.

Leslie tried to sway me toward the burger for my next visit.

“We’re best known for our Cowboy burger and our Texan, which are fresh, hand-made half-pound patties,” she said. “The Cowboy is topped with barbecue sauce, onion rings and bacon, and the Texan topped with barbecue sauce as well, with cream cheese and jalapeno.”

So now that I have stopped in Torrington, I will be back — if for no other reason than just to eat at the Broncho.

If you find yourself on Torrington’s Main Street between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, or as early as 7:30 a.m. on the weekend, stop by and give The Broncho Grillhouse a try. 

Maybe you’ll find that classic you’ve been looking for.

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Bill Sniffin: On The Road In Wyoming: Folks, This Is Construction Season

in Column/Bill Sniffin
12047

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Confused Asian drivers, crazy drunk van drivers, monstrous RVs, nervous semi drivers, and thousands (perhaps millions) of tourists were among the highlights of a recent trip to Jackson and Pinedale.

We were headed north on Highway 287 to Jackson to attend the open house for the new home of the Hughes Charitable Foundation. But a lot happened before we got there.

For starters, we groaned as a flagman stopped us just as a huge line of cars ahead of us headed off in the distance behind a pilot car. This was barely 8 miles from home. Was this a harbinger of the kind of trip we would endure?

The nice flagman was Russell Warren of Riverton, who was glad to get a construction job close to home. He told us about a van full of drunks who had almost run him down an hour earlier.  They drove right past him, cursed him, and flipped him off. A close call.

While we were talking, a late model car also zipped right by him. 

The car stopped about one-quarter mile up the road and sat there. Finally, a young boy jumped out and came running toward Russell. Was this a kidnapped kid? 

Russell went off to meet with the people in the car and then had an animated chat with the little boy.  

“Well, that’s a first,” Russell told us. 

He said it was an Asian family whose members could not read the traffic signs and could not speak English. The little boy was the only one who could barely speak English, so the family sent him back to the flagman to find out what was up.

A few minutes after that, an old van went flying by us on the right in the borrow pit driving fast and honking.  

“Oh no,” Russell said. “There goes that carload of drunks again.”  

He had turned in their license plate so our assumption was they would soon be off the road. 

And then the pilot car showed up. We said our good-byes to Russell and I turned to Nancy and speculated, “Wow, what kind of trip is this going to be if this all happened now at the beginning?”

Despite a couple more construction areas, the trip to Jackson was eventful only because of its beauty. That is one of the most scenic drives in America.  We love going over Togwotee Pass.

Entering Jackson, the traffic was busy but not as bad as I expected.

We stayed at the 49er Inn, thanks to owner Steve Meadows, a longtime friend from our time in the tourism industry.

We walked up to the Jackson Town Square and got our fix at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. Chatted with some folks from Wisconsin who just loved Yellowstone. 

The open house at the Hughes Foundation was fun. These folks have donated over $4 million to Wyoming projects.  Liz Brimmer, formerly of Jackson and now of Lander, is a member of their board. 

Wayne and Molly Hughes have had a home in Jackson for some time but recently moved their entire operation to Wyoming. 

It was fun to re-connect with two former Jackson mayors, Mark Barron and Sara Flitner, at the event.  Bill Scarlett, who I remember as a young boy, was there all grown up.  Radio man Scott Anderson and attorney Jim Coleman offered some great conversation. Sadek Darwiche also was there. His family owns the Hotel Jackson, which is fantastic.  The Hughes event was a nice affair.

Fremont County Native Americans Scott Ratliff and Allison Sage were there with an outstanding drum group.  The Hughes foundation was a major funder of a new Indian Veterans Memorial on Highway 287 at the south entrance to Fort Washakie.  The memorial is very impressive. The foundation also funded Sage’s suicide  prevention group.

Afterward, we headed back to the square and ran into Jim Waldrop at the venerable Wort Hotel and its famous Silver Dollar Bar.  Had some good food there.

While in Jackson Hole, we rode the gondola up the mountain at Teton Village  and enjoyed an amazing view of the valley and various para-gliders sailing off into the abyss.  Although I was a private plane pilot for 30 years, not sure I could ever do that.

