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Thanksgiving Hell: Wyoming Plumbers Brace For ‘Brown Friday’

in Wyoming Life/News/Thanksgiving
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By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

The problem with gobs of gooey post-Thanksgiving grease is that once they enter drainpipes, they don’t stay gooey for long. 

That grease can set up in sink drains and sewer pipes, turning the day after Thanksgiving into what plumbers around Wyoming and the nation call “Brown Friday.”

“It’s just that everybody thinks that everything can go down the drain,” independent plumber Shawn Haight of Gillette told Cowboy State Daily.

But it can’t. 

He’s even seen the oily, runny remains of a Turkey Day feast end up in a home’s laundry drainage lines, creating a backwash of truly hideous byproduct.

“Let’s just say that lint and grease don’t mix very well,” he said. 

Also, people really shouldn’t overestimate the capacity of their garbage disposals, Cory Kopp told Cowboy State Daily. He’s a master plumber and owner of Plumbing Masters in Casper. 

“It’s not a trash-processing thing,” he said. 



Black Friday Goes Brown

“Brown Friday” is widely recognized by plumbers across the country as their busiest day of the year, and it can a bane to many homeowners, according to realtor.com.

While many Americans stampede to stores to take advantage of Black Friday shopping deals, plumbers ready their tools and steel their nerves for a long line of clogged sinks and backed-up toilets. 

Mercifully, the toilet end of things doesn’t seem to hit Wyoming too hard, said Haight, Kopp and Erin Lamb, spokeswoman for the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, which oversees the city’s sewage lines and wastewater treatment plants. 

Haight and Kopp said most of their Brown Friday calls are for sink drain and garbage disposal drudgery, not toilet tempests. 

And Cheyenne’s wastewater treatment plant hasn’t been hit with the darksome tsunamis that have plagued large metropolitan areas, Lamb said.

Even so, greasy cascades in the wake of gorging gatherings have caused gross backflows in some localized neighborhood networks, Lamb said. But the city can be thankful that, so far, there’s never been enough to overwhelm the main lines. 

“Our operations and maintenance of main sewer lines keeps them clear,” Lamb said. 

‘Like Glue’

“If you see thousands of kitchens running sinks and garbage disposals with greasy, buttery, oily types of items, it’s going to start clogging lines up,” Lamb said. “If it’s something that’s going to solidify, like bacon grease, that’s just going to build up, and build up, and then start to catch things inside the pipes. And who knows what’s it going to catch?”

Kopp agreed, noting that even hot grease will cool quickly as it enters drains. 

“It will solidify and acts just like glue for everything that comes down after it,” he said.

Running hot water down the drain along with or immediately after the grease doesn’t help, he added. All that does is only slightly delay the inevitable solidification. 

Be Kind To Your Garbage Disposal

Trouble frequently starts when people start tossing things willy-nilly into garbage disposals, Haight said. 

Some unfortunate emergency customers have been known to huck turkey bones, vegetable peelings and various other holiday debris into the maws of their disposals, thinking that the subsequent flick of a switch makes it all go away. 

In reality, anything that’s too chunky or stringy will almost certainly lead to a clog, he said. 

Kopp agreed. 

“Garbage disposals are really meant for just that last little bit of stuff that’s on your plate,” he said. “When you peel vegetables, throw the peelings into the trash. When you scrap big chunks off of cookware and plates, just throw it into the trash.”

F.O.G. Warning

Lamb said her office had already started putting out press releases and social media alerts warning people about F.O.G. – fats, oils and grease.

“We recommend that you pour these into a jar, allow them to solidify and then throw them out with your garbage. Don’t attempt to put them through a garbage disposal or pour them down your drains,” she said. 

Kopp said he was gearing up for a busy Brown Friday. Haight said he planned to remain available for his regular customers, but is keeping his fingers crossed to to not get any unexpected emergencies. 

“I can always hope I don’t get any calls,” he said. 

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Inflation Has Wyoming Families Watching – Or Breaking – Their Thanksgiving Budgets

in News/Economy/Thanksgiving
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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
renee@cowboystatedaily.com

Dorene Martinez was checking the shelves twice, then checking them again for her family’s favorite olives. Ultimately, however, she had to make do with pickles for the charcuterie board she makes every year for Thanksgiving.

