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Wyoming rodeo stock company named PRCA’s top stock contractor

in Agriculture/arts and culture/Community
2378

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 arts and culture/Community
2381

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 Agriculture/arts and culture/Community
2384

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 Community/News
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 arts and culture/Community/News
2344

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 Community/News
2332

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 Community/military/News
Hunting with Heroes
A guide helps a veteran taking part in the Hunting with Heroes program target an animal. The Wyoming program was established by Dan Currah and Colton Sasser as a way to provide disabled veterans with an opportunity to hunt. (Photo courtesy of 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 arts and culture/Community
2314

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 has plenty of ghost stories

in arts and culture/Community
2292

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.”

Find all our stories at Facebook.com/CowboyStateDaily or receive them daily to your inbox by subscribing to our weekday newsletter here.

‘Dia De Los Muertos’ comes to Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Community/Travel
Sugar Skull
2283

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.

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