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Bill Sniffin: Okay, Now What To Do? Open Fast? Open Slowly? What’s A State To Do?

in Bill Sniffin/Column
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By Bill Sniffin, publisher of the Cowboy State Daily

So, is Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon ready to gently lift restrictions on everyday life here in the Cowboy State?

He has been saying we will be in our current shutdown status until April 30, but perhaps there is some wiggle room here.  Gordon says data will drive his ultimate plans.  He will need good data and good advice from a myriad of people working on his committees studying all aspects of the state’s economy. 

Data is based on statistics. And therein often lies the problem. 

Legendary American Humorist Mark Twain is credited with pointing out that there are three kinds of lies:

1. Lies.

2. Damned lies.

3. Statistics.

I always loved that line because it would come into play so often during major discussions of local, state, and national policies.  Sure, there are statistics, but which ones can you believe?  Don’t you naturally believe the ones that favor your side?

On local, state, national, and international fronts, we are facing two of the biggest crises in our history. One is a health crisis (pandemic) and the second is an economic crisis, caused by governments reacting to the first crisis. 

The two are totally related but sometimes it is hard to feel that way.

For example, a person infected with the COVID-19 might be fighting for his or her life and could care less about whether the economy opens up or not. That person probably believes it should not. In this group also fall those senior citizens or people with underlying health issues who literally are fearing for their lives. 

Then there are the working folks and the owners of small businesses who fear a different kind of demise – economic death. They risk losing their lifetime investments or their seniority or whatever prosperity they were enjoying just six weeks ago.  And these folks are not sick and do not know anyone who is sick.  They feel like victims of a drive-by shooting.  The emotions these folks are feeling are serious. 

Today, I am seeing three sets of statistics that seem to be affecting our lives here in Wyoming. 

The first is a medical question:  how many people got sick from COVID-19?  Wyoming has done many things well but a huge deficiency is the lack of testing.  It is a shame that so few people in Wyoming have been tested by now. How can you get a real picture of the extent of COVID-19 infestation without more tests?

The second is an economic question:  with the state entering possibly its worst depression ever from a state government perspective, where does Gov. Gordon and the legislature cut to balance the budget? I would predict there is a group of hard-nosed legislators lining up to cut the money allocated for education.  This is a fight that could go to the state Supreme Court for a third time. 

The third is how to restore our economy.  Six weeks ago, our hospitality industry was booming.  Can it bounce back?  Will there be a pent-up demand to come see our wonderful state?  I would think people across America would favor going to wide open spaces rather than Disney theme parks or Las Vegas casinos. 

Oil rigs were working and oil was flowing in Wyoming this year until the Russians and Saudis destroyed that market with their recent price war. Now those countries have agreed to cut back dramatically, which will raise oil prices. This will be good for Wyoming. 

One of my biggest fears are the local-owned stores up and down our Main Streets across Wyoming. Right now, these businesses are running on fumes. A few actually made money on the federal CARES act but a lot of them might just have to call it quits.  This is such a tragedy.

Gov. Gordon concludes: “We have got to get this right,” he said. “We are living in a time where the new reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. Until we have a vaccine or a treatment, things are going to be different.” 

We wish Godspeed to the governor and his committees when it comes to how to solve all this.  It seems like he might open the economy but request that folks more prone to catch the illness still maintain their shelter-in-place recommendations. 

In the end, we are all soldiers in this world-wide battle against one of the world’s greatest plagues. Few people alive have experienced what we are going through.

Please follow the rules. Be careful. Reach out in a safe way to stranded or lonely people. We will emerge from this as a possibly much different people than we were before this all started.  

We are a resilient people and we will be stronger in the end. 

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Dave Simpson: Why We Support Trump, In Four Words

in Column/Dave Simpson
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By Dave Simpson, Columnist for Cowboy State Daily

It’s not like we don’t see the humor in this.

And that’s what separates us from our liberal friends. (We have so many. And some seem so angry.)

Our liberal friends are mystified that we still like a president who sometimes rambles, who repeats himself, who often blusters, and who rips the hide off reporters. How could educated people like us, they wonder, like a president who has told us many times about that “perfect” call to the president of Ukraine?