Jen Tacke, meanwhile, was comparing prices between a Jenny O turkey and Butterball. The Jenny O bird, at 98 cents a pound, was considerably cheaper — but Butterball won out in the end.

“I know I always like Butterball,” she said.

Balancing The Turkey Day Budget

Martinez and Tacke, like many other Thanksgiving dinner shoppers this week, were shrugging off the high prices as they gathered their favorites for family celebrations, putting the higher-priced-than-expected items into carts anyway — when they were available. 

The Cheyenne store was short of many items that might be considered holiday essential by some. There was no heavy whipping cream, no apple butter and no strawberries, grapes or other fresh fruits to slice for holiday trays.

The high prices are definitely noticeable, however.

“That,” Martinez said, pointing to a small tin of canned fish, “was just a dollar last year.”

This year, the price was $2.76 for the same-sized tin. She added it to her cart anyway.

“I feel like those are things that we don’t buy that often, and really, it’s just for the holidays,” she said. “You’re going to splurge during the holiday.”


A basket of Thanksgiving items costing $67.86 at a Wyoming grocery store. The Farm Bureau’s annual survey in October priced a typical Thanksgiving basket at $64.05 for a dinner that will feed 10 people. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Making Do

Kelly McInelly, meanwhile, said she has been relying on an already full pantry and just buying some fresh produce once a week — generally whatever is on sale that is healthy.

This week, that was sweet potatoes at 82 cents a pound. 

Meanwhile, she noted that a number of items where she shops at Walmart have been rolled back to 2021 prices, part of a special the store has announced will last through Dec. 26. 

The special extends to a basket of typical holiday foods that includes turkey, cranberries and sweet potatoes.

Higher Than Average

The average price of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people, meanwhile, is up 20% over last year, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation 37th annual survey.

That 20% is on top of an already 14% uptick last year. 

The cost in 2020, meanwhile, had gone down 4% to $46.90, the lowest price since 2010. In 2019, the cost was $48.91.


Empty store shelves were not an uncommon sight for Thanksgiving shoppers. These shelves had held fresh fruit like strawberries and grapes, popular on party trays. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Other Impacts

Most of the price uptick is inflation, said AFBF Chief Economist Roger Cryan, but some of the increases in turkey prices are because of a severe outbreak of avian influenza, which has been wiping out a number of poultry flocks in some states. 

The war in the Ukraine also has played a role in some of the price increases for commodity-based goods, Cryan said.

The Farm Bureau’s prices, however, may be a little out of date for last-minute shoppers. The Farm Bureau checked prices from Oct. 18-31. That was just before grocery retailers such as Walmart and Kroger announced price reductions for whole frozen turkeys. 

Kroger has also recently rolled out a shopping guide that shows meal options to feed 10 people for as little as $5 per person. The Farm Bureau’s average was $6.40 per person.

Option To Eat Out

Wells Fargo, meanwhile, produced a report suggesting this is the year for dining out at a restaurant for Thanksgiving. The costs of restaurant meals have increased much more slowly, at 5.79%, than food from a standard grocery store trip, which has gone up 9.81%. 

The cost of a restaurant meal is still higher than foods prepared at home, but the Wells Fargo report points out there is less work involved and no dirty dishes, meaning more time with family.

Best Deals Come Late

The average price of turkey, meanwhile, has continued to fall as the holiday nears. For the week of Nov. 3-9, the cost was $1.11, but it is now at 95 cents on average for the week of Nov. 10-16. 

The number of stores offering deals has climbed from 29% to 60%, rewarding last-minute shoppers a little bit — if they are willing to risk not getting some items.


Amber Miears poses with a broom at a housekeeping job. She’s been coping with inflation by taking extra work whenever she can, as well as watching for deals and sticking to store brands. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Bought A Bird Early

That jives with what Amber Miears and her family experienced this year for Thanksgiving. They bought a turkey early, concerned there might not be any if they waited too long.

“I think theirs was around $50 to $60, because it was such a large bird,” Miears said. “That is very helpful, though, what Walmart and other stores are doing, you know, for the community. That would have helped if I would have known sooner.”

Miears said her family always does a big celebration where everyone brings something representing the family’s heritage.

“So, we’re going to have turkey, you know, but we’re going to have green chili enchiladas, menudo and stuff like that.”

