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Wyoming’s “Double Dubs” Wins Best Chicken Wings Competition At National Wing Festival

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By Greg Johnson, Cowboy State Daily

Proving there ain’t no thing like their chicken wings, Laramie-based Weitzel’s Wings, aka Double Dubs, is fresh off winning Festival Favorite at the National Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, New York.

While there’s some debate whether former University of Wyoming standout Josh Allen is the best quarterback in the NFL, there’s now no doubt that his go-to spot while at UW is the MVP of Buffalo wings.

Leaving Buffalo the top winner in what’s considered the pinnacle of his industry is confirmation that Laramie-based Double Dubs owner Trent Weitzel is a pro’s pro.

Buffalo Wing Fest “is kind of the Super Bowl of everything,” he said about the two-day competition over Labor Day weekend. “The best wing places across the country are at that event, and from around the world.”

Pilgrimage For Wings

If there were an official Double Dubs Army, Mike Davis would be first in line to volunteer.

The self-proclaimed “junkie” for Double Dubs’ wings, the Fort Collins resident was first in line Saturday morning with the food truck opened in the Murdoch’s parking lot. He brought two friends in his efforts to convert them to his almost religious-like following of Double Dubs.

“I’ve eaten chicken wings all over, and you cannot find them this good anywhere else, just here,” Davis said. “They’re crispy, and everything inside is just perfectly moist.”

And Wentzel’s signature sauces “are the bomb,” Davis said. He prefers the WWIII, the second-hottest Buffalo sauce on the menu.

“It’ll make your head sweat,” he said. “I like it spicy, and these are just right.”

When the trio’s order was up – 20 WWIII wings with crispy tots, bleu cheese and celery – the men stood in the open hatchback of their car, the grub perched on a cooler tailgate-style.

It took one bite for Star Grimm to become a convert.

“These are pretty darn good,” he said. “I like the butteriness, the good crunch.”

While Grimm said he actually likes his wings even hotter, he also eschewed doctoring them up with the bleu cheese, preferring them “pure Buffalo.”

After his first bite, Dilisio became a fan, immediately exclaiming the wings were “worth the drive, and I’d do it again.”

Although his buddies would’ve liked a little more heat, Dilisio proclaimed them “just perfect.”

Spreading Its Wings

The win in Buffalo caps a meteoric year for Weitzel and his growing wing empire. After Allen mentioned Double Dubs on a national sports podcast, the food truck drew the attention of Food Network personality Guy Fieri. A segment on Fieri’s hit show “Diners, Drive-Ins and 

Dives” premiered in May and has helped Double Dubs earn national acclaim.

“The biggest impact has been in Cheyenne,” Weitzel said about the Triple D effect. “I’ve noticed a lot more people traveling around really hunt me down now. We had this couple from Utah that was visiting Jackson, then they drove to Wheatland specifically to try our wings.

“There’s definitely a Triple D effect, which is good.”

Although Double Dubs had success in its two previous Wing Fest competitions, this year’s was bigger and better, Weitzel said. He and his staff went armed with eight of their signature sauces, and it takes a lot of sauce to satisfy thousands of Buffalo wing snobs.

“We took about 55 gallons worth of sauce, and we got rid of everything equally,” Weitzel said. “Everybody wanted to come to our booth.

“For this third year, we pulled out all the stops. We had a bigger tent, bigger advertisements, and the Triple D stuff definitely helps.”

And although Allen loves his food truck – the QB’s partial to the No. 17 Spicy Bleu – that’s not enough to give a Wyoming outfit a hometown advantage at the Super Bowl of Buffalo wings in Buffalo.

“With the Buffalo culture for wings, we were definitely not the hometown favorite because we’re not from Buffalo,” Weitzel said.

That may change in the future.


Since starting his popular food truck in Laramie, Double Dubs has added another traveling truck that makes frequent and regular stops in Cheyenne and around the region.

He’s also recently expanded with the first Weitzel’s Wings franchise truck that serves the Rock Springs and Green River area. And his next expansion will be a truck to serve along the Interstate 25 corridor in northern Colorado.

But his most ambitions goal would to someday open his own restaurant. And if that happens, it would be in Buffalo, Weitzel said.

“If I ever do a brick-and-mortar, it would be in Buffalo,” he said.

Simple And Excellent

There’s no secret to his success, Weitzel said. Double Dubs keeps it simple and does that extremely well.

“I’ve eaten wings all over the country, from California to Buffalo and down to Texas, and created a style of wing I truly like,” he said. “That’s why we don’t do ranch at our place, we do a traditional bleu cheese.”

His menu is based on his signature Buffalo sauce people can order at varied heat levels, dubbed WWI, WWII, WWII and the hottest, WWIV.

“A lot of my sauces are a true-Buffalo-based sauce, then we branch out from there,” he said.

A couple of those that have been popular are the Elvis and Fluffernutter wings, along with a Fiesta sauce with a southwestern kick and topped with corn chips.

“I eat chicken wings every day,” Weitzel said. “I never get tired of them. I actually crave my own chicken wings daily. I crave them.”

Seems a growing gaggle of loyal customers do as well.

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Wyoming Littles: Triceratops A Good State Dinosaur, Because Self-Defense

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Photos Courtesy Joslyn Camino

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Triceratops is the perfect state dinosaur for Wyoming because it’s good at self-defense. 

At least that’s what the first- and second-graders of Clearmont Elementary School in northern Wyoming say.   

“I think triceratops are good because they use their weapons to protect themselves,” said Sabriel, a girl in second grade at Clearmont, in a Wednesday video interview with Cowboy State Daily.

Sabriel said Wyomingites also are good at protecting themselves.  

Wyoming chose triceratops as its state dinosaur in 1994 following a question posed to elementary schoolers statewide. That was a generation ago, but many little ones of today agree with the choice.    

But the children in Ms. Joslyn Camino’s first- and second-grade class in Clearmont said triceratops also are complicated.   

“They’re nice, because they don’t hurt that many people,” said Casey, a second-grade boy who sits next to Sabriel in class.   

Another boy, Grady, warned that triceratops could be bad, because they use their horns as weapons.   

“That’s why my dad doesn’t let cows grow their horns: so they take some kind of special thing off, so they can’t use those as weapons like triceratops did,” said Grady.   

Jonah, a boy in first grade, said other dinosaurs had to be careful around triceratops, because triceratops would put family loyalty above passing friendships.   