At first, that one gave me pause. What is a “perfect” call? Did he get the phone number correct? Did he make all the points he wished to make? Were his parting words hopeful? What about that call was perfect?

I spent decades as an editor, and often wish I could fix something someone wrote. I cringe when a public official speaks awkwardly. I can almost always think of a better word or phrase. So supporting Donald Trump has been, well, a minefield. I avoid watching his press conferences, because I dread what his mortal enemies will make of every hyperbolic utterance, every awkward rejoinder, every word that seems an unfortunate choice.

“Oh gosh,” I think, “I wish he hadn’t said THAT! Imagine what Joe and Mika will make of THAT on ‘Morning Joe’ tomorrow.”

And they do, in full Trump Derangement Syndrome contempt.

After almost four years, however, we have decided that while we would almost always put things a bit differently, it was Donald Trump who was elected president, not us. And we have seen the humor in his hyperbolic interludes ever since.

“Did you call your brother back?” my wife will ask. I respond, “Yes. And it was a PERFECT call. Absolutely PERFECT. Couldn’t have been better in any way! One of the GREATEST CALLS ever made.” And we laugh at the oblique reference to our president, who often gets a little carried away, but whom we still like very much.

We have started to view people we don’t like as “TOTAL LOSERS, absolute DISASTERS,” who are probably “FAILING” and “CORRUPT.” We laugh at that, as well.

When I mow the lawn, I say I did a “TERRIFIC JOB, FANTASTIC! INCREDIBLE.” When I barbecue burgers, they are the GREATEST hamburgers ever barbecued in the HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE.

We’ve gotten a lot of laughs out of this, even as our liberal friends meticulously dissect the utterances of our president, examining every word under an electron microscope. And they are uniformly appalled, horrified. When you hate a guy enough, if he says “good morning,” you can read it as shocking lack of empathy for those poor souls who are not having a good morning.

Our president gives them countless things to get their guts in a knot over, every day, and make them sputter in disbelief at the uncouthness of the man. How dare such a person be our president?

The other day, my wife – who has more advanced degrees than you can shake a stick at – summed it up in a mere four words. We still like the man, despite the disbelief of our liberal friends, for one reason:

“He’s got our back,” she said.

Bingo!

He talks about American greatness at every opportunity. He’s an optimist. He’s determined to restart our shuttered economy. He stands by those who have saved their money so they can live the American dream. Despite relentless opposition, he gets things done. He helped make a massive run-up of the stock market happen, and promises to do it again. He put solid justices on the Supreme Court.

And he has cut federal regulations. (Can our liberal friends justify government declaring a creek and stock pond in our state “navigable waters,” and defend suing a rancher into near oblivion? Even liberals have to admit that previous administrations got carried away with regulations.)

And despite all the people who hate everything about him, he still seems to like the job.

Just about every day he makes us laugh, saying something we wish he hadn’t. Something no other president would have said.

But, after almost four years we remain sure of that one thing:

He’s got our back.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Cat Urbigkit: Rejecting an Unsustainable System

in Cat Urbigkit/Column
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

The COVID-19 crisis has presented various lessons for our country, but I fear that once the crisis has passed, we’ll forget those lessons – until the next crisis.

I’m not referring to the lack of readiness for a global health pandemic, and the shortages of medical supplies, personnel, and facilities. Instead, I’m referring to everyday items used and consumed by American households: Food.

In a country with such an abundance of food production, communities found themselves with food shortages, and when stores were able to restock certain items, they were mobbed and quickly sold out again.

Even in small-town Wyoming, staples such as eggs, milk, bread, and meat were in short supply. At the same time, food waste occurred at staggering levels, as producers of food were unable to get their products to consumers.

The consolidation of meat processing in America into relatively few facilities owned by even fewer giant corporations has caused bottlenecks in the supply chain as their plants are shut down due to COVID-19.

In my view, the consolidation of the meat supply has resulted in companies selling an inferior product that costs them less, providing for huge profit margins for the companies while livestock producers get shafted.