We decided to go back to Lander by way of Pinedale, where we joined Dave and Peggy Bell for lunch at the Wind River Brewery.  Nice place with great food (and drink).

Dave is a wonderful photographer and his first coffee table book is coming out very soon. We talked books a bit and then headed up to their cabin on Fremont Lake.  We rode Sea-Doo’s all over the lake. It was a calm day and it was terrific fun. Hope to do that again some time.

One of my favorite places is South Pass on the way back home to Lander. It was at its best on this day and we got home with lots of memories and some new experiences about driving in Wyoming.

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Dave Simpson: The Wonder Is That It Still Exists

in Dave Simpson/Column
12061

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

It’s a little gesture that could be misunderstood in most parts of the country.

It could be mistaken for a gang sign in some neighborhoods of Chicago, not far from where I was born, and could get you shot. Or a sign that you’re a guy with some screws loose, a Dudley Do-Right.

Or it could mean you’re up to something.

And yet where I live, it is one of those encouraging traditions that has hung on, even while just about everything else around us has changed.

Out here where the buses don’t run, in the mountains, and out on the lonely prairie, the simple wave when meeting another vehicle on a remote gravel road is more than a friendly gesture. It’s kind of a social contract, a recognition that there’s probably no cell phone reception out here, we’re a long way from a mechanic if your timing belt breaks, and we won’t leave you out here if you’re in trouble.

Worst case, you might have to ride in the back of a pickup with the dog, but they’ll get you to town.

For all of my adult life, this little country gesture has existed, even as just about everything else has changed. I estimate that when out in the boondocks, about 90 percent of the drivers you meet on dirt roads give you the wave as you pass. It’s so pervasive that if you wave, and someone doesn’t wave back, you wonder, “What’s that guy’s problem?” He’d be no help if you were in some kind of trouble.

(Years ago, the auto repair guys Click and Clack said the magic words when you have a problem are, “I’m in trouble, and I need your help.” Only the worst people won’t help if you say those words. That even works in town, in many cases.)

Years ago, I was coming down out of the mountains on a rough dirt road in Carbon County, about five miles from Interstate 80, when I came upon a flat-bed 18-wheeler delivery truck from the Lowe’s home improvement store 100 miles away in Cheyenne, pulled off to the side of the road. On the other side of the road was an older couple, beside their car, which had a flat tire. The Lowe’s driver was changing their tire for them.

Couple weeks ago, we got a delivery from Lowe’s here in Cheyenne, and I told the driver about that incident out in the country, helping the couple with the flat tire.

“That was me,” he said with a smile. I told him how impressed I was, and that I’ve felt pretty good about shopping at Lowe’s ever since.

That’s what the wave is all about. That far out in the country, that driver probably had a difficult day ahead of him, with a huge truck, rough roads, and a remote destination. But he didn’t think twice about stopping to change a tire for that older couple.

The wave has its limits, though.

Years ago, I moved from Wyoming to Colorado (it was temporary), but still spent lots of time in the Wyoming mountains. I had to buy Colorado license plates, and noticed a distinct drop-off in the number of folks who greeted me with a friendly wave. I was suddenly “a Greenie” (Colorado plates are green), no doubt heading for a prime Wyoming fishing spot like the Miracle Mile, and not nearly as welcome as before. Later, when I had Illinois plates, then Nebraska plates, the reception wasn’t nearly as frosty.

There’s just something about Greenies, I guess.

Once when I was in college I bought an Austin Healey Bug-Eyed Sprite for $600. I noticed that people in other sports cars would give you the “peace” sign. But it was sort of a snooty, exclusive deal, like we were somehow better than the people driving Gremlins and Pintos.

The wave is much more than that. Clear evidence that when the chips are down, we’re better people than we often get credit for being. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”

Forgive me for this Dudley Do-Right moment, but it’s one little thing to feel good about as just about everything else changes.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Susan Gore: New York Journalists Sow Disinformation in Wyoming

in Column
12030

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By Susan Gore, guest columnist

On June 25, 2021 The New York Times published a hit piece that tried to make my good name look bad. 

The content was unfamiliar to me.  Wyoming’s press reported “stun and dismay” as they ran with it; fury in social media turned up the volume.  This attempted character assassination targeted me and also affected my friends, family and colleagues.  Malice invaded the climate of civil discourse in Wyoming. 