“They use their horns as weapons to attack their enemies,” said Jonah. “Because they’re not a family with them.”   

Here Owen, a boy in second grade, nodded. A Wyomingite himself, Owen feels kinship with the hardy triceratops.   

“I think they’re good for us, because they represent how we strongly protect,” said Owen.   


Most of the children in Ms. Camino’s class yelled “noooooo!” when asked if another dinosaur would do for Wyoming. But some of them offered up possible dinosaur alternatives, just in case.   

Grady described the Spinosaurus, whose fossils inspired dragon lore in ancient China.   

The “Who Would Win?” children’s book series pitted Spinosaurus against triceratops in one of its fictional matchups, said Grady.   

Triceratops won.   

“Well, in the fight, triceratops won because the Spinosaurus got stuck in the earthquake. But without the earthquake and everything, the Spinosaurus would have won. He was faster and a LOT deadlier,” Grady said.   

It seems in Wyoming, seismic activity is on our side.   


Straus, a boy in second grade, made a case for brontosaurus, of “Land Before Time” fame because it could stomp carnivores and win wars.   

“Like, if there was a giant war, he could win, because a human is as small as his toe,” Straus said.   

Casey advocated for velociraptors, because they’re successful hunters like so many Wyomingites.   

Sabriel agreed with him. She also liked her shirt that day.   

“I’m getting hot in this sweatshirt. Who wants to see my shirt?” asked Sabriel.   

The class quarreled mildly about exactly what velociraptors look like. One student quipped, “You better stop before we have a fist fight.”   

But there was no fist fight.    

Audy, a boy in second-grade, said T-Rex may fit Wyoming because both T-Rex and Wyoming are “cool.”

After Casey proposed giganotosaurus – a beefed-up version of T-Rex – Teagan, a girl in second grade, brought the conversation back around to something highly valued in Wyoming.   

“Triceratops is special for us,” she said, “because they can defend their selves, like we can defend ourselves, too.” 

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The History of Cheyenne’s Botanic Gardens: A World Class Oasis In A High-Altitude Desert

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A dry climate, at high altitude, with little winter snow, frequent high winds and semi-regular hailstorms don’t mix to make Cheyenne the ideal location for a 9-acre collection of specialty landscapes and a three-story grand conservatory.

Nor would any logical person bet that a group of senior citizens, at-risk youth and handicapped volunteers would make up a stable volunteer workforce that provides most the labor required to maintain and grow such a monumental facility.

“I kind of jokingly say you’d have to be an idiot to put a botanic garden in Cheyenne, and I was that idiot,” said horticulturist Shane Smith said. “But I sure had a good time.”

And so have countless others who’ve enjoyed the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens over the last 45 years.

From Our Archives: Interview With Shane Smith From 2019

Innovative Workforce

Smith, who in 1976 was a horticulture research assistant at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, had become fascinated by solar greenhouses, which no one in the region had developed to that point.

But in Cheyenne, the nonprofit Community Action of Laramie County had seen some success with small 10-by-12-foot solar greenhouses. When the organization began construction on a 5,000-square-foot building, Smith volunteered his time and was ultimately asked to head up the facility, which was named the Cheyenne Botanic Garden.

“Originally, the main idea was to give senior citizens meaningful activities that produced food,” Smith said. “So under my tenure, we planted the first seed. I paid for the seed out of my own pocket because there was no budget for seed.”

Two or three months after the garden opened in 1977, Smith was approached by the local Goodwill organization, which asked if there would be a way disabled adults could volunteer.

“So, they started showing up almost every day,” he said. “Usually there’s about four to five clients on a bus. It’s very therapeutic for them, and they love doing it.”

There also were other benefits for the volunteers.

“They would come home with food to their group homes,” he said.

Soon after, Smith was approached by a local judge who asked if youth could work off court fines by volunteering at the garden.

“I said sure,” he recalled, which set the stage for a volunteer labor force that still tends to the gardens today.

“It became kind of a big social experiment,” Smith said. “Rarely would you mix those three groups in a social setting, right? But the kids are a great help with the heavier stuff. The handicapped folks are really good with detail work like weeding or cleaning plants up, and the seniors are good at just all kinds of things depending on their age and ability.”

The unique workforce attracted specialists in “horticultural therapy” and set the Cheyenne Botanic Garden up for one of many firsts the organization boasts, Smith said.

“We built the nation’s first wheelchair-accessible orchard, first functioning one anyway,” he said. “We prune the trees to be totally accessible from a wheelchair, so somebody in a wheelchair could do everything from harvesting, pruning, weeding, things like that.”

Cultivating ‘Firsts’

In 1978, the Cheyenne Community Solar Greenhouse, as it was called then, made itself available to be Wyoming’s first community garden.

“Mostly our volunteers partook in it,” Smith said. “But we also started getting community members saying, ‘Hey, can I have a plot?’ And so, gosh, we had about 30 clients.”

In 1980, the greenhouse hosted the first farmers market in the state.

“We ended up assisting an awful lot of other cities in Wyoming to teach them how to organize and put together a farmers market,” said Smith.

By 1985, staff and volunteers at the greenhouse were growing plants that aren’t usually found in the Rocky Mountain West, such as banana trees, fig trees, coffee trees and exotic flowers.

“We were starting to look and feel more like a botanic garden,” Smith said.

Sustainable Infrastructure

By the mid-1980s, the organization had branched out to grow living things other than plants.

“We started beehives,” Smith said. “We also had a chicken coop, and we had geese and we had turkeys.”

Smith said the volunteers would use turkey manure to fertilize the gardens, and the turkeys would eat the grasshoppers.

“We’d have kids working off court fines herd the turkeys through the community gardens,” he said. “And we’d end up with 25- to 30-pound turkeys and we’d butcher those at the end of the season for Thanksgiving. We were a botanic garden/farm.”

Difficult Growing Conditions

If he had known how difficult it would be to start a botanic garden in Cheyenne, Smith said he might have reconsidered taking the job in 1977.

“It’s No. 1 for hail in the nation,” he said of the local climate. “And then it’s No. 4 for wind, (Cheyenne) is the windiest city in the state. And with the wind combined with the elevation, Cheyenne has weather patterns that really don’t allow us to have much snow on the ground in the winter, so in order to get trees to really thrive and survive, we had to haul out water and water them in the wintertime.”

However, the adversity brought support, and Smith said the organization used the challenges to its advantage.

“When the public would drive up and see us growing flowers and food, they were just so excited and supportive and wanted to help out,” he said.

