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Bill Sniffin: Liz Cheney For President? Destiny Calls. Here Is A Scenario That Sees Her Leaving Wyoming Behind

in Column/Bill Sniffin
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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Right now, there is a clear path ahead for Liz Cheney, and it does not involve the state of Wyoming.

She will deny this. And she may not even believe it now. 

And for the rest of this year, she will continue to represent us to the best of her ability in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But I could see her traveling a different path, based on a number of steps that could very well happen. Three events have set the stage for this scenario.

The first was when she voted to impeach President Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s capital.

Second was when she announced publicly her intention to do everything in her power to keep Trump from ever being elected president again.

Third was when her House colleagues stripped her of her leadership post.

All three of these things needed to happen for the scenario I’m about to lay out to become realistic and predictable.

In late December of this year, I could see Cheney announcing that she is not going to run for reelection in Wyoming.  Why put herself through such a grueling ordeal? 

Here is what she will be up against:

Nine candidates (so far) will have been traveling the state from one end to the other trashing her and her record.  They will be hooting over how the even the national Republicans in Congress bounced her from her  leadership role. 

She will also be facing the Donald Trump backlash, which will be focused on a Trump-endorsed, well-funded candidate who has been spending the entire year of 2021 traveling the state and campaigning against her.

The “clout” that Liz has been able to tout over her three terms has been diminished.  The dominant Trump wing of the Republican Party is trying to bury her.  Her Cheney name, which was pure gold in the GOP for a long time, has equally been diminished.

Here in Wyoming, the Trump crowd is firmly in control. And why not? The Cowboy State voted for Trump by the largest margin in the nation in the 2020 election, as well as in 2016.  This IS Trump country.

When you look at the front-runners seeking the GOP nomination against Cheney — State Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, State Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, and former candidate Darin Smith – they are united in their support of Trump. And in their intense opposition to Cheney.

Biggest deal here is the recent ouster of Cheney as the No. 3 most powerful House Republican.  When she held that office, it gave her exceptional influence.  And although she still has some influence, that was a huge loss for her. Especially in view of the opposition she has been getting back here in Wyoming.

On the other hand, it is also important to note that she has become a darling of the national media because of her opposition to Trump.

If she plays her cards right, she will get unbelievable amounts of good national press leading up to the presidential election in November 2024.

Cheney is now the de-facto leader of the national moderate Republicans, with all the major national media except Fox News proclaiming her newfound sainthood. One outlet even called her a modern “Joan of Arc.” Who could resist that? 

Between now and Dec. 31, it is easy to predict that members of the old guard of the Republican Party, led by former President George Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney and others will form a very distinct wing of the national Republican Party.  Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson of Wyoming could very well get involved in the mix.

These folks often try to identify as anti-Trumpers and that is exactly what they are.  They will promote their efforts as reclaiming the Republican Party from the Cult of Trumpism.

They will embrace the Constitution and will maintain they are taking the high road, compared to the nastiness of the Trump crowd.

Who better to lead this new national group of moderate Republicans than Liz Cheney?  I expect Cheney not to run for reelection to her U.S. House position and instead, take over this group. In her new role, she will also continue to bash President Joe Biden.

In her final act, she will run for president in 2024 as an independent or as leader of a new party if Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party.

She is serious about making sure Trump is never elected to office again.

Out here in Wyoming, a huge number of folks will be appalled. Even some of her most loyal supporters will be stunned.

But Liz and her gang have a longer view (and a national view) – they plan to recapture the Republican Party and take it in a different direction.

In all of these scenarios, Wyoming will be pretty much in Liz’ rear view mirror. She has proven to be a champion fund-raiser on the national stage already – this is just a logical next step.

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Jim Hicks: What To Do When A “Two-Holer” Is In The Passing Lane

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

About the time we were all giving up on any chance of moisture, much of Johnson County got some nice showers over the past week . . . and a few cloudbursts as well.

Near as we can tell . . . someone must have washed the pickup and the car, decided to cut some hay and stripped the shingles off a roof. 

Whatever the reason, the moisture was a welcome pause in the worry about seeing the mountain catch fire this summer.

Over the years one of Sven’s favorite subjects has been Larry Brannian, a man of various talents and activities including auctioneering and occasional pranks.

Maybe those farm and ranch auctions have proved the old rule that “one man’s junk is another’s treasurer.” 

So when Larry had the opportunity to assume ownership of two outhouses that were in fairly good shape . . . he jumped at it.  Even in these modern times there is still a demand for a good outhouse.

Among his friends are the Yoders located south of Buffalo.  He called them and asked if they might be interested in owning one of the small buildings.  He had a “one holer” as well as a “two holer”. 

Larry had both loaded on a flat-bed trailer, so he decided to haul them out so they could take their pick.  Both were secured to the trailer with lightweight straps.