What appeared to be true and accurate was actually neither true nor accurate.  There are no grounds for the supposed, conjectured and alleged legal or ethical trespasses insinuated by two Times journalists.  This is much ado about nothing — like a hamburger that makes your mouth water,  but when you pick it up for a bite, you discover that the bun is empty.  It’s a nothingburger.  And as we all know, anything without substance doesn’t exist.

Anyone can be targeted, including you.  Truth is irrelevant, no problem.  Bits of  facts, real or fabricated, are taken out of context and inserted into a script that serves the purpose of the propagandist. Then the story is broadcast by an “authoritative” source such as New York journalists.  Those are the three elements in disinformation. With bits of fact, a script, and an authoritative source, a story can appear to be true and accurate even if it is actually not.  We need to be aware of these deceptive tactics, protect ourselves from them, and counter them. 

“Never answer the devil” is good advice.  An innocent husband rightly remains silent when asked,  “When did you stop beating your wife?”  It’s easy to accuse and stir up trouble.

It doesn’t matter if you came to Wyoming yesterday. What matters is the sort of person you choose to be.  As far as I know the Shoshoni were first. My folks came in the 1850’s to 1880’s.

My mother grew up on a ranch near Evanston.  I have relatives, children and grandchildren in Wyoming. I am not from out of state.  I am here to stay.  I will continue to back good policy that protects the spirit of Wyoming and the intentions of Wyoming’s people. God knows we need truth, not lies!  

Stand up and speak the truth. Wyoming needs you.

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Harlan Edmonds: Governor Gordon’s on a Roll

in Column/Harlan Edmonds
12023

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By Harlan Edmonds, columnist

We live in a country deeply divided and growing more so every week.

And yet, we are all Americans. We share a common history and partake of inherited blessings that have grown out of long-shared ideals. As such, it’s important to appreciate the good in our political system when we find it.

The American system has allowed men to be free for longer, achieve dreams faster, and pass those freedoms and dreams down to their children and grandchildren for generations.

Of course, no system is perfect.

And those we elect to represent us in it are perfectly human, which is to say, perfectly flawed. This is why we should never forget to applaud good leadership and good policy when we find it, even when it is proposed by those we often disagree with.

As an illustration of this, I wish to congratulate Governor Gordon, who was not the first choice of Wyoming’s conservative majority to become the chief executive of our state.

Even so, he did run as a Republican and has often claimed to be a devotee of conservative principles. And in recent weeks he has demonstrated some courageous conservative leadership worthy of recognition.

First was the announcement that by 2028, Wyoming will be getting its first new nuclear power plant. And it’s not just any old nuclear power plant, but a first of its kind “Natrium” design, featuring a sodium-cooled fast reactor along with a molten salt energy storage system. 

This project was awarded initial funding by the U.S. Department of Energy, which is investing nearly $2 billon to support the licensing and construction of the reactor. Between 2,000 and 3,000 construction jobs will be generated along the way, with 300 to 400 permanent positions to follow once it is built. 

This is a major win for Wyoming and could help to restore America’s energy independence, which was so recently thrown away. Mr. Gordon should be commended for taking the political risk of tackling such a complex, long term initiative.

The next policy point to be applauded was the Governor’s recent attempts to bring the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) national headquarters to Wyoming. The NRA is currently deciding where to move their headquarters after the decision to leave New York.

Wyoming couldn’t be a more fitting place to host them. Wyoming has the third highest gun ownership numbers in the country with 66.2% of citizens owning a gun; only Alaska and Montana are higher. We are a state passionate about our Second Amendment rights.

It may not seem like much to some, but Wyoming would be the perfect place for the oft embattled NRA to defend and expand its generations-long role as America’s foundational gun ownership association.

Mr. Gordon was bold and farsighted to make this ask and we can only hope the NRA has the common sense to seriously consider us.

Even though they may ultimately decide to go somewhere else, Wyoming NRA members should follow Gordon’s lead and voice their support of this move now before the decision is made. Supplementing the Governor’s letter with more Wyoming voices could turn the outcome in our favor.

