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Campbell County Teen Embraces Life In Wake Of Fatal Diagnosis

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By Jennifer Kocher

The family Christmas is moving to Autumn’s Butterfly House this year, Londen Tabor said, opening the door of the tiny home in the family’s backyard in southern Campbell County.

Walking past her mom, 13-year-old Autumn Fuernisen twirled in the middle of the living room before plopping onto a purple couch lining the back wall next to a ceiling-high Christmas tree adorned in purple garland and twinkly lights. To her right, a log glowed orange in the brick, cardboard fireplace that Londen crafted to hide the space heater.

Autumn Fuernisen will be hosting Christmas in her Butterfly House in the family’s backyard.

The miniature house was decked out for the holidays just like Autumn in her red and white Santa dress with black tights that matched the frames of her new glasses and hair in two jaunty buns on the top of her head.

The house – complete with a tiny deck and porch swing – was built this summer for Autumn by volunteers from TRI Mountain Homes and Make-a-Wish Wyoming, which grants wishes for children with terminal illnesses or other diseases.

Although initially intended as a playhouse, the Butterfly House – also known as the Butterfly Motel when she and her cousins sleep out there – looked a lot like a regular home with chairs in the corner and a coffee table pulled in front of the couch on top of a butterfly rug. Iridescent purple and blue butterfly decals decorated the walls and shelves along with pictures of Autumn and her family from their various travels.

Earlier this summer real butterflies had actually lived there, too, after metamorphasizing from caterpillars to chrysalis before ultimately being unleashed in the back yard.

She’s always been drawn to butterflies, Autumn said, blinking hazily into the morning sun.

“They’re so beautiful,” she said, “and peaceful.”

Her tiny dream home is a bittersweet reminder of the fatal verdict facing the teen, who three years ago was diagnosed with Juvenile Huntington’s Disease (JHD) at age 11. Huntington’s Disease (HD) is a genetic, neurodegenerative brain disease.

There is no cure or treatment to halt, slow or reverse the progression of the disease. As of now, it’s 100% fatal.

It’s arguably one of the most devastating illnesses, Londen noted, with symptoms mirroring ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s combined.

The disease slowly deteriorates a person’s physical, mental, and emotional abilities, and one’s ability to walk, talk, think and speak, according to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA), with patients eventually requiring round-the-clock care until they typically succumb to pneumonia, heart failure or other complications.

Ninety percent of those diagnosed with HD are 30 or older, with only 8% between 13 and 20 years old. Rarer yet, just around 2%, are kids like Autumn who are 13 and younger. Depending on the age of diagnosis, a person might have anywhere from 10-15 years to live.

Gov. Mark Gordon officially proclaimed April Huntington’s Disease Awareness Month in honor of Autumn.

With an HD diagnosis, the older, the better. For young teens like Autumn, the disease manifests three to five times faster with a life expectancy of less than 10 years.

Relatively speaking, the disease is rare with only around 41,000 symptomatic cases in the U.S., per HDSA. Unfortunately, for Autumn, however, the odds of inheriting it are 50/50 from a parent carrying the defective gene like her dad Justin Fender.

Autumn tested positive for JHD just before Justin died at age 36, roughly a decade after his diagnosis. Videos that Londen made at the time show Autumn spooning ice cream into her dad’s mouth as he struggled to hold up his head from the hospital bed. In another, she helps him play a video game in bed, resting a steady hand on his shoulder as he jerks back and forth.

Autumn’s dad Justin died of HD just after her diagnosis at age 11.

When she tested positive, Autumn had been eager to tell her father that she, too, had the disease.

“She wanted to feel connected to him,” Londen said, shaking her head. It had been a hard decision, she said, letting her daughter tell her dad knowing how he would feel. It was just one more hard thing in an otherwise grueling situation.

Though Justin and Londen had never married and had broken up shortly before he learned he had the disease, Londen, Autumn and her old brother Logan were literally by his side until the very end.

Autumn remembered waiting for him to wake up the morning he died.

“It just looked like he was sleeping,” she said thoughtfully with a shrug.

Now, Londen is gearing up to face the inevitable yet again, this time with her only daughter.

“It’s hard to even get your head wrapped around it,” she said with a sad smile. “But we’ve decided to make the best of it and enjoy every moment, huh, Stinker?”

Autumn smiled.

Since receiving her diagnosis, the family has already taken several trips, including California and Moab, Utah, and a trip to Disneyland. The pandemic temporarily put a halt on the family’s summer travel plans, including missing the annual HDSA conference in which Autumn won the Youth/JHD award for her advocacy work along with her mother. Already a voice on the subject, Autumn also just hosted her first “Ask Autumn” show through Help 4 HD on YouTube, answering questions and sharing her own experience with the disease.

Thus far, the onset of her daughter’s symptoms has been fast and furious, Londen said, as Autumn continues to lose dexterity and strength that makes everyday chores like buttoning her clothing, going to the bathroom and brushing her teeth incredibly challenging for her. Now, her mom helps her get ready for school in the morning as her speech continues to slur and her balance likewise deteriorates. Swallowing, too, is becoming increasingly more difficult, so they watch her carefully as she chews.

For her part, Autumn bravely faces every day. As a ninth grader, she’s living out her high school dream of being a cheerleader, which has admittedly been the best part of her entering high school. She just finished the fall season cheering for the Campbell County High School football team and will return to the sidelines this winter for basketball when school resumes.

Likewise, Autumn’s teachers and the staff at CCHS have gone out of their way to make high school as normal as possible for the teen. This means sending out a special bus to pick her up before the start of second hour as the illness makes it increasingly harder for Autumn to get up in the morning. The bus on which she’s the sole passenger also makes an early trip home to accommodate her disabilities.

Autumn marks every stop on the journey with a ‘strong girl arms’ photo as the family travels throughout the U.S.

For Autumn, that’s the coolest thing in the world.

“One morning, the driver even brought me a coffee,” she said with a big smile, moving on to talk about her recent award and her impending trip to go see President Elect Biden’s scheduled inauguration in January, complete with tickets for the parade and inaugural ball that they’ll be attending along with Senator John Barrasso.

As for Christmas, Autumn hasn’t really given any thought as to what presents she wants besides a sim card for her broken cell phone. Maybe some sensory tools for home. She shrugged. Ordinary teen concerns like Christmas presents have no bearing on the girl who has vowed to live life to the fullest and enjoy every moment.

That’s all she has, she knows, as her mother puts on a brave face to once again fight the battle till the bitter end.

The only thing that really gets to Londen is that clinical trials have just begun for HD treatments, though her daughter is not eligible as a teen due to concerns by the drug companies about long-term brain damage, which as far as she’s concerned, is a preposterous pretense in the face of death.

Autumn Fuernisen’s Butterfly House is a gift from Make a Wish Wyoming.

Londen hasn’t given up yet, however, as she continues to learn and talk to everyone she can about both the disease and any options for saving her daughter or postponing the inevitable.

In the meantime, there’s Christmas to celebrate, and once again, Autumn has plans to make pies for her family as she did this past Thanksgiving. Her favorites are pecan and apple, and she makes a pretty mean pie if she doesn’t mind saying so herself.

For a family who has suffered so much, it’s the little victories along the way that get their focus as they prepare for their first Christmas at Autumn’s.

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Old Jeans Bring $8,470 At Powell Auction

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Vintage jeans can be a hot item. How about hot as in $700 a pair?

That’s the price that a lot of 12 pair of vintage jeans averaged in an online auction sale from the Forest Wichern Homestead on the South Fork, which closed June 18. The total paid for the 12 pair was $8,470.

Travis Swenson of Swenson’s Auctions of Powell managed the sale of items at the Wichern homestead at 390 Lower Southfork Road. He said the purchaser of the jeans was a reseller for an overseas market.

“I had movie prop producers from New York to Texas to Oregon bidding,” Swenson said.

The makers of the jeans included Levi, Wrangler and Lee. The vintage jeans were from the 1950s and 1960s, “maybe even the 40s,” Swenson said. “They were very worn.”

The uniqueness that made the old jeans so valuable “had to do with the rivets on the Levis, the Blue Bell emblem on the tag inside the pants on the Wranglers and the type of zipper on the Lees,” he said.

There’s a lesson to be learned, Swenson advised: “Don’t throw your stuff away.”

Then he added with a chuckle: “Call Swenson’s Auctions.”

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Historian publishes book about Nimitz visit to Cody

in Community/military/arts and culture
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A Cody historian has turned his attention to a visit to the area by a famous World War II naval officer.

Bob Richard’s newest book documents a visit to the Cody area by Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz and several other military leaders in 1946.

The book consists largely of photos taken by Richard’s father Jack Richard, a secretary to U.S. Sen. E.V. Robertson, who represented Wyoming at the time.

Nimitz played a major role in WWII, commanding the Pacific fleet and accepting the surrender of Japanese forces in 1945. 

Robertson invited Nimitz and others to Wyoming after the war and Richard accompanied the group as it traveled from Cheyenne to Jackson, Yellowstone National Park and Cody.

The resulting photographs, Jack Richard’s first color photos, are contained in the book “Fleet Admiral Nimitz and Naval War Heroes’ Historic Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park Visit.”

“They fished, they swam in (Yellowstone Lake), then they boarded an old yellow bus and they came to Cody, stopping at our ranch on Rattlesnake Creek,” Bob Richard said. “At the age of 9, Adm. Nimitz patted me on the back and said ‘I hope someday that you’re an officer like your dad and his brother Bob.’”

Richard has published a number of books focusing on the Cody and Yellowstone areas. His first, “Yellowstone Country,” also features the photography of his father.

Other books by Richard serve as visual guides of the Yellowstone area.

“Everybody continues to buy them and they give them to their guests,” he said. “When they want to get (the guests) out of the house for the day, they give them the book on the North Fork and say ‘Go find all the rock formations.’”

Richard is himself an accomplished photographer. One of his shots, showing two bears near a sign that reads “Leaving Yellowstone National Park,” is a picture traditionally given as a gift to Yellowstone employees as they retire.

Richard said he has sold more than 600 copies of the photograph, which he took decades ago.

Wyoming-based group hosts hunts with terminally ill children

in News/Recreation/Community
2606

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

For some terminally ill children, hunting can be a break from the grueling regimen of treatments and a chance to experience normalcy, Muley Fanatic Foundation Co-founder Josh Coursey said.

But for 20-year-old Noah Walters, it could be more — a reason to continue fighting 10 years after doctors predicted he would die, said his mother Denise.

“A few years ago, Noah was dealing with some real depression,” she explained. “If he did not have hunting, I don’t know if he would still be with us.”

Of the 3 million people in Mississippi, Denise said Noah is the only person diagnosed with Morquio Syndrome Type A, a progressive disease that prevents the body from breaking down sugar chains called glycosaminoglycans and can cause abnormal bone and spine growth, resulting in diminished stature and reduced mobility.

Despite his ailments, which include heart and respiratory conditions, Noah harvested his first pronghorn this year in Wyoming with the help of the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

“He may be a little person, but he’s a firecracker,” Denise said. “He does not allow his disease to control him.”

Noah was one of 17 people, mostly children, the Wyoming-based foundation took on hunts through the “Putting the U in hunt” program in 2019, Coursey said. “We know how important this is for children with terminal illnesses,” Coursey said. “We see it as an opportunity for us to do good.” 

‘Furthering the sport’

Founded in 2011, Muley Fanatic is a nonprofit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation primarily in Wyoming, though chapters have recently popped up in Colorado, Utah and Virginia.

“We’ve been facilitating these youth hunts from the outset,” Coursey said. “As a conservation group, part of our mission includes furthering the sport of hunting, and we recognize this as an opportunity to do that good work for these kids who are at a disadvantage.”

The idea for the program came from a friendship between the foundation’s founders and a local family whose child was terminally ill. 

“We knew as a nonprofit we could petition the game commission to have these (hunting) tags allocated to allow for these opportunities in areas conducive to the individual hunter and their needs,” Coursey explained.

Under Section 13 of the Wyoming Game and Fish hunting regulations, the game commission can issue a limited number of licenses for deer, elk, pronghorn and turkeys to nonprofits for the use of terminally ill people between the ages of 12 and 20.

“It allows the youth hunter to be in the area five days prior to the area being opened to the public,” Coursey said. 

To be eligible, applicants must submit their paperwork with a statement from a licensed physician stating the license recipient is clinically diagnosed with a life-threatening or serious illness. The application must be submitted by Jan. 31 of the requested year — a full nine months ahead of the opening of hunting season in some cases.

“It’s a long process,” Coursey said, “but that gives us time to get everything together and the families time to ensure the kids have the green light from their doctors.”

Meeting unique needs

Muley Fanatic provides the young hunters, who come from all over the nation, with an all-expense paid experience for both them and their caretakers.

“They have enough to worry about as is, so we take care of everything while they’re here,” Coursey said. “We buy the tags, provide the meals, pay for the travel and any hotel expenses they might have.”

The average hunt costs about $1,800, he explained.

“We do that through fundraising throughout the year and have donations earmarked just for this program,” Coursey said. “But we couldn’t do it without our volunteers. We have a lot of great resources in Wyoming in our wildlife and wide-open spaces, but our greatest resource of all is our people.”

For hunters with disabilities, the standard array of hunting gear doesn’t always meet their needs. In some cases, the foundation has worked with other organizations such as Holy Pursuits Dream Foundation, based in West Virginia, to supply specialty equipment for the hunters.

“We’ve had five children now that have been able to hunt with a specifically designed firing mechanism using a breathing tube,” Coursey said. “It takes a little practice out on the range to get used to, but we’ve seen some good success with the mechanisms.”

While hunters can request what type of animal they would like to pursue, he said mobility remains a factor.

“We’ve had children that have no motor function from the shoulders down,” Coursey said. “The mule deer hunts require more mobility than the antelope and elk hunts, which takes some of the access away.”

Muley Fanatic volunteer and Red Desert Outfitters owner Jason Faigl said patience is key when looking for an animal the participants could have an opportunity to harvest.

“A lot of the challenge is being able to get the hunter to the area and set up to shoot,” Faigl explained. “We do everything we can to make sure they are comfortable and make sure we’re not affecting their illness in any way.”

Word of mouth

Starting with only a couple hunts in the first year, “Putting the U in hunt” was slow to gain momentum, but participation more than tripled in 2019.

“We typically have about four to five hunters a year,” Coursey said. “This year, we had 17.”

Healthcare data is protected by federal law, so the foundation relies on word of mouth and social media to attract participants.

Having logged about 25 hunts since 2011, Noah and his family are well-acquainted with hunting organizations who help the terminally ill, but it was only recently his family learned about the Muley Fanatic Foundation.

“I’d seen the Muley Fanatic Facebook page, but I hadn’t really reached out until another organization told us about the program,” Denise recalled.

Without word of mouth, Noah might have never discovered his ability to hunt. 

“It was always something he was interested in as a kid, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to do it,” Denise said, explaining the doctors predicted shortly after birth Noah’s life expectancy would be about 10 years. “The pastor at our church heard him talking about it one day and decided to look into it.”

With the pastor’s help, Noah discovered a group in Wisconsin that was willing to take him bear hunting.

“He’s been hooked on it ever since,” Denise said. “Not every hunt is successful, but Noah says that’s why it’s called hunting. If we were successful every time, he says it’d be called shooting.”

Having hunted all over the country, Noah was excited about the prospect of nabbing a pronghorn.

“We’d seen several antelope that morning, but they were far off or too quick,” Denise recalled about the Muley Fanatic-sponsored hunt. “It takes a long time to set up the shot. Sometimes he sits in his dad’s lap, sometimes he sits in mine. It’s a mom, dad and Noah team effort, but we get the job done.”

The team successfully harvested an antelope during their visit, an experience Denise said Noah cherishes.

“The people are absolutely wonderful, and the state is gorgeous,” she said. “Are we going to visit again? Absolutely.”

For more information about the Muley Fanatic Foundation go to www.muleyfanatic.org or call (307) 875-3133.

Holiday lights go high-tech

in News/Community/military
Christmas Lights
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

No one really can remember when the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center, built in 1934, began displaying its impressive holiday lights and decorations. It’s just been something Cheyenne and Laramie County residents, as well as regular tourists, expect every winter. 

Whether you’re driving by on Pershing Boulevard and just happen to catch a glimpse of the lights or you take a stroll through the campus, you can see the VA’s extensive collection of decorations, from Santa guiding his reindeer to a nutcracker saluting incoming and outgoing guests. 

For many years, the decorative display was unique in Cheyenne because it was considered more “high-tech” than displays seen across the rest of the city. In recent years, the community has begun to step up the size and scale of its decorations and lights, but that doesn’t mean that the VA is going to fall behind. 

“The grounds guys actually came to me this year and were pretty insistent that we needed to get some more lights and decorations for the display,” said Sam House, VA public affairs officer. “We’ve built new additions along the campus, but we hadn’t expanded our holiday display and they wanted to change that.” 

Some of the new decorations included inflatable characters that are shown every evening — as long as it’s not too windy — more lights, a new wreath and pop-up sculptures. 

Since the VA is a federal building, the decorations also reflect the Jewish and Muslim faiths, featuring a menorah for Hanukkah and a painted sign with Islam’s crested moon symbol. 

While not decorated, there is also a sacred area on the property for Native Americans that features a traditional medicine wheel that people can visit.

Since the VA expanded its decorations for the entire campus, House noted that there has been an uptick in visitors this winter. 