South of town on I-25 Larry was doing about 70 when he heard a noise and looked in the side mirror of his pickup.

The two-holer had come off the trailer, was in mid-air and seemed to be gaining speed in the passing lane.

He got things shut down and was frantically trying to move assorted parts of the building off the highway and direct traffic and the same time.

He needed some help . . . in a big way.  So Larry got his cell phone out and dialed 911.

When the dispatcher answered, he must have had “caller ID”.

Rather than the usual . . . “This is the 911 operator . . . what is your emergency?” . . . the voice said . . . “Larry Brannian, we understand you have an outhouse problem on Interstate 90 south of Buffalo.  Is that right?  We’ve had a lot of calls about this. How can we help?”

Once again we learn how wonderful it is to live in a small community where folks know each other. 

Meanwhile, back down on the Main Drag we hear people making plans to celebrate an important holiday next Sunday.  The 4th of July is set aside for us to remember what a treasure we have to live in a country where we can ALL vote to elect those who run the government . . . a democracy.  And we are learning it is fragile, not guaranteed and can erode. 

Over the years Sven has reported on some family celebrations that have been memorable for various reasons.

Many years ago fireworks being sold included some powerful firecrackers later outlawed.  Those “cherry-bombs” and “M-80s” had to come close to a quarter stick of dynamite in power.

And once the fuse was lit, it would not go out even if under water.

When a hole was cut in a large watermelon and one of those pushed deep into the center . . . it can make a family picnic resemble a war zone.  The time is coming close (statute of limitations) when we can disclose what nine-year-old made the decision to pull that stunt.

And finally this week we have another quote from old “Bad News.”  This week he said his mind thinks he’s 20, his sense of humor is 12 and his body is asking if he’s not already dead. 

Have a great Forth and we’ll drop a line again next week.

SVEN

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Eating Wyoming: ‘Sleepy Coyote’ A Hidden Gem At Foot Of Big Horn Mountains

in Eating Wyoming/Column
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By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Part of the joy of being a food columnist is you can go where the road takes you. And sometimes, the road takes you to a hidden treasure.

Recently on a sunny Saturday the road was calling for a drive. Looking at the map, the back way from Casper to Ten Sleep looked inviting. Turned out to be an unexpectedly long drive, because the road was unpaved and because, well, I just took my time. After about five hours of driving and picture taking, my destination appeared.

On Highway 16, just 59 miles west of Buffalo, nestled at the foot of the majestic Big Horn Mountain range with a population of just 206, lies this tiny little “blink and you’ll miss it” kinda place. Stopping for a visit, however, is well worth the time.

As described on the Town of Ten Sleep website, “Ten Sleep got our name from our location ‘ten sleeps’ (or nights) midway between the Sioux Camps on the Platte River from the south to an historical Sioux campsite to the north, near Bridger, Montana.”

There’s actually more to this town than meets the eye. There are plenty of things to do. An abundance of beautiful hiking trails, camping, boating and fishing are available for anyone willing to stop and get off the highway.

On this stop though, the hole in my stomach was huge, and rolling into town, I could smell what I was looking for. It smelled like a … backyard barbecue? In the middle of town? 

A parking place was no problem and my nose took me to the corner of Second Street and Pine Street, where the Sleepy Coyote Café & Bar appeared.

Walking in, it was apparent that this was “the spot” for local activity. Plenty of people lined up to order, and with covid restrictions lifted, one could see a plethora of mask-free smiling faces. 

Moving to the counter to order, it was apparent that there was a lot to choose from: burgers, sandwiches and even a ribeye steak stand out, but there are also appetizers, salads, and even a kids’ menu.

Spotting a cheeseburger on the menu, my order was placed. If it’s too hot or just too cold, there’s plenty of indoor seating available, but the patio outside looked inviting, so I let the host know I would be out there.

 

It was a great day to sit on the patio under a nice umbrella and people-watch — all while sipping a beverage and waiting for the burger.

My hunger was enormous and the waiting made me second-guess my choice. Burgers are my go-to on a day like this, but that lady’s chicken-fried steak looked good. So did that shrimp basket at the other table! Oh well. Burger it was, and burger it would be. 

Just when I was about to go make friends with the person who ordered the shrimp, out came my burger.

Wow! I know my hunger may have influenced my senses, but this thing looked great and smelled great! This had to be a one-third pound patty, and that’s not American cheese on top. It’s real cheddar. 

This is a big boy, so with all the fixings, it took both hands to wrangle. Ahhhhh! Medium rare, just the way it should be. The beef tasted fresh, as it should, and the lettuce and tomato were on point as well. The fries were perfectly done as well.

This is one of the top burgers in Wyoming, and I’ve had my fair share.