Last but not least, and very politically impressive, was Governor Gordon’s announcement that he, in collaboration with Wyoming Homeland Security, is considering requests by Texas Governor Abbot and Arizona Governor Ducey to have friendly states provide assistance with the restoration of law and order at the U.S. – Mexico border.

The magnitude of this border crisis unprecedented, and it is wise of Governor Gordon to not dismiss this request out of hand, but rather to take the time to learn the facts and to decide how best Wyoming can help.

Mr. Gordon had previously offered aerial support valued up to $250,000 but found ultimately it did not fit the needs at the border. But the fact he is on record as recognizing the threat to our nation if we do not secure our borders is something he should be congratulated for. It is the right policy position.

Wyoming citizens would do well to write or call Mr. Gordon and let him know they support the use of our National Guardsmen or any other resources to secure our border and thank him for working to provide the right assets to Texas and Arizona. 

While for many it may seem ridiculous to congratulate a politician on doing the right things, it is one of the best ways forward for our nation. Why?

Because our politics have become far too angry, far too personal, and far too ugly. We are a country addicted to outrage, to the point that thanking an elected official seems ridiculous. It shouldn’t be.

Good policy positions should be applauded and more of the same should be encouraged. Outrage will never change someone’s strongly held beliefs on an issue and perhaps kindness won’t either, but it is better for us going forward to focus more on policy and principles, and less on personality.

Being able to thank someone you don’t always agree with is a good lesson in civility. We could use more of that. 

These past few weeks Governor Gordon has made some excellent policy points. He’s had to make tough, unpopular decisions during the pandemic, but now, as we come out the mess of Covid-19 there is no reason not to recognize these good initiatives, especially those that could bring much needed jobs and resources and heightened morale to our state and to some of our communities that need it the most.  

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Rod Miller: Crossing a Line to “Protect” a Border and Scratch an Itch

in Column/Rod Miller
12000

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By Rod Miller, columnist

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is sending a hundred or so National Guard troops to Texas, purportedly to help deal with the crisis on our border with Mexico. She is paying those troops with a million dollar donation from a private individual, transforming the South Dakota National Guard into paid mercenaries no different than the infamous Blackwater thugs.

Noem is crossing a line. And she’s stepping over that line not because South Dakota is at risk of being overrun by illegal immigrants who are fixin’ to trudge more than a thousand miles to occupy Spearfish, but for purely political reasons.

I’ll freely admit ignorance of South Dakota’s Constitution or statutes governing the state militia, but I can clearly recognize a symbolic political move when I see one. In her zeal to endear herself to the Trump wing of the GOP, Noem has debased her own state and its National Guard.

Its troubling enough to see the governor of Wyoming’s next door neighbor act out like this. Its even more disturbing to learn that Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon is considering a similar move, albeit funded by Wyoming’s taxpayers instead by of a hefty bribe from a well-heeled right wing donor. At least as far as we know.

I have no bellyache with Governor Gordon dispatching Wyoming National Guard troops to a sister state to help with a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis, if asked. That transcends symbolism.

But, for the Wyoming National Guard to suddenly become Border Patrol agents does give me serious pause. And Governor Gordon should think long and hard before he signs that order.

Here are a few things for him to consider. Control of the United States’ borders is, under Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the responsibility of the federal government, not the individual states. Congress passes immigration laws, and the Executive Branch enforces said laws. As Tony Soprano would say, “End of subject”.

Our Wyoming Constitution, under Article 17, provides for a state militia (National Guard), and places it under the command of the governor. Wyoming’s governor, as commander-in-chief, may call out the militia “to preserve the public peace, to execute the laws of the state, to suppress insurrection or repel invasion”.

Nowhere is it mentioned that the Wyoming National Guard is authorized to patrol the border in the Arizona desert, or along the Rio Grand in Texas. Maybe South Dakota’s Constitution permits their National Guard to perform that function. Ours sure doesn’t.

Wyoming statutes, however, do give a tad more leeway to our National Guard. Under Title 19-8-103(b) they are authorized to engage in “fresh pursuit of insurrectionists, saboteurs or enemy groups beyond the borders of this state into another state until the military or police forces of the other state have had a reasonable opportunity to take up the pursuit of such persons.” Again, no mention of patrolling our national borders.