Just Costs More This Year

Miears said inflation in general has been tough on everyone, but she’s been able to manage by sticking to store brands, watching for good deals and taking on extra work whenever she can.

“I get a week’s worth of groceries and it’s $200, you know, for just two people living in my home,” she said. “Inflation has just went up so much. Thanksgiving has definitely hit a higher mark this year on how much it is.”

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Cheyenne Barber Opens Home, Heart To Thousands Of Military On Thanksgiving

in Wyoming Life/News/Thanksgiving
Photo Courtesy Glen Chavez
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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
renee@cowboystatedaily.com

Pass the dinner rolls. How about some cranberry sauce, too?

Routine phrases that roll of the tongue smoothly at Thanksgiving. 

For some, they also hold a deeper feeling that’s not about the food all. 

The message simply says, “We care.”

Healing Power

There’s power in that, especially around a dinner table enjoying the traditional turkey and dressing. There’s power enough to start the healing for almost any wound.

It’s a power that Glen Chavez of Cheyenne hopes underscores every turkey drive he’s done for military service personnel, many of them stationed away from home for the first time in their lives. 

Chavez feeds upward of 3,000 people a year with the drive and aims to do it again this year.

Tough Turkey

Turkeys are expensive and there’s a shortage, Chavez told Cowboy State Daily. That’s making things tough this year.

But Chavez is determined that this will not be the year there is no military dinner for those thousands of people with military connections. The dinner must go, no matter what. It’s just too important. 

For those with time to sit and listen, Chavez will tell the story again about exactly why he does this every year, without fail, and why he believes it is so important.

It’s tough to talk about, but Chavez believes in supporting mental health for the troops.

“It sets in during the holidays more than any other time of year,” he said of mental health challenges for people in the military. “Holidays kind of add water to it, but it’s a year-round problem.” 

More Than A Haircut

Chavez has been a barber by trade for decades. Now he works at Trujillo’s Barber Shop on Randall Avenue in Cheyenne, but before that, he was the barber at Glen’s Historical Barbershop in the Masonic Temple. 

Chavez liked to keep it kind of old school at his shop, maybe even what some would call quaint.

In fact, his youngest son Paxton teased him at the time for playing elevator music every day. Perry Como, Andy Williams and the like.

“Dad, no one wants to listen to that trash,” Chavez recalls Paxton saying one day.

“These guys love it,” Chavez protested. “Don’t you guys like this?”

“Well … we do sir,” Chavez recalls one airman saying. “But you don’t understand why we come here. You take us home. You bring us home. You remind us what it’s like when we go back home. You know, our parents, our uncle, our grandpa. We get to have that feeling in your barbershop.”

Chavez understood. He was proud to offer more than just a haircut. He would keep playing his elevator music for them. He would keep talking to them like they were family. 

God was in this service, he decided. This was what God was telling him to do.

The Day Everything Changed

One day more than a decade ago, Chavez came to realize that as special and nice as his little slice of home was for his customers, it wasn’t enough. 

That was the day a young, upset airman came into his barbershop.

“He had swollen eyes and everything, and I said, ‘Hey, man, come here. Are you OK?’” Chavez said.

The airman was definitely not OK. An hour and a half earlier, his roommate had put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. His roommate was dead, and the airman had found him like that.

The roommate had been distraught and lonely, Chavez was told. The upcoming holidays had only underscored that loneliness. It would have been the first time he was away from home. 

“I had to come talk to you, sir,” Chavez recalls the airman saying. “You’re the only man I know that’s been kind to us.”

Chavez didn’t know what to say or think. Didn’t the young man have a commander?

He did, the airman confirmed. And he’d been told by the chain of command to stay put. 

“But it was question after question. I had to run,” Chavez recalls the airman saying. “I had to just get away and get out of the office.”

‘You’re Staying With Me Today’

Chavez didn’t think twice about what he did next.

“Park it,” he told the young man. “You’re staying with me today.”

As customers came in, Chavez had the usual chats with them, keeping things as normal as possible. He didn’t mention what the airman was going through. 

But he couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Finally during a break, he looked over at the young man and said, “I tell you what, how would you like to have Thanksgiving dinner with me and my family?”

The airman shook his head. “No sir, I wouldn’t,” he said. “This is your family. You need to be with your family.”