Growth And Expansion

Smith said the venture proved so successful that in 1985, the Cheyenne Community Solar Greenhouse applied for a $395,000 Community Development Grant through the state to move the operation from its original building just outside of the Cheyenne city limits to Lion’s Park.

“Our building was starting to rot at the seams and our lease was becoming very tentative,” Smith said. 

Because of the organization’s unique volunteer workforce and its benefits to the community, he said the Cheyenne City Council almost unanimously supported the grant application.

“So we built this very nice, very similar-looking solar greenhouse in Lions Park,” he said. 

Staff and volunteers appealed to the city to take over the operation as part of the Parks and Rec Department, Smith said.

“(We had) low pay and no benefits for the staff,” he said. “And we were getting to a point where it’d be nice to have some insurance and get paid what we’re worth. We were working six days a week in the summer, with a farmers market every Saturday.”  

In 1986, with a new location and new name (the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens), the organization expanded its offerings while splitting off some of activities.

“Once we were taken over by the city, we let Community Action have the running of the farmers market because we just couldn’t do it all,” Smith said. “And then we agreed to grow all the flowers for the city park system, which was a gigantic commitment.”

That was a good deal for the city, he said, because they received 50,000 bedding plants that were grown with no extra labor costs because of the volunteer workforce.

“We planted a total of about 80 different flower beds around town and on our grounds in Lions Park,” said Smith. 

Presidential Recognition

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan recognized Cheyenne Botanic Gardens with an award for exemplary volunteerism. And in ​​1990, President George H.W. Bush honored it with one of his 1000 Points Of Light awards.

“We got an honor from George Bush Sr. with the 83rd Point of Light Award,” Smith said, adding that Point of Light recognized volunteer organizations. “It was a real honor.” 

And in 1994, the gardens won an award from President Bill Clinton, the American Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.

In 1989, Smith was awarded a Harvard Loeb Fellowship, which gave him access to training that he said allowed him to move the Botanic Gardens into the future.

“I took a lot of leadership classes, I took a lot of politics-based classes, which ended up really helping me move the gardens forward,” he said.

Nonprofit Status Allowed Expansion

In 1993, the complementary nonprofit called Friends of the Botanic Gardens was formed. 

“That ended up being a gigantic change for the future of the gardens,” said Smith. “Because from ’93 on, virtually all of our landscapes, including the whole Paul Smith Children’s Garden, were built without using taxpayer money. They were built through donations.” 

Since the nonprofit began, the gardens have expanded tremendously. And in 2017, its Grand Conservatory was opened to the public. 

Named for Smith, the three-story facility features a tropical plant collection, a baroque-style orangerie, a bonsai house and special sections featuring desert, Mediterranean and prehistoric landscapes.


From Our Archives: How a 42-Foot, 2,000-Pound Submarine Periscope Ended Up at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

The conservatory features several one-of-a-kind attractions, including an authentic Navy submarine periscope.

“It moves up and down so our kids can look through it,” Smith said. “And so that’s a first. We’re the first botanic garden in the nation to have a Navy submarine periscope, probably in the world.” 

The Paul Smith Children’s Garden also is a major attraction, said Smith, in part because of its designer — world-renowned landscape designer Herb Schaal — but also because of its energy-efficient construction

“We opened it in 2009, and not a dime of taxpayer money went into the construction of it,” Smith said. “And it was also another first; it was the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified children’s garden in the world.”

In addition to the Grand Conservatory and Children’s Garden, the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens boasts 27 specialty landscapes, a Discovery Pond, a Garden Labyrinth, the Bedont Rose Garden, the Reckling Herb Garden, a Sensory Garden and Gazebo, Rotary Plazas, Rock and Conifer Garden and Peace Garden, as well as the Cottage Garden, Perennial Walk, the Crevice Garden and the Habitat Hero Pollinator Garden.

Another attraction the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens is proud about is Engine 1242, the oldest locomotive engine in Wyoming.

“We were given our 8-9 acres of grounds from the city to manage, and it included Wyoming’s oldest steam locomotive,” Smith said. “So we did some fancy landscaping around it, some special interpretation, and we found a historic fence made of welded railroad parts in Laramie.”

Testament To Cheyenne’s People

Although he retired in 2019, Smith’s pride in the legacy he helped create is evident.

“It’s unheard of to have a professional botanic garden with a tropical conservatory in a town the size of Cheyenne,” Smith said, attributing much of the success of the venture to several cost-saving measures.

“We had a nonprofit that raised money for us and advocated for us,” he said. “We had free labor with volunteers – and a lot of volunteers. And we had long used renewable energy. 

“Our very first greenhouse was 100% solar heated, our next greenhouse in the park was 100% solar heated. And then we put photovoltaics and solar heat in the children’s village, and we also have a wind generator in the children’s village.” 

But mostly, Smith said, the success of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens reflects the hardiness of the people of Cheyenne.

“It seems like a lot of the great things Cheyenne does, it does with a great staff and volunteers,” he said. “People in Cheyenne roll their sleeves up and they don’t have to think about a good idea very long, they just kind of go for it. That’s kind of been our history.”

Which means together they’ll continue to cultivate a flourishing partnership.

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Missing Wyoming WWII Vet Gets Headstone 77 Years After Passing

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Photo by Leo Wolfson

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By Leo Wolfson, Political Reporter

NODE, WYOMING — Fallen World War II veteran Maj. Virgil Olds will finally be officially recognized for his service. It only took 77 years.

“People have been thinking about it, it finally happened,” said Jimmy Shane, a American Legion member who arranged to have a Veteran’s headstone placed for Olds.

On Friday, American Legion Post 1 of Van Tassell and Niobrara County VFW honored Olds with a headstone marker at the Node Cemetery outside Lusk. Until then, there had been no headstone or any kind of recognition at the cemetery for Olds, a fighter pilot shot down while flying over Tokyo, Japan, in 1945. His body was never recovered.

“Today, we’ve again been reminded of the debt we cannot repay, the ultimate act of brotherhood, one who gave all for the United States of America, one who gave it all for the cause of liberty,” said State Rep. J.D. Williams, R-Lusk. “One who gave all for the common good. One who gave all for you and me.”

American Legion member Jimmy Shane can see Olds’ property in Node from his own, spending decades contemplating the life of the 30-year old fallen service member. He had been putting American flags around Olds’ mother and grandparents’ gravestones as a makeshift marker for the fallen veteran on Memorial Day.