Meatpacker margins for beef has surged during this pandemic, yet the price that processors pay for live cattle has plunged. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, at the request of congressional members, has said it will investigate. When the food supply is captured by big ag, it’s not operating as a free-market system.

The Smithfield Foods pork-processing plant in South Dakota is the nation’s ninth-largest hog-processor and was shut down after COVID-19 swept through the plant, with more than 600 infected employees. The plant is part of a much larger Chinese company that is the largest pork producer in the world.

But Smithfield wasn’t alone in having to shutter. The JBS plant in Colorado shut down with more than 100 infected employees and several deaths from COVID-19.

JBS is owned by a Brazilian company, the world’s largest producer of beef. At least one Tyson Foods plant in Iowa is shut down after several workers died and nearly 200 workers were sickened by the coronavirus.

Tyson is an American company that proudly wields the title of being the world’s second largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork (second only to JBS).

All three of these industrial food giants have also launched their own “alternative protein” companies, creating laboratories and factories for manufacturing these food products.

While they claim to be doing it to meet the protein needs of our increasing world human population, it’s another move that will result in human dependence on only a few food suppliers for actual human survival.

I am fortunate to look out my living room window to beef and lamb on the hoof, raised in a sustainable grazing system that follows nature’s rhythms. I know that in a food shortage, we can feed a lot of people.

But our family won’t be doing it by sending our livestock to huge meat processors. Expanding the network of small meat processing companies (like Laramie’s 307 Meat Company) is desperately needed throughout the country, so that we can reduce the miles that food must travel between the field and the table.

The dwindling sheep industry has it even worse than the cattle component. Lamb prices have dropped 40%; wool prices are down 43% from last year and sales have come to a screeching halt; and American sheep producers are now paying to dispose of beautiful sheep pelts that were once considered a premium product – thanks to tariffs imposed by China, where many sheep pelts were exported for processing (because America tends to export industries it finds inconvenient).

With no market for our fine wool this year– wool that has been used to create military dress uniforms and fashion lines in Europe – it’s time to make a change. Continuing to participate in this warped market system is not sustainable.

My family is going to join others in making the change to local market systems. From marketing our own meat products, to working with companies (like Mountain Meadow Wool) to create a product line from our wool, we’re making the move to invest in ourselves, and investing in Wyoming’s future.

And for those who discount the importance of livestock grazing on public lands in the arid American West, as the Brits say, “Sod off.” This pandemic has proven the importance of food production at the local level.

As we saw during this worldwide crisis, agricultural industry workers at every level are deemed essential – because we produce food for human survival. Yet only 2% of American population has any connection to production agriculture.

How I wish every family in America could at least plant their own gardens and have a few laying hens. Then there would be much less food insecurity, and families would be better able to sustain themselves during a crisis like this one.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

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Wyoming Runner Barely Missed Boston Marathon Bomb 7 Years Ago This Week

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Column, by Tiffany Piplica Hartpence

Some seven years ago this week, I lined up at the start of the 2013 Boston Marathon not having the slightest idea what was coming.

Every runner has their own reasons for running Boston.

For me, the Boston Marathon was one of the most relaxed races I’ve ever run. I had just had my second baby and just qualifying for Boston was a huge feat. It’s really hard, running a sub-3:35 marathon means 8:00 minute pace for 26.2 miles.

It was a tremendous accomplishment for me to qualify, just to be there. As a busy, working mom, I knew the time commitment and level of fitness to for me to run Boston may be a once in a lifetime event for me, so I savored it. I didn’t look at my watch, I looked at the city. I didn’t pay attention to my breathing, I talked to other runners.

I didn’t care about my form. I gave high-fives to spectators. I remember seeing my husband Sam and a sleeping baby Chase somewhere around mile 17. My son Alden and my mom were at the finish line. For hours my boy sat at the finish line, by a bomb!

By the time mile 20 rolled around I started to feel anxious to be done, I figured four-year old Alden was getting stir crazy and baby Chase was probably getting hungry. I kicked into gear.