“Well, you’re a barbershop friend and, you know what, you’re OK,” Chavez insisted. “My family will understand. I have two sons in the Navy. Trust me. They’ll understand.”

But there was something else stopping the airman from joining Chavez and his family.

“I have a dilemma,” he finally said. “There’s a couple of us.”

“How many?” Chavez asked. 

“About seven,” the airman said. “We don’t have a place to go, so we’re just gonna lean on each other because we’re all in the same squad.”

Chavez didn’t hesitate for a moment. “OK, I tell you what then, all seven of you come to my house.”

It was settled.

Big Heart, Tiny Home

Chavez had told something of a white lie when he told the airman his family would not mind. In fact, his wife Annette was less than enthusiastic.

“We had a very tiny house,” Chavez recalled. “Our table wasn’t really big enough. Our living room wasn’t really big enough.”

The next day as Chavez was putting his lunch into the refrigerator at work like any usual day, he thought about his tiny home with it’s too-small kitchen table and living room. 

He stepped out into the dining room at the Masonic Temple and looked around.

The size is what impressed him. It was big enough for seven airman, Chavez and his wife.

Chavez went to talk to Tim Forbis and Shannon Kupec, a couple of the board members for the temple.

“Who is using your dining room for Thanksgiving?” he asked them, hardly daring to hope it would be open.

The dining room would be empty through January, Chavez was told.

When Chavez told them his idea to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the seven airmen who’d been friends with the young man who died, there was no hesitation at all. 

The dining room was all his, for free. It wouldn’t cost a thing.

That First Dinner

Not long after that, Chavez went to tell one of the groups from Element Church about what he was doing. They were amused. They even laughed a little bit.

“You’re not a very good cook,” Chavez recalls one of them saying.

“That’s horrible,” Chavez protested. “My wife knows how to somewhat cook.”

After a little more ribbing, his church’s life group rallied and offered to cook all the turkeys for the dinner. HIs wife made the mashed potatoes and his mom, Dora, the green bean casserole. Chavez bought pies, made lemonade and brought the all-important elevator music to play while they ate.

“The dinner lasted for hours,” Chavez recalled. 

They passed the dinner rolls, the cranberry sauce and the time. 

There was not only laughter, but for a moment there was joy. And the airmen got the most important message of all – someone cared. They could let loose of what had happened for a time. They were in a place like home.

‘We Have A Few More Friends’

Chavez felt very good about what he and his friends had done. His dad, Rueben, told him he was proud of him.

“That was the first time he ever said those words to me,” Chavez said.

But Chavez wasn’t planning another dinner, much less a recurring annual event. The next year, he wasn’t even really thinking about the dinner at all. 

That is, until all seven of the young airmen showed up at his shop.

“They walked in, all swagger, the seven of them, and they said, ‘Can we have Thanksgiving dinner again with you?’” Chavez said.

He didn’t hesitate: “Absolutely.”

“Well … we have a few more friends,” Chavez recalls one of them saying. 

“How many?” Chavez asked. 

“Well … we don’t know yet,” they said.

Chavez shrugged, deciding it didn’t matter.

“This place is big enough,” he said confidently. “We’ll just get some more turkeys if we have to and cook them.”

Skeptical Commander

On the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base a few days later, Chavez was introduced to the commander by a staff sergeant.

“I will never forget her,” Chavez said. “She goes, ‘I heard about your dinner and what you did for these guys and their families.’”

Then the sergeant gave Chavez a great big hug. She also introduced him to the commander at the time.

He thanked Chavez for doing the dinner, but then he added, “You know, we don’t need to do that again this year,” Chavez recalls. “We take care of our own.”

Chavez was taken aback.

“Where sir?” he blurted out.

“They’ll find a place,” the commander said confidently.

“So that’s how you take care of your own?” Chavez asked, incredulous. “Well, I have to beg to differ with you sir.”

Chavez asked the commander if he was going home for Thanksgiving and whether he already had his airline tickets.

Yes, and yes, he was told.

“Case in point,” Chavez recalls saying. “You’re going to get on a plane. You’re going to leave.”

The sergeants have the situation in hand, the commander suggested.

“But they have families,” Chavez pointed out. “And there’s no mess hall here. You can’t even serve a Thanksgiving dinner.”