Nowhere in our Constitution or our statutes is there a provision for our governor to mobilize our National Guard to scratch a partisan itch that bothers a political party. Trust me, I’ve looked. But if anyone can point to something I’ve missed, then I’ll stand corrected.

If Governor Gordon is seriously concerned about the situation on our southern border, then he shouldn’t stoop to a symbolic act. He should use the considerable weight of his office, and work with the Western Governors’ Association and the National Governors’ Association to hold Congress’ and President Biden’s feet to a very hot branding fire to convince them to get off their collective asses and do their job.

The situation on our border is serious and calls for serious action on the part of the federal government, not cheap, partisan political tricks by governors

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Dennis Sun: Corn Rules The Ag Roost – All Six Varieties, Worldwide

in dennis sun/Column
11981

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By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Those raising or feeding cattle or sheep in the High Plains or Rocky Mountain regions have to understand what happens in a corn field in Iowa or Brazil will affect their business.

Staying current on the news and prices should be a weekly concern.

Currently, worldwide corn prices are high due to China buying all the soybeans and corn lately. In the last year, corn prices have gone from $4.50 or $5 to a high of around $7.50 a bushel, recently dropping to around $6.94 a bushel this past week. During the last year, corn prices have dropped lower, but have recovered quickly.

Realizing we are dealing in commodities, we know supply and demand runs the show, but is this always the case? There are currently a large number of cattle on feed, and due to drought conditions, those numbers are going to grow. With high corn prices, some want heavier cattle to feed and finish out quickly, and there are some who still like the light calves to grow on grass or winter wheat for a cheaper gain.

Although, even with high corn prices, the price of feeder lambs is going up. Some feeders are buying all the lambs they can find. We realize there is a shortage of lamb products in the meat case and the foodservice industry doesn’t seem to be affected by the price of corn. At the moment, corn affects beef, but not so much lamb. I know there is someone out there who has an answer for this, but to this bunkhouse economist, it doesn’t make sense.

This past planting season was good for most farmers in the Corn Belt, thanks to good weather for planting and good soil moisture for growing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture 2021 estimate assumes planted acreage of 91.1 million acres. This is near an all-time record if those figures hold.

The ending stocks of corn are around 1,300 million bushels, which is around the average over the last 12 years. Brazil is coming out of a drought, and Argentina has placed restrictions on corn exports in fear of raising the price of fattening their own cattle – helping U.S. corn prices. Some smaller countries around the world, such as Ukraine, have really ramped up their corn production this spring.

Historically, feeder cattle prices have been determined by several factors, with corn price and fed cattle price having the greatest impact. Corn prices typically have a downward relationship to both fed and feeder cattle prices. This most likely holds true today, but there are so many other factors to include, making a decision is just more sophisticated these days.

I recently learned there are six different varieties of corn – sweet corn, popcorn, flour corn, dent corn, flint corn and pod corn. Sweet corn is a naturally sweet variety, which is harvested in the early stages, while popcorn is characterized by a hard outer shell and minimal soft starch content, but dent corn accounts for the majority of U.S. production. Flint corn is primarily found in America, Argentina and Canada, while pod corn is mainly ornamental. Genetically modified varieties are found in America, Argentina and Canada.

There we have it – more than anyone ever wanted to know about corn. What we all know is corn is very important to everyone’s food supply worldwide.

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Ray Hunkins: Your “Capacity” To Pay More Taxes

in Column/Ray Hunkins
11959

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By Ray Hunkins, guest columnist

It’s not often you learn that someone seriously argued a low tax burden is a bad thing. In effect, that’s what some legislators recently heard from a presenter, the Director of Laramie County Community College’s Center for Business and Economic Analysis (“LCCCBEA”) appearing at a hearing before the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee.

Untethered from any discussion of revenue need, the presenter-witness-expert made a gross generalization in fallaciously asserting that Wyoming citizens have the “capacity” to pay more in state taxes. The stated justification being that a low tax burden, high per capita income and low cost of living provide “capacity” for raising taxes that aren’t, in the opinion of the presenter, high enough.

In an article by Nick Reynolds for WyoFile.com, it was reported the Joint Revenue Committee heard testimony from the LCCBEA and its director, Nick Colsch. “Wyoming residents can afford to pay more in taxes” the article stated, “citing the state’s already low tax burden and relatively inexpensive cost of living”. The clear inference being that because you can pay more in taxes, you must, or at least you should.