By the time I crossed the finish line I didn’t have the typical joy of finishing a run. I didn’t jog back to the finish to cheer on other runners. I didn’t stop at the food table despite having just finished a marathon. I didn’t do any of the things I normally would do after finishing a marathon.

My lighthearted, happy vibe marathon shifted in an unexplainable way. I crossed the finish line and had a bad feeling so I called my mom from the finish area, who had Alden at the finish line, and asked her to meet me a couple blocks away.

She and Alden left and missed the explosion by about a minute; they were about a block and around the corner from the explosion site.

My gut feeling helped save my Alden, and that day I learned to never ignore it.

So that is my Boston Marathon bomb story – 7 years later. Here’s to #Bostonstrong. I’m so proud to have been there.

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Finding Hope Will Be Important As Coronavirus Crisis Deepens

in Column/Glenn Arbery
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Column by Dr. Glenn Arbery, President Wyoming Catholic College, Lander

This past weekend, I got an email from one of last year’s WCC graduates. He said that he missed the Wyoming landscapes that I described in a recent column.

He also thanked us for making his class memorize W.B. Yeats’s poem, “The Second Coming.” As he put it, “It’s been stuck in my head lately like a song.” That might sound heartwarming at first (a student fondly remembering a poem that moved him), but the reality is a little darker. 

Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” almost exactly a century ago in the immediate aftermath of World War I—that enormous refutation of the Enlightenment—when the Spanish influenza raged across the world and new, godless ideologies were rising to power.

Developing his own mythology of history, he anticipates the end of the Christian era as part of a complex series of interlocking “gyres” that represent the expansion and contraction of historical civilizations. He imagines a different and ominous “second coming” of an ancient Egyptian civilization, not the return of Christ. Like Nietzsche, Yeats recognizes the devastating consequences of the loss of God at the center of European civilization:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world….

In the poem, the falcon turns in the widening circles of his flight until he “cannot hear the falconer,” the central figure, whereupon “Things fall apart.” Political and cultural Christendom, which once heard Christ in the Church and the Gospels, hears Him no longer—in fact, is no longer “Christendom” at all, as the European Union demonstrates today. 

“Things have felt strange lately,” our alumnus wrote, “in the sense that, well, the falcon is spiraling too high and has temporarily lost his connection to earth.” It’s easy to see why this poem sticks in this graduate’s head. Within a few weeks, the world seems to have lost its way.

No one knows what will happen with COVID-19—whether it will spread and peak and go away, or whether it will stay around for years, even centuries, as the plague did in Europe. Whether the economy will recover depends on what happens with the virus. The political wrangling that recently occupied everyone’s attention has not stopped, but everyone’s focus now rests on Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is not running for anything.

So much has changed. Last night I was crumpling some newspaper to light a fire, and I glanced at the headline from September—the whistleblower, the beginning of what eventually became the impeachment proceedings. It was almost a nostalgic moment: Remember the impeachment?

I predict a great resurgence of hope and imagination after this crisis. Who knows whether it is not just for an occasion like this that our College came into existence—to find the unheard-of things preserved for a world that had forgotten them?

It’s good to remember how fortunate we have been not to suffer these massive disorientations more frequently; it’s also good to remember that true culture arises out of the joy and beauty we find anyway.

Our graduate also asked what books or poems I would recommend. As I said a few weeks ago, the great books of the Western tradition begin with plagues like the one in the opening lines of the Iliad. Look at the history of smallpox, and then read Dickens’ Bleak House, one of the great novels in the English tradition.

Reread the epics, especially those that center on a hero who lives for a long time in a condition of uncertainty and fear and who must give up even temporary security in order to accomplish some great task. I think of Aeneas, and there are many others. And Tolkien is not a bad companion when it feels like the shadow of Mordor is coming over the world. 

As for poems, it’s a small gesture, but I have started a blog, “A Ragged Patch of Glow,” just to look at a lyric poem a day—insights, glimpses of emotion, intuitions of beauty. I don’t have a program of instruction in mind, just a way to draw on the heights and depths of the capacities of language. I hope that the poems bring a moment or two of clarity.