The Lord Will Provide

Ultimately, that swayed the commander, Chavez said. 

“Keep me apprised,” Chavez recalls him saying before walking out and shutting the door loudly.

“He slammed it on me,” Chavez said, “because of my attitude toward him.”

But the staff sergeant was not deterred.

“Ooooo, this is going to be fun,” she said.

Chavez thought so too – until he found out a few weeks before the dinner that there were more than 700 reservations.

“Excuse me?” Chavez asked, thinking he had misheard. 

“You told me you had a big dining room,” he recalls the staff sergeant saying. “Is it a problem? Because I can send an email cancelling it.”

Chavez thought for a moment.

“No,” he finally said. “Let’s do this. Because if there’s that much of a need, I’ll ask the good Lord, and he’ll provide.”

“That’s pretty cool,” the sergeant said. “But I think you’re going to need more than that.”

“No doubt about it,” Chavez said. 

A Biblical Lesson

Chavez knew that 700 reservations meant a lot more people than that. Each airman was making a reservation for himself and at least one other person, if not an entire family as well.

“How are you going to feed 3,000 people?” Chavez recalls his wife Annette asking when he told her of all the reservations.

Chavez didn’t know, but he kept praying and thinking about it. 

Somehow, he would find a way.

The next day, he had talked a radio station into letting him on the air to tell about what he was trying to do and why he was trying to do it. Not long after that, a gentleman sauntered into his barbershop with a Carhart hat set to one side and a toothpick in his mouth.

“You’ve got yourself in some water there, boy,” Chavez recalls him saying.

The man, it turned out, owned a meat processing company. He offered to help Chavez keep all the donated turkeys cold until it was time to cook them up. He also offered to smoke any hams.

“You have one of those turkey fryers?” the man asked. “Because you’re gonna need a couple, son. You’re gong to need some help.”

Then he added, “The good Lord is going to be with you on this one.”

Bringing Home To The Troops

After work, Chavez dropped in at the fire station. Some of them surely had turkey fryers.

In fact, several of them had two.

Chavez told them about the military dinner. 

“So, would you guys be wiling to cook for me on Thanksgiving morning?” he asked.

They were all for it, until they asked how many turkeys.

“Three to four hundred,” Chavez told them without blinking an eye.

They ultimately decided they were in no matter how many turkeys it took.

Not only firefighters, but the general manager at a local diner named John Norman offered to run the kitchen for Chavez.

“I’ll get everything prepped,” Chavez recalls him promising. “What is going to be on the menu?”

Chavez asked Norman to list his favorite Thanksgiving foods growing up. 

“That’s what I want,” Chavez recalls telling him. “I want to give them that home meal dinner that they can’t get anywhere else, but they can get it here. Let’s bring their home to all of them.”

Commander Convinced

The dinner thrown together so quickly, that had looked like a disaster in the making, ultimately went off smoothly with no problems.

“We served about 3,000 people,” Chavez recalled. “And the commander even came to the dinner as well and saw firsthand what we had accomplished. He stuck out his hand and told me, ‘Job well done.’ It was very, very touching.”

Not only that, but he passed Chavez a commander’s coin, something that is usually only given to military personnel for outstanding service.

When he got home, Chavez fell to his knees and cried. 

“I wept like I’ve never wept before,” he recalled. “I knew we had touched something. We had touched angels. We had made a difference, and it’s been making one ever since.”

Anyone who wants to help provide Thanksgiving dinner and fellowship for military personnel away from home can contact Glen Chavez at 307-287-2747 or email g.chavez08@yahoo.com.

Another Challenge

Every year, Chavez says he goes through another trial getting all the turkeys and the dinner together. 

The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic Chavez said people told him, “Hey, it’s too bad your dinner is done, but that he’d had a good run.”

“But I didn’t want to quit,” Chavez said. “I like what I do. So I said, and actually it was my wife’s idea, let’s just give the dinners to the families and let them cook them themselves.”

Chavez has one caveat though. Each family taking a turkey has to invite another family that has recently located to Wyoming or has nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. 

“In essence, I’m creating over 300 to 400 different locations for these military families to go to and enjoy their Thanksgiving meal with their brotherhood,” Chavez said.”

This year is no different. The demons he’s fighting are inflation and a nationwide turkey shortage caused by a severe outbreak of avian bird flu. 