“We put those there for the community, so we definitely want them to come onto the campus and take a look around,” he said. “They’re also great for the veterans who stay in our nursing homes, because they love to look out their windows and see these gorgeous lights.” 

The groundkeepers begin looking over the lights and decorations in early November, ensuring none of the lights are broken or burned out and checking to see if any decorations need repair. After Thanksgiving, they get to work setting everything up, stringing lights and posting the decorations all over the campus. 

It’s a lot of work for a display that’s seen for a little more than a month, but House said it’s worth it because the community loves it so much. 

“Cheyenne is a very traditional community and these decorations are a part of our tradition,” he said. “There are so many federal entities that kind of peel away and don’t take part in their community. The Cheyenne VA has been an integral part of the city since the 1930s. Some of our patients were mayors of the community. We want to make sure people know it’s OK to come onto the campus and that our VA hospital belongs to the community.”

But the VA isn’t the only place you can see beautiful lights or stunning decorations. Little America is another location with a sprawling campus with a breathtaking display that guests or community members can walk through.

Cheyenne’s City Hall on O’Neil Avenue is covered with around 3,000 LED lights, with more being added every year. The building is decorated on Thanksgiving and the lights will come down in January. 

There are also lights displayed along the streets downtown, which are put up by the city’s traffic division. These will also be up until January. 

The Cheyenne Community Recreation and Events Department also placed more than 70,000 lights on the Cheyenne Depot Plaza this fall. The white lights that hang on the trees downtown will stay up until April 1. 

But if you’re looking for some more home-spun decorations and lights, the Cheyenne Trolley Tours offers the chance to bundle up in one of the city’s classic trolleys, sip hot chocolate and cruise the streets in search of the best Christmas displays at private homes throughout town. 

The buses depart every evening from the west end of Frontier Mall, 1400 Frontier Mall Drive., at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children.

Donations down at Salvation Army kettles around the state

in News/Community
Wyoming Salvation Army
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Donations to Wyoming’s Salvation Army kettles have declined this year, due in part to this year’s calendar, according to officials with the charity.

Officials said with Thanksgiving and Black Friday coming late in the year, people had less time to donate than usual. In addition, a blizzard in eastern Wyoming slowed traffic past kettles posted at different locations.

In Gillette, Salvation Army Director Jenny Hartung said donations have declined by about $6,700 from 2018. She attributed part of the decline to the closure of Gillette’s Kmart.

In Cheyenne, donations are down about $22,000, while in Casper, Penny Shoemake estimated the decline at $45,000.

Cheyenne Salvation Army Lt. Chad Lamb said the organization may not reach its goal for the year of $120,000, but added the group is still willing to accept any donations, including change.

“People always apologize for putting change in the kettle,” he said. “Never, ever apologize. We did over $10,000 in just change alone. You pull out a handful of change … throw that in there, because change makes a difference in Cheyenne.”

Kettles around the communities are staffed by both paid bell ringers and volunteers. Rick Flood, president of Cheyenne’s branch of the Platte Valley Bank, said 14 of his employees have been ringing bells for the Salvation Army.

“At this time of year, it is so reassuring and humbling to be reminded of the generosity and kindness of our community,” he said.

Flood and Lamb agreed that Cheyenne residents are generous with their Salvation Army donations.

“In our kettles, in our food donations, in our gift donations, in every respect that I’ve seen in Cheyenne, this is giving community,” Lamb said.

Nagle-Warren Bed and Breakfast shuts down

in Community
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

One of Wyoming’s most well-known bed and breakfasts recently shut its doors after 22 years in business.

Cheyenne’s Nagle-Warren mansion operated as a bed and breakfast since September 1997 under the direction of owner Jim Osterfoss.

Osterfoss, who has spent more than 60 years in the hospitality industry, said it was time for him to retire.

“It’s just time to move on,” he said. “Innkeeping is not a contact sport but it’s pretty close. Lots of hours and a lot of hard work.”

Osterfoss said he spent 12 years looking for the perfect bed and breakfast and decided on the Nagle-Warren mansion because it was an “excellent historic stage to play on.”

The mansion, built in 1888, is named after Erasmus Nagle, a wealthy Wyoming businessman, and Francis E. Warren, Wyoming’s first governor and a longtime U.S. senator from the state.

“It’s one of the most important and iconic homes in the State of Wyoming,” Osterfoss said. “President Theodore Roosevelt stayed here. President Taft stayed here. The Vanderbilts and many other titans of the early 1900s stayed here. This was the place to stay in Wyoming.”

Osterfoss dipped deep into his bank account to equip the home with modern-day essentials like air conditioning, to update the electrical and plumbing systems and make other improvements, but he said the structure itself was in “amazing” condition.

“It escaped the horrible renovation period that so many historic homes went through in the 1950s and the 1960s,” he said. “It bypassed the period where people faded out woodwork, ripped out fireplaces, and removed rooms.

“The fireplaces are original, the flooring is original, and the extensive woodwork is original,” he added.

Osterfoss said he has put the mansion on the market but is in no rush to close any deal.

“It’s kind of like selling your daughter,” he said, laughing. “I want to find someone who will take care of the place. I want to get to know what their expectations are and they’ll get to know what my expectations are.”

Although he is officially retiring, Osterfoss said he will continue to contribute to the community by holding an occasional event at the mansion.

Osterfoss is a longtime supporter of the Cheyenne symphony and was instrumental in bringing ballet to the Capital City by providing rooms for performers.

“There are a lot of wonderful events in Cheyenne,” he said. “Whoever we can support, we try to.”

Until the mansion is sold, Osterfoss may be found in one of his favorite rooms — a room he calls the tower.

The third floor octagonal room was a favorite location for authors and writers.

“Somehow the writing community found us,” he said. “They fell in love with the place. When they get up there, they really fall into it and all of a sudden they have a book.”

Osterfoss won’t dish dirt on any of his guests over the past 22 years proclaiming that whatever “happens at the Nagle, stays at the Nagle”.

When asked if there were any surprises that he discovered at the historic home, he said, “The secret tunnels to the old whorehouses in Cheyenne..”

Really?

The innkeeper paused for a moment and deadpanned, “Gotcha.”

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Cody man produces, hosts nightly NFR television show

in Community/arts and culture
2525

A Wyoming resident is helping rodeo fans all over the country keep track of what is happening at the National Finals Rodeo this week in Las Vegas.

Cody resident Dan Miller is the master of ceremonies for “National Finals Tonight,” a nightly recap television show on each day’s rodeo action that is broadcast on RFD Television, along with its sister channel, the Cowboy Channel.

Miller also produces the show, which is broadcast from the Orleans Hotel, and appears nightly with his co-hosts, rodeo champions Donnie Gay and Joe Beaver.

Miller, a professional musician who performs nightly in Cody every summer, caught the attention of rodeo fans with his Mesquite Rodeo series on the Nashville Network and ESPN.

The NFR television show helps keep rodeo fans informed about the action at each day’s performance and gives them a chance to hear from the competitors themselves, Miller said.

“This show is a perfect show for a rodeo fan,” he said. “I compare it to going to the Super Bowl and then afterwards going into a bar and the players come in and tell you about the game and what happened. It has that kind of intimacy for us.”

As producer, Miller is in charge of a substantial crew on the show.

“This show takes a lot of work and we have a great team assembled that makes that happen,” he said. “We’re shooting four cameras, I have two editors in the back room that work with me. We have instant replay guys. It is a huge production staff. (Orleans Hotel owner) Boyd Gaming pulls out all the stops, really, to make this show happen.”

Miller said he particularly enjoys the opportunity to showcase Wyoming cowboys and the state’s “Team Wyoming” rodeo team.

“I produce the show and so I can kind of lean toward Wyoming,” he said. “This is the perfect marriage for Wyoming cowboys and rodeo fans.”

Wyoming Native Rob Wallace Runs National Christmas Tree Ceremony

in News/Community
2492

By Jimmy Orr

Things were busy for Wyoming native Rob Wallace on Dec. 5 as he took part in hist first lighting of the National Christmas Tree as an assistant secretary for the Department of Interior.

Wallace, confirmed as assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife in July, joined three other speakers — including President Donald Trump — in the annual 90-minute lighting.

Wallace joined Trump, Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt, and National Park Service Director David Vela in making comments during the ceremony.

“On a scale of one to ten, behind the president, the secretary of Interior and the director of the Park Service, my speech will be in a solid fourth place,” Wallace said.

Wallace was asked to give closing remarks at the ceremony — which has often occurred during less than ideal weather conditions.

This past Thursday, the weather gods smiled upon event-goers as temperatures were in the mid-40s with no wind. And the thousands of people who showed up cheered loudly when the president and First Lady Melania Trump pushed a button which lighted the 30-foot live Colorado Spruce from Palmyra, Pennsylvania.

Yes, the tree is alive. For now. Wallace explained that a fairly new practice is to transplant a tree instead of cutting it down.

“It happened between 10 to12 years ago,” he said. “The Park Service passed an initiative to make the tree permanent. Sometimes there are transplant issues and the tree doesn’t make it. We hope this new tree from Pennsylvania will be here for a long time.”

The State of Wyoming has supplied the National Christmas Tree just once. That was back in 1972. It was a 75-foot Engelmann spruce from Medicine Bow National Forest.

That doesn’t mean Wyoming doesn’t participate, however. Years ago, smaller trees representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories were planted on the Ellipse where the ceremony is held.

These identical trees stand about 5 feet tall now and are decorated by school kids from their respective states.

For Wyoming’s tree, the honor this year went to the Wyoming Indian School, where middle school students created transparent globe-like ornaments with a bucking bronco inside each one.

“It’s indescribable to be part of this tradition,” Wallace said. “It’s an important symbol of the start of a very festive holiday observed throughout the world. It celebrates the best of America.”

A replay of the ceremony will be broadcast on Ovation TV Monday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. Mountain Time.

Powell man part of team to row across Atlantic

in Recreation/Community
FightOrDieTeam
The members of Carl Christensen’s “Fight OAR Die” team, from left to right: John Fannin of San Antonio, Texas, Luke Holton of Juneau, Alaska, Christensen of Powell and Evan Stratton of Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fight OAR Die.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s the slogan for a group of military veterans who next week will begin a weeks-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean… in a rowboat.

Powell resident Carl Christensen is part of a four-man team of former military servicemen who will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands next month in their “Woobie” to raise awareness and support for the mental and physical health of U.S. veterans. 

The team will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. It’s a symbol of the hardships faced by veterans, and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.

Christensen is a 2001 Cody High School graduate who attended the Naval Academy, then served as a submarine officer and an instructor until his service was over in 2014. He said he watched last year’s team, which boasted members from both Powell and Cody, and was inspired to join the movement to support fellow veterans in their struggles with both mental and physical health post-service. 

But the task he’s facing is no small feat, either.

“Last year’s team did it in 54 days. 40 days is the average, the world record is 33 days,” he said. “We do have 60 days’ worth of food on board.”

Fight OAR Die map
This is a map of the path to be followed by Powell resident Carl Christensen and the other three members of his “Fight OAR Die” challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Christensen’s team represents more than just the Navy, however. Two Marines will be in his boat – one from San Antonio, Texas, and one from Denver, Colorado – and an Army veteran from Juneau, Alaska will round out the crew. It’s the first time for each of them. 

“The goal is to put four new veterans on the team each year,” he said. “We’re showing other veterans that they can row their own ocean, overcome their challenges.” 

He said the Fight OAR Die team has one mission – they want veterans to stop taking their own lives, and start living them instead.

Training is a must for a physical feat such as this. Christensen said he’s been staying in shape as a member of the Park County Search and Rescue volunteer crew. In addition, his wife, who is a personal trainer, purchased a rowing machine to help him train specifically for this journey.

In August, Christensen said the team did a month of training on an actual rowboat in Mobile, Alabama. There, the city’s mayor presented team members with a key to the city for their efforts in raising awareness of post-traumatic stress and post-combat hardship, as well as raising funds for treatment and research.

Part of the team’s mission is to raise support for other organizations that assist veterans, according to Christensen. The Sturm Center at the University of Denver and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Aurora, Colorado, are both working on ways to help veterans adapt and heal after their combat missions. 

“We are actually research subjects,” Christensen said. “They’ll follow us for a year.” 

In fact, he says the Sturm Center is now offering students the opportunity to follow a new specialized path – professional military psychologist – specifically to help veterans. 

Christensen pointed out that people who want to support their team’s mission financially can donate to the Sturm Center and the Marcus Institute to further their efforts.

Of the upcoming challenge, Christensen said it’s important to him to continue to serve his brothers and sisters in arms. With 60,000 veterans dying by suicide over the last decade, he said he is proud to be a part of a group that is working to raise awareness – and funds – to help support those who can perhaps end that trend.

“We’re trying to turn the tide,” he said.

“Wyoming through The Lens” Facebook group displays Wyoming’s glory

in Community/arts and culture
Wyoming Through the Lens
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Ever since Lorri Lang came to northeast Wyoming more than 30 years ago, she’s been in awe of the state’s natural beauty. 

There are the obvious choices to check out beautiful scenery, like heading to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park or trekking to Devil’s Tower. While Lang loves those sites, she also wanted people to understand how absolutely gorgeous other areas of the state are. 

“My family lives here up near the Big Horns, so we travel a lot in that area,” Lang said. “But I haven’t been able to travel the rest of the state as much. So this group was a chance for me and other people to get a different glimpse of Wyoming.” 

Around five years ago, Lang was inspired by a Facebook page she followed, “Nebraska through the Lens,” to create a similar page. As a Nebraska native, she loved seeing photographers from all over the state, whether amateur or professional, take images that captured what life was like in her home state. 

She thought a similar page focusing on Wyoming would provide a great chance to show current and former Wyoming residents, people who had come through the state to vacation and people who love gorgeous photography, a chance to see a unique side of the state. 

She didn’t think it would be a big group. Maybe some friends would join it. They could even possibly get some of their friends added to it. 

Quickly, Lang saw that she had more member requests than she could have ever expected. More and more people wanted to check out “Wyoming through The Lens.” 

Since its inception, the group has garnered more than 111,000 members, trailing not too far behind the Nebraska page that inspired it, which boasts around 188,000 users. 

“I think people have this idea of Wyoming that’s centered around coal and oil,” Lang said. “But there is so much more to it than that. I love Wyoming and I think this page is important because they can see what it’s really like.”

The group is technically private, requiring a Facebook user to answer a few questions (such as why they want to join) to gain entry. Being a Wyoming resident (either current or former) isn’t a requirement, because Lang hopes people all over the country will come to the group to see the glory of Wyoming. 

The cover photo of “Wyoming through The Lens” features a herd of bison lightly covered in snow. It has generated around 1,000 likes or reactions, three dozen comments and more than 60 shares. All of the comments praise the image for how perfectly it defines Wyoming, with some people even inquiring on how to purchase the photo. 

The next post a member will see when scrolling through the page is arguably its most important: the rules. These include staying drama-free, telling members to not use the page to sell photography equipment, letting members know that all photos submitted should be taken in Wyoming and a number of other restrictions. Mainly, Lang reiterates that people in the group should be kind to each other and that political or religious intolerance won’t be tolerated. 

Since the group’s inception, Lang discovered that running a popular Facebook page will show people not getting along. The political posts and comments have become more and more frequent, causing some stress for Lang and even other members. She’s not alone in running the page anymore, though, bringing on another administrator and a few moderators a couple years into the page’s life. 

“At first, there weren’t a lot of political posts,” she said. “But in the last few years, they really gained traction. I don’t like when name-calling occurs, and it definitely has happened.” 

She cited examples such as photos of the Trump family plane landing in Cheyenne and images of dead animals from hunting expeditions as pictures that brought in numerous political comments. But sometimes, people just bring up politics when a photo has nothing to do with anything in the political realm. 

Sometimes comments on posts get turned off if members break the rules, such as a man who posted an image of his living room, trying to subtly show off his custom-made log furniture. One of the moderators called him out, saying “You can’t advertise your business here, even though you gave it a shot of disguising it.” 

Mostly though, people show off just glimpses of their lives. From a woman showing that she was sweeping snow off of her porch in a pair of shorts to a man taking a picture of his Christmas light display. And these are the people who keep Lang running the page. 

Even if the political comments can be a headache, Lang will run “Wyoming through The Lens” as long as people keep wanting to see Wyoming photography. 

“I just want people to get along and not nitpick each other,” she said. “This page is totally worth it to me because I love Wyoming and so many other people do too.”

Wyoming rodeo stock company named PRCA’s top stock contractor

in Community/Agriculture/arts and culture
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A rodeo stock company based near Riverton has been recognized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for providing consistently high quality bucking stock.

Powder River Rodeo recently won the PRCA’s Polaris Ranger Remuda Awards.

“It’s our ninth time for being nominated for stock contractor of the year,” said Lori Franzen, who founded the business with her husband Hank 35 years ago. “Which to me is one of the nicest honors you can get because you’re going against about 90 other contractors across the nation and to have the people vote you as one of the top five contractors is a huge honor.”

Powder River Rodeo has grown into a family operation from a two-person company.

“It was just us working from the beginning,” Franzen said. “We’d go out and round up pastures and haul in the cattle and the horses and the livestock to the rodeo (with) me timing and helping secretary and Hank running all ends of it. It’s just come to a culmination of now it is a huge family operation. We’re very proud of the fact that after 35 years, we have what we have.”