If ever there was a flimsy reason, and faulty logic to justify raising your taxes, it would be that, you have the “capacity” to pay more and the tax law and rates of a few other states prove it. How? Because these states raise more revenue.

The LCCBEA report, using statistics mostly from 2019, is stale and therefor irrelevant. You remember 2019: Trump was President and the coal, oil, and gas industries were favored. Inflation was something studied in history books. Thousands of Wyoming residents were employed in the well-paying extractive industries and their satellites. 2019 was pre-pandemic and the economy was roaring. Fuel prices for gasoline and diesel, were the lowest in many years.

Since 2019, we have had an economic catastrophe, a virtual shut-down of economic activity, a change in administrations resulting in increased regulatory burdens and a disfavored mineral industry. And, inflation is now eating away at the take-home pay of every Wyoming citizen.

Did the LCCCBEA account for rising fuel prices in a state dependent on the automobile for transportation across vast distances? No.

If you make your living in agriculture, did the LCCCBEA report account for a drouth that threatens your income? No.

   If you are a coal miner or roustabout in the oil patch, did the LCCCBEA report take into consideration that you are out of a job when pontificating about your “capacity” to pay more in taxes? No.

 If you work in the hospitality industry and have been suffering economically, did the LCCCBEA report take into consideration the effect of Covid 19 on your capacity to pay more in taxes? No.

 The point is that Colsch and the LCCCBEA arrive at a conclusion by use of generalized, outdated statistics that may have little application to the specific situation of individual Wyoming taxpayers in 2021 and beyond.

In the WyoFile article, Colsch was not only quoted as saying, “In our view there is capacity for Wyoming citizens to bear a higher tax burden.” He went on to say that, “the state’s earning potential [emphasis added] is significant.

By adopting South Dakota’s tax structure, Wyoming could generate approximately $1.1 billion in additional revenues per year. If it went ‘full socialist’ and adopted the maximum tax rate for property tax, sales tax, fuel tax and others, the state could generate even higher revenues.” Is raising taxes synonymous with “earning”? Not in my World and I bet not in yours.

 The WyoFile report did not state how Colsch defined the term “capacity” but the LCCCBEA report makes it clear the word was being used synonymously with “ability to pay”.  Colsch’s generalized conclusion was derived from three factors: the relative cost of living in Wyoming, relative per capita income, and the comparison of other states’ tax burden to Wyoming’s.

However, the cost of living in Wyoming varies from locale to locale. If you don’t believe it, just look at the “Cost of Living Adjustment”, in use for the school finance model. “Cost of living” depends also on the basket of goods and services used to make the calculation. For instance, if fuel is not in the basket there is a distortion, especially in rural states that have little public transportation, like Wyoming. Additionally, there is no correlation, much less causation, between what other state’s collect from their residents in taxes and what Wyoming residents can afford to pay.

And, what Wyoming residents can afford to pay varies from year to year. Has there been a blizzard affecting farmers’ and ranchers’ income? Has a power plant or coal mine shut down adversely affecting a local economy? Has a pandemic caused shut downs and unemployment in retail sales and the tourist industry? These are real life events that have occurred in the recent past, or are occurring now. There are many variables affecting “capacity” to pay taxes and they are constantly changing from family to family, region to region, location to location and year to year. Utilizing statistics from 2019 to justify raising taxes in 2022 is fallacious in and of itself.

Because Wyoming citizens, allegedly enjoy a low cost of living and low taxes, the argument goes, our state government should receive the benefit. To the contrary, the level of taxation should depend on the conservative revenue needs of the state as set forth in the state budget passed by the Legislature and approved by the Governor.

Noticeable by its absence was any mention of an amount needed for additional revenue to support a necessary government function, department or program. There apparently was no discussion of that at the committee meeting and there is none in the LCCBEA report. That’s understandable. After all, it is “The Joint Revenue Committee”. But, Colsch’s generalized conclusion based on stale statistics is of great comfort to the appropriators who, if they were listening, were told, “we can get the money, Wyoming citizens have the “capacity” to pay more in taxes”.