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Jim Hicks: Friday Let’s All Make Some Noise About 7 P.m. And Feel Better . . .

in Column/Sagebrush Sven
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By Sagebrush Sven, (translated by Jim Hicks)

BUFFALO – At first, we were having a hard time remembering time it was. Had to look at the clock in the kitchen because the hours were either dragging or flying by. 

After a couple more weeks were found ourselves trying to determine which day of the week it happened to be.

And then, this week Maudie caught me studying the calendar that hangs in the hallway. 

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Trying to figure out what week of the month it might be.”

This was last weekend when the wind was blowing, the temperature was in the low teens and we were getting five inches of snow.

“I really thought maybe it was still February,” was my excuse.

So, the “stay-at-home” and “isolate” continues. For those who really like to be left alone, this may actually change some attitudes. 

I’ve talked to so many spam callers we are starting to get less and less of them.

It can be fun if you go ahead and listen to the recorded pitch and then punch the number to talk to the “IRS Agent” or the “Social Security Representative” or even the lady who wants to sell you an alert system in case you fall and can’t get up.

Believe it or not, if you sound dumb enough, they will spend 20 minutes trying to explain why you should take all your money out of the bank, wrap it with foil and overnight it to their headquarters in California.  Just make sure you invent bank account numbers and a social security number as well. 

You can get such satisfaction to drive them crazy while you are keeping them from calling some other poor sucker.

And this week Barb Mueller and some of her friends came up with a great idea (she says it’s been done in other places). She wants everyone to come out of their house at 7p.m. sharp, and get rid of a lot of pent-up emotion by “whoopin’ or hollerin’ or banging on pans or blowing a bugle if they have one. 

“It will relieve a lot of stress at the end of a day of isolation.”

They have scheduled he first “Isolation whoop-up” for 7p.m. this Friday, and will continue every evening at 7 sharp.

“It will make us all feel better,” says Barb and her co-conspirators.

So, get the dishpan and a big spoon out and head for the front porch Friday evening. 

And the “stay-in-place” humor just keeps coming if you are on the “net” or have a cell-phone. Every new idea goes around the globe instantly. But the Bench Sitters still like to pick a few special ones to share.

Their “picks of the week include –

Frustration is trying to find your glasses without your glasses.

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.

The irony of life is that, by the time you’re old enough to know your way around, you’re not going anywhere.

I was always taught to respect my elders, but it keeps getting harder to find one.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

And so, the Bench Sitters have agreed to send their best wishes, a bag of patients and a bowl of brotherly love to help you handle the nest week . . . whatever week that might be.

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Dave Simpson: When Hunkering Down Isn’t Enough

in Column/Dave Simpson
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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

We’re a month into this Coronavirus imbroglio – probably the worst case of cabin fever we have ever suffered – and you have to wonder how long this can go on.

Some thoughts from solitary confinement:

– I live in one of the eight states that are not currently under “shelter in place” orders. The governor of Wyoming has urged us to stay home, but hasn’t ordered us to shelter in place. And he gets right testy when asked about it.

Reporters and many Democrats (they’ve got a lot in common) suspect we’re not doing our part. Why haven’t we joined the other 42 states, they ask, in issuing a shelter in place order? Our local paper ran a long editorial last Sunday, beseeching the governor to order us to shelter in place.

What are folks in those other states doing, however, that we’re not? Beats me.

Our schools are closed. The university is closed. Churches are closed. Restaurant dining areas are closed. Coffee shops are closed. Bars are closed. Exercise gyms are closed. The library is closed. Bank lobbies are closed. Barber shops are closed. Beauty shops are closed. You can’t even get a commemorative Coronavirus tattoo or piercing, because those joints are closed, too.

You can still go to the grocery store, but try finding a bottle of hand sanitizer.

I don’t know how to shelter in place any more than I’m already sheltering in place. I’m as hunkered as I can hunker.

Even rock star doctor Anthony Fauci said last week that folks in our state are doing a good job avoiding each other. (It’s easy. We have tons of distance, and people are scarce as hen’s teeth.)

So, what’s all this “shelter in place” fuss about?

– Speaking of rock stars, if the barber shops stay closed for much longer, I’m going to look like Meatloaf.