Powder River Rodeo is taking nine bucking horses and five bulls to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.

Buffalo Bill Center exhibition celebrates Wyoming women

in Community/arts and culture
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An exhibition designed to celebrate the women in Wyoming and the barriers they break will be on display at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for the several months.

The “Women in Wyoming” exhibit, timed to coincide with the anniversary of women winning the right to vote in both Wyoming and the United States, features photographs by exhibit creator Lindsay Linton Buk, a noted portrait photographer.

The exhibit features the photographs of Buk, originally a Powell resident who now has a studio in Jackson and worked for a time in New York.

The exhibit is a little different from traditional displays, said Rebecca West, head of the Plains Indian Museum and director of curatorial education and museum services at the Buffalo Bill Center.

“When we think of arts, photography exhibitions, a lot of time it provides an escape,” West said. “this one is somewhere between an escape and a challenge. When you look at all the women in here, what they’re doing is they’re taking on these challenges and trying to fix things, trying to find solutions.”

Women visiting the exhibition will also have an opportunity to tell their own stories through special “leave a message” telephones at the exhibit or by visiting Buk’s website, West said.

The exhibition opened this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Wyoming and will remain up into 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage nationally, said Karen McWhorter, the Scarlett curator of Western art for the Whitney Museum of Western Art.

“So it was critical that we had a longer tenure of this exhibition,” said McWhorter, who worked with West and Buk to design the display.

The exhibit may change how people view Wyoming, West said.

“We’re the Cowboy State and this exhibition shows we’re a lot deeper than just being known as the Cowboy State,” she said.

Midwest rancher recognized for years of rodeo

in Community/Agriculture/arts and culture
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A Midwest rancher and longtime rodeo cowboy has been inducted into the Rodeo Historical Society’s Hall of Fame.

Frank Shepperson, who capped his years in the rodeo with a world championship steer wrestling title in 1975, was inducted in ceremonies held Nov. 8 and 9 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Shepperson said he got involved in the rodeo while working on his family’s ranch.

“When you live on a ranch and you break horses for a living and you’re trying to get a little extra money, it just is natural,” he said. “My father also rodeoed.”

In his school years, Shepperson claimed the national high school title for bronc riding and went on to be a member of the University of Wyoming rodeo team in 1961, when the team won the national college championship.

Shepperson said it was his mother who encouraged him to compete in as many rodeo events as possible.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I filled out my (rodeo) entry form and showed it to my mother,” he said. “The high school rodeo was in Gillette, 90 miles away. She said ‘If we’re driving 90 miles for a damn rodeo, you better get in the bullriding, too.’ That’s the only thing I hadn’t entered.”

Shepperson said he was flattered to have been selected for induction into the Hall of Fame.

“I’m humbled and honored to join a lot of my friends and family and heroes that are already in this,” he said.

Meals on Wheels enjoys large volunteer force

in News/Community
Floyd Osborn
Floyd Osborn loads meals into the back of his truck for delivery. He and his wife Janet have been MOW drivers for 40 years.
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By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The sign out front says “Volunteers Needed.” 

But that’s not exactly true for Meals on Wheels of Cheyenne.  It’s just easier to fit on the sign than “We have enough volunteers to get by, but we could always use more.” 

Like many charitable organizations, MOW relies heavily on volunteers.  Volunteers not only deliver, but also prepare and package meals for the elderly, disabled and ill people in town who are unable to fix nutritious meals for themselves.  In addition, volunteers sort through and tag items donated for sale in the Meals on Wheels Mart and staff the thrift store.

Harry Kembel, retired, picks up meals to deliver to clients on his route.  Kembel volunteers for several organizations and has delivered for MOW for more than 15 years. 

“Right now all of my routes each day have an assigned driver, but being volunteers, people travel, have surgery or go places during the cold weather, so we need substitute drivers who can fill in,” Merri Burkett, the organization’s volunteer coordinator, told the Cowboy State Daily.

“We have a small staff.  We run everything on volunteers,” she said. “If we didn’t have all those volunteers, we couldn’t do any of this.  There’s no way.”

Flexibility with schedules, opportunities to socialize with other volunteers and the satisfaction of helping other people keep MOW’s volunteer roster full, according to the volunteers themselves.

MOW has 25 routes in Cheyenne to deliver meals to its clients Monday through Friday.  Because the volunteer pool is vital to its operation, it is fortunate that acquiring people to give of their time to MOW is pretty easy.

“Every once in a while, our director does a spot on the radio, and we have our sign out front, but for the most part, people come to us,” said Burkett, adding part of MOW’s recruitment success may be that volunteering is easy and the hours are flexible.

“We need a minimum of 25 drivers each day,” she said.  “We’re very flexible with volunteers.  They can deliver once a day, once a week, once a month or once in a while.”

Stephen Skokowski moved from Texas to Cheyenne after retirement.  When he decided he should make better use of his time, he stopped at the MOW building he routinely drove past and spoke to a volunteer coordinator about being a driver.  That was 18 years ago.  

“She said I didn’t have to do it all five days a week. I could pick whatever day I wanted,” he said.  “I went with the schedule that works best around my road trips.” 

While many of the drivers are retirees, some have full-time jobs, so they’ll deliver during their lunch break.  Because the routes are to clients within the same area, a typical route takes only about one to one and one-half hours to complete, including travel time.

Pat Graham, real estate broker and owner of Our323, delivers on Fridays and whenever MOW is short-handed throughout the week.  A volunteer for 13 years, Graham said he does it because he gets satisfaction from helping and getting to know his clients.

“For a lot of these people, it’s less about the meals and more that they like to have someone to talk with them,” he said. “We (deliverers) benefit as well.”

“I think it’s a feel-good thing,” said Burkett, “that (volunteers) are out there helping someone, even though they may be in the person’s house for five minutes or less.”

“I get to meet people with different backgrounds and talk to them,” Skokowski said.  “I spend an extra five minutes (with clients) to ask how they’re doing.”

Burkett said MOW volunteers are very dedicated.

“Some volunteers are older than some of their clients,” she said, referring to her father, Flloyd Osborn, 86, who delivers twice a week.  “I think a lot of them do it to keep them going, keep them active.  They want to help somebody.”

Finally, MOW volunteers get an opportunity to make friends with other volunteers.  A certain camaraderie develops among the drivers who chat as they wait for their clients’ meals to be prepared for delivery.  

“For some of them, I think this is their McDonald’s coffee hour,” said Burkett.

Volunteers are always needed for delivery drivers and the thrift store, she said.    

For more information or to volunteer at Meals on Wheels, contact her at (307) 635-5542 or volunteer@mealsonwheelsofcheyenne.com.

Art important to the world, says NEA chair

in News/Community/arts and culture
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Making art a part of people’s daily lives is very important to the future, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts said during a visit to Cheyenne.

Mary Anne Carter visited Cheyenne on Friday for the Wyoming Arts Summit, hosted by the Wyoming Arts Council.

During her appearance, Carter said the arts unite people by bringing members of different cultures and political beliefs together.

“What we’re finding more and more is arts are a big part of healing and health and well being,” she said. “So for the future of the nation and the world, making sure arts are integrated into our everyday lives is really important.”

Art is also a good tool for economic development, said Brian Harrington, an artist and member of Laramie’s city council.

Harrington pointed as an example to Laramie’s Mural Project, a space where artists can join forces to create large-scale murals.

“When you see these things start to build community spaces, you see them strengthen communities and provide a space where we can all get together and sort of move on from there,” he said. “We can gather and collaborate and do things we weren’t necessarily anticipating doing before.”

Carter said the arts played a major role in the women’s suffrage movement in Wyoming. To commemorate that fact, the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra has commissioned a female composer to write a piece in honor of the 150th anniversary of Wyoming giving women the right to vote.

“I think that just goes to show how critical women are to Wyoming, economic development, the arts, just in general and making sure they are well represented is very important,” said Ryan McConnaughey, president of the orchestra’s executive committee.

Sense of community makes Casper neighborhood one of magazine’s 50 ‘nicest places’

in News/Community
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A Casper neighborhood has been identified by Reader’s Digest magazine as one of the 50 “nicest places in America.”

The neighborhood on south Chestnut Street near Casper College was recognized for its sense of community as described by Danica Sveda, the resident who nominated the area for the honor.

“The area is a diamond in a world of disconnectedness,” she wrote in her nomination to the magazine.

Residents who spoke with Cowboy State Daily agreed with Sveda’s description.

“We actually have a community where neighbors talk to each other, we do things over the summer,” said resident Jason Sawdon, a trooper for the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

“Everybody gets along, everybody just goes up and down (the street) and visits with each other,” said Deby Wolfe. “Everybody’s there to help you out, even when you don’t ask.”

Sveda described a race that occurs in the neighborhood during winter storms to see who can clear the most sidewalks.

“We have a friendly competition,” Sawdon said. “We go out and clear the sidewalks and rake the leaves and help each other out. That’s part of our community is to help each other out. We have a mixture of young and old in this neighborhood. Some people can physically do it and some people can’t. The ones that can help out the ones that can’t.”

Several residents noted that neighborhood children can often be seen playing up and down the streets.“It’s really cool to just watch kids,” said Kaysha Martin. “They just play all over.”

“The kids, they do go and they play everywhere,” Wolfe said. “Everybody’s watching everybody’s kids, so everybody knows that they’re safe.”

Residents also take the time to speak with each other, another fact that contributed to the neighborhood’s ranking.

“I’ve lived all over the country and it’s nice to come home and be able to say hi to my neighbors and be able to talk to them over the fence,” Sawdon said. “We can do that here. We all want to be part of each other’s lives in what little ways that we can.”

Hunting with Heroes brings disabled veterans together for healing, outdoor recreation

in News/Community/military
Hunting with Heroes
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

War is hell, but returning to civilian life can be equally daunting for many military veterans, especially those whose wounds complicate the reintegration process.

Hunting with Heroes seeks to provide disabled veterans an opportunity to heal and re-calibrate in a familiar environment with like-minded people, co-founder Dan Currah said.

“We found very quickly that the hunts were therapeutic for those veterans coming back,” explained Currah, a former U.S. Army signal corps officer. “We didn’t do that as Vietnam veterans. We didn’t associate with other veterans. I think there was a social stigma attached to our service, and for the most part, we just came home and tried to forget it.”

Founded in 2013 by Currah and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom veteran Colton Sasser, the Wyoming-based, non-profit organization uses donated game licenses to guide hunts throughout Wyoming. 

Sasser said the experience can be a means for veterans to seize some semblance of normalcy and routine after their world was seemingly upended.

“Some of the best therapy I’ve ever got was hunting or fishing,” he reminisced. “Being out there alone with your thoughts, focused on the task at hand. But, this seems different. It’s more about the camaraderie. The hunting truly is the bonus. It’s the cherry on top.”

From the ashes

While escorting an Explosive Ordinance Disposal team through Afghanistan in 2012, Sasser’s vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device.

“We hit that sucker, and it instantly killed my squad leader,” recalled Sasser, who served as an U.S. Army infantryman. “The truck was upside down, and I woke up and knew it was bad.”

The events directly following the attack remain hazy for Sasser, who blacked out several times during the next weeks. But the damage was permanent — traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a fused spine and an amputated leg.

Months later while recovering at Fort Sam Houston, a Casper newspaper ran a story about Sasser, a Casper native. Currah, also a Casper native, was living in Texas at the time, but kept up on Wyoming news and read Sasser’s story.

After checking around, Currah and his wife discovered they knew Sasser’s parents from their high school days, so the Currahs asked to visit Sasser in the hospital.

“His dad told me he was off on the weekends with nothing to do,” Currah said. “He’s an avid hunter, and I knew some guys that were doing hog hunts, so we lined him up with some hunts.” 

Sasser said getting away from base was great, but it reminded him how much he missed hunting in Wyoming.

Once medically retired from the military, Sasser returned home and the duo started planning expeditions to help other veterans. 

“(Currah) and I just started talking about it over coffee,” he said. “I knew getting tags would be the hardest thing, because how do you plan a hunt when you don’t know when and where people will draw tags.”

Soon after cementing plans to move forward with the organization, Sasser learned about a Wyoming Game and Fish Department program which allowed people to purchase tags and donate them for re-issuance to disabled veterans and people with permanent disabilities who use wheelchairs.

“The first year we were only planning on doing 10 hunts,” he said. “We ended up doing 17, so it was a success from the outset.” 

In 2018, Hunting with Heroes hosted 230 different hunts and since 2013, Sasser guessed they’ve completed more than 1,000.

To be eligible, applicants must be 50 percent or more disabled with a service-connected disability, and they can apply through the group’s website, www.HuntingWithHeroes.org. The program is open to applicants from around the country, and Sasser said many participants come from out-of-state.

Welcome home

Diagnosed with cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam, Ed Klaput, a retired U.S. Army colonel, sought respite in the solace of the hunt.

“I’ve been undergoing chemo for the last three years, and I’ve been feeling better,” he said. “So, I wanted to get back to hunting elk.”

Klaput lives in Virginia, and without residency, he didn’t have much hope of scoring an elk tag anywhere along the continental divide. While serving, Klaput was stationed in Colorado, and in the late 1990s, he owned a cabin in Wapiti, so he was fond of hunting elk in Rockies. During his time in Wyoming, he became friends with author and former “Outdoor Life” editor Jim Zumbo. Klaput reached out to his friend for ideas about how to get back into the field.

“Zumbo told me about Hunting with Heroes,” he said. “I’d heard of groups like these, but I’d never gone with one.”

In October, Klaput flew out to join Zumbo, Currah and Sasser on an elk and antelope hunt near Rock Springs.

“We went out in the morning, and we weren’t there for too long before we spotted a bull elk,” Klaput remembered. “I lined up my sights, and took him down with a single lung shot. A little later, I got a buck antelope — again with a single lung shot.”

Even among of military-trained shooters and avid hunters, the marksmanship was impressive.

“They now call me Hawkeye, or Hawkeyes, I don’t know which,” Klaput said, chuckling.

Once home, his wife noticed an immediate change in his demeanor.

“She said, ‘You look so good. You’re cured!’” Klaput explained. “It took me out of a definite malaise from depression and the chemo treatments.” 

It wasn’t just the hunt and reconnecting with old friends that pulled the colonel out of his funk. He said Wyoming, its residents and the gratitude shown by tag donors, private land owners and volunteer guides all combined to create the reception Klaput never received on his trip home from Vietnam.

“I can’t put it in words — I could probably put it in tears — but not words,” he said quietly. “The treatment these vets have received from this group and the people of Wyoming is a therapy in and of itself. After 50 years, I felt like I finally received the ‘Welcome home’ we deserved.”

Dia de los Muertos at the Wyoming State Museum

in Community/arts and culture
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In Cheyenne, at the Wyoming State Museum families came to celebrate Dia de los Muertos this weekend. There was sugar skull cookie decorating, dancers, music and preparations for the all important ofrenda.

Many parents expressed the importance of connecting their children to the traditions of Mexico and exposing kids to the rich customs of other cultures.

Our Mike McCrimmon was there to capture the sights and sounds of the day. Step inside the event with his video report.

Cody, Wyoming Has Plenty of Ghost Stories

in Community/arts and culture
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***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s no surprise that Cody, with its history rooted deeply in the Wild West, might have some ghost stories.

Several can be found at the historic Irma Hotel, according to hotel co-owner Mike Darby.

“I’ve heard stories that housekeeping (staff members) actually saw the bottom half of a soldier walking through the room and all they saw were his faded blue pants with a gold stripe and a saber,” said Darby, whose family has owned the hotel built by western showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody for 30 years. “And he just journeyed across the room and went out (into the hallway) through the door, which was closed.”

Some ghosts, apparently not satisfied with being seen, make their presence known in other ways, Darby said. He recounted the story of two travel writers who were staying at the hotel and had gone to bed for the night.

“And pretty soon the sink starts going off and on, three or four times, and they’re really worried, so they turn the lights on,” he said. “Somehow they go back to sleep, they wake up in the morning and here their clothes are piled up in a pyramid at the foot of the bed.”

Darby said he regularly hears ghost stories from guests at the Irma.

“I’ll hear about them say, once a week, once every 10 days,” he said. “Somebody will see something, somebody will come in and all their cell phones will go dead, their computer will go dead. And as soon as they walk out the door, everything comes back to life.

Jeannie Cook, a retired Park County historian, also knows plenty of stories about hauntings, such as the one reported at a business inside what was once the furniture store of J.H. Vogel.

“I talked to some of the ladies who worked there and they told me there was a young boy that would appear from time to time,” she said. “Come to find out, (Vogel) had a furniture store and was also the undertaker. They had the coffins. So apparently, this little boy must somehow be connected to that.”

Cook, whose grandfather settled in Cody in the early 1900s, said spirits are also often seen in the yard of what used to be Cody’s Lane-Bradbury Hospital and have been reported in what was once a cemetery for the community.

The bodies from the cemetery were moved to another location in the 1960s, but some may have been missed.

“They probably didn’t get all the bodies because in the early days, when they buried somebody, they may have only had a wooden cross or something and it just went away,” she said.

Interest in such paranormal sightings appears to be growing as people hear more stories about them, Cook said.

“I think in modern times, people are beginning to recognize there really is something with paranormal activity,” she said. “And I think there’s really been a lot of it in this town.”

Darby agreed.

“Different things have happened that weren’t explainable,” he said. “People have passed away and in their rooms I’d find things, I’d hear things. It’s not that I believe, I was shown.”