He’s reached out to the network that helps him put this on every year. People are bringing him one and two turkeys at a time, and he’s taking them to a big walk-in freezer at the airport where a restaurant is allowing him to store the birds. 

“Safeway is having a deal where if you spend $100 they’ll give you a free turkey,” Chavez said. “A lot of my turkeys over the weekend have come from that.” 

He’s also having a food drive from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Appaloosa Broadcasting parking lot, 1019 E. Lincolnway in Cheyenne.

“We’ll be there regardless of the weather, if it’s 5, 10 below, we will be there,” Chavez said. “We know it’s hard, but if people can give up maybe, a dinner they would have had at a restaurant and buy an airman a turkey instead.”

Putting on the elevator music for those guests is optional.

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Wyoming Turkey Prices More Than Double Due To Inflation, Bird Flu; Shortages To Impact Thanksgiving

in News/wyoming economy/Thanksgiving
26948

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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
renee@cowboystatedaily.com

Nonprofits across the state are struggling to put together their traditional Thanksgiving boxes and community feasts amid inflation and a shortage of turkeys caused by avian influenza.

Bird flu has swept across the nation from Maine to Wyoming, forcing the destruction of more than 23 million turkeys, chickens and game birds, which has pushed prices up dramatically, according to figures from American Farm Bureau Federation.

Record Prices

In September, retail prices for fresh boneless, skinless turkey breast hit a new record at $6.70 per pound — 112% higher than the same time last year, when prices were just $3.16 a pound. 

The previous record was $5.88 a pound seen in November 2015, which also came after a widespread outbreak of avian influenza. 


Photo by Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily

A Fowl Dilemma

While Walmart recently announced that it’s rolling back prices to 2019 levels for selected holiday staples — including turkey — through Dec. 26, supply remains a significant barrier for many nonprofits. They seek out large numbers of turkeys all at once. 

In addition, the gap between retail and wholesale prices has narrowed significantly, removing a primary benefit of cash donations. That has many nonprofit leaders saying they prefer a bird in hand to cash donations this year. 

Among these is Josh Watanabe, executive director of Laramie Interfaith.

“We’ve got the storage issue kind of squared, and we think we can manage it,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “We’re working with a bunch of community partners here in Laramie that have freezers and have the ability to help store all those things. We kind of secured that in the past day or two. 

“So at this point, we really just would like to have the turkeys in hand so that we know we’ve got them to give out to our families.”

Offering a meat other than turkey is problematic, Watanabe said. Not only are hams also expensive, but the real issue in switching things around last minute are logistics.

“We have to let our retail partners know well in advance what we’re going to be sending people over there to get, so, you know, at this point, where (switching meat for) one or two wouldn’t be that big of a deal, I think shifting half of our load over to something else, I’m not sure they’d appreciate that,” he said.

Cost Crunch

Turkey is not the only trouble spot for nonprofits. Inflation has made just about everything in a traditional holiday feast more expensive than usual, whether it’s sweet potatoes and cranberries or gas to travel pick up and deliver donations.

Meanwhile, the need facing nonprofits is growing.

Tim Simeroth, captain of the Casper Salvation Army, told Cowboy State Daily he thinks his organization will likely need 600 birds this year, a significant increase from the 400 needed last year.

“In February, we were doing 30 families a day,” he said. “But now we’re anywhere from 90 to 100 a day.”

He’s looking at putting hams or “whatever we can get” into some holiday boxes if he cannot source enough turkeys.

“We’re just going to have to source other things besides turkeys this year,” he said.

‘I’ll Find Them’

Glen Chavez, meanwhile, told Cowboy State Daily he has reached out to every grocery store in the Cheyenne area for turkeys, with no luck so far.

“Right now, they’re telling me they can’t help me this year because there’s a shortage of turkeys,” he said. “In fact, they told me Walmart distribution isn’t even going to give their employees turkeys this year.”

Chavez has started calling national distribution centers in his search for the 300 turkeys he needs for an annual effort that feeds around 3,000 military personnel and family members in Cheyenne.

“I’ll find them,” Chavez said, determined. “I find them every year. I hear this actually every year, but not like this year. We’re in a different economy, a different state of mind than we have been in years past.”