My wife cut our son’s hair, but he wears his hair like a recruit at basic training. Cutting his hair is about as complicated as mowing the lawn. She wanted to cut my hair, but I said, “Uh, no thanks.”

My father cut my hair when I was a kid, and whatever directions you gave him, you always got a crew cut. Every time. One time I said I wanted sideburns like Elvis, and he laughed out loud.

The barbershops better reopen before a man bun becomes an option.

– I’m wearing a mask when I’m at the grocery store. I get a little dizzy if I wear it too long, and my glasses fog up. (In scuba diving, they teach you to spit in your mask to keep it from fogging, but that’s not an option here.)

Wearing a mask takes some getting used to, but an old saying comes to mind:

“Nobody’s going to get down off his horse” to notice that I’m wearing a mask.

It’s the least we can do.

– To stay busy, I’ve cleaned out the file cabinet, tossed out old magazines and newspapers, tested the sump pump (it works), serviced the lawn mower, cleaned off my workbench, made peanut butter cookies, read four books, made onion soup, finished watching “Breaking Bad,” and started watching “Making a Murderer.”

This is an amazing opportunity – time to get things done. I’ve even hung a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling of the garage, so I know exactly where to park my pickup.

You can’t get much more organized than that.

– Little things can become issues when cooped up like this.

My wife and son pick their favorite jelly beans out of the jar, leaving the rejects for me.

It’s starting to get on my nerves.

– President You Know Who caught a lot of flak for saying it, but didn’t we all want this to be over by Easter? Was that so crazy? And don’t we all hope that HCQ drug helps people with this disease? And don’t we all want businesses to reopen and everyone to get back to work? Don’t we?

Our politics, however, have become so hateful and deranged that expressing any optimism at all is politically incorrect.

Didn’t these folks once embrace “hope and change?”

I guess it depends on who’s president.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

Sam Lightner: Bring On The Cold And Snow As We Endure ‘The Covid Spring’

in Column/Sam Lightner
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By Sam Lightner, (author and mountain climber)

Spring. I’ve heard about it. I might have even seen it a few weeks ago. I had to change the clock on the microwave, which requires a post-doctorate degree in button sequencing, and that often has something to do with spring.

There are cute little birds in the yard and bouncing off the windows, and in the past that has had something to do with spring as well. But with a foot of white stuff on the ground and lows in the single digits, spring is merely a myth.

Of course, I often ponder where spring is at this time of year. In Lander we get nearly a quarter of our annual precipitation in April and May, and much of that comes in back-breaking high-density snow. We take showers in August because of the snow in April, and I like showers, so I can’t really complain about the cold, white blanket.

Nope, the problem this spring is not the extension of winter; it’s the Covid Spring.

Now what I am writing here might seem a bit callous, but I don’t intend to make light of Covid 19 or its victims. In fact, I feel terrible for those who have suffered with it and am terrified of the disease.

However, for most of us, either not yet infected or not badly infect, the biggest problem is the forced break in our routines. Normally in spring I’d be out rock climbing as much as possible. My friends and I would generally go to Sinks Canyon, but the warmest days could take us to Sweetwater Rocks, Fremont Canyon, or even Devils Tower. Jaunts to Tensleep Canyon and Vedauwoo are even possible.

This particular Spring, I was going to do a book tour, which I tell everyone was to showcase my new book, Wyoming: A History of the American West. Of course, the real reason was tick a dozen or so of Wyoming’s best rock climbs and write it off. But then came “The Pandy” (as in Pandemic) and it’s call to “social distance,” and with it a quagmire of boredom.

Rock climbing has a reputation for being an individualist’s game, but in many ways, it is the ultimate team sport. The most common form of rock climbing is known as “sport climbing” and it is more closely related to gymnastics than slogging up Mount Everest.

In sport climbing, you push your physical limits to the absolute maximum, crimping your fingers onto thin edges and sliding them into one and two finger pockets, all to scale some 60 to 80-foot stretch of slightly overhanging stone. The goal is to push yourself to the absolute limit of endurance and power just as you reach the top, thus risking a fall for trying something just a little beyond your limit.