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‘Dia De Los Muertos’ comes to Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Travel/Community
Sugar Skull
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A giant replica of a sugar skull will greet visitors to the Cheyenne Botanic Garden on Friday and Saturday as the facility takes part in the traditional Mexican holiday of Dia De Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.”

Activities on Friday and Saturday will educate visitors on the holiday, which is set aside as a day for people to remember friends and family members who have died.

And since the event is being held at the Botanic Garden, much of that education will focus on how flowers figure into the celebration, said Director Tina Worthman.

“There will be a lot about the flowers that are significant to the Day of the Dead,” she said. “So we’ll have a lot of marigolds. They are one of the most commonly used flowers for the Day of Dead. They grow particularly well in Mexico and they’re colorful.”

The Botanic Gardens has been growing marigolds especially for the celebration for months, Worthman said, and will have other special flowers on display throughout the event, along with signs explaining the significance of the flowers to the celebration.

“It’s a nice way to bring in the significance of the botanical world to something like this,” She said. “It’s a special niche we have where we can explain that significance.”

The special display will open on Friday at 11 a.m. A giant “sugar skull,” a traditional candy served during the celebration, will greet visitors as they enter the Botanic Gardens while in the facility’s Conservatory, people can leave momentos in honor of their departed loved ones on one of several “ofrendas” or altars on display.

Authentic Mexican food will also be available for purchase from Cheyenne food vendors both Friday and Saturday.

On Saturday, activities will run from 1 to 5 p.m. and feature live performances by mariachi bands and dancers.

In the Botanic Gardens’ classroom, children will be invited to take part in crafts such as the creation of flower crowns and the decoration of pots adorned with sugar skulls. Children will also get a chance to help create a mural on the floor of the Children’s Village.

For more information, visit the Botanic Gardens website at Botanic.org/classes or the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens Facebook page.

Virginian Hotel Owner Says Hotel is Haunted But By Friendly Ghosts

in Community/arts and culture
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By Mike McCrimmon, Cowboy State Daily

The historic Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow probably is probably visited by ghosts, according to its owner.

Vernon Scott, who has been involved with the Virginian throughout his life, said although he has never seen a spirit in the hotel, he is pretty sure they do exist.

“I think there’s spirits, honestly, here,” he said. “It’s good spirits, though.”

Since the hotel was built in 1911, it has hosted a number of famous visitors, including Teddy Roosevelt, Western artist Charlie Russell, football legend John Madden and author Owen Wister. The hotel took its name from Wister’s novel “The Virginian.”

It has also seen several tragedies, such as the death of a woman who jumped from the window of one of the hotel’s upper floors, as well as the death of a county sheriff, Scott said.

Scott said people who believe they hear spectral noises may just be hearing the sounds of an old building.

“I think what people hear are the steam pipes rattling the winter time,” he said.

However, he said many people have told stories of seeing strange things in the old hotel.

“My wife has a picture on her telephone,” he said. “At the bar, there’s an orb sitting there on a barstool. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Then there is the bed in one room that shows signs of being used just minutes after it is made.

“You can make it right now and right after that, butt cheeks (imprints will appear) in there like somebody sat down,” he said.

Another guest reported that when she stayed in the suite named after Wister, she often would see a woman dressed in a white gown.

“There’s just different things like that,” Scott said.

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Ghost Hunters Investigate Wyoming Territorial Prison

in Community
2264

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Mike McCrimmon, Cowboy State Daily

Investigating the paranormal or “ghost hunting” isn’t actually frightening, according to a member of a Colorado paranormal investigation group.

Sara Igo, the fraud investigator for ParaFPI, was in Laramie last week with members of her organization to conduct an investigation at the Wyoming Territorial Prison.Igo said paranormal investigation is a way for people to learn there may be more to the world than they are aware of.

“It’s a science and understanding,” she said. “A lot of time people hear ‘spirits’ or ‘paranormal’ and they get freaked out or afraid. It’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s embracing that there’s much more to this world than what we can actually see or touch.”

The team was equipped with high-tech equipment, including sensitive audio recorders to capture electronic voice phenomena or “EVPs,” noises that may occur on the playback of a recording that were not audible at the time the recording was made.

The equipment used in investigations has improved dramatically over the years, said Bill Swayne, ParaFPI’s team manager, who started investigating the paranormal in the 1980s.

“Back then, we didn’t have fancy tools like this,” he said. “It was basically a compass and you would go out and you would try to find something. It really wasn’t cool back in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Here’s a look at how ParaFPI prepared for its investigation at the Territorial Prison.

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Two Millions Reasons To Be Thankful

in News/Community
2261

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne tradition of fundraising reached a milestone of giving Thursday.

“Thankful Thursday” topped the $2 million mark in donations over the course of its decade of fundraising. 

In the spring and fall seasons, several hundred people will gather each Thursday at AmVets Post 10 in Cheyenne for Thankful Thursday, described as a “Party with a Purpose.” Each week, the party raises money for a different Cheyenne charity. 

Using games, raffles and food, charitable organizations can raise thousands of dollars in a single night. There are even free money draws throughout the night, and folks can win thousands of dollars just for showing up. 

However, the highlight of the evening is the live auction. Charities gather donated items from individuals and local businesses that are auctioned off at the end of the evening. 

The auctioneer and master of ceremonies for the evening’s festivities is Bryan “Alf” Grzegorczyk. You’ll know Alf when you see him, because he’ll be wearing one of the many wild and colorful suits that have become his signature. 

As owner of Cheyenne’s Alf’s Pub, Grzegorczyk is quickly becoming a legend in Cheyenne for his fundraising. Recently, Grzegorczyk received not just one, but two awards for his efforts. Compassionate Cheyenne awarded him its “Compassion in Action” award, followed quickly by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s 2019 “Community Spirit Award.”

This most recent Thankful Thursday was a benefit for Wyoming 2-1-1, a group whose mission is to bring people together with available services, resources, and support organizations in Wyoming. 

As things were set to begin Thursday, the total raised so far for various charities was standing at just shy of the mark everyone came to see. 

The success of Thankful Thursday rests in the people of Cheyenne, Alf said.

“The community itself, the people, the businesses in town are so giving here in Cheyenne,” he said. “I have a great volunteer staff that comes out week after week to help me. There have been close to 50 charities helped and I have 40 charities on the waiting list to get on.”

One of the sponsors, and one who has generously given thousands of dollars, is Corey “Lynn” Loghry, who owns the business Lynn Buys Houses. 

“It was something Alf would say ‘Separately we can’t do much but together we can do a lot.’ that was the reason I came onboard as a sponsor,” Loghry said. “When you come together with other small businesses, amazing things can happen.”

Also in attendance was Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr. 

“It has taken our entire community to come out during every Thankful Thursday, and to come to this point where we have reached $2 million, for very worthy causes, because guess what, government can’t do it all,” she said. “I have met mayors from all over the country and all over the world, and they ask what’s special about Cheyenne, and it comes down to it is such a generous community. We have the best community! If there’s a need, everybody steps up.”

At Thursday’s gathering, a running tally was kept so everyone would know the moment the $2 million mark reached. When would it happen though? 

With bidding on auction items coming in faster than Alf could keep track, the crew working in the back got his attention and stopped him. When he returned to the stage, the announcement was made, to thunderous applause, that Thankful Thursdays’ total collections had indeed topped $2 million.

As Alf changed the tote board, Mayor Orr was invited on stage.

“First of all, let’s give Alf a big shout out,” she said, prompting whoops and cheers from the audience. “Hats off to all of you, because the $2 million come from all of you, every Thursday night. I know these organizations’ budgets, and I know how much $10,000 means to an organization.”

After thanking Mayor Orr, Alf turned right back to the auction and starting doing what he does best, raising money for a very “thankful” Cheyenne. 

Wyoming small newspapers successful despite digital upheaval

in News/Community
community newspapers
2259

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

It’s called hyper-local community journalism, and three Wyoming publishers believe news coverage focused at the local scale holds the key to community newspapers’ successful future in Wyoming.

“People can get all the national news they want from a myriad of sources, but we’re covering the Lovell Bulldogs, Greybull Buffs, Rocky Mountain Grizzlies and Riverside Rebels, and we’re paying attention to the events and happenings right here in our communities,” said David Peck, publisher of the Lovell Chronicle, Greybull Standard and Basin Republican-Rustler newspapers.

Robb Hicks is the publisher-owner of the Buffalo Bulletin and owner of the Newcastle News Letter Journal. He equates success of community newspapers to the success of downtown businesses and main streets in the Wyoming small communities.

“I don’t believe it’s competition from digital or Facebook or other outside forces that’s impacting community newspapers,” Hicks said. “If small towns are going to survive, then newspapers will survive. Part of a town is the downtown. It’s commerce. If towns don’t have downtowns, they won’t have newspapers.”

Matt Adelman is the publisher of the Douglas Budget and Glenrock Independent newspapers, which are part of Sage Publishing (with newspapers also in Cody and Gillette). Adelman is also the new president of the National Newspaper Association, the national version of the Wyoming Press Association, the state association for 42 legal newspapers in Wyoming.

Adelman said community newspapers, overall, are not just surviving, but are doing well – and in some cases, thriving — in their communities.

“Community newspapers are really the only true news organization in their communities. We have radio stations and TV; many are reading press service stories or the local newspaper stories on the air,” he said.

Newspapers remain relevant, according to the publishers, because they are trusted as a local news source.

“It’s the trust factor. That’s what makes us different than larger dailies, and it makes us different than medium-sized dailies. People know us, and they trust us,” Adelman said. “Circulation has shifted some toward digital, but people still want the newspaper in print. They want it, period. That’s our secret.”

“We’re just covering the news, and we’re covering as much of it as we can,” Hicks said. “We keep trying to focus on our core product. Where we’ve seen success in Buffalo is when we’ve expanded our newsroom. Our newsroom makes up more than half of our staff.”

“In our papers,” Peck said, “we are using multiple platforms. We print the papers, have an e-edition, Facebook page and web site, and some newspapers are posting videos. We are the information providers in our communities. Right now, at least, print is still the foundation, because it’s a marvelous foundation for the advertiser. You can still open the newspaper and there’s a quarter-page advertisement for the local hardware store. You can’t beat it.”

Peck said there are many web sites, radio stations, and even TV stations billing themselves as local news sources in Wyoming small towns, “but, typically, there’s one newspaper in the community. It gets their attention, because when people are reading the paper, they are focusing on it.”

Adelman said community newspapers give readers “the ultimate” personal and interconnected experience. 

“You can’t get that digitally, or by watching TV news,” he said. “It’s a personal active commitment when reading the newspaper. You have to be engaged to read the newspaper. And the key is keeping everything hyper-local about the community.”

The three publishers each have almost three decades or more of experience in Wyoming community newspapering. They all have lived the highs and lows and the booms and busts in their towns, and all three remain committed to capturing new readers – younger people with young families who work the local jobs in their communities.

“One of the things we hear is the concern of the lack of young readers. My argument is that we’ve never really had the young readers, until they have a house, family, pay taxes … then, they care,” Adelman said. “When they’re buying groceries, taking the kids to the doctor, paying for daycare and trying to make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck, they care. We really never had the young readers anyways until we mattered to them.”

Hicks said community newspapers spend way too much time considering how to reach the 18- to 30-year-old demographic. 

“We fret about it, and we fret about it,” he said. “When these people grow up and they have kids, the news we cover becomes pretty important. It’s their kids’ pictures in the newspapers, and they’re paying taxes. We’ve got to stop worrying about that demographic.

“Instead, we must focus on our areas of strength, the age 35-plus demographic, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t cover the things where young people are interested,” Hicks added. 

Peck said community newspapers must keep the hyper-local focus.

“You’ve got to focus on the local,” he said. “The integrity of the print journalist is also absolutely critical. Unbiased, fair reporting and finding the truth is so critical in this day and age of attack web sites and attack TV news.”

Peck said he “absolutely loves his job” at the ripe old age of 60. He followed in the footsteps of his dad, Roy Peck, who along with his brother, Bob Peck, launched many of Wyoming’s community newspapers.

“I can’t have imagined another career for myself. I love being part of my community in this way,” said Peck, who has launched dozens of young journalists’ careers at his community papers. “I don’t have trouble finding people with a passion for journalism. What I have trouble doing is finding people to come to my little bitty towns. Young people want life like it is in Bend, Oregon. They want all the bells and whistles.”

Hicks supports the work of Report For America, a national group attempting to train and place 1,000 journalists by 2025 at local media outlets to report on under-covered issues. Currently, one of his reporters is funded in part by Report For America (RFA), with RFA providing half (up to $20,000) of the reporter’s annual salary in the first year.  If the reporter continues working for Hicks for a second year, more of the salary would be covered by the Buffalo newspaper.

Adelman said more college students are taking an interest in journalism as a career “in all its forms and mediums, especially in the last five years.”

“These kids can write blogs all day long, and they’re finding that nobody reads them,” Adelman said. “Or, they can work in a community newspaper and get immediate feedback, good or bad. These young journalists are making an impact, and it’s through this hyper-local approach. It’s definitely not for the money.”

All three publishers believe the future is relatively bright for community newspapering in Wyoming and other rural western states, where community engagement remains high.

“It’s all about community identity and engagement, and keeping news coverage hyper-local,” Adelman said. 

The haunted bell tower of St. Mark’s

in Community
2256

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne is one of Wyoming’s favorite and oldest ghost stories. Is St. Mark’s church really haunted?

Rector Rick Veit took Cowboy State Daily on a tour just in time for Halloween.

Some question Hobart Morris, Chief Washakie statue move

in News/Community
2235

By Cowboy State Daily

Some Cheyenne residents are questioning a decision to remove a statue of the nation’s first female justice of the peace from in front of the newly refurbished Capitol.

The statue of Esther Hobart Morris, which stood in front of the Capitol for 60 years, has been moved to a space in the hallway between the Capitol and the Herschler Building.

The Capitol Oversight Committee, which has overseen the multi-year effort to renovate both the Capitol and adjacent Herschler Building, voted recently to permanently put the two statues in the hallway, which is to become a gallery and interpretive center in the future.

But longtime Cheyenne resident Mary Ostlund said Morris’ statue has become a fixture people expect to see when they visit the Capitol.

“I don’t know how people can think that she belongs inside,” she said. “She’s more visible and accessible where she is and she’s been there for 60 years. People are there all the time taking pictures of her and the (Capitol’s) golden dome. That’s what they remember about this complex, the golden dome and Esther.”

Cheyenne attorney Mike Rosenthal said Morris’ place in state history as a symbol of Wyoming being the first state to grant women the right to vote makes it important to leave her in front of the Capitol.

“Maybe Wyoming’s greatest achievement in history was granting women the right to vote,” he said. “And to bury Esther Hobart Morris … in the bowels of the Capitol is offensive.”

But Tony Ross, a former legislator who chairs the Oversight Committee, said the move was hoped to give Morris and Chief Washakie even more visibility.

Ross said the hallway will become part of an interpretive center that will feature static and digital displays about both individuals and the state.

“Actually, Esther and Chief Washakie are in a place of great importance,” he said. “We in no way ever thought that moving her to the (hallway) was in some way diminishing her importance. In fact, we believed it raised her prominence.”

Ross noted the State Museum recommended the statues be moved inside in the interests of preservation and said that throughout the discussions on the Capitol renovation, no one opposed moving the statues inside.

The State Building Commission, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, will now decide whether the statues will remain inside the Capitol.

Cheyenne brothers see success with slime

in News/Community/Business
Dope Slime Whiteaker bros
Mark Whiteaker (left) stretches some bead slime that he and his brother Joe Whiteaker (back), both of Cheyenne, make and manufacture through their business called Dope Slimes. (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)
2225

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Slime is sublime for Cheyenne brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker.

The savvy entrepreneurs run a thriving business called Dope Slimes that makes and ships homemade slime across the country and to other parts of the world.

Slime is a gooey and stretchy substance that is taking much of the globe and the Internet by storm. Slime’s history goes back 30 years, but it has become wildly popular now, especially among kids who like to make it. 

“Slime looks so amazing,” Mark said during an interview with Cowboy State Daily as he gently pushed his fingers deep into a thick layer of fresh slime.

The brothers make about 100 varieties of slime in different colors, textures and scents. They package their slime in clear plastic containers and sell it on their website and platforms like Etsy and eBay. They also post their own videos on Instagram to show how to make perfect slime.

A batch of the slime created by Dope Slime, a Cheyenne company run by brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker. The brothers sell more than 100 varieties of slime online. The basic recipe is relatively simple, they say: Elmer’s white glue, Borax and water. It is Mark’s imagination that allows the company to create slimes with different textures, scents and colors (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)

Slime creators use social media sites to market their work, Joe said, adding that in one month, anywhere from 500,000 to 1.5 million searches for “slime” are logged on Google.

Mark, 16, is the creative force behind Dope Slimes. 

Using a simple recipe — “Elmer’s (white school) glue, Borax and water,” according to Mark— the brothers and a few of their employees stir the ingredients using large stainless steel industrial mixers. Then Mark’s imagination provides the magic, as he creates a wide variety of slimes — from banana to funnel cake.

Mark’s slime is known for its distinctive aromas. A fluffy cloud slime called Lavender Dreams has the pleasing scent of the flower. 

DIY Pizza Kit combines five scents to create the smells of pizza sauce, cheese and buttery dough. Cotton candy bubblegum smells as good as it sounds.