“It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing,” said Williams. 

In 2019, he decided to see how they could recognize Olds with an official veteran headstone, but the ensuing effort required some bureaucratic maneuvering.

Finally this summer, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, stepped in to coordinate with the Wyoming VFW and Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery in Evansville to get a headstone arranged for Olds. 

On Friday, the headstone, a gray face tombstone engraved with black lettering, was unveiled on POW MIA Recognition Day, a day held to remember and honor returned U.S. Prisoners of War (POWs) and all Americans still captured, unaccounted for or missing in action.

“Today we honor,” said Ed Tirado, commander of VFW Post 3511, pausing to fight back tears, “Mag. Virgil Olds, son of Niobrara County.”

Also attending Friday’s ceremony was Gov. Mark Gordon and U.S. congressional candidate Harriet Hageman. 

Birds chirped loudly nearby on the mild and sunny early fall day, where somber reflection met with proud honor as Shane and other organizers were finally able to pay tribute to a man who gave his life for his community and country.

“In Wyoming you are family and we will pursue every … avenue and stop at nothing to make sure that we remember all those who have served their families and the legacy that they leave for Wyoming,” Gordon said.

A Life Cut Short

Olds was born in 1915 on a ranch about a mile south of Node. 

Today, the community about 10 miles east of Lusk, only has one resident. In the early part of the 20th century, the unincorporated town had more than 100 residents.

Olds’ mother, Mildred Olds, died a week after giving birth to her only child, Virgil. He was raised by his grandparents and lived a traditional rural life. 

But Olds had an adventurous spirit.

Torrington resident Donna Peterson remembered Olds visiting her brothers on his Indian Motorcycle when she was a child and giving them rides. She found the nature of his death fitting of his service.

“I think that’s the way he would’ve wanted to go,” she said.

Growing up, Olds attended a small schoolhouse in Node and later graduated from Lusk High School in 1933.

Olds was a mason by trade but unbeknownst to his grandparents, he also took flying lessons in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and other places as a young adult. His sense of adventure would propel him into military service and his untimely death.

His Service

Olds’ military training began in the Lusk unit of the National Guard. After five years of service, he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and a year later, promoted to first. In September 1940, Olds’ guard unit was mobilized for war service. 

He continued excelling in the military, promoted to captain of his Second Battalion 116th Quartermaster Corps after a year.

“This put him in a position to apply for flight training … and his ability was such that he was accepted without loss of rank,” Shane said.

Olds went into flight training in 1942, which he performed while also serving as a flight instructor. Later, he trained for Boeing B-29s and participated in the Japan theater of World War II as a member of the Army Air Corps. 

Shane said Olds kept his aviation career a secret from his grandparents as long as possible so they wouldn’t worry about him.

“All through the war he looked into the welfare of the elderly couple that had brought him to manhood,” Shane said.

In his will, Olds left his entire estate to his grandparents. They passed away shortly before and after his own death.

“He was selfless as an officer, as a leader, a son and a grandson,” said Brig. Gen. Michelle Mulberry, chief of staff for the Wyoming Air National Guard.

On May 24, 1945, Olds led his battalion in his plane, nicknamed “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” pathfinding a bombing mission over Japan. It is believed Olds and his crew were shot down on the mission. 

“I can’t help but think that on that day in May 1945, as he and his crew flew the pathfinder mission over Tokyo, Japan, that there was a sense of peace and calming among him and his crew, and that they had the utmost respect for him as their leader,” Mulberry said. “Maj. Olds and his crew, they will never be forgotten.”

Olds was promoted to the rank of major a few weeks posthumously and awarded a Purple Heart and an Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, a denotation of three Air Medals.

There have been more than 80,000 veterans captured or still missing while fighting in wars for the U.S. Military. 

Olds’ name can be found at the National Memorial Cemetery in Hawaii and now at the Node Cemetery, where he will rest in peace with his mother and grandparents.

Cutting Through Red Tape

Recognizing Olds was no small task for Shane and company. He said he was told by the Veterans Administration in 2019 it could not place an official military headstone unless Olds’ body or ashes were found. Also making matters difficult with the VA was the fact that Olds had no known descendants.

The group made no headway initially when reaching out to Wyoming’s delegation in Washington, D.C.

“This has been an example of if you don’t succeed the first time, try again,” Shane said.

During a Memorial Day celebration in May, the local American Legion gave a presentation on Olds’ life and requested attendees to contact their political representatives to request a military marker for Olds. Shane and others also sent letters.

Within a few days, they received a call from a representative in Cheney’s office who told them they were working on the request. 

“Congressman Cheney’s office led the way for getting this headstone and she was the one that requested that the headstone,” Tirado said.

Next came a call from the Oregon Trail Veterans Cemetery, which informed the group memorial stones would be made available in a few months. The Oregon Trail Cemetery also tracked down Olds’ National Guard records, which were on display at a nearby church in Node during Friday’s ceremony. 

“We couldn’t believe how fast this thing came together and can’t start to thank anyone else that wrote letters and the American Legion Post 1 for all their involvement in this,” Shane said. “This was the right thing to do and the least we could do for a man of 30 years of age that gave his life for this country.”

Tirado expressed gratitude that Shane, 87, was able to arrange Olds’ headstone before it was too late. 

“If it would have been 10 years in the future, we might have had this information,” he said. “Nobody would’ve known and nobody would’ve been there to carry on that legacy.”

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Cheyenne Man Wins Over $1 Million In Las Vegas Slot Machine

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From left to right: Mike Casner, Kerry Casner, Marc Thayer, Bryan “Alf” Grzegorczyk

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It was supposed to be a quick weekend trip for Cheyenne businessman Marc Thayer. And it was.

It just turned out to be a profitable one as well.

Thayer, owner of a home and business security system company in Cheyenne, flew to Las Vegas with three friends Friday and came back Monday $1.25 million richer.

Thayer hit the jackpot Sunday afternoon at a slot machine his friend Bryan “Alf” Grzegorczyk, a Cheyenne bar owner, usually plays at the Circa hotel in downtown Las Vegas.

And it didn’t take him much work. Thayer told Cowboy State Daily he had just sat down at the machine and told his friend that it would be great to win the grand prize.

“On my fourth pull, I hit it,” Thayer said. “It was a ‘holy shit’ moment.”

Thayer said he knew he won some money because of the graphics the machine was displaying, not to mention the celebratory sounds and flashing beacon.