You can risk falling because of the safety systems employed in sport climbing. The rope, the harness, and the safety equipment fixed to the wall, all work in combination to save a falling climber when he/she attempts something beyond their limit. The most integral part of the safety system is your climbing partner, the person who holds the rope and maintains the safety system while you climb.

In that sense, rock climbing is the ultimate team sport as your teammate literally keeps you from dying. This helps climbers to form bonds that no NFL quarterback and receiver could ever dream to have.  However, social distancing is forcing climbing partners apart.   

In a non-Covid Spring, not only would I be travelling around the state to scale rock walls, but other climbers would be coming to Wyoming just to climb. Sinks Canyon, for instance, sees hundreds of visiting climbers every spring weekend, and the license plates in the parking areas show visitors from all over the country.

However, this spring the Central Wyoming Climbers Alliance, the organization that hosts the International Climbers Festival every July, has gone to great efforts to let would-be visitors know that they are not wanted in Wyoming right now.

We love them, even the ones from Colorado, but putting us all together along the dolomite walls of Sinks Canyon would not be good for public health. Add to it that the Governor, who happens to be a climber himself and very-much wants to see Wyoming’s recreational opportunities utilized, has asked everyone to stay home. To top it off, the hotels, restaurants, and even camp grounds are closed, giving those visitors few places to hunker down when these spring storms roll in.

There are worse things than boredom. A bad case of Covid-19 is one of them, and I personally don’t want to fight with it or make someone else fight with it simply to satisfy my climbing ambitions.

So, I wait and hope it passes by summer. But I thought you might like to know that The Pandy has not just ended March Madness and put off the Olympics. The smaller sports, some of which help to pay the bills around Wyoming, have also taken a hit in the Covid Spring. So, it might as well snow. That way I can take a shower, or at least wash my hands for 20 seconds, when August comes around. 

Caption:

Sam Lightner holds a copy of his new book, which was scheduled for a book signing tour until “The Covid Spring” postponed it.

Cat Urbigkit: The Certainty of Spring Migrations

in Cat Urbigkit/Column
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist for Cowboy State Daily

The first sign of spring on the ranch is usually something heard rather than seen: the soft, warbling song of a bluebird’s early dawn message.

Once I hear that inviting warble, I scan the landscape, looking for the flash of blue that signals the song-vessel-from-the-South has returned. The bluebirds are our earliest harbingers of spring, and I often wonder how those tiny winged bodies manage to survive our often-brutal spring storms. I always fear they’ve returned too early.

Usually within a few days I’ll hear one of the most joyful sounds of nature, the trilling call of sandhill cranes bursting forth from the meadow, their calls rolling out across the landscape for miles. It takes me a while to find the cranes, and they are breath-taking in magnificence as these large birds flap their wings as they call out, jumping up and down as if doing the happy dance of spring.

The smallest and most common falcon on the continent, the American kestrel, is also one of these early arrivals, soon followed by other raptor species. Skunks and badgers are more active during the day, and prairie dogs are up out of their burrows.

By late March, Greater Sage Grouse congregate to strut on their traditional leks (breeding grounds). They are mostly comical to watch, making their swishing and popping noises as they strut, showing the hens just how gorgeous they are but occasionally breaking into fights before strutting past the females again.

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The massive spring migration of the Sublette mule deer herd started weeks ago, and in the last 10 days the pronghorn antelope have followed, chasing the green wave of fresh vegetative growth with snowmelt in higher elevations. These animals look great this year – unlike last year’s deer that literally staggered past, with ribs and hips clearly visible.

Although we woke up on Easter Sunday to about six inches of fresh snow, it’s been a typical western Wyoming spring. Within days of raging ground blizzards followed by cold temperatures, the skies clear (‘bluebird’ days), and the glaring suns causes rapid snowmelt. We go from wearing insulated coveralls to t-shirts on the same day. And then the cycle repeats.

The coronavirus pandemic has humanity living in uncertainty, and in adverse conditions for planning. Humans are natural planners, and our inability to plan for days in the future troubles us.