Texture is also important for excellent slime. 

“Say I’m doing a slime inspired by an ice cream. I’d like to make the texture like ice cream,” Mark said.

Mark began making slime in the eighth grade for fun. “It’s stuff to do when you’re bored,” he said. 

He started the business when he was 14, but couldn’t keep up with the demand. 

Joe stepped in to help and is now an integral part of the business. 

Cheyenne brothers Mark and Joe Whiteaker with some of the slime created by their company, Dope Slimes. The company has sold more than 150,000 units of slime online. (Photo by Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily)

Joe, 24, handles the business end from customer service to packaging, labeling and ordering. He also manages the company’s website, which includes photos and commentary about each slime type. Although Joe earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wyoming in May, he plans to continue working with slime.

The brothers have sold more than 150,000 slime products (they also make dope putty) and their slime has won awards for its quality. 

Slime has given them a taste of celebrity as they have been invited to attend many slime conventions throughout the country. These expenses-paid trips soon will include one to a convention in Brazil. 

They have become well known partly because of their 500,000 followers on Instagram.

Two of the leading YouTube slime experts have noticed them, too. Karina Garcia, also called the “Queen of Slime,” and Talisa Tossell of London, England, gave high praise to their slime in online reviews.

The brothers are gearing up for a busy Christmas season.  

“We take it pretty seriously. It’s not just a side business,” Mark said.

For more information on Dope Slimes, visit the website DopeSlimes.com

Thrills, chills plentiful for Halloween in Cowboy State

in Community
2221

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

As Halloween approaches, people around the Cowboy State are looking for a place to trick or treat, take the family or otherwise have a save good time celebrating. Halloween events around the Cowboy State are plentiful, ranging in venue from bars to restaurants, churches, civic centers and museums, all offering a different spin on the spooky season.

A tradition this time of year is the haunted house tour and one of Wyoming’s most famous — and notorious — is the haunted tour of the “Big House,” the Wyoming Frontier Prison in Rawlins.

Now entering its 28th year, the 2019 haunted tours of the prison will be held Oct. 25, 26 and 31 and will be a fast-paced tour for thrill seekers age 12 and over. 

“This year, our theme is, ‘Hell Hath No Fury,’” said Tina Hill, the prison’s site director. “We are doing this for the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage.” 

And while the prison is “officially” haunted, “our ghosts don’t participate in our special events,” Hill said with a chuckle.

Reservations are required are required for the tour this year. Tours run every half hour and take 30 to 40 minutes.

The Frontier Prison is also hosting its fundraising Halloween Masquerade on Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event is for adults only.

If it’s something less scary you are looking for, the Natrona County High School, is holding a “Save Halloween Carnival” on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. There will be food, games and a costume contest. 

A first-time event in Cheyenne this year is the “Vampire Ball” and “Vampire Bachelor Auction” at the Asher Building on Friday from 10 p.m. to 2  a.m.

Tickets to the ball are $25 per person, $40 per couple and $100 per table of six. The night will include a dark dessert bar by Mullendore Confectionery, beer and wine sponsored by T-Joes, live music, tarot card reading, and witchy wares to browse or purchase. 

“With a lot of footwork and social media marketing, it is going to become an amazing annual Halloween event,” said Lesley Lara, the event’s organizer. “I couldn’t be happier with how well the community is showing interest in something so new to our event scene. So we are just going to make it greater every year.”

Below is a list short list compiled by the Cowboy State Daily of events around the state to help you get your fill of chills, thrills and good fun.  

Oct. 17: SPOOKtacular BOOth Expo! 
5 to 7:30 p.m.
Casper Events Center, 1 Events Dr, Casper, WY
Oct. 18: Halloween Halls of Horror 
7 to 10 p.m.
Central Wyoming College, Main Campus, 2660 Peck Ave, Riverton, WY
Oct. 18: Halloween Masquerade 
7 to 10 p.m.
Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, 500 W Walnut St, Rawlins, WY
Oct. 18: Vampire Ball and Vampire Bachelor Auction
10 p.m. to 2  a.m.
Asher Upstairs, LLC500 W 15th St, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82001 
Oct. 18: Halloween Sign Class
6 to 8 p.m.
CAM-PLEX Multi-Event Facilities, 1635 Reata Dr. Gillette, WY
Oct. 19: Trick-or-Treating 
7 p.m.
Green Acres Corn Maze, 8451 Haines Rd. Casper, WY
Oct. 19: Halloween Pumpkin Carving
1 to 3 p.m.
Dubois Museum, 909 W Rams Horn St. Dubois, WY
Oct. 24: Trunk Or Treat / Carnival
4 p.m.
519 W Wallick Rd. Cheyenne, WY
Oct. 25, 26 and 31: Haunted Halloween Night Tours @ Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum 
7:00 to 11:55 PM
Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum, 500 W Walnut St. Rawlins, WY
Oct. 25: Family Fun: Hootin' Howlin' Halloween
2 to 4:30 PM
Buffalo Bill Center of the West, 720 Sheridan Ave. Cody, WY
Oct. 26: 2019 Trick-or-Treat Trail @ The Science Zone
3 to 7 p.m.
The Science Zone, 111 W Midwest Ave Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Costume Carnival
12 to 3 p.m.
David Street Station, 200 S David St. Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Halloween Night at the Museum
12 to 3 p.m.
Fremont County Pioneer Museum, 1443 W Main St., Lander, WY
Oct. 26: Kid Prints Halloween Carnival & Trunk or Treat
5 to 8 p.m.
Sundance Elementary School, Sundance, WY
Oct. 26: Yellowstone Garage Trunk-or-Treat
12 to 3 p.m.
Yellowstone Garage, 355 W Yellowstone Hwy, Casper, WY
Oct. 26: Hanover's Halloween Massacre
8 to 11:58 p.m.
211 B St. Rock Springs, WY
Oct. 27: "Scary Music" or "Things that Go Bump in the Night"
3 to 6 p.m.
Campbell County High School South Campus, 4001 Saunders Blvd. Gillette, WY
Oct. 27: Trick or Treat Halloween Carnival
2 to 4 p.m.
Spring Wind Assisted Living, 1072 N 22nd St. Laramie, WY
Oct. 29: Safe Halloween Carnival
4:30 to 7:30 PM
Natrona County High School, 930 S Elm St. Casper, WY
Oct 31: Trick Or Treat On Town Square
9:30 to 11:00  a.m.
Jackson Town Square, 10 E Broadway Ave. Jackson, WY
Oct. 31: Halloween Bash 2019!
8 p.m. to 12  a.m.
Reed's Package Liquors, 310 S 5th St. Laramie, WY
Oct. 31: HALLOWEEN PARTY with CAAMP and FUTUREBIRDS
8 p.m.
Pink Garter Theatre, 50 W Broadway Jackson, WY

Meet the master: Leatherworker James Jackson wins nations highest honor in his craft

in Community/arts and culture
2204

By Cowboy State Daily

Enjoy this amazing conversation with master leatherworker and National Endowment for the Arts 2019 National Heritage Fellowship awardee James Jackson.

This year Jackson won the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts after being nominated by Josh Chrysler, folklorist for the Wyoming Arts Council.

“Jim being awarded a National Heritage Fellowship is truly a testament to the caliber of his work. The NEA only gives these fellowships to the best of the best, and Jim belongs in that group,” said Chrysler of Jackson’s work. “It’s difficult to understate both how prestigious an award this is, and how strongly Jackson deserves it,  for his excellence in an art form that is in many ways, highly representative of Wyoming and our western, ranching culture.”

Today, James Jackson works and demonstrates his craft from his studio at the Bradford Brinton Museum in Sheridan.

Jackson is deeply rooted in the leather carving tradition, having grown up primarily in Sheridan, which is known worldwide for its distinctive ‘Sheridan Style’ of leather tooling.

“A lot of the way I lay out patterns and so forth is quite a bit different from a lot of people in my trade that are carvers,” Jackson said of his unique style. “This carving has influenced a whole industry in Japan. You can go to Kyoto or Tokyo or any of those towns and you can see women carrying western style purses.” 

Jackson learned the art form from his father, the saddlemaker Edward Jackson, and other Sheridan leather carvers including Don King, Bill Gardner, and Ernie Ernst. Consistent with Sheridan Style, Jackson carves a tight pattern, with a lot of small flowers wrapped in nesting circles of swirling leaves. At the same time, Jackson develops his own patterns, and also experiments with form, combining his painting and leatherwork. 

“People from all around the country will look at my work and say, ‘that’s Sheridan-style carving'”, Jackson said. “That influence that I’ve had comes through me and then it gets out there.”

Jackson, a formally trained artist with an MFA from the University of Wyoming, is the fourth Wyoming artist to win the prestigious NEA award.

Jackson joins friend and mentor Don King, Western saddlemaker, 1991; along with Eva McAdams, Shoshone crafts and beadwork, 1996; and Martin Goicoechea, Basque bertsolari poetry, 2003. 

Jackson, along with eight other recipients from across the nation, was honored in Washington, DC in September.

Wyoming filmmaker looks at plan to use nukes in fracking

in Energy/News/Community
Atomic Fracking in Wyoming
2197

By Seneca Flowers, Cowboy State Daily

A Wyoming filmmaker will soon share the results of several years of document research and interviews to tell a story many people have never even heard of—atomic fracking.

Greg Asay’s documentary “Atomic Fracking in Wyoming: The Story of Project Wagon Wheel” is a visual exploration into a slice of Wyoming history often forgotten. It will air on Wyoming PBS on Nov. 19.

Asay originally learned about Project Wagon Wheel while he attended law school. It was the story of how atomic fracking was nearly put into practice in Wyoming, and it ignited his interest.

After law school, while working in Cheyenne, Asay found time to go to Laramie to explore the forgotten history of atomic fracking in the state.

He spent about two years rifling through various boxes in the American Heritage Center searching for anything that gave him clues, examining thousands of historic documents.

“The whole thing was so gradual,” Asay said. “I just kept getting a little bit more and then, a little bit more.”

He eventually discovered about 2,000 photos and a slew of documents. He journaled his findings. As much as he enjoyed the process, there were times when he had to take breaks—up to months. But he always went back. 

Eventually, after nearly exhausting his search, he stumbled upon the last box that would hold the cornerstone of his video—eight original audio interviews of people directly involved with the project recorded by writer Chip Rawlins. These cassettes would begin to tell the story of atomic fracking in Wyoming.

After World War II, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission explored peaceful and useful ways to expand the use of nuclear energy in the United States. In cooperation with El Paso Natural Gas Company, the commission used nuclear explosives to extract natural gas from sandstone formations at test sites in New Mexico and Colorado in the 1960s and ‘70s, Asay said. These tests were to play a large role in the company’s gas extraction future.

When El Paso Natural Gas wanted to conduct tests 19 miles south of Big Piney at the Wagon Wheel site, some community members held a meeting to discuss the project and learn more. The town hall meeting drew about 1,000 people to the town with just a few more than 500 residents.

Some of the residents assumed if the government was part of the project, it was probably safe; but some community members weren’t so trusting, said Ann Chambers Noble.

Noble is a historian who included a chapter about Project Wagon Wheel in her book “Pinedale, Wyoming: A Centennial History, 1904-2004.” Not only has she researched the topic in-depth, but she also remembers first-hand how the town had concerns for the nuclear fracking. In her middle school years, while the project was under consideration, she and her family would spend summers in Pinedale. She noted area residents were curious as to what atomic fracking would truly mean to them.

In 1971, locals formed an exploratory group called the Wagon Wheel Information Committee to learn more about how the El Paso Natural Gas Company would extract the gas. The committee was comprised of non-experts, such as ranchers, looking to understand more about the process, Asay said. 

After learning more about the project, members the committee began to feel uneasy about it. By 1972, area residents opposed the project by a 2-to-1 margin as tallied by a local straw poll, according to Asay.

Eventually, the controversy and delays caused by the committee’s work quelled support for the project.

Asay kept researching the committee’s journey and how members helped stop a potentially dangerous practice in their community. His narrative, actually the community’s narrative, began to take its first crude form. During the process, Asay found Noble’s book and contacted her.

Noble said she wasn’t sure what to think of his inquiry at first.

“You get a lot of these random emails as a historian,” she said. “and Greg sent me a cold email.”

At first she didn’t think much of it, but Noble said she began corresponding with him. It wasn’t until she realized Asay fully grasped the significance of the committee that she began to take him seriously. She shared with him photos and stories, which became part of the final version. Eventually, Asay shared his first rough cut of the video with her — nearly two and one-half hours, he said.

Noble reviewed a draft of the film and gave feedback to Asay. She said he really tried to achieve a correct depiction of the community and include subtle but accurate details. He wanted his film to be the community’s story.

“I love what he did,” Noble said. “I feel he really captured the story.”

Asay said he went through a couple of edits before finally polishing the 60-minute product that will soon air on PBS.

The story has become a part of Asay, One that he is compelled to share even on the road.

“There’s a turnoff near Pinedale,” Asay said. “I always point to it.”

Atomic Fracking in Wyoming: The Story of Project Wagon Wheel” airs on Wyoming PBS Nov. 19.

Refurbished movie theater first step to building arts community

in News/Community/arts and culture
2162

Refurbishing a movie theater in Cheyenne so it can serve as a venue to world-class concerts is a first step in building a thriving arts community in Wyoming, according to a Cheyenne couple.

Jon and Renee Jelinek founded the “The Alternative Arts Project”, a non-profit organization, which acquired the Lincoln Theatre in Cheyenne several years ago with the intention of making it into a music venue.

Renee Jelinek said once the theater is operating again as a music venue, it will help spur development of a larger arts community in Wyoming.

“Having a real music venue here that can be that ground zero for arts and building the arts in Wyoming is going to be a real catalyst for changing that here,” she said.

The Jelineks are holding an “Arts for Arts” auction fundraiser on Oct. 12 to help raise money for work on the Lincoln, which is expected to be open for performances next year.

Jon Jelinek said the arts for auction, donated by local artists, will be displayed in an “immersive” way.

“It’s going to be a fully immersive art auction,” he said. “Meaning that we’re going to have several pieces paired with a spirit, paired with music so that people can get a full experience of the art that they’re looking at.”

Once in operation, the Lincoln will provide a setting for the kind concert experience that crosses all human boundaries, Jon Jelinek said.

“You think about music and going to concerts,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what walk of life you come from, your status, your political party, your race. Everybody’s there to enjoy the same experience and gets to have the same experience. And even for that couple of hours, everybody gets along and has a great experience.”

Bringing back Wyoming’s grand Cowboy Carousel

in News/Community/Tourism/arts and culture
2127

Arnette Tiller of Buffalo, Wyoming is leading the charge to restore the world’s only cowboy and indian carousel and return it to operation in downtown Buffalo.

The Buffalo Carousel Project is working to repaint, restore and reopen the carousel for visitors and the community members alike.

Dubbed the Cowboy Carousel, all its horses were crafted and painted by local artists. The carousel itself originally ran in Ocean City, New Jersey starting in the 1920s at Gillian’s Play Park.

Veteran reporter, publisher to be president of national newspaper group

in News/Community/Business
Newspapers
2082

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A longtime Wyoming newspaper reporter and publisher is about to become president of the country’s largest community newspaper association.

Matt Adelman, publisher of the Douglas Budget for 25 years, will take the helm of the National Newspaper Association during the organization’s annual convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in early October.

The association represents more than 1,700 newspapers across the country, most of them smaller or “community” newspapers that focus their coverage largely on their communities.

It is this dedication to local journalism that is allowing these smaller newspapers to survive and even thrive during an era that has seen significant declines in circulation and even closures among larger metropolitan newspapers, Adelman said.

“The newspapers people hear about are in the mid-range circulation and up, 50,000 to millions,” he said. “Community papers are focused on hyper-local coverage, which is very much in demand. Our readers are very loyal and as long as you are providing good local coverage, you get stable readership.”

Such local newspapers are doing well even though some of the subscribers to their printed product are moving to their online products.

“A lot of people are going digital,” he said. “But digital is still 10 percent or less in terms of revenue streams and circulation. Our overall circulation and financial health is still pretty good. Unfortunately, the news is about everybody who’s doing worse, so the news is that newspapers are heading out the door. And nothing could be further from the truth.”

Adelman began his newspaper career at the Daily Utah Chronicle, the independent student newspaper for the University of Utah and worked for several Wyoming newspapers such as the Thermopolis Independent Record and Cody Enterprise before being picked to head the Douglas Budget in 1994.

After serving on the board of the Wyoming Press Association for several years — including one year as president in 2003 — Adelman joined the NNA as a state ambassador in 2004, moving onto the organization’s board of directors in 2012.

The NNA was formed in 1885 to represent the interests of newspapers at the national level. The group offers training for newspaper employees at gatherings such as its annual convention and lobbies Congress on issues of importance to newspapers.

One of the main issues for the NNA is postal reform, an issue Adelman plans to keep at the top of the NNA’s priority list.

“We are hoping we can get a postal bill out of Congress, one that will provide the Postal Service with much needed stability and control,” he said.

The Postal Service must follow congressional requirements for retirement and health care that leave it unable to manage its own costs, forcing it to boost its rates, Adelman said.

“The upshot is they have to have the ability to deal with their own financial situation with no more processing facility closings and layoffs,” he said. 

As newspapers turn increasingly to mail delivery to replace carriers, keeping delivery costs down is very important, he said, as is keeping Postal Service processing centers open to provide for timely delivery.