“I thought I won a decent prize,” he said. “But then I realized I just hit the jackpot.”

Calm And Collected

Grzegorczyk, who said he plays the Buffalo Diamond slot machine at the Circa Hotel often, was sitting next to Thayer when his buddy hit the jackpot.

Thayer’s reaction? Calm.

“He looks at me and goes, ‘I just hit the jackpot,” Grzegorczyk said. “And I’m like, ‘Yes, you did.’ It was pretty incredible.”

“I was dazed,” Thayer said.

Then came the waiting. Thayer said because of the amount he won, the gaming company had to come to the casino to verify the machine had not been tampered with and get everything in order.

It was about a four-hour wait, Grzegorczyk said. So Grzegorczyk, Thayer, and Mike and Kerry Casner, who own The Garbage Guys in Cheyenne, parked themselves by the machine and drank cocktails.

But Thayer didn’t pay. Those drinks were all on the house.

Surely, he paid for dinner.

Nope. Because Grzegorczyk is a frequent traveler to Las Vegas, he had plenty of complimentary meals saved up.

“Marc was off the hook there too,” Grzegorczyk said laughing. “It was a good all-around trip for Marc.”

Make It Rain

After the win was verified that evening, Thayer said he was handed a check for $63,000 and told the rest would be sent to him later.

He said it never entered his mind to get a suite or penthouse, or to “make it rain.”

Instead, he went to bed at about 10 p.m. in the same shared room that he and Grzegorczyk got together.

He also said he doesn’t remember much about the after-jackpot dinner.

“That’s kind of a blur,” Thayer said.

More Relatives

Thayer said since hitting the jackpot, his phone has been ringing non-stop because Grzegorczyk posted a number of videos on Facebook announcing the win.

“I actually found out I have about 30 more relatives than I had the day before,” Thayer said.

What To Do With The Money

Thayer said he doesn’t have any plans on what to do with the windfall. He said life for him will continue as always.

“I’m smart with my money,” he said. “I’m just going to continue with my business. I’ll show up early every day and keep plugging along.”

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Nine Road Trips for Autumn Colors in Wyoming 

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Editor’s Note: This is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to viewing fall foliage in Wyoming. It’s just a start. With your help, we can build a more comprehensive map for the best drives in the state during fall. Let us know of your favorite fall drives.

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

Planning an autumn road trip to see the changing leaves? Don’t “leave” Wyoming! We’ve got the most beautiful fall foliage right here in the Cowboy State, from the Bighorn Mountains in northeast Wyoming to Aspen Alley in the south. 

From now until mid-October, Wyoming shines with vibrant reds, yellows and oranges from riversides to mountaintops. The Farmer’s Almanac suggests waiting until October 5-14, when tree and shrub colors should peak. 

Check out our road trip suggestions! 

The Bighorn Mountains 

On Highway 16, there’s a spot about a half hour west of Buffalo where the aspen trees turn gold when the frost bites in the fall. As Highway 16 winds around the foothills of the Bighorns, look to the south to see some incredible stands of color. 

Sunlight Basin 

“Camp Creek on the Chief Joseph Highway is one of the best stands of red aspens that I know of,” said Bobbie Holder, horticulturist and certified arborist in Cody. “And if you keep driving up there and drive up on the Beartooth Highway behind the lookout, all along there are huge aspen groves that will probably start to turn next week if they haven’t started already,” she said. 

Oxbow Bend 

Perhaps the most photographed area in Grand Teton National Park, the fall colors at Oxbow Bend are breathtaking. Just east of Jackson Lake Junction on Highway 89, there’s a pull off area where professional and amateur photographers can make the most of the light and color. 

Snake River Overlook 

While you’re nearby, check out the Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park. The colors there contrast with the deep greens of the pine trees, making for a breathtaking view!  

Little Mountain 

A beautiful area spotted with groves of aspen trees, Little Mountain is located about 40 miles south of Rock Springs, near Flaming Gorge. Keep an eye out for elk and mule deer while you’re there. A must-do on your Wyoming autumn road trip!  

Aspen Alley 

“One of the best places in Wyoming is Aspen Alley,” said Holder, referring to a nearly 20-mile stretch of aspen trees in the Sierra Madre Mountains west of Encampment, in the southern part of the state. “That is just an incredible trip.” 

Cowboy State Daily’s own Bill Sniffin, in his column on September 7 of this year, described the area as “​​a narrow road cut through a mighty grove of aspens that shimmers like gold in the fall.” 

Shane Smith, horticulturist and founder of the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens, said the area is in transition, with older trees and younger trees mingling – but there are beautiful stands of aspen in the area. 

“When I was there, and this was about four years ago, it looked like younger aspens were coming up amongst the dead and almost dead aspens,” he said. “And so I think it has a bright future, it’s just not here yet.”  

North Platte River 

Later in the season, riverbeds are the place to go to find vibrant colors, said Smith. Places like the North Platte River, with multiple access points near Casper, are prime property for foliage viewing in the later weeks. 

“They tend to be the last areas to turn color,” Smith said. “They’re lower altitude, so it’s warmer.” 

He pointed out that the major rivers in Wyoming have more deciduous trees (which lose their leaves every year, unlike evergreens), but not necessarily aspen. However, the other species of trees will also reward fall foliage junkies with lovely autumn colors.  

“There are a lot of river valleys that are filled with native cottonwoods and willows and willow-like shrubs and dogwoods that in and of themselves have some beautiful color,” Smith said. 

Beartrap Meadow 

The higher elevations are the key, Smith said. 

“If you want to really get immersed in yellow and gold,” he said, “if you get to a little bit higher altitude, it’s going to be more rewarding.” 

One such high-altitude location is at the top of Casper Mountain, where adventurers can find Beartrap Meadow. The area is a popular camping destination where flaming orange aspen trees can be found glowing in the autumn light.  

Devils Tower 

As stunning as the landmark is in summer, in autumn, Devils Tower and its surrounding hills shine with color. And it’s not just the aspen trees that catch your eye – the red rocks at the base of the mountain give a splash of color to the landscape. 

Precipitation Drives Color Change 

Smith said colors change at different times due to how dry the conditions are. 

“The less irrigated the trees are, the earlier they’re going to turn,” he said. “Kind of a natural survival kit.”  

Smith referred to Cowboy State Daily’s weather forecaster, Don Day, who has predicted some upcoming freezing temperatures – which may actually put a halt to the color changes. 