Sitting there on the patio, making this basket of goodness disappear, I could see people going into a little shop right across the street adorned with a banner proclaiming “ICE CREAM!” 

You know the next stop now…

The sign out front said “Dirty Sally’s General Store.” Sounded interesting, so I walked in, not knowing what to expect. 

Here was this cool little shop, with just about everything you can imagine. Part souvenir, part grocery store. 

This place had it going on. I took it in for a minute, and just looked around at what they offered. They even have fresh local produce.

Toward the back is the the ice cream counter. Again, it seems to be a magnet for townsfolk. Behind the counter was a picture of Dirty Sally herself, but the folks there were too busy serving customers to give me the back story. Besides, I was here for something cold.

My usual frozen favorite was ordered: a peanut butter shake. This shake was so good, loaded with peanut butter, just the way it should be. Once lips hit straw, there was no stopping until it was making those slurping empty sounds.

All-in-all, this stop in Ten Sleep was well worth the long drive to get there. Next trip however, I might just take an asphalt road. 

And next time, I’m getting that chicken fried steak!

Sleepy Coyote Cafe & Bar is located at 125 2nd St

Hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 11:00AM-9PM

Friday and Saturday 11:00AM-10PM

Closed on Tuesday.

Dirty Sally’s is located at 124 2nd St

Hours are 6:00AM-6PM daily

Closed on Sunday

For more information about Ten Sleep, visit www.townoftensleep.com

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Dave Simpson: The Tale Of The Big Cardboard Box

in Dave Simpson/Column
11770

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

One woman, five and one-half hours, and a screwdriver.

Five hours MY FOOT! Better yet, my CABOOSE! To quote President Joe Biden, “Malarkey!”

But it said so right there on an internet review – one woman, five and one-half hours, one screwdriver. I tell you, this is enough to convince a guy that everything we read on the internet may not be the gospel truth.

Chew on that for a while.

As God-fearing loyal Americans, we decided to do our part to defeat COVID-19 by following the pleas of our leaders in Washington, and spend every penny they send us in COVID relief, as fast as possible, so the virus will know we MEAN BUSINESS, My wife and I didn’t get the virus, so far, and since we’re retired, lock downs did not cause us to lose paychecks. Nevertheless, our government kept sending us borrowed money, so we finally decided to shake loose of some of it.

We had this old shed, which had been shot full of holes by hail. So we decided to replace it.

Normally, I would have built a new shed from scratch. But with 2x4s shooting up to $8 and $9 apiece, from what I was used to at a little over $3, the lumber alone would have been prohibitive.

So my wife found a shed kit at a home improvement store, and an internet review by the woman who claimed she put the thing together, with only a screwdriver, in five and one-half hours. So we ordered it.

I’m fairly handy, flipping several houses, and finishing three basements since I gave up the News Biz. My wife figures that, given that experience, I ought to be able to finish jobs in less than the advertised time. Experience, however, has taught me to double or triple the estimated time. And this time I was right. Way right.

I knew I was in trouble when the thing arrived on a flat-bed 18-wheeler truck, with a forklift hanging off the back. Two guys used the forklift to unload a huge box onto the driveway, then shoved it into the garage – no mean feat, because the box weighed 350 pounds. Now, how much sense does it make to put something into a single box that weighs 350 pounds? At that weight, if it tipped over, it could squash you like a cockroach. Where are our safety experts when we need them?

So it sat in the garage like a beached whale while I struggled for about a day and a half to demolish the old shed, and hauled it to the dump. Then I had to prepare the base for the shed, which took another day and a half, and two sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood at a shocking $82 per sheet. I figure the day I spent $164 on two sheets of plywood will probably be the day when lumber prices peaked. So look for prices to come down.

The instructions said it takes two people to assemble the shed, but the lady who said she did it in five and one-half hours didn’t say anything about having a helper. So I figured if she could do it, so could I. And things were going OK, putting up panels and screwing them together, until the wind came up. And suddenly it was like building a house of cards in a wind storm. But I kept at it, and the walls only fell down a couple of times, before I got it propped up with clamps, sticks, rope, a shovel, an old folding chair and lots of swearing, then screwed together. I figured if the neighbors were watching, they must have been laughing themselves silly.

It’s finished now, in a mere five and one-half DAYS, not hours. The cardboard box was too big even for my wife to save. (She lets loose of cardboard boxes like giving up her firstborn.) She cut it up and put it in the garbage.

If it’s true that the lady who wrote the review really put her shed up in five and one-half hours, with only a screwdriver, well, I know one thing for sure:

I’d like to get a look at her.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Jonathan Lange: Natural Law Is Why The Second Amendment Is So Important

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

It has been thirteen years since the Supreme Court last looked at the Second Amendment.