In contrast, dogs are joyous beings, living in the moment as they do. To watch a puppy bounding around outside is to witness sheer jubilation, as it rolls on the ground, mouths a found leaf or stick with enthusiasm, then casts it aside to bound after a squirrel or a bug. That puppy attention span – that living in the moment life – is a merry one.

Those who view uncertainty as precarious may want to follow the examples offered by the animal world. Living in the moment may provide joy as we begin to notice that the natural rhythms of the universe continue. Things like spring migrations.

In these days of uncertainty, nature provides certainty.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Bill Sniffin: Wyoming Heroes — Getting By In The Age Of COVID-19

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Face it, we are living in unusual times. Probably the craziest times of our lives. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus has turned our personal lives, our towns, our state, our country, and our world upside down. 

Folks that we all took for granted just three weeks ago are now recognized as heroes.  I am talking about grocery store workers, janitors, truck drivers, local food delivery servicers, utility workers, and many, many others. 

Notice that I did not mention doctors, nurses, EMTs, hospital workers, and other medical personnel.  Obviously, they are already high up on that pedestal. We love and appreciate these folks for literally doing death-defying work. Hopefully for a generation, at least, we will recall their sacrifices and honor them.  Forgive their school debts?  Hell yes.  

But in our daily hum-drum lives those other formerly almost invisible folks have moved into our range of focus.  We appreciate what they are doing. We need to realize they may be risking their lives, too. 

There is a deadly virus out there called CO for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease, which gives it the game COVID.  The 19 is because of the year 2019, thus COVID-19. 

In cities and towns across Wyoming, people turned out Friday night at 8:20 p.m., which on a 24-hour clock, is the time known as 2020. Folks gathered in central locations to cheer, honk their car horns, and flash their headlights in thanks to all the heroes on the front lines.  This included all the folks mentioned earlier in this column.

In Lander and Riverton, folks did the same thing but also used that time to salute their high school senior classes of this unusual year 2020.  These seniors will not be able to go to their proms, enjoy all those things you get to do in your last semester of school, and probably will not be able to attend their graduation ceremonies.  These young people are our heroes, too.  We are proud of them.

As a sidelight to all this, folks in Lander and Riverton decided to do a “Cruising Main” event where hundreds of cars and pickups drove back and forth on the main drag, much like they did back in their younger days. 

I even heard a few complaints that the event was dominated by geezers, such as my wife Nancy and me plus our pals from the Fox News All Stars. Ha! It was fun and we would recommend it to other towns. 

Dale and Jennifer Peterson of Lander do not look like heroes, but they really are.  They set good examples of how to help people during good times. And in the crazy times, like right now during the age of COVID-19, they really shine.

Dale and Jen were stranded in Honduras at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For 43 years, the Petersons have been taking care of members of the Miskito Tribe of indigenous peoples in the extreme rainforest of Honduras.  

The Petersons were finally able to fly home last week.   Dale is the dentist at the Life Resource Center in Lander. He started what they call Mission of Mercy over four decades ago.

They round up a dozen folks, usually dentists, doctors, nurses, and support people to go and treat these most needy people. Jen, who owned a restaurant for years, is the logistics magician. She rounds up $6,000 in medications, charters several airplanes, and packs and hauls 57 bags and crates of supplies for the medical expedition.  They fly back into the wilderness as far as they can and then have to take canoes the rest of the way because there are no roads. 

Some of the folks traveling with them included Doctors Phil Gilbertson and Hart Jacobsen of Lander; dentists Chris Peterson and Eric Sheridan of Lander; dentists Leif Polson and Will Robinson of Thermopolis; and nurses Donna and Racine Estep of Lander. 

They do not fear the COVID-19 virus so much because of their personal experiences with hydroxychloroquine, a medicine used for malaria, which they take when they go to Honduras. They said they were staying on the island of Roatan, where thousands of people live.  Nobody there has the virus, they said, because many people take hydroxychloroquine to combat malaria that is so prevalent. 

During these trying times, Dale and Jen were happy to be back home. They should be, having saved lives and improved health for total strangers who live thousands of miles away. They are the modern definition of heroes in my mind. 

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