From the WyoFile reportage, it seems Colsch and the LCCCBEA took the position at the committee meeting that taxpayers don’t need their money as much as government needs the taxpayers’ money. The unstated corollary is that someone other than you gets to decide what you need and don’t need, i.e., what your “capacity” for more taxes and less of everything else is.

It may be disconcerting to some, this writer included, that the person making the above-mentioned argument, and the entity he leads, is associated with a program dependent on government funding. This suggests there might be bias in the almost giddy assertion of the cornucopia of revenue to be received by state government if Wyoming were to go, “full socialist”.

 Putting the “full socialist” comment and the fallacious and generalized conclusion based on irrelevant 2019 statistics aside, a further retort to Colsch’s “capacity” argument is, “who are you to decide what my capacity is; what I can afford; what I need and don’t need”?

The WyoFile article reported that there was pushback at the hearing from at least one legislator. State Senator Tom James (R-Sweetwater) was quoted as saying,” If we really wanted to look at raising revenue, would we not want to look to encourage private-sector business to come to Wyoming instead of raising taxes?”

 Later, in an interview with this writer, Senator James expanded on his statement at the committee hearing:

“I believe the government, legislators, lobbyists and bureaucrats, always turn to either new taxes, tax increases, new fees, or fee increases. Instead, we should be looking at new revenue sources like bringing in new jobs, and looking at the actual role of government to ensure the government is not competing with the private sector and not being the number one employer in the state.

  “We should also be looking at cutting spending because we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem.” 

Senator James’ common-sense observations make a lot more common-sense than does Colsch’s fallacious conclusion.

The proponents of the Colsch argument and LCCCBEA report err in another way. They assume (and want you to assume) that revenue lost from the collapsing mineral industry must be replaced. That assumption is not necessarily valid. This state’s economy has changed. The government that was erected to assist, regulate and oversee the extractive industries also needs to be nimble enough to change in response.

    Not only are there government missions and functions that may no longer be necessary given the changes in Wyoming’s economy, there are efficiencies waiting to be implemented for those missions and functions that are still important. A worthwhile task would be to differentiate between what is necessary and what is not and to identify and implement efficiencies that will save precious taxpayer resources. This task should be a condition precedent to any tax increase.

Wyoming is experiencing some tough times but no tougher than others we have lived through. Wyoming doesn’t need to go, “full socialist”. We may not even need to raise taxes if enough outdated or unnecessary government functions are discarded and enough operational efficiencies are identified and implemented.

When considering whether to raise taxes or not, my hope is that the decision will be made based on the conservative revenue needs of a stream-lined, efficient, and frugal state government, not the “capacity” of taxpayers to pay more.

Ray Hunkins is a retired attorney and rancher. He was the Republican nominee for Governor in 2006.

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Rod Miller: “We the People”, Mob Rule and Wyoming Town Halls

in Column/Rod Miller
11910

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Way too many of us stop reading the U.S. Constitution after the first three words. That’s like closing the Bible after the first three words. You miss the point entirely.

I have been in countless political conversations with folks who struggle to articulate an intelligent point and always fall back so easily on “We the People”. That is a cop-out.

That phrase is frequently used in town hall meetings in Wyoming, wherein an elected official is roasted for their voting record because “We the People” don’t like it. Its about the only part of the Constitution that is quoted in these diatribes.

Absent the rest of the Constitution, “We the People” is nothing more than a mob. The balance of the Constitution describes a political process in which a mob becomes a nation under the rule of law. And the end of the Preamble has “We the People” ordaining and establishing that process.

By doing so, “We the People” rose above the mob.

This is what Plato had to say about mobs: “Mob rule is a rough sea for the ship of state to ride; every wind of oratory stirs up the waters and deflects the course. The upshot of such a democracy is tyranny or autocracy; the crowd so loves flattery, it is so hungry for honey, that at last the wiliest and most unscrupulous flatterer, calling himself the ‘protector of the people’ rises to supreme power”

“We the People” in the context of our Constitutions means that we reject mob behavior in favor of a system of common governance. It means that we have entrusted that system with our own political power.

It means that, even though demagogues may try to sway our emotions to their point of view, our Constitution prevails over emotions. Everything after the first three words says so.