As head of the NNA, Adelman will also be the “face” for the nation’s small newspapers and will work to convey the message that local newspapers are essential to the well-being of small communities.

He pointed to one study conducted by the University of Notre Dame that showed after a local newspaper closed in a community, the cost of government increased over the next five years by 30 percent.

“We’re the watchdog,” he said. “We’re the public. We’re their eyes and ears at meetings they can’t go to, on budgets they don’t understand or don’t have time to read. If you don’t know if the (government) is hoarding money or they’re broke, then you don’t know the health of your community.”

Another study by the Pew Research Center shows that most local news shared on social media and digital news outlets is actually originated by newspapers.

“Without (local newspapers), that content would be gone,” he said. “People wouldn’t even have access on a social media level to the information you need to make decisions.”

As a result, Adelman said, printed newspapers will remain important to their communities.

“A community newspaper’s job is to watch and provide that content for posterity,” he said. “Once it’s in print, it’s in print forever.”

Longtime sports reporter joins Game and Fish

in sports/Community
2076

Longtime Wyoming sports reporter Robert Gagliardi has left the world of newspapers for a position with the state Game and Fish Department.

Gagliardi, who spent 25 years covering sports for the Wyoming Tribune Eagle and WyoSports — a joint sports reporting service between the Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang — is the new associate editor for the Game and Fish Department’s Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.

Gagliardi said he felt that changes in the newspaper industry made it important for him to change directions in his career.

“The newspaper industry as a whole has changed and a lot of those changes aren’t good and those changes are having rippling effects even at places like Cheyenne and Laramie,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “I don’t envy the higher-ups that have to make some of these decisions, but in the end, I felt like for my own stability and even sanity … I just felt that change was needed.”

Gagliardi said he will miss coverage of the people involved in sports at the University of Wyoming and the state’s high schools.

“The games are fun, obviously big wins, even disappointing losses,” he said. “But to tell the stories of some of these young men and women and the coaches and administrators, everyone that entails sports, is probably the thing I’m going to miss the most.”

Gagliardi counted among his highlights as a sports reporter coverage of the University of Wyoming’s win over UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl, the Cowboys’ overtime victory at the New Mexico Bowl in 2009, the Cowgirl basketball team championship in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in 2007 and the UW women’s basketball team appearance in the NCAA tournament in 2008.

Making the switch from reporter to sports fan might be difficult, Gagliardi admitted.

“I don’t know how to just sit and watch a game as either a fan or an observer because I haven’t done it since I got into this business,” he said. “I don’t know how to be a fan. That’s going to be an interesting transition.”

Crowds gather for Cheyenne’s second Chey-Fy Comic Expo

in Community/arts and culture
2050

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Several hundred people gathered at Cheyenne’s historic Plains Hotel last weekend to take part in the city’s second “Chey-Fy Comic Expo.”

The event celebrating all things related to pop culture was sponsored by Cheyenne’s Small Business Hub, a group of business owners who meet to share their experience and expertise with others.

Jon Puls, the SBH vice president of events, said the Comic Expo is the group’s main event of the year and is used as a fundraiser.

“We’ve got comics, cosplay, stars, video games, sculptures, artists,” he said. “We’re doing all this with the hopes to create small business grants for the community.

Many people attending last weekend’s event wore their “Cosplay” costumes. People who take part in cosplay dress up as their favorite superhero, video game character, cartoon character or character from literature.

Vendors, meanwhile, filled many of the meeting rooms of the Plains with goods ranging from original artwork and graphic novels to craft items.This year’s Chey-Fy Comic Expo welcomed guests including Jon St. John, the voice behind many popular video game characters, most notably, “Duke Nukem.”

Fans stopping by his table were treated to St. John reciting lines from the game such as “Hail to the king baby!” 

Also making an appearance was veteran voice actor Dameon Clark, of the animated series “Dragon Ball Z.” Clark has also acted in the television shows Castle, Supernatural and Prison Break.

Several authors were also on hand, including Ron Fortier, writer for “Green Hornet,” and the series “Terminator: Burning Earth.” Along with the cosplay and guests, admission to the expo included discussion panels, a lunch with the guests, as well as anime movie screening and a midnight ghost hunt at the nearby Masonic Lodge. 

‘Shootout’ challenge reflects Shoshoni’s can-do spirit

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Community
Now entering Shoshoni
2032

By Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily

Like a challenge delivered out of the Old West, a shootout at high noon was held Saturday in Shoshoni.

Mayors of Fremont County’s towns, or their designees, met at the Shoshoni Rifle Range on the south edge of town to compete in three shooting categories – rifle, handgun and Annie Oakley shotgun-style shooting – as part of a fundraiser for the Fremont County Republican Women.

“When the Republican Women’s president, Ginger Bennett, called me, she wanted the shootout at high noon on Shoshoni’s Main Street,” said Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith. “I said, ‘Anything is a possibility in Shoshoni, let’s talk about it.’”

Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni.
Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith exhibits a can-do attitude that characterizes his efforts to make things happen in Shoshoni. Highsmith — whose father also served as Shoshoni’s mayor — said residents care about the community and have good ideas for its future. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Highsmith was elected Shoshoni’s mayor in 2018. Like Saturday’s mayoral shootout, his can-do spirit is reflected throughout the 650-resident town.

It’s all about building and maintaining a community, its people and a great place to live, according to Highsmith.

“Shoshoni has always been my hometown, the place I consider my home, and the place where I always planned to retire,” Highsmith said.

Highsmith’s parents moved to Shoshoni in 1962. His wife Kathy’s parents moved to Shoshoni about 1950.

“I married my wife in 1972. That’s when we purchased our first real estate in Shoshoni. We have three beautiful daughters we raised in Shoshoni until 1989. We returned to Shoshoni in 2009,” he said. “We are Shoshoni people with Shoshoni roots.”

In fact, Highsmith’s father Joel Thomas Highsmith Sr. was mayor of Shoshoni in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Shoshoni in 2019 is a microcosm of life these days in central Wyoming. Local economies are struggling, even in Shoshoni where ConocoPhillips operates a gas plant in Lost Cabin, east of town.

Some people have left town. People make long commutes, usually through Shoshoni and the town’s famous intersection, to work in the oil and gas industry. Young people graduate out of the Shoshoni school system, and most leave. And few young people and their families live year-around in the community that boasts small-town amenities and is bordered by one of Wyoming’s best fishing reservoirs.

Boysen Reservoir, which borders Shoshoni, is a major focus for the community, with a committee considering ways to bring more people to the reservoir to take part in various activities and help revitalize the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

“Besides our school system, I believe Shoshoni’s crown jewel is Boysen Reservoir,” Highsmith said.

Shoshoni also benefits from residents willing to look at ways to breathe new life into the community, the mayor said.

“People care about the future of this town and they have ideas,” he said.

The Shoshoni Town Council, or as Highsmith calls it, “the governing body,” has established a pair of committees focused on Boysen Reservoir and the rifle range.

“We are looking at different options to enhance our town. The Lake Committee has met with Boysen State Park officials and the new owners of the Boysen Marina, who are both doing a great job,” Highsmith said. “We are looking at developing more activities and fishing opportunities so that Boysen becomes more of a destination for people on their way to Jackson and other places.”

Highsmith said the goal is to bring more events to Boysen Reservoir, which in turn, will help the town. At one time, winter carnivals, high-altitude drag races, fishing derbies and other events flourished at Boysen throughout the year and brought visitors and their money to Shoshoni.

Highsmith said the same committee approach is being used to draw people to Shoshoni’s rifle range, arguably the best in the county and central Wyoming. Grants and donations have helped the local rifle club improve safety at the range through steps such as having local range enthusiasts act as monitors when the range is open.

Shoshoni continues to host a number of community events, including its Labor Day Ranch Rodeos and its annual Don Layton Memorial Antique Tractor and Engine Show.

The landscape of Shoshoni is changing for the better, too, Highsmith said.

He recalled the days when downtown Shoshoni boasted a Gambles store, grocery store and movie theater.

This photo shows some of the old buildings that line Shoshoni’s streets. The town recently demolished six old buildings on Main Street, along with a hotel and the community’s old school. Residents are now looking into ways to fill the empty space with businesses to help the town. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)

Today, some of the older, unusable buildings, including six separate buildings of the old Main Street, have been demolished, as has an old motel and the Shoshoni school in the center of town.

A new $39 million K-12 school has been built on the north end of town and is in its fourth year of operation.

The mayor said town officials are keeping an open mind to the opportunities for Shoshoni.

“We’ve been talking to the developer who bought our old school land,” Highsmith said. “We’ve been thinking and discussing, what can survive here.”

Town officials and many citizens agree Shoshoni needs an active motel/hotel and a local gathering spot, such as a café.

“That would be a big bonus for school activities and activities at the lake and rifle range,” Highsmith said. “Boysen State Park and the marina need more camper spots. Maybe we need a campground, because the lake is an important part of what we may do. Maybe our future is senior housing. We need more housing so our teachers can live here.”

The future for one of Wyoming’s busiest intersections – where U.S. Highways 20 and 26 meet – is involved, too, because it’s in the middle of town. Contrary to billboards on the edges of Shoshoni proclaiming the superiority of each highway, both provide convenient and scenic pathways to Yellowstone National Park.

The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)
The main intersection in Shoshoni takes travelers north on U.S. Highway 20 to Thermopolis or west on U.S. Highway 26 to Riverton. The intersection plays a role in attempts to revive the community, with residents looking at possible ways to build up businesses in the area. (Photo by Cody Beers, Cowboy State Daily)



“There will be changes in our intersection, even possible business expansion,” Highsmith said. “Our history involves a time when there were seven gas stations, and one on each corner of our intersection.”

Highsmith said Shoshoni people want businesses that benefit the community, including its school.

“We are open to ideas, and we are looking at things,” he said.

New Shoshoni school is a bright light in town

Bruce Thoren is in his sixth year as superintendent of Fremont County School District No. 24.

Shoshoni’s school district is very rural in nature, covering nearly 2,000 square miles.

“We’ve got kids attending from Natrona County, from Missouri Valley, Hidden Valley, Burma, Riverton, Shoshoni … the valley is where the vast majority of our students live,” said Thoren.

The school provides kindergarten through 12th grade education for more than 390 students and about 25 of those live with their families in Shoshoni. A school bus also makes daily stops at Riverton’s old Kmart to serve the more than 100 Shoshoni students who live in Riverton. Other students drive themselves to town, or ride school buses.

The school district is easily the largest employer in Shoshoni, with nearly 100 part- and full-time employees.

“These employees are a big deal for the Town of Shoshoni, and I believe the new building is definitely helping the viability of the town. Without the school, quite honestly, I’d hate to see what would happen to the town,” Thoren said.

There’s history attached to Shoshoni schools, too, as the first Shoshoni School opened in 1906 with 58 children and two teachers. After its first year of operation, a new school was built to educate 134 students at a cost of $7,000. The new building allowed the first- through fourth-graders to escape the old Shoshoni jailhouse, where they were attending school.

Thoren is proud of the school district’s ongoing partnership with the town.

“Things are headed in the right direction in Shoshoni, and the town council and mayor are looking to increase the viability of the town. Everyone wants to put the nicer things in place, including more paved streets,” Thoren said. “While most of the school employees and the Conoco gas plant employees commute from other places to work, a lot of those people would live in Shoshoni if we are able to get some of these community upgrades completed.”

Thoren points to future oil and gas development, including the Moneta Divide project, as possible boosts to the Shoshoni-area economy.

The Shoshoni Recreation District is part of the school district’s partnership with the town.

“This is a small Wyoming town, but it’s thriving with recreation,” said Recreation Director Michelle Rambo, who herself attended Shoshoni schools for 13 years.

The recreation district is currently preparing for its annual Halloween haunted house involving the efforts of more than 30 volunteers. It’s said to be one of the creepiest and best of its kind in Wyoming.

“People come to Shoshoni from all over the region to participate. It’s a huge event,” Rambo said.

Rambo, like the mayor and school superintendent, is positive about the future of Shoshoni, a community grounded in volunteerism “that works together to do what’s best for all of Wyoming.”

“My childhood friends live here, raising their families. We are all part of this community. We support our town,” Rambo said, adding a statement of her pride for Shoshoni schools and the mascot. “We ‘Ride for the Brand, be a Wrangler.’”

And The Wiener Winner Is…

in Community/Food and Beverage
1963

Labor Day Hot dog Eating Contest in Mills

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

MILLS — On a hot Labor Day afternoon, crowds gathered at Riverfront Park, on a bend of the Platte River. Some were there for food trucks, cold beer and a car show. But most were there to witness a ritual of Labor Day, a hot dog eating contest.

Last year saw the first annual “Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship,” organized by food truck owner Ticker Lock. The event’s first champions were Billy Floyd of Casper and Stephanie Wu of Carson City, Nevada. Floyd ate an amazing 13 wieners and buns while Wu ate 11 to win the men’s and women’s competition and set the mark to beat for the second installment of the holiday classic.

Winners were competing for custom made belts, but mostly for bragging rights. 

Before the competition would begin, there was a car show put on by “Pop In The Shop.” a Christian mentoring group that teaches fatherless boys age 7 to 17 about classic car restoration in the group’s shop on Yellowstone Highway in Casper. The show attracted nearly 20, hotrods, rat-rods and fully restored vehicles.

The contest itself began at 6 p.m., as contestants gathered around tables, bins loaded with hotdogs and buns. The rules were simple — eat as many wieners and buns in 11 minutes as possible. As the countdown to b begin reached zero, the food fight for the belts raged. 

The seven men and two women competing gobbled their way to hot dog immortality. There were different strategies at play. There was the “grab and squish,” trying to make the bun and wiener as compact and easy to consume as possible. Others went for the multi-bite attack, taking a series of rapid bites before briefly chewing and swallowing. 

The most popular method was the “dunk and down,” Bottles of water on the tables were used to soak the buns and make them less bulky both in the mouth and more importantly, in the stomach.

While the frankfurter fighters did their best, two men emerged as the ones to beat — reigning champion Billy Floyd and contender Johnny Haase. When the countdown ran out, Floyd had consumed 11 wieners but it was unclear how many Haase ate, which resulted in a protest being lodged. 

There was only one way to settle the matter — a sudden death eat-off. One minute was put back on the clock as the two went head-to-head to see who could eat the most. Floyd, a slim man, did his best and ate one complete bun and wiener, but Haase had room for two to take the title.

On the women’s side, the battle was less dramatic but nonetheless impressive, with Kiera Grogan of Orange County, New York, taking home the belt with a total of six hot dogs, edging out her competition.

Grow With Google reaches Wyoming

in News/Technology/Community
1918

A national program aimed at teaching people how to improve their digital skills reached Wyoming last week.

“Grow With Google” teams appeared at the Natrona and Laramie county libraries to lead classes in how people can use online tools to improve their computer skills, making them increasingly attractive to employers.

Officials with Grow With Google said a private study shows that eight out of 10 middle-skill jobs paying an average of $20 per hour now require some digital skills.

Google public affairs manager Katherine Williams said the classes help teach people how to find information that will help them find jobs or boost their own businesses.

“We’re looking to help educate folks on how they can get to that next level on their education so they can continue to grow with the economy as it does shift and change,” said Katherine Williams, a public affairs manager with Google.

Computers have become an increasingly important tool in business and Grow With Google helps people learn how to use that tool, she added.

“It’s increasingly important to understand, in today’s economy, how to use computers and the Internet to find information to further your career, to grow your small business,” she said.

Google has invested $1 billion in the program, which was launched in 2017, and usually partners with libraries to offer its courses.

Carey Hartmann, executive director of the Laramie County Library, said it made sense for Google to work with local libraries because that is where people go on their own to further their educations.

“And now we need to grow our digital skills and they’re changing so quickly that it’s natural for Google to want to parter with libraries and for libraries to want to partner with Google,” she said.

Fun in a bun: Wyoming’s Hot Dog Eating Championship to be held in Mills on Monday

in Community/Food and Beverage
Hot dogs
1892

For those with a soft spot in their hearts for the epicurean delight that is the hot dog, Mills is the place to be this long holiday weekend.

The second annual Wyoming Hot Dog Eating Championship on Monday will feature feats of gastronomical bravery as competitors face off in an attempt to eat the most hot dogs — including buns — in 11 minutes.

Organizer Ticker Lock, owner of Casper’s Rockin’ Burgers ’n Dogs Food Truck, said he created the championship and accompanying activities to give residents of his hometown of Mills something to look forward to at the end of the summer.

“It’s my way of giving back to the community,” he said. “There’s nothing to do on Labor Day. So I created it. I wanted to give the community something to look forward to.”

Competitors simply have to register at no cost on the day of the event. However, only seven men and seven women will be allowed to enter — although one extra spot is automatically awarded to the winners of the 2018 competition if they choose to enter this year.

Separate competitions will be held for men and women. Last year’s champion in men’s competition ate 13 hot dogs, while the women’s winner, who came to Casper from Nevada, ate 12, Lock said.

Competitors must eat not only the all-beef hot dogs, but the accompanying buns as well, he added.

“A lot of them bring their own Kool-Aid or water to dunk the bun,” he said. “It saves on a bit of chewing.”

The winners will each receive a custom-made championship belt.