In that case, District of Columbia v. Heller, it finally admitted that “the right to keep and bear arms” is an “individual” right to home defense, and not merely a right for states to maintain “a well-regulated militia.”

In April of this year, the Court agreed to hear New York Rifle and Pistol Organization v. Corlett. This will address whether that right of individuals to “bear arms” gives constitutional protection for those who want to carry a firearm across town, or if one is only allowed to carry it from the bedroom to the kitchen.

Meanwhile, there has been a spate of activity in California’s Ninth Circuit. Three separate cases from the lower courts have nullified different aspects of California’s virtual ban on the popular AR-15 (Armalite Rifle). Duncan v. Becerra overturned California’s ban on the standard 30-round magazine. Rupp v. Becerra and, more recently, Miller v. Bonta challenge California’s AR-15 ban as violating SCOTUS’ “common use” standard.

If all this seems barely relevant except to preppers, this column is for you.

My purpose today is not to get into the weeds of all these cases and reconcile the Court’s strange and contradictory pronouncements. Rather, I will simply outline a few basic concepts to help the non-gun-enthusiast appreciate what is at stake.

We begin by observing that the most ardent defenders of the Constitution were opposed to the original Bill of Rights. They did not oppose the rights delineated in the first ten amendments. Rather, they opposed the very idea of delineating rights. The problem, as they saw it, is the difference between “natural law” and “positive law.”

The U.S. Constitution is an outgrowth of the “natural law” that produced the Declaration of Independence. The law that “all men are created equal” existed before governments and legislators said so. “Positive law,” on the other hand, creates law as a “social contract.” According to it, humans have no rights whatsoever until those in power say that they do. “Positive law” theory attacks the very foundations of our constitutional republic.

By making a list of specific rights, the Bill of Rights presented two dangers. First, just rights unintentionally omitted from the list might not be protected. Second, the Bill of Rights itself might inadvertently teach that rights come from the federal government, and are not transcendent and above all human institutions.

Especially when it comes to the Second Amendment, those original critics of the Bill of Rights have been vindicated. Gun rights—even more than the rights of free speech, free assembly, free press, and the free exercise of religion—are too often treated as special privileges that can be alternately doled out or rescinded at the whim of lawmakers. To the contrary, the Constitution’s framers considered “the right to keep and bear arms” as a natural right inherent in the very fact of your humanity. It does not arise from government, but from God.

Obviously, this view of the Second Amendment does not depend on current technology. Whether a person has the right to carry a rock, a knife or a pistol is not for the government to decide. What is inherent in the very reality of humanity created in the image of God is the responsibility to love one’s neighbor with heart, soul, strength and mind.

When loving one’s neighbor requires defending him or her from bodily harm, human beings have the corresponding right not only to make use of physical strength, but also to use the mind. We think up tools that can assist us to defend our families and our neighbors from harm. This creativity comes from God and is a gift that the animals do not possess. No government has the right to infringe on it.

This right exists independently of the Second Amendment because your responsibility to protect your neighbor is not an assignment from the government, but an assignment from God. As technology advances and your neighbor is threatened by more sophisticated tools, your right to match this sophistication by possessing tools for defense is inherent.

Contrary to SCOTUS’ “common use” doctrine, there is nothing in the Constitution, or in natural law, that requires a tool to be commonly available before you have a right to keep and carry it. Whether a tool be so obsolete that it is no longer in common use, or so cutting-edge that few yet own it, governments have no right to disadvantage some while arming others. Rather, they should limit themselves to prohibiting only those tools that have no use in defending individual persons—or which are impossible to use without harming innocent bystanders.

As we stock up on fireworks to celebrate the firearms that won our independence, now would be a good time to think about the modern tools that we need to have on hand to protect the life and liberty of our neighbors in the 21st century.

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Rod Miller: Political Espionage & History

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11668

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By Rod Miller, columnist

Nothing surprises me any more in politics. The recent revelation by the New York Times that the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party sent political spies to infiltrate their opponents in both parties wasn’t a surprise. Just a disappointment.

There’s nothing new about political skullduggery, but this is an entirely different animal we’re seeing here. This isn’t Dick Tuck or Donald Segretti doing a little political rat-f******. This isn’t trying to screw with one election, or one candidate.

This is something else. Something much more sinister. This is a frontal attack on an entire system of civic life, and this happened in Wyoming.

It appears that the spies involved were set upon their mission by a network of hard right wing GOP activists that includes Erik Prince (of Blackwater fame), Susan Gore (of camping fame), and a shady British spy among others.