“He’s hinting that we could have some early cold flashes,” said Smith. “If we get an early flash freeze while the leaves are still green, there are a number of tree species and shrubs that do not let go of their state, they hang on to their leaves well into winter, which is kind of ugly.” 

Interactive Map 

There is an interactive map that shows where and when the peak times for foliage viewing are in all parts of the U.S. Save this link, which was created by the Smoky Mountains, for your road trip planning! 

Where are YOUR favorite places in Wyoming to view the autumn leaves? Let us know!​​

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Yes, It’s Possible To Make Wine In Wyoming And To Grow The Grapes Too

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

Homemade wine is all the buzz these days – wine-making kits are available online, and most people know at least one person who’s fermenting grapes in a closet somewhere. 

But there’s a big difference between making your own wine and growing your own grapes. 

This weekend, the University of Wyoming Extension Office is hosting a grape symposium in Lander. Jeremiah Vardiman, the extension agent in charge of the symposium, said growing grapes in Wyoming is possible. 

Vardiman said the University is growing grapes at research centers in Sheridan and Powell, and the symposium on Saturday, Sept. 17 is meant to give basic information to anyone interested in growing their own grapes. 

“We have a rough idea of just how to communicate to people how to select, what stock to look at, cultural practices that fit Wyoming, how to think of Wyoming’s conditions to grow grapes in, and to try and be successful with that,” Vardiman told Cowboy State Daily.   

He said the symposium will take information that researchers have gathered at the Sheridan and Powell research centers and share that with the rest of the state. But Vardiman said they’ve only been able to do limited research. 

“There’s so many grape varieties out on the market, there’s no way we could test them all,” Vardiman said. “We’ve kind of determined a few varieties that have performed well.”  

Hurdles to Grape Growing 

There are a few barriers to successfully growing grapes here in Wyoming. 

“We get very cold, as many people know, in the wintertime,” said Vardiman. “And Wyoming is very well known for having late freezes in the spring and early freezes in the fall. Well, if those grapes start to bud out and break dormancy, they could be severely injured.” 

Weather conditions aren’t the only hurdles grape growers have to overcome. 

“We don’t have a market for grapes,” Vardiman said, while adding that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the right entrepreneur. 

“The benefit of an open market is, if somebody is an entrepreneur and a go-getter, they can open and define their own market,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but they can establish their own market.” 

Table Mountain Winery 

Someone who has created their own market in Wyoming is Patrick Zimmerer, owner of Table Mountain Winery in Huntley, about 12 miles from Torrington in southeast Wyoming. Zimmerer is the fourth generation of his family to farm on land that was homesteaded back in 1926. But he is the first generation to grow grapes. 

“We have about 12 acres dedicated to vineyards, and that’s just around about 10,000 vines,” Zimmerer told Cowboy State Daily. “Which is very small in the world of grape growing, but it’s big enough for us.” 

Zimmerer had to learn from the “ground up,” as no one he knew had ever grown grapes. In 2001, the family planted their first vines, but had to wait for nearly three years before enough grapes grew to produce wine. 

“When we were first getting going, we had a winery who was going to purchase our grapes,” he said. “And so in 2004, when we were ready to have a small harvest, we contacted them and the winery had disbanded and quit.” 

But Zimmerer said they weren’t going to let their labor go to waste. He and his family utilized resources from the University of Nebraska and the University of Minnesota, attended workshops, and bought a small winemaking kit.  

“We really just tried to learn the process as we started,” he said, explaining that because the variety of grapes they grew weren’t the industry standard, the product they came up with was not a mainstream wine. 

“So we don’t grow cabernet,” Zimmerer said. “We don’t grow noir. Our grapes don’t quite fit that mold – so we really had to learn from the grapes in the first few years, what they offer in terms of flavor, because these grapes are completely different than some of those European varieties.”  

He said that for their winery, they let the grapes do most of the work. 

“We just try to be good stewards to them,” Zimmerer said, “and hopefully get a product that people enjoy at the end of the day.” 

Cold Hardy Grapes 

Both Vardiman and Zimmerer explained that the breed of grapes that grows best in Wyoming’s soil and climate are called “cold hardy” grapes. 

“They are a new, kind of a next generation of grapes that can survive our very cold winters and our very short growing seasons,” said Zimmerer. “The University of Minnesota took a big part of that in basically breeding wild grapes and their European cousins together to get a grape that can produce wine but also survive our challenging climate.” 

Lander Symposium 

Vardiman anticipates that most people interested in growing their own grapes are interested for three reasons – wine, jelly and juice. 

“There might be some that grow for table grapes,” he said. “But we are just limited on the varieties of table grapes that grow well here.” 

Vardiman explained that the one-day symposium will cover Wyoming soil, climate, grape varieties, how to get grapes established and how to set up a trellis system. 

He said most of the attendees at this weekend’s symposium will be hobbyists, who might want a few vines in their backyard. 

“We do not anticipate Wyoming being the next California,” he said. “We don’t expect vineyards everywhere.” 

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Mountain View Football Team Honors Fallen American Soldiers On Helmets

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

At Mountain View High School in southwest Wyoming, football is a big deal. The Mountain View Buffaloes have been state champions two out of the last five years, and the 33 players on the team pride themselves on doing the right thing on – and off – the field. 

That’s according to Brent Walk, who is in his 11th year as head coach of the 2A football program. Part of doing the right thing, according to Coach Walk, is honoring soldiers who have lost their lives in service to their country. 

Mountain View participates in the “Heroes On Helmets” program, in which students display an American flag on their football helmets that represents a U.S. soldier who never came home. 

“Not only is it an American flag, which is incredible to have on our helmets, but every one of these stickers has a description of a fallen soldier,” Walk told Cowboy State Daily, “somebody that paid the ultimate price. Their name, their rank, what military branch they were in and then actually the day that they died is on every single flag.” 

Honoring the Fallen 

The “Heroes On Helmets” program is the brainchild of Dave Lindsay, a veteran who – almost accidentally – landed the job as a football coach in Montpelier, Idaho, for a middle school that hadn’t fielded a team in 13 years. 

“I put in for (the coaching job), and in my interview, they asked if I ever coached football, and I was like, ‘No,’ but I certainly spent my time as an instructor (in the military),” Lindsay told Cowboy State Daily. “They hired me anyway.”  

In 2015, his first year as the middle school coach, Lindsay had the idea to put the name of fallen American soldiers on flag stickers for his athletes to wear on their helmets. 