The hot dog contest is the highlight of the full-day celebration at Mills River Front Park. Activities begin with a car show at 4 p.m. sponsored by group “Pop in the Shop.” The fee for putting to put a car on display is $10 and the proceeds will be used to help Pop in the Shop in its work to mentor young men.

Also on hand will be several food trucks, including Rockin’ Burgers n’ Dogs, Deb’s Fudge Kitchen, I Scream for Ice Cream and Miss Sara’s Gourmet Grilled Cheese, along with vendors, all beginning at 3 p.m.

Live music by Chad Lore, “Wyoming’s One-Man Band,” will begin at 4 p.m.

For more information, visit Rock’ Burgers n’ Dogs Food Truck’s website or see its Facebook page.

Catching Up: Michael DeGreve from Cheyenne’s Hitching Post

in Community/arts and culture
1863

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For 30 years, singer-songwriter Michael DeGreve was a fixture at Cheyenne’s old Hitching Post Inn.

Although the self-described “Hippie from Hollywood Hills” may not have seemed like a logical fit for Cheyenne, Wyoming, the entertainer played to packed houses twice a day, six nights a week, from 1977 through 2007.

DeGreve moved on from the Hitching Post a year after the well-regarded owner of the hotel — Paul Smith — died in 2006. After a two-year stint at a resort in the northern woods of Wisconsin, the singer has made Las Vegas, Nevada, his home for the past seven years. His pace has slowed down a bit (now performing only four to five nights a week), but his love of entertaining has never waned.

“I’ve been blessed to play music every day of my life for the past 50 years,” DeGreve said. “It’s what I love to do.”

Now singing at the Mt. Charleston Lodge in Las Vegas and Jack’s Place in Boulder City, Nevada, DeGreve spoke highly of his time in Cheyenne during a recent performance and reflected on his relationship with Wyoming audiences.

“It was very warm right from the beginning,” DeGreve said. “I didn’t know I was going to perform at The Hitch for 30 years but as time went on and I realized the depth of what this place was and how wonderful the people were, I didn’t want to leave. It was my life.”

He discusses that life often during his show at Mt. Charleston. One weekend night, the singer regaled the crowd with many Cheyenne stories — many elicited much laughter. One story, however, silenced the crowd: the flood of 1985.

“August 1, 1985,” he began. “I had been there for eight years. We had a terrible flood. Once in a 100 year flood.

“I was doing my show. A friend of mine sitting right over there,” he continued, motioning to the right. “It had been a dry summer. It started a little bit after 6 p.m. He said ‘We could sure use this water.’

“By 9 p.m., 12 people were dead. The city was trashed. We had 6 1/2 inches of rain and hail in two hours. Trashed the city.”

The singer paused to wipe a tear from his eye. And paused again. The audience didn’t say a word.

A few moments later, DeGreve transitioned, as all of Cheyenne had to do back then, and told of how then-Gov. Ed Herschler called him two days after the flood and asked him for his help.

DeGreve has some powerful friends in the music industry. His first album had members of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing background vocals. His ex-wife had married Graham Nash. One friend made time for DeGreve despite a booked touring season.

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“I called my friend Neil Young,” he said. “We re-routed Neil’s tour and he and I did a show four weeks later on a blue moon night at the (Cheyenne Frontier Days) fairgrounds for 10,000 people. It was called the Silver Lining Benefit Concert. Everybody showed up. We raised a lot of money and we raised a lot of spirits.

“Everybody takes care of each other there,” he said of Cheyenne. “It is a very magical place.”

For DeGreve, that magic started and ended at The Hitching Post — a place he thought would be resurrected after the fire that ultimately doomed the establishment in 2010.

“The Hitching Post was such a huge part of my life. For the first two years I was here (in Las Vegas) I thought somebody was going to resurrect it on those grounds.”

DeGreve has been back to Cheyenne one time since the fire to attend a book signing event commemorating the Hitching Post.

“It was pretty emotional. Pretty nostalgic. Got to see a lot of friends. Signed books for hours and did a show,” he said.

What affected him the most, however, was seeing the remains of the hotel he called home for 30 years.

“But to see it physically burned down. Sheesh,” he said. “My mind raced and I just thought of the 10,000 nights playing music and telling stories to my friends in Cheyenne. It broke my heart.”

DeGreve said he would like to come back to Cheyenne and if the right circumstances unfolded, he would consider returning.
Although nothing has presented itself yet, DeGreve did say he expected to be back in Cheyenne soon.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” he said grinning. “But I think we’re going to do something back in town soon and I can’t wait.”

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Cheyenne’s Edge Fest Scores Hot Acts, Cool Vibes for Fifth Annual Event

in Community/Food and Beverage/arts and culture
1844

Cheyenne residents and visitors from all over the region are in for stellar performances, great food and a happening party this Saturday, August 24 as Edge Fest takes over the new Civic Commons Park and Amphitheater on Cheyenne’s West Edge.

Genre-bending/blending singer K.Flay and rock and roller Billy Raffoul take the stage in Cheyenne for what promises to be the biggest show in Edge Fest’s five year history.

Edge Fest essential details:

Who: K. Flay and Billy Raffoul + epic cross-section of food trucks and vendors

When: Saturday, August 24 | Doors open: 5:00pm | Party Ends: 10:00pm

Where: Civic Commons Park located in Cheyenne’s West Edge

What: Edge Fest is a free, all-ages event. No tickets are required.

Hometown boy makes good: Wyoming native wins world’s longest horse race

in News/Community
Mongol Derby Robert Long on Day 7
Cheyenne native Robert Long gives a thumbs up on Day 7 of the Mongol Derby. (photo courtesy of Mongol Derby)
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Nicole Blanchard, special to Cowboy State Daily

It’s only fitting that a man dubbed “the most badass cowboy you will ever meet” hails from the Cowboy State.

Robert Long, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, earned the title after winning the Mongol Derby, a 620-mile race across the Mongolian Steppe, earlier this week. At 70 years old, Long is not only the oldest person to win the race but the oldest person to even finish the grueling trek, designed to replicate the route of Genghis Khan’s 13th century postal system.

“I’ve never in my life seen anybody as intense, as skilled, as intelligent, as driven as Bob,”said Gary Schaeffer, former Cheyenne mayor and one of Long’s closest friends. Both men now live in Boise, Idaho.

Long crossed the finish line on Wednesday, Aug. 14, the eighth day of the race. He and 41 other competitors had ridden upwards of 12 hours a day on “semi-wild” Mongolian horses, switching out mounts at checkpoints to ensure the horses didn’t become fatigued. 

“Those horses aren’t ridden every day like ours,” said Cheyenne rancher Doug Samuelson, who has spent time hunting in Mongolia. “They’re not our highly trained quarter horses.”

By the end of the race, Long had ridden 28 different horses.

Schaeffer, who first met Long in 1968, said his friend’s upbringing in Cheyenne no doubt came in handy in the race.

“He was born and raised on horses, used to break them, train them for people,” Schaeffer said. “Besides being a confident horseman and cowboy, he always takes care of his animals, and that shows in the race.”

Samuelson, who doesn’t know Long, joked that Long must be something of a horse whisperer.

“I’d love to shake his hand,” Samuelson said. “Maybe it’ll rub off on me.”

At each checkpoint, veterinarians inspected the small, hardy Mongolian horses to see that they hadn’t been overworked. 

“They’re small horses, but they’re tough,” Samuelson said. “They’re incredibly agile and surefooted.”

Riders received penalties if their horses weren’t in top condition, but by the end of the derby, Long earned a perfect record from the race vets.

“At one point they said he veered off-course to go get his horse water,” Schaeffer added. “I’m sure it cost him some time, but he was more worried about taking care of his horse. And he’s always been that way.”

Schaeffer said Long was matter-of-fact when he first shared his plans to ride in the Mongol Derby, which holds the Guinness World Record for longest horse race.

“He came over to the house and told us ‘I’ve entered the Mongol Derby,’” Schaeffer said. “We said, ‘What? Why?'”

“He said, ‘Because people told me I couldn’t. It’s there, it’s a challenge. I don’t like people to say because of my age I won’t be able to make it. It’s the toughest, most grueling thing a horseman can do, and I want to prove I can do it,’” Schaeffer recalled.

From day one, Schaeffer said, Long’s loved ones had no doubt he could complete the race, in part thanks to his impeccable research, planning and preparation.

Because Mongolian horses tend to be under 14 hands, there’s a weight limit for riders and gear to keep the horses safe. Long lost 30 pounds and practiced packing and repacking his bag to be sure he could make weight. He consulted with previous Mongol Derby riders and spent months building his riding endurance.

“He had this planned down to the inch,” Schaeffer said.

And while Long already had impeccable navigation skills (Schaeffer recalled how Long could always find his way back to the horse trailer during hunting trips in the Snowy Mountains), he honed those skills even more to prepare for the unmarked Mongol Derby route.

“He would try to get himself lost and work with the GPS to get himself back on course,” Schaeffer said. “Though I doubt if he ever got lost. He just doesn’t do that.”

According to a Mongol Derby news release, the riders faced arctic winds and downpours at the start of the race. They also had to watch out for rodent holes and marshy areas as they trekked across the steppe. 

“(The terrain there) is a lot like Wyoming,” Samuelson said. “You’ll see really flat plains areas and kind of high mountains on the side. The grasses are also similar.”

As the weather cleared up later in the race, Long took a lead that he maintained until the end.

Schaeffer wasn’t surprised when Long galloped across the finish line in a live video broadcast on Facebook by the Mongol Derby –but he was emotional.

“I was crying, tears were streaming down my face. We knew he could do it,” Schaeffer said.

“I’ve never seen anything he can’t do,” he added. “If he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it.”

Long, on the other hand, was cracking jokes the moment he dismounted.

“My horse just won the Mongol Derby,” he said. “It’s nothing, you just ride 650 miles on a death march. There’s nothing to it.”

Find out more about the Mongol Derby here. And for a great read on the Mongols and Genghis Khan’s 13th century postal system check out Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.

Massive military museum under construction near Dubois

in News/Community/Bill Sniffin
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Dan Starks, National Museum of Military Vehicles founder, explains how the oil and gas industry helped the American military build a better tank.

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s next great museum is under construction and will open next May.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles is a massive facility located just south of Dubois in Fremont County.

The $100 million self-funded museum has been a dream of Dan Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011. Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square-foot facility designed to hold 150 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.

Starks, 65, is not a veteran but has such a high degree of respect for those who served that he sees this project as his life’s work. And what a life it has been.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis, serving as CEO before retiring in 2017. The company made $6 billion per year and had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices, specializing on heart catheters and other devices. 

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

Dan and his wife Cynthia’s life’s dream was to settle in Dubois and launch some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans. And boy, is this ever some project.

Despite the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small.  The couple owns more than 400 of pristine historic vehicles from World War II and other conflicts, presumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.Starks thinks he might only get 150 of them inside the walls.

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility.Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” Starks says.

Starks sees the facility having three components:

  • First, to honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans;
  • Second, preserve the history of what happened during these wars, and
  • Third, provide an educational experience.

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers. It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable.

Starks likes to discuss how the “Red Ball Express” helped secure the victories. This was the truck-based supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and one-half years. The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy. 

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did,” Starks said. “It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized.”

Dan and Alynne Starks led a handful of people on a tour of the facility Aug. 1, including Lander radio station owner Joe Kenney, Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones and retired Lander business leader Tony McRae.

Kenney said he was impressed that Starks wants no grants or government money to help with the project.  

“He knows what he wants and he is going to get it,” he said. “Amazing.”

Jones said he was overwhelmed by Starks’ passion. 

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “This is going to be game-changer for tourism in Fremont County and Wyoming.”

McRae said he did not know what to expect. 

“I was just blown away by the scale of this project,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it after it opens.”

Alynne, as executive director, said the project will probably employ about 15 people.  They have not decided on what admission will cost but one thing is sure: “Veterans will get in free!  My dad insists on that,” she said.

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault that will hold Starks’ $10 million collection of historic weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I. The collection also includes 270 Winchester rifles.  The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming Legislature are convening there in October.It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004, in Iraq.  The movie “Taking Chance”was about that soldier.

There will also be a large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There are over 100 tanks and other impressive war machines parked in row after row in a big field next to the new building. There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 parked in the field that was used in the Viet Nam War against American soldiers. It is flyable. Starks’ other machines are in downtown Dubois, on his ranches and stored in Salt Lake City. Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and a shop to keep them running.

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. Then, they purchased a 250-head cattle ranch and recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 36 bison grazing on it.

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks said.

Construction crews race the clock to fix canal

in Economic development/News/Community/Agriculture
1746

Farmers and ranchers in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska are facing nature’s deadline as construction crews work to repair an irrigation breach that left 800 irrigators without water.

Construction crews are working full-time to repair the breach in the Fort Laramie-Gering irrigation canal that provides water for 100,000 acres of land on both sides of the Wyoming-Nebraska border.

Water to the canal has been turned off since the collapse occurred on July 17 and the late summer heat makes it crucial for water to be delivered to fields served the 130-mile canal as quickly as possible to avoid crop losses.

Rob Posten, district manager of the Goshen Irrigation District, said the district hopes to have the canal repaired by late August.

If the repairs take much longer, farmers and ranchers could be looking at significant crop losses, which Shawn Madden of Torrington Livestock said would affect the economy throughout the area.

“It’s not just if you’re farming south of Torrington or down by Gering, Nebraska,” he said. “Those people are all customers on Main Street in Scottsbluff (Nebraska), Torrington. I mean, these people are in financial peril.”

Cactus Covello of Points West Bank said most agricultural operations run on a slim profit margin to begin with.

“There’s not much profit in the corn, there’s not a lot of profit in cattle,” he said. “Most of that goes back to pay for their input costs, to make land payments, to put a little food on the table and hopefully have some to put in savings for a rainy day. The agricultural life is a lifestyle you’ve got to love, because it’s not ultra-profitable.”

Questions remain over whether the crop losses will be covered by insurance. If the tunnel failure was the result of natural causes such as rain, officials believe the losses will be covered. If the collapse was the result of structural failure, the coverage will not apply. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to determine what caused the collapse of the 102-year-old tunnel.

Covello said he expects members of the community to work together to overcome the problems.

“These banks around here, we serve the agricultural community,” he said. “We will change and do things that we need to do so we can all survive together.”

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Brokaw praises patriotism, grit of Heart Mountain internees

in News/Community/arts and culture
1733

The more than 14,000 people held at the Heart Mountain Internment Camp near Cody showed an amazing ability to support their country despite the fact it imprisoned them, newscaster Tom Brokaw said at the camp last weekend.

Brokaw, the featured guest at the annual Heart Mountain Pilgrimage, praised those incarcerated for their patriotism while held at the camp.

“You were abused and went on with your lives and make continuing contributions to this country,” he said. “You’re here because you know you’re Americans and we all learn from you. And so I say God bless.”

The Heart Mountain camp was one of 10 established across the country to house Americans of Japanese descent during World War II because of concerns they might hold allegiance to their original homeland and pose a threat to the United States.

While in operation from June 1942 to November of 1945, the camp was the third largest city in the state. During the camp’s operation, many friendships were formed, including one between former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson and Norm Mineta, former secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation.Appearing with Simpson during the pilgrimage, Mineta recalled the sadness he felt when his government imprisoned an entire race of people.

“These placards went up,” he said. “Instructions to all those of Japanese ancestry. Aliens and non-aliens. And I was a 10-yar-old kid and I saw that placard. And I said to my brother who was nine years older, I said ‘Al, what’s a non-alien?’ He said ‘That’s you.’ And I said ‘I’m not a non-alien, I’m a citizen!”

For the past eight years, the Heart Mountain Foundation has organized the pilgrimage to the camp as a commemoration to those held there.

Shirley Ann Higuchi, the foundation’s chair, said Wyoming communities have been very supportive of the foundation’s efforts to preserve the memory of the injustice done to the families held at the camp.

“They have come around to really support us and really make us the best that we can be,” she said. “So it’s just an overwhelmingly emotional, touching, in many ways a heartbreaking experience when we try to think back historically on how many people had actually suffered here.”

We hope you find this story valuable. If so, please consider subscribing to our newsletter to receive Cowboy State Daily’s top stories of the day plus takeaways from the state’s top headlines in your inbox 5 days a week.

Friends, admirers remember Frost on 30th anniversary of his death

in Community/arts and culture
1711

Friends and admirers of the late bull rider Lane Frost shared their memories this week of Frost’s death in the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo arena 30 years ago.

Frost was 25 years old when he died from injuries he suffered in the Frontier Days championship go-round of 1989. 

Dr. Skip Ross, a Cheyenne physician, said physicians and medics on hand at the rodeo could not understand why Frost did not stand up when he fell after dismounting the bull named “Takin’ Care of Business.” The bull had hit him in the back.

“It was an exciting finals day and Lane made a great ride,” he said. “We couldn’t figure out why he didn’t get up right away. The bull was standing on his chaps and kind of had him trapped. And he had one shot at him and hit him the left ribs.”

Ross said the ribs collapsed, tearing an aorta.

“I went in with the ambulance and worked on him for about an hour and a-half,” he said. 

“We really needed a chest cutter to open his chest and we didn’t have that. And you’d have to do that in the first five to 10 minutes to save him. But we’ve made some great changes since then.”

Tuff Hedeman, a longtime rodeo cowboy who frequently partnered with Frost, said he remembered the day of Frost’s death vividly.