Shoppers On The Lookout

Individual shoppers also are facing more obstacles than usual when it comes to their own family feasts.

Susan Lowrie at Walmart in Cheyenne on Tuesday afternoon was looking over the turkeys. She was pleasantly surprised to discover the store’s price rollback. 

“That’s a really good price,” she said. 

She usually shops at Sam’s Club, she told Cowboy State Daily, but hadn’t been able to buy a turkey there yet. There simply weren’t any. 

She has family coming in for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year and has been shopping sales to stockpile what she will need ahead of time, concerned about supply chain issues.

“My son is coming in for Christmas in December and he likes turkey,” she said. “So I’m going to get two turkeys.”

Bird Flu 

The biggest reason for this year’s turkey shortage is not just supply chain issues and inflation that has ramped up input costs, though neither helps. 

The main reason for the shortage is the bird flu outbreak that’s swept across 24 states.

Tens of millions of birds have died since the first case was confirmed in February in Indiana. Since early April, health officials have reported the culling of 23 million turkeys, chickens and game birds.

Health experts have said avian influenza generally doesn’t enter the nation’s food supply, since contaminated flocks are isolated and destroyed the moment avian influenza is identified and confirmed. But the virus is also not transmissible from eating properly cooked poultry and eggs.

Wild birds, including wild turkeys, also are dying from bird flu.

Montana, for example, confirmed seven dead turkeys near Billings about a month ago. Not long after, Wyoming also found dead turkeys near Sheridan, which forced the depopulation of broodstock at a captive pheasant farm managed by Wyoming Game and Fish.

At least 38 wild birds have tested positive for H5N1 in Wyoming, according to state officials, but testing is not done on all dead wild birds because of the expense, so the numbers likely under-represent what is actually out there.

There also have been reports of the virus in high densities in the Big Horn Basin, the east side of Bighorn Mountains, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, in South Pass, east of Casper and near Cheyenne.

To report clusters of dead birds of three or more, call the Game and Fish wildlife health laboratory at 307-745-5865.

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Wyoming Ranks 42nd Nationwide In Thanksgiving Misery Index

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This is one of those surveys where coming in near the bottom is a good thing.

The so-called Thanksgiving Misery Index is out and Wyoming is doing pretty good.

The Estately company does research to help citizens compare towns, cities, and states in an effort to help them decide where to live.

The company analyzed six different category to come up with the misery index:

  1. Likelihood of a family food poisoning episode.  To get this, they looked at Center for Disease Control’s stats on the most cases of salmonella per capita derived from poultry over the past five years.
  2. Likelihood of relatives getting drunk and making a scene.  To get this information, they went back to the CDC to examine the prevalence of binge drinking among adults per capita.
  3. Likelihood of political arguments.  States with the most even split between Democrat and Republican voters.
  4. Dietary restrictions impacting meal quality.  Back to the CDC to get the highest rates of diabetes and they went to Facebook to determine the highest percentage of vegetarians and vegans.
  5. Likelihood of favorite NFL team losing on Thanksgiving.  They looked at the losing percentage for Thanksgiving Day games of residents’ favorite teams.  
  6. Likelihood of guests/cooks abandoning meal to shop at a Black Friday sale.  They used Facebook data here to determine the percentage of Facebook users expressing interest in Black Friday sales.

Sure, there are issues with the “study” but it’s fun to look at.  Here’s where Wyoming ranked in each category:

Salmonella cases per capita from poultry.  Wyoming ranked 16th.

Binge drinking.  Shockingly, Wyoming ranked 32nd.

Contentious politics.  We’ve been called the reddest state in the nation. In this study, we’re not quite the reddest. Utah and West Virginia come in at 49 and 50. We’re 48.

We’re also 48th in dietary restrictions.

As for NFL team losing percentage on Thanksgiving, which doesn’t make any sense because Michigan is 14th. The Lions are in Detroit.  This one is a head-scratcher.

As for the enthusiasm factor for Black Friday sales, it’s nice to see we are near the bottom again coming in at 37.

Who scored the worst? Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin were the top five.

It doesn’t appear as though any state came in first in more than one category. Although West Virginia pulled an impressive first place in salmonella, second place in NFL teams losing, and third place for Black Friday enthusiasm.

Does this study mean much?  No. Is it interesting. It’s more interesting than a Detroit Lions game.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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