“I wanted those kids to know that they have opportunities that have been bought and paid for by other people,” Lindsay said. “That no matter how hard they try for the rest of their life, they’re never going to get an opportunity to meet them – unless they go to Arlington National Cemetery.” 

Because of his experience in the military, and the personal losses he experienced there, he wanted to make sure that those who died in the service would not be forgotten. 

“(These students) have an opportunity to basically make a name live again,” Lindsay said, “by honoring somebody else in the way they choose to live their life, both on and off the field.” 

Once word began to spread about the flag program at Bear Lake Middle School, a television news crew from Salt Lake City featured the team and the program. Since then, Lindsay said dozens of schools from 14 different states have become a part of “Heroes On Helmets.” 

Families Touched By the Program 

Lindsay said that once word began to spread about “Heroes On Helmets,” families of the fallen soldiers started reaching out to the athletes who wear their soldier’s flag. 

“I had one kid, his hero’s family flew him out to Little creek, Virginia, one year for Christmas,” Lindsay said.  

Another soldier’s mother contacted Lindsay to say that the student who wears her son’s flag bears a striking resemblance to her young man. 

“They are in the same things,” she told Lindsay. “They’re both in football, baseball, and they’re in FFA. And she gave (the student) her son’s football jersey, and has had a relationship with the family ever since.” 

Mountain View Students Honor Soldiers 

Walk said that he challenges each of his athletes to research the soldier whose flag they wear. 

“(These soldiers) paid the ultimate price for us to live in this incredible country,” Walk said. “And on a very small scale, that gives us the opportunity to play football.” 

Walk said his students don’t hesitate to put the flags on their helmets and search up information about the soldier they represent. 

“Obviously it means something different to each kid,” he said, “but you can tell the kids take it serious.”  

Beyond Athletics 

Lindsay said that the school in Soda Springs, Idaho wanted to expand “Heroes On Helmets” beyond the football team. 

“They’re like, ‘We don’t think this should be just a sports thing,’” Lindsay said. “‘This is a American thing.’” 

He said the school purchased flag stickers for all the students to put on their lockers, and teachers encourage them to research their soldier. 

“If they’re in history class, and they have to do a research paper, or if they’re in language arts, and they have to write a poem or whatever, they already have a subject matter to write about,” Lindsay said.  

More Than Just Football 

Walk pointed out that as the head football coach, his goal is to teach his athletes more than just how to win football games. 

“The most important thing is that kids understand and believe that Mountain View football is a heck of a lot bigger than 48 minutes on Friday,” he said. “Yeah, we want to win football games, and winning state championships and all that kind of stuff is absolutely amazing. But high school football can be an opportunity for kids to learn and get a better understanding of what their future could be.” 

Walk said that the “Heroes On Helmets” program is one of the most rewarding efforts he’s been involved with in his 30 years of teaching. 

“It’s very, very special,” he said. “And I think it’d be very cool if every team in the state wore them.” 

Lindsay said that sadly, there is no shortage of soldiers to be honored. 

“There’s no reason that all of our nation’s fallen, literally from the country’s Inception to now, couldn’t be honored one hundred times over,” said Lindsay.
Dave Lindsay, Lindsay Tactical
(512) 577-9470

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Wyoming’s Connection To “Downton Abbey” 

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

“Downton Abbey” is a popular PBS British historical drama television series set in the early 20th century Fans of the series might be surprised to know that the castle that features prominently in the show actually has a strong connection to Wyoming.

Fans of “Downton Abbey” number in the millions. They tuned in every week, from September of 2010 to Christmas Day 2015, to watch the comings and goings of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants during the reign of King George V.

The series is set on a fictional Yorkshire country estate between 1912 and 1926 – but in actuality, filming took place at Highclere Castle, which is home to members of a prominent Wyoming family. 

In the mid-1950s, Jean Wallop, sister of former Wyoming U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop, fell in love with and married a young nobleman named George Reginald Oliver Molyneux Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Highclere Castle is the Carnarvon family home. 

The Wallop Royal Connection 

Malcolm Wallop was elected as a U.S. Senator, serving in Washington from 1976-1995.  Before that he served in both the Wyoming State House and Senate. 

Wallop’s Wyoming roots only went back three generations – his grandfather, Oliver Henry Wallop, was born into a noble family in England. But in 1884, at the age of 28, O.H. (as he was called) immigrated to the U.S., purchasing a homestead near Big Horn in 1890. He raised and trained polo ponies and tandem horse teams. His two ranches, the Polo Ranch and the Canyon Ranch, are still in operation today. 

O.H. became a U.S. citizen in 1891 and even served two terms as a state representative in the Wyoming Legislature. But family soon called him back to England. When his older brother, the 7th Earl of Portsmouth, died, O.H. chose to renounce his American citizenship and returned to Britain, taking his seat in the House of Lords as the 8th Earl of Portsmouth. 

“(O.H. Wallop) was the only person to ever have served first in the Wyoming State Legislature, and then in the House of Lords,” said Kendie Hartman, a former staffer for Senator Malcolm Wallop. 

But it was O.H.’s granddaughter, Jeanie (Malcolm’s sister) who forged the connection to Highclere Castle.  

Jeanie Wallop Moves Into Highclere 

In the mid-1950s, Jeanie met and fell in love with a young man also of noble birth, Henry Herbert, the 7th Earl of Carnarvon (also known by his courtesy title, Lord Porchester). The two were married in New York City on January 7, 1956, and moved across the “pond” to Highclere Castle. 

Herbert’s connection to the crown, though, was unusually close.  He was a personal friend of then-Princess Elizabeth from the time they were teenagers. The Queen often visited Highclere Castle, and in 1969 appointed the Earl as the manager of her racing horses.  

“Porchey,” as his friends and family called him (a nod to his courtesy title, Lord Porchester) was so close to the queen that actors have portrayed him in the television series “The Crown” on Netflix. 

The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon had three children – the oldest, George, is the queen’s godson. The Earl died at the age of 77 on September 11, 2001, suffering a heart attack. Earlier in the day he had watched television coverage of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. 

The queen attended the earl’s funeral, but remained a friend of Jeanie. 

“After Porchey died on 9/11, Jeanie and the queen remained very, very close friends themselves,” said Hartman, adding that when Jeanie passed in 2019, the queen went to her funeral as well. 

Highclere Castle 

Built in 1679, the 5,000-acre estate so familiar to television viewers is located in Hampshire, England. 