It means that we favor elections every couple of years over storming down some dark street with pitchforks and torches to guillotine politicians when they don’t do what we want. Our Constitution is not mean to protect politicians from mob rule, its meant to protect us from ruling by mob.

Our Constitution all but guarantees that pissed off citizens will always be present in our republic. We live in a system that promotes opposition instead of suppressing it. How those angered citizens express their anger is how they define themselves as “We the People” in our Constitution, or the mob.

Keep this in mind while you talk with your fellow citizens about our political life together. Pay attention to the level of political discourse around you, and when you hear an appeal to mob behavior, remember that our Constitution has 4,400 words, not just three.

When you hear someone pull that “We the People” crap on you, tell ‘em to read the whole goddamn thing.

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Dave Simpson: In Defense Of Prissy Fussbudgets

in Dave Simpson/Column
11922

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

Had enough bad news for a while? Tired of the bickering in Washington, the wild spending, and the prospect of invaders from space?

Let’s root around for some different column fodder this week:

– Be honest now. 

If a guy took you to a golf tournament and every time a golfer hit the ball he screamed “IN THE HOLE!” would you ever go out with that person again? (Interestingly, you never hear female spectators at golf tournaments scream “IN THE HOLE!” Only guys do this. I think they’re the same guys who paint their faces team colors and mug for the TV cameras at football games.)

If you suffered through a date with such a person, wouldn’t you give that guy his walking papers at the door that night?

“I’m sorry, but this isn’t going to work out,” you’d have to say. “I wasn’t aware that you’re a meathead.”

You don’t hear “patrons” scream “IN THE HOLE!” at The Masters, because the people in charge –in the past it was a guy whose first name was “Hootie” – rule with an iron fist. Boors, apparently, are whisked off and tortured at Augusta, and rightly so.

But now, in subsequent tournaments, the knuckleheads have returned. Detroit last week. Two weeks ago at The Travelers tournament in Connecticut. Before that, the PGA tournament in California. The horrible “IN THE HOLE!” people are back.

I used to think the people who run The Masters were prissy fussbudgets who get a little carried away.

But sometimes it takes extreme measures to deal with a guy who screams “IN THE HOLE!”

More power to the prissy fussbudgets.

– Golf is the only sport I watch anymore. I like the pastoral setting. And golfers don’t feel the need to scold us about our politics. Golf may be the final refuge for people who just want to watch a sporting event without thinking about politics.

– At the liquor store recently, the guy in front of me had on a t-shirt that said, “Cleverly Disguised as a Responsible Adult.”

Pretty funny. But then the guy lived up to his t-shirt, and kept everyone in line behind him waiting as he thought up sure-fire lottery ticket numbers for numerous tickets. He stared at the ceiling as he came up with the numbers, sometimes saying, “No, that’s not right,” and revising his pick.

I checked the news, and didn’t see anything about a local man winning the lottery, so our wait was for naught. 

Sometimes the t-shirt says it all.

– Is it just me, or are people on television and radio talking faster and faster every year? My wife will blame it on my geriatric ears, but increasingly these days people I would like to listen to are talking faster than I can listen.

Ben Shapiro, on the radio, talks so fast that about half of what he says flies by me like a corn husk in a tornado. Candace Owens tries to keep her words-per-minute down, but puts the pedal to the metal when she gets emphatic. There are other examples.

Harry Nilssen said it best: “Everybody’s talkin’ at me. But I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’. Only the echoes of my mind.”

– Pat Boone should be an inspiration to us all. Eighty seven years old, worth an estimated $50 million, and showing up every whipstitch in television ads. 

He’s a natural to advertise walk-in bathtubs. But when he advertises health supplements from a golf course, wearing knickers, well, all this oldster can think about is those awful knickers.

You’d think a guy that rich could buy a decent pair of pants.

– About those space aliens Navy pilots keep spotting: Can you look at the Milky Way on a a moonless, clear summer night, and believe we’re the only ones, out of all those stars and their circling planets, who can travel in space? Are we the only ones who can send a rover and drone to a neighboring planet?

I doubt it.

– And finally, reporter Lara Logan used a term recently that I think sums up the state of things pretty accurately:

“Holy Guacamole!”

(And she said it slowly enough to understand.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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