Both Prince and Gore have residences in Wyoming, and broad contacts with the national GOP power structure, so maybe they thought that the Cowboy State would be a good laboratory to field-test their ideas. They hired the British spook to train a couple of young, right-wing recruits, then they turned Boris and Natasha loose on Wyoming citizens who didn’t share their worldview

Their mission was to bore into opposition groups to get the names of opponents, and to get intelligence on the groups and individuals that could be used against them. Let me repeat that: they were gathering names.

Much like Mao Tse Tung did during China’s Cultural Revolution when Mao had spies in every little village to report on their fellow citizens, and to enforce party discipline. Just like Ho Chi Minh did by infiltrating NLF and Viet Cong spies and enforcers into every hamlet in South Vietnam.

Like Reinhard Heydrick’s Gestapo, blending into the German population to watch, listen and bust heads. It is not hyperbole to draw comparisons to these despots.

This attack was not upon political opponents, really. It was an attack upon a political system that guarantees opposition. It was an attack on the rights of every U.S. citizen that wants to think for themselves and act for themselves.

My disappointment is this: it’s sad to see any major political party in the U.S. begin to act totalitarian, regardless of the motivation. That means that they have lost confidence in democracy as practiced in our country, and in pluralistic government.

A party that behaves as the GOP just did, isn’t going after their political opponents, they’re going after us as a society. They’re not out to undermine opposing candidates, they are out to destroy freedom of thought and expression.

The tactic employed is meant to sow discord among us as citizens, to pit neighbor against neighbor, to impart their own mistrust of democracy to us. No matter what party you belong to, this is an attack on you.

Here’s where we justify the confidence placed in us by those who passed down our republic and the system that keeps it alive. Here’s where we, as individual citizens, resolve within ourselves to oppose any party or person tho threatens our political freedom.

Here’s where we (and in deference to my editor, I won’t use the phrase that I want to) tell idiots like Erik Prince, Susan Gore and anyone like them, to go to hell.

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Bill Sniffin: Uden Murder Mystery Solved – Some Day We Will Learn About Amy Bechtel

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11704

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

(Note: The Oxygen Cable TV network on Monday night will air a new documentary on the 1980 murders of Virginia Uden and her sons. It will be aired repeatedly on into the future.)

Back in 2013, I wrote: “After 33 years of one cold case and 16 years for the other, it has always been easy to believe that some unsolved disappearances will just never be explained.”

In Lander, for decades we pondered about two gals who vanished.  Virginia Uden and Amy Bechtel both disappeared and I wrote the news stories about them while I was the Lander newspaper publisher.

Amy is still missing but the horrible fate of Virginia Uden and her two sons has now been known for a while.

Ironically, both women worked for me at my newspaper.  It seemed odd to be writing these horrible stories about people you actually knew. It did make it easy to write columns and editorials full of speculation about how a person could disappear into thin air during a modern time when everybody seems to know everything about everybody.

But these two mysteries seemed destined to be perpetually unsolved.

Then, just like that, one of them was solved.

And the answers to all of those one-third of a century-old questions were as horrific and grisly as anyone could have possibly imagined.

Gerald Uden was a worker at the U. S. Steel iron ore mine at Atlantic City, some 25 miles outside of Lander in the Wind River Mountains.  Co-worker Kim Curtis remembered him as “scary.”

Virginia Beard must have seen something in the guy, since she married him and Uden adopted her two sons, Reagan, 10, and Richard, 11.

Everyone now knows what happened next.  It was on CNN, ABC, in People Magazine, and The New York Times among all the other state and national media outlets.  The story is impossible to ignore and if you wrote about the Uden family as fiction, the story would not sell because it is so unbelievable.

Then there is Amy.

Amy Wroe Bechtel, 24, disappeared while jogging in the Wind River Mountains above Lander on July 24, 1997.  Although what happened to her is not known, it is believed she is dead. 

And it is also believed she died at the hands of a serial killer, who authorities believe is already in custody for a similar Wyoming abduction and killing.  

That suspect is Dale Wayne Eaton, the man on death row for the famous and heinous “Little Miss” killing. Eaton kidnapped, raped and murdered another pretty young woman in 1989. 

Fremont County Detective John Zerga recounted that Eaton’s brother told him that the convicted killer was in the Lander area at the time of Amy’s disappearance. 

But evidence is lacking and Eaton is not talking.

My wife Nancy and I have positive memories of both Amy and Virginia.

Amy Bechtel was a part-time photographer and a darned good one.

Note: Famed author Ron Franscell wrote an excellent book about the Uden case called Gerald and Alice, A Homicidal Love Story.

Virginia Uden did some surveying and telemarketing for the newspaper. She had recently divorced Gerald Uden at the time. She was desperate for money and working as many jobs as she could to make ends meet. 

Gerald Uden and his new wife Alice worked at the U. S. Steel mine.  Alice was convicted of killing a previous husband and dumping his body in a mineshaft in Albany County.