“We went a lot of places together and did a lot of things together,” he said. “He was just a magical guy who was gone too soon. This is the 30thy year and it’s still just as fresh today as it was then. I remember every detail of that day. It was the roughest day of my life.”

River Mossberg, preparing to enter high school in Cheyenne this fall, is already a nationally recognized bullrider, having competed in the Junior National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. He said Frost is the bullrider who inspires him the most.

“It’s my dream to have my poster on some little kid’s wall just like I have his on mine,” he said.

Cheyenne Frontier Days: Behind the Chutes

in Community/Tourism/arts and culture
1700

By Seneca Flowers, special for Cowboy State Daily

You can tell it’s Cheyenne Frontier Days because the heat has finally kicked up to the 90s in Cheyenne. When the July heat starts cooking, Cheyenne Frontier Days gets into gear. Part of the magic can be witnessed by locals and tourists who can step in the arena mud and dirt as part of the Behind the Chutes tour.

The tour features a variety of history and facts narrated by guides as it passes from the Old West Museum through to the animal holding area and emptying out in to the arena near the bucking chutes and chute nine.

Public Relations Committee Volunteer Jessica Crowder is a tour guide for Behind the Chutes and has been so for nearly a decade. She said over the years, she has enjoyed meeting people from around the world.

“We have had people from Europe, South America,” she said. “I can’t think of place we haven’t seen someone from.”

One family took the tour as part of a vacation from their hometown of Bloomfield, Ind. The Holtsclaw family visited Cheyenne as part of a Wyoming and South Dakota sightseeing trip. As a child, Jarrod Holtsclaw would often visit a Labor Day rodeo in Palestine, Ill., near his hometown with his parents and grandparents. The rodeo was not as large as Cheyenne Frontier Days. He said he was impressed by the size of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

His son, Boone, enjoyed being up close to the livestock.

“My favorite part was looking at the bulls they had,” Boone Holtsclaw said.

Although the tour took people along the path for 45 minutes, it was a much tighter tour than it was in the past, according to Crowder. The tour used to be just one to two tour guides who had to know every detail. But nowadays, newer volunteers get to shadow the veterans and take part in guiding the tourists. This allows them to help out without having to know every part of the script.

“That adaptation really made it a lot of fun,” Crowder said.

Although she has done the tour for nearly a decade, she said she enjoys hearing about the tourists’ experiences and watching them have fun while interacting during the tour.

Thunderbirds appear in the sky over Cheyenne for 66th time

in Community/military/arts and culture
1697

The U.S. Air Force precision flying team the Thunderbirds took to the skies over Cheyenne for the 66th time on Wednesday for its annual demonstration of high-speed formation flying.

The Thunderbirds have appeared at every Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo since 1953, with pilots flying their F-16 Fighting Falcons only feet from each other as they put the aircraft through various aerobatic maneuvers such as loops.

Viewers pack F.E. Warren Air Force Base to watch the show and line up on either side of Interstate 25 near the base to get a good look at the performance.

The Air Force describes the Thunderbird team as combining years of training and experience with an “attitude of excellence.”

Today’s Cowboy Vocabulary word is: Reride

in Community/arts and culture
CSD Cowboy Vocabulary Reride
1694

A cowboy is given a second chance to ride a bull or horse, called a reride, on a new animal if his first ride was affected by equipment failure or if the livestock did not buck sufficiently. 

Used in a sentence: “Cody DeMoss only scored a 53 in his first bullride, but he was given a reride because the bull did not buck well.”

The Best Carnival Food at Cheyenne Frontier Days

in Community/Food and Beverage
1687

Corndogs and turkey legs and deep-fried Oreos, oh my!

Hang on, Dorothy, the variety of iconic carnival food available at Frontier Park this week staggers the imagination!

From funnel cakes to rattlesnake bratwurst, the carnival midway is filled with deep-fried, smoked and sugared treats.

Just to give you an idea of the high points, Cowboy State Daily’s Jim Angell visited the midway to try 10 different carnival foods and rank them according to his preference. Take a look at his gastronomical journey and watch to the end to see his top 10 choices.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for this, so don’t be afraid to offer up your own rankings on the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page.

Bon appetit!

Today’s Cowboy Vocabulary word is: Pickup Men

in Community/arts and culture
1682

Pickup men are two cowboys on horseback who help roughstock riders dismount after their ride and then escort the bull or horse to the exit gate.

Used in a sentence: “The pickup men rode alongside Will’s bull to help him dismount after his 8-second ride.”

Today’s Cowboy Vocabulary word is: Go-Round

in Community/arts and culture
Cowboy Vocabulary Go-Round
1668

A Go-Round is essentially what it sounds like: A round of competition at a rodeo.

Cheyenne Frontier Days features three go-rounds: Two preliminary rounds lasting four days each and one championship round, also called a “short go” because it lasts only one day.

Competitors earn money in preliminary rounds with good performances. The cowboys with the highest earnings for the preliminary go-rounds advance to the championship. The cowboy with the highest earnings for all three go-rounds in his events wins the championship.

Used in a sentence: “Tom did well in the first go-round, but didn’t finish his ride in the second go-round, so he missed out on the short go.”

Fort Carson cavalry keeps bandits on the run at CFD

in Community/arts and culture
1663

The Fort Carson Mounted Colorguard – stationed just outside Colorado Springs, Colorado – is at Cheyenne Frontier Days this week performing reenactments of stage coach robberies and showcasing the important role of the cavalry in the establishment of the American West. 

The active duty Army soldiers represent the 10th Cavalry Division which was the divison of the famed Buffalo Soldiers. Buffalo Soldiers was a name given to the all-African American cavalry regiment by Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars.

You can see the Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard all week at the Daddy of ‘Em All.

40 Years Later: Tornado Rips Through Cheyenne, Wyoming

in weather/Community
1656

On July 16, 1979, Cheyenne was hit by the largest tornado (F3) to ever hit the state of Wyoming.

The tornado was responsible for one death, dozens of injuries, and damage to hundreds of homes. 

Don Erickson was Cheyenne’s mayor and he recalls what happened that day 40 years later.

Hat man: Tips on how to wear a cowboy hat

in Community/arts and culture
1653

For the thousands of visitors expected to hit Cheyenne this week and next for the Frontier Days Rodeo, there may be no worse fashion faux pas than wearing a cowboy hat wrong. It just makes a person look … well, bad.

Fortunately, Cowboy State Daily’s Jim Angell — who confesses he looks like an idiot in a cowboy hat — visited the experts at The Wrangler in Cheyenne the other day to get some tips on how to look good in this unique bit of headgear.

To sum up: Pick a hat that looks good to you (whether it be decorated with the American flag, lights up or is equipped with a bottle opener), get it in the right size and wear it level across the head (too far forward, you look like an outlaw, too far back, you look like Howdy Doody).

For detailed instructions, take a look at Jim’s visit to The Wrangler.

‘Veterans Portrait Project’ photographer visits Cody

in Community/military
1649

A U.S. Air Force veteran who is traveling the country to photograph veterans stopped in Cody recently to add several portraits to her collection.

Stacey Pearsall, a former combat photographer, was in Cody this week to add Wyoming veterans to the “Veterans Portrait Project,” a program she launched in 2008 while recuperating from injuries she suffered in Iraq.

Pearsall has been photographing veterans for more than 11 years, traveling to 35 states on the way to her goal of taking pictures of veterans in all 50 states by November of this year. Her work has hung in the Smithsonian, the Pentagon and at Arlington National Cemetery.

The project has helped with Pearsall’s healing process from her injuries, she said.

“It’s been cathartic, both physically and emotionally,” she said. “The doctors said I couldn’t do photography any more, but here I am 11 years later, still doing it, still telling stories and on my own terms.”

So far, Pearsall has taken pictures of more than 7,500 veterans from all branches of the military.

Among her subjects in Cody were Sandy and Jim Pederson, both former master chiefs in the U.S. Navy, who endorsed Pearsall’s project.

“I think it’s important that veterans tell their story,” said Sandy Pederson. “No matter what war, or if they never were in combat, that they tell their story for future generations.”

“They need to know what we went through, both good and bad, and share some of our stories with these young people,” said Jim Pederson. “Some of them, unfortunately, have only been in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. They’ve never had a chance, like we have, to stay in the military, make a career and see the world.”

Bob Richard, a historian in Cody, agreed with the Pedersons.

“It’s the history that’s so important, for everybody to be aware of what has happened in the past,” he said. “And we build on the past for the future.”

Pearsall said her project has been a journey of discovery.

“Getting to know my own veteran community a lot better and in the process also educating those who have never served,” she said. “To be able to continue to keep the veterans’ dialog in the forefront of people’s minds and those issues that impact us.”

Today’s Cowboy Vocabulary word is: Slack

in Community/arts and culture
Cowboy Vocabulary Slack
1672

Slack refers to rodeo events scheduled at times other than the main rodeo because there is not enough time to squeeze everything into the main rodeo schedule. Often, these are the timed events, such as steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping.

Used in a sentence:“The stands were nearly empty during Wednesday’s slack events but the steer wrestler turned in the best time of the go-round.”

The doctors are in: Meet the Cheyenne Frontier Days wagon doctors

in Community/arts and culture
1626

The dozens of wagons that travel the Cheyenne Frontier Days parade route every year are on the road thanks largely to the work of a dedicated handful of mechanics, painters, carpenters and other volunteers known collectively as the “Wagon Doctors.”

The group not only checks and maintains the wagons that are a fixture at the annual rodeo parade, but handles any repair work necessary on the vintage vehicles.

“We repair and restore old wagons,” said team member Ed Galavotti. “Anything that goes wrong with them or they need painting.”

Tom Watson said a number of volunteers with a wide variety of talents take part in the work.

“The guys we have, they do it as a hobby,” he said. “They do it year-round. We have machinists, we have carpenters, we have painters. We have one guy who does upholstery. So we pretty much can cover anything.”

Materials used to repair and refurbish the wagons, many of them more than 100 years old, are often not readily available, Galavotti said.

“We use specific lumber, we use carriage bolts that you don’t find,” he said. “But there’s places around that supply us.”

The repair work is almost constant, Watson said.

“You never run into something that you’re just going to bring in and fix real quick,” he said. “Because it always leads to something else that you find out wrong.”

Even wagons that do not need repairs get attention from the “doctors,” Watson said.

“All the wagons that are in the parade every year, we grease the axles, we give them a good look-over and tighten bolts,” he said.

The collection of wagons used for the parade is all them more impressive because they are actually used, he added.

“We used to say this was one of the biggest (wagon collections) in the United States,” he said. “There’s none bigger that uses them more.”

‘The Price is Right’ coming to Cheyenne

in Community/arts and culture
1615

If you’ve always wanted to hear your name followed by the phrase, “Come on down!” then you’re in luck: “The Price is Right” is coming to Cheyenne in December.

“The Price is Right Live,” a traveling version of the decades-long fixture of daytime television, will be in the Capital city on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

David Soules, booking and programming manager for the City of Cheyenne, says the touring game show is a close replica of what you see on TV.

“It’s the same people who put on the TV game show so you’ll see the same games, the prizes are similar – like cash, large appliances, and someone will have a chance of winning a car,” Soules said.

Soules said tickets to attend the show went on sale on Friday, July 12 and he expects them to sell quickly.

“I expect this to be a big hit,” he said. “It’s getting a lot of traction on social media. People are saying this is a ‘bucket list’ event.”

Attendees will likely be encouraged to show up in team shirts and “wacky costumes,” he said — similar to what is seen in other cities that host the production.

Those wishing to register as contestants for the show will be able to do so three hours before it begins. Those registering will not be required to purchase a ticket for the show and the purchase of a ticket will not guarantee that a person will be chosen as a contestant.

Cheyenne braces for CFD as new headquarters building opens

in Community/arts and culture
Cheyenne Frontier Days new headquarters
1618

Cheyenne residents are bracing for the start of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo next week and the influx of more than 100,000 visitors.

Frontier Days officially launches on Friday, July 19, and a study of the impact of the 2018 event shows that some 105,000 people from outside Laramie County traveled to the Capitol for the event, where they spent $27.1 million on lodging, food, entertainment and other purchases.

The study prepared by Dean Runyan Associates showed that once the “multiplier effect” is factored in, Frontier Days resulted in about $35 million of business activity in Cheyenne.

All told, the 2018 rodeo saw a total of more than 247,000 tickets sold for rodeo events and nightly concerts.

The 2019 Frontier Days celebration begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday, July 19, with the Opening Day Celebration, followed by the opening of attractions such as the Indian Village, the carnival midway and the Buckin’ A Saloon.

The rodeo itself, the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, will begin Saturday.

Just in time for the rodeo’s opening, a new Cheyenne Frontier Days headquarters opened on the grounds, equipped with an area for the rodeo’s sponsor’s to watch the rodeo.

“This building has been a dream of Cheyenne Frontier Days for many years,” said Tom Hirsig, president and CEO of Frontier Days. “Sponsors expect to have nice areas, air conditioned areas, places where they can get out of the weather here at Frontier Park.”

The new building also houses CFD’s corporate offices and offers event space that can be rented by groups, he said.

“We’re excited about this.” he said. “There’s really a need for a year-round facility that will generate income and make this facility live throughout the year. This really puts us in a year-round venue that we’ve never been in before.”

The building’s construction is a needed step as Frontier Days moves into the future, Hirsig added.

“I believe we’re moving in the right direction with this building,” he said. “We’ve been in existence for 123 years and we need at least 123 more. With that comes change. Sometimes change is difficult, but I really do believe we’re on the right path.”

Cody Firearms Museum reopens with a bang

in Community/arts and culture
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The Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West is one of the largest collections of firearms in the world. Now that collection – with interactive exhibits highlighting the role of firearms in our culture – is back on public display in all its metallic glory.

Wendy Corr attended the grand reopening of the museum and sends us this report.

Fireworks stands sell bigger bangs, but safety education is key to enjoying holiday

in Community
Wyoming Fireworks
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By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming is big sky country, and there are few things its residents enjoy more than lighting that sky on fire in celebration of Independence Day.

From the whiz-pop of bottle rockets to the glorious starbursts of artillery shells, fireworks are a time-honored tradition in the Cowboy State for the young and old alike.

“The kids love the swords, sparklers and snappers,” said Ben Laws, a manager at Pyro City, which has locations in Cheyenne and Evanston. “And the dad’s are definitely are looking for those artillery shells. Everything is selling.”

Laws said rather than seeing one brand outsell another this year, he noticed customers were changing the types of fireworks they buy.

“A lot of people want to move over to the ‘cake’ items, which allow you to light one fuse, and a whole barrage goes off,” he said.

Over at Fireworks Outlet, which has locations in Laramie, Cheyenne, Buford, Gillette, Rock Springs and Glenrock, General Manager Skyler Krehbiel said kids are purchasing more multi-purpose novelty items.

“The old cardboard tanks are now plastic, and kids are buying up anything that can be used as a toy after,” Krehbiel said. “Backpacks are a big one this year.”

With options for blue trim or pink trim, the backpacks come stocked with smoke balls, snakes, ground boomers, waterproof firecrackers and other assorted items for children around the ages of 10 to 12, he said.

“We’re also selling a lot of kids’ packets for younger kids with snappers, a couple smoke grenades and party poppers,” Krehbiel added. “It definitely saves money buying this in a package, rather than grabbing the items individually.”

The older crowd, on the other hand, are shopping for items with a little more oomph than a pack of snappers.

“For adults, we have our brand new 5-inch cannon shells, which are 1-and-three-quarter inches in diameter and 5 inches long. You can fit larger stars in the longer shells, and people are really looking for the biggest stars they can get.”

Safety

“Don’t blow your hand off, kid” may not be as iconic a warning as “A Christmas Story’s” “You’ll shoot your eye out,” but it’s likely repeated by parents in Wyoming as often each year — if not more often.

As sound as the advice is, it does little to educate children or adults as to the best method of keeping all their digits intact. And education could be the key ingredient to reducing fireworks mishaps, Krehbiel said.

“When you go out to the shooting range, you have an instructor teaching you the proper way to handle a firearm, and in some ways, I wish fireworks were the same,” he explained. “When everyone walks in my stores, I make sure to provide them as much education as I can.”

Krehbiel said he fields a lot of questions like “are Roman Candles the ones you hold in your hand?”

“You don’t ever want to hold fireworks in your hand,” he said. “Roman Candles are designed to shoot straight into the air and should be positioned to do so from the ground.”

People shouldn’t mix alcohol use and fireworks, Krehbiel added. Read and follow the instructions on the package and spend time teaching children safe practices, he said. At Pyro City, Laws said fireworks enthusiasts should keep water nearby.

“People need to have buckets of water or a garden hose nearby,” he said. “A big thing is kids need adult supervision when using fireworks — that’s one I tell people all the time.” 

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 13,000 people are treated annually for fireworks-related burns, while fires resulting from fireworks cause more than $20 million in direct property damage each year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Fire Administration advise attending professional fireworks displays rather than lighting fireworks personally.

If people plan to shoot off their own fireworks in the Cheyenne area, Laws said Pyro City partnered with Phantom Fireworks and USA Fireworks to provide a free and safe launchpad at 2275 W. College Dr.

Only fireworks purchased at one of the three fireworks chains are permitted at the site, which is open 8 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and first responders will be on site to deal with any mishaps, he said.

Fireworks regulations vary across the state, so check with the local fire district before lighting off your own.

For more information about fireworks safety, visit the National Fire Protection Association website.