Then they conspired to rid Gerald of his obligations — his ex-wife Virginia and his two adopted sons.

An acquaintance of the new Mrs. Uden (Alice) who worked with her at the mine reported on Facebook that Alice was always complaining about Gerald never having any money because he had to support Virginia and the kids. Thus, money appears to be the motive for the taking of these three lives 33 years ago.

On a fall day in September 1980, Gerald Uden convinced Virginia and her two boys to meet him in Pavillion, Wyoming, for some hunting.  He murdered all three.  He stashed her car down a deep canyon off the Dickinson Park Road.

Officers finally found the body of Alice’s previous husband and that led them to her and Gerald, by then living in Missouri. 

Meanwhile, officer Andy Hanson at the Dept. of Criminal Investigation (DCI) never gave up and connected the dots.  Credit also goes to a UW archeologist who with eight students spent some awful summer days in 2008 digging around in an old pigsty in Pavillion looking for evidence of the Uden bodies.  They were unsuccessful.

Gerald Uden confessed to all three murders — although he did try unsuccessfully to recant that confession and is spending the rest of his life in prison.  His wife Alice died in prison a year ago.

Gerald originally said he killed Virginia and the two boys and their bodies are at the bottom of Fremont Lake outside of Pinedale. Then he said they were not. Most folks believed the bodies were dismembered by Alice and fed to the pigs on their farm near Pavillion.

Amy, well, her fate is still a mystery.

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Sam Lightner: Climbing Is Booming And Lander Is The Center Of Its Growth

in Sam Lightner/Column
11638

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By Sam Lightner Jr., Cowboy State Daily

It started with the first peoples of Wyoming. Hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of years ago, descendants of the first tribes to set foot in Wyoming climbed to the high summits.

Perhaps to acquire a name, see into the future, or even possibly just because it was fun, our predecessors climbed Wyoming’s mountains. We know this from their legends, but also because relics of this past have been found on peaks like the Grand Teton and Young Mountain. Mountaineering and Wyoming have been linked for as long as people have been here.

In 1965, famed mountaineer Paul Petzoldt chose to make Lander the base for his National Outdoor Leadership School. He could have created the company in Jackson, Boulder, Tahoe, or Seattle, but he didn’t. Petzoldt picked central Wyoming, and his choice has left Lander with a large scale employer and outdoor-oriented population who want to be close to the mountains.

Lander is a wonderful community, and this no-doubt influenced Petzoldt’s choice, but central Wyoming has the right geology and geography to seal the deal.

From a mountaineer’s perspective, Lander has everything you need to take part in the sport. Obviously the granite walls of the Wind River Range and Granite Range (Sweetwater Rocks) are a draw, but the Tensleep Sandstone in our canyons offers cracks and clean faces for traditional climbing. Then there is the Bighorn Dolomite, with bulging caves riddled with solution pockets. This stone is unique to Wyoming, but it’s world-famous to climbers. Easy access to Sinks Canyon, which stays warm enough to climb through the winter, is a huge draw to Lander. And if that’s not enough, it’s an easy drive to the ice climbs of Dubois and Cody.

Sinks has been a recreational playground for Landerites for 100-plus years, but we also have access to the crags of the Little Popo Agie Canyon (Wolf Point) and Limestone Mountain (Wild Iris). The quality of the climbing and the beauty of those places make mountain towns in Colorado and Utah green with envy.

And you can see this every weekend by checking the license plates in the parking lots of the climbing areas. The Greenies aren’t staying home to climb on their less than stellar stone. They are coming here, as are folks who claim “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (Utah), because our rock climbing areas and outdoor-lifestyle are simply better. 

The community of Lander is actually recognized around the world as one of the greatest places to live as a climber.  Mountaineers from Europe, Africa, Asia, and of course North America, make our town “home,” and far more come to visit. This, in turn, is giving us a recreation based economy that insulates our community from Wyoming’s sad pattern of boom and bust.

Most non-climbers don’t realize this, but a visit by the average American climber is very good for your bottom line. A study done a few years ago found the typical climber has at  least 4 years of post-high school education and an income of over $90,000. We may see tents and Primus stoves in City Park in the summer, but there are also a lot of $100,000-plus Sprinter vans whose owners buy beer at the Lander Bar, dinner at Mulino, and stock up on camping supplies at Wild Iris and Mr. D’s. That is good for all of us.

The single biggest week for climbing in Lander takes place in mid-July. That is when the Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance, a local non-profit that works for the local climbing community,  hosts the International Climbers Festival (ICF). Now in its 27th consecutive year (yes, we secretly had one during COVID!), the ICF is the longest running climber’s festival in the world. It brings in thousands of climbers who want to learn from the pros, get inspired by newly released films,  and simply commune among their peers.

“The Climber’s Festival is an amazing event,” says Josie McKee, a pro-climber who is the executive director of the CWCA. “It draws together local climbers, internationally recognized pro’s, visitors from all over the world, and the people of Lander and central Wyoming. The fact that we have been successfully doing this for 27 years, longer than anyone else in the world, shows Lander is the right place for it.”

Lander is becoming one of the recreation capitals of the country, and it owes much of this to the sport of climbing. Lander’s mountain biking community, which has its origins with the influx of climbers, is growing by leaps and bounds. Growing companies like Maven and Butora have chosen to make Lander their home, and others are said to be considering a move.

Lander has a lot of wonderful attributes… relatively warm winters, plenty of water, clean air, and happy residents (who are at least tolerant of each other) are just a few. Our outdoor recreation, be that hunting, hiking, biking, or climbing, is another, and the last of those is continuing to grow in popularity.

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Marti Halverson: Gender Wage Gap Is Bogus

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By Marti Halverson, guest columnist
Halverson is a former Wyoming legislator

On October 5th, 2018, the Department of Workforce Services delivered its gender wage gap study to the Joint Labor, Health & Social Services Committee.  This study was authorized by 2017 House Bill 209, co-sponsored by Rep. Cathy Connolly and me.  Its $75,000 cost required no additional money.  The cost was borne by DWS using existing department funds.

The work was meant to update the 2003 University of Wyoming and The Wyoming Women’s Foundation study examining Wyoming’s gender wage disparity and to get to the bottom of the Wyoming Worst for Women headline in a 2017 issue of Forbes Magazine.

The Department’s charge was to inform legislators as to the reasons for the wage gap between men and women in Wyoming.

Rep. Connolly had concerns that discrimination was the root cause.  I suspected that fewer women than men in Wyoming’s workforce, and their lower earnings, were primarily a result of the choices women made. 

If, indeed, it was discovered that Wyoming employers were paying women less, solely because they were women, then legislators had some hard work ahead of them.

The reported 68¢ gender wage gap is derived, quite simply, by adding up all the wages earned by men, then adding up all the wages earned by women and calculating the difference.  As the DWS report notes, this is done by the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey which uses five-year averages from relatively small sample sizes.  No attempt is made in the ACS to compare job to job, or hours to hours among male and female workers.

From the 2018 Study: “time spent at work, education differences, employment in different industries, and family factors were the main reasons for the wage gap.  Many of the results from the 2003 studies were replicated in this report.”

The Study further reports that  “. . . industry of employment and the number of hours worked as the two greatest contributors to Wyoming’s gender wage gap.”

The Study made two references to discrimination: “Coefficients were estimates of the unexplained residual portions or what could be attributed to discrimination, variables not included in the regression model, or a combination of both.”  And, “The remaining $0.13 of the adjusted gender wage gap were unaccounted for due to factors that were unknown, which could include discrimination.”

No evidence of gender wage discrimination was found.  There was only speculation that discrimination “could” possibly be an explanation for a small part of the wage gap between men and women. 

Excerpts from the study:

  • “The wage gap narrows or widens when considering . . . industry of employment, hours worked, education, tenure, having children, or growing older.”
  • “Counties in which mining made up a substantial proportion of all jobs had some of the largest wage gaps.”
  • “The idea to increase the average wages of Wyoming teachers and nurses to at least the national minimum has already been achieved.”
  • “The number of hours worked influences the size of the gender wage gap.”  “86% of men worked 35 or more hours per week, compared to 69% of women.”  “61% of men worked full-time, year-round compared to 44% of women.”  “Men worked 44 hours per week in 2016, compared to 36 hours per week for women.”  “Men on average worked 143 hours more than women over the year which explained the hours worked portion of the wage gap.” “The number of hours worked is voluntary.”
  • “After starting a family, more women cut hours or take time away from work than men.” “The wage gap widened with the number of births a person had.” “47% of mothers with children under the age 18 would prefer to work part-time over full-time or not at all.”
  • “In recent years, the percentage of women participating in the workforce has decreased.”
  • “Two-thirds of tipped workers are women.”  “Women have greater representation among minimum wage workers.” “More women than men working in relatively lower paying jobs.”
  • “Wyoming women working in computer and mathematical occupations were paid practically the same as men working in the same occupations.”
  • “Employment in mining was most dominated by men, 87.4% to 12.6% women, while healthcare and social assistance was dominated by women, 82.6% to 17.4% men.”   “Women made up just 10.2% of persons working in production [manufacturing] occupations, the smallest proportion in the [multi-state] region.”
  • On the subject of employment benefits, “Overall, a slightly larger proportion of women (84.9%) were covered by some type of insurance plan compared to men (83.4%).”
  • “In the past, relative wages for an occupation have fallen as more women entered the occupation.”

The study enumerated several possible solutions to the fact that men earn more than women in Wyoming, and those can be found on page seven of the report. 

One of the measures other states have taken is to increase penalties for violation of equal pay laws.  In the 2018 Wyoming legislative session, Representative Connolly and I cosponsored House Bill 146 to do just that.  It sailed through the House, but was not considered in the senate.

We will bring this bill again in 2019.  Penalties for paying women less than men, everything else being equal, should be at least as substantial as the penalty for a bounced paycheck.

There are possible legislative solutions, but we should avoid state mandates on employers and employees in a free market.  There are ideas for training employers, and training female job applicants to negotiate higher wages.  There are suggestions for voluntary employer actions. 

Wyoming can encourage girls to pursue math and science in elementary schools and continue that education in college.  We can encourage girls and women to pursue “non-traditional” careers, and thus change the occupational matrix.

An increase in the minimum wage would likely help increase women’s earnings relative to men’s, but would need to be carefully measured to balance the gains in income with the potential loss of employment or hours worked.

What law do we pass to get more women in the workforce?  What law do we pass to get women to work longer hours?  Some will say the state needs to subsidize day care, but I do not see lawmaker support for that.

This Study was comprehensive, exhaustive and confirmed what many of us knew.  Wyoming is a great state.  It’s a great state for women.  Employers pay men and women fairly considering the nature of the job, education attainment and hours worked.

Due to the high wages paid in the mineral sector, Wyoming is a great state to enable women to choose to work at home raising their families.

Wyoming is not “worst for women.”  Generally speaking, Wyoming women in the workforce are doing the jobs and working the hours they want.  The legislature has nothing to do here. 

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Rod Miller: Election Integrity and Freshman Errors

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By Rod Miller, columnist

When Representative Chip Neiman presented his pledge to fellow Republicans to sign (see last week’s column), he offered this rationale, “for decades Wyoming has struggled with primary election integrity”. Lets fact check that statement.

Since the 2014 election cycle, according to my county clerk, there have only been four or five examples of voter fraud in Wyoming. And every one was caught. These cases involved a few individuals who, having been convicted of a felony, tried to vote without having their voting rights restored.

That’s it, a handful of fraudulent votes among the million and a half votes cast by legitimate Wyoming voters since 2014. The numbers themselves prove Rep. Neiman’s claim about election integrity is a falsehood.

“Election integrity” is a term used as a straw man, or red herring, by the Wyoming Republican Party power elites in their attempts to do away with crossover voting in our primary elections. The security of our voting process has nothing to do with it. Its all about consolidating power within one of Wyoming’s political parties.

Lets be honest; the practice of crossover voting is completely legal under our election code, but its also a gnarly burr under the GOP’s saddle. And Neiman’s ill-advised pledge is but one more dead rabbit the GOP has pulled out of its hat in its attempt ban it to gain an electoral edge.

To be fair, its not the entire Wyoming GOP that supports this nonsense. It is a brittle, populist wedge of the party that is behind it.

But, when a Wyoming Republican pokes fun at their brazen tactics, they are immediately labeled a RINO. This has absolutely nothing to do with election integrity, but everything to do with intra-party politics.

Neiman and his ilk claim that recent elections wherein moderate Republicans have been elected have not “represented the will of Wyoming people”. Horseshit!

Every one of the million and a half votes cast since the 2014 election has been cast by a registered Wyoming voter. Well, except tor those four or five knuckle-headed felons we already discussed. So, to claim that the political will of Wyoming’s people was not expressed during recent elections is simply a lie.

To cloak their drive for partisan hegemony, the arch-conservative wing of the Wyoming Republican Party spouts off about “election integrity” and that should offend every honest voter in Wyoming. We should be doubly offended by the GOP’s attempts to use Wyoming’s election code for partisan advantage.

Our Wyoming Constitution states in Article 1, Sec. 3, “… the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than individual incompetency, or unworthiness duly ascertained by a court of competent jurisdiction.” That’s bad news for felons, and for political parties that want to use our laws to gain an edge.

But don’t expect Rep. Neiman’s gambit to be the last attempt. Neiman rode into office on a small wave of populist candidates who pledged to toe the line of the GOP hierarchy, and he was their flag-bearer on this fiasco. There will be more attempts by a private political organization to use our public laws to negate political opponents.

To characterize Neiman’s pledge as a freshman error is to gloss over the real threat to election integrity in Wyoming – one political party trying to hijack our electoral process. THAT is dangerous stuff, friends and neighbors.

And the word around the ol’ campfire is that Neiman has his eyes on Senator Ogden Driskill’s seat, wanting to bring his populist brand of politics to that upper house. Forewarned is forearmed.

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