Prior to its fame as the setting for “Downton Abbey,” Highclere Castle was already a high-profile estate. At the beginning of World War I, a hospital for wounded soldiers was opened there. The Lady of the house, Lady Carnarvon, assisted as a nurse and helped with the organization of the hospital. 

The estate had ties to another major historical event in the early 1900s as well – the 5th Earl of Carnarvon was an amateur Egyptologist who sponsored archaeologist Howard Carter during his search for Tutankhamun’s tomb. Egyptian artifacts were stored at the castle in 1907. 

During World War II, Highclere Castle was the site of several airplane crashes, including a B-17 Flying Fortress. 

In the present day, the estate offers guided tours of the famous film location during the summer months, and is also used as a venue for hire. The current Earl of Carnarvon and his family live in part of the house, while the rest is open to the public. 

The Next Generation of Nobles 

Malcolm’s son, Paul Wallop, who currently operates the Canyon Ranch near Big Horn, has spent significant time at Highclere Castle. 

“I actually worked on that farm when I was a teenager for a little while, right after high school,” Paul told Cowboy State Daily. “When we started our pheasant hunts (here), I went over and studied with their gamekeeper for a while about raising and releasing pheasants, because they’re really good at it.”  

And in his time spent visiting his cousin, the earl, Paul has had the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth on several occasions. 

“One day when I was over, and I was supposed to go and have lunch with my cousin (who’s now earl), I was just about to leave when my aunt said, ‘Hang on for a minute and have a drink before lunch,’” said Paul. “So I stayed. Well, the queen came over for lunch, and I got to meet her briefly then.” 

Because the queen was his cousin’s godmother, Paul had other occasions to meet the beloved monarch.  “She was an amazing, gracious woman,” he said. 

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Wyomingites Recall Queen Elizabeth’s Visit to Sheridan County in 1984 

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

As word of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing reverberates around the world, here in Wyoming, long-time residents in the northeast part of the state recall the eventful days in October of 1984 when the Queen spent a few days with friends in Sheridan County. 

On October 12, 1984, the Queen’s private jet arrived at the Sheridan airport, met by a crowd of about 300 people anxious for a chance to meet the world’s most beloved monarch. And as her entourage traveled down dusty backroads towards the Canyon Ranch, school children waved from the roadside.  

As welcoming as the Wyoming people were, however, Rob Wallace – who worked for Wyoming U.S. Senator Malcolm Wallop at the time – said there were a few hiccups. 

Wyoming’s Royal Connection 

Wallace was working at the Polo Ranch near Big Horn in October of 1984, which was owned then by Wallop. Wallop also owned the Canyon Ranch, which was the Queen’s destination for this autumn getaway. 

“She was going to come out and visit the Wallops, Malcolm’s sister (Jean) in particular,” Wallace told Cowboy State Daily. “(Jean) was married to the Earl of Porchester, who was the Queen’s racing manager.” 

Kendall Hartman was also working for Wallop in the mid-1980s. Her job was to help facilitate the visit from the senator’s office in Washington – which meant that she learned quite a bit about the royal connection to the Wallop family. 

“(Lord Porchester) managed the Queen’s racing stables and the horse breeding and all of that,” Hartman told Cowboy State Daily. “And Jean (Wallop) married him.” 

While conversing with the social attache’ from the British Embassy, Hartman learned that Senator Wallop’s royal brother-in-law was exceptionally close to the queen. 

“He said, ‘No matter what you ever hear, no matter what you ever think, no matter what is out there, just know that Lord Porchester is the queen’s best friend,’” she said. 

Hartman said that Wallop’s sister remained close to the queen until Jean’s death in 2019, and the queen was rumored to visit Jean frequently at their family home, Highclere Estate – which is the filming location for one of England’s most popular exports, the television show “Downton Abbey.” 

Logistics of a Royal Visit  

Wallace said that his task during the queen’s visit was to secure transportation for the monarch while she was in Wyoming – but he found fulfilling that order to be a bit difficult. 

“My job was to see if I could locate a limousine that she could use,” he said. “And you know, in Sheridan County back in 1984, the closest thing was a hearse.” 

The queen’s hosts were able to find a suitable vehicle for their royal guest, and she spent several days at the peaceful ranch – making only a couple of trips into town. But a major concern for the queen’s security detail had to do with the timing of the royal visit – in particular, the season.  

As in, hunting season. 

“When they were driving around looking at everything, security noticed that everybody had rifles in their vehicles,” said Paul Wallop, Malcolm’s son and the current owner of Canyon Ranch. “And (locals) said ‘Well, it’s just about hunting season.’” 

“‘Well, do you think there’s any way they could postpone that?’” the royal security detail asked. 

“The sheriff said, ‘Well, I could ask, but you might consider that if you do that, then the only thing that would be in season might be your queen,’” Wallop said. 

Charming the Locals 

On one crisp fall day in downtown Sheridan, traffic was halted so Queen Elizabeth could stroll safely into local shops.   

“I think she started out at Sporting Goods,” Wallace said, “and then walked across the street to King’s Saddlery, buying knickknacks for Prince Philip and I think other people in her party.” 

Wallace pointed out that a number of local onlookers had come to Wyoming as brides of soldiers who had fought in Europe during World War II. 

“They showed up in their finery, with a (British) flag,” Wallace said. “And I think for that day, Sheridan County would have seceded and gone back and become part of the Commonwealth.”  

Ordering Off the Menu 

Wyoming was the setting for a “first” for the Queen of England – who had never before ordered off of a menu at a restaurant. 

“She went to the Maverick Supper Club, which was between Sheridan and Big Horn,” said Wallace. “And it’s reported it was the first time she ever opened up a menu.” 

And of course, she ordered an appropriate cut of beef for her rank and station. 

“It was the queen-size filet,” said Wallace. 

On the third day of her visit, Queen Elizabeth traveled to the Bradford Brinton Museum in Big Horn, where she browsed western art, posed for photographers and chatted with museum administrators and staff.  

Lasting Memories 

Hartman pointed out that evidence of the queen’s visit to Wyoming can still be found. 

“People still talk about it,” she said. “Her photo getting off the plane is still prominently displayed at the Sheridan County Airport. Her photo is still prominently displayed in King’s Saddlery. Her presence in Sheridan has not faded away.”  

“It was a pretty heady time for some kids from Wyoming to be helping plan a visit for the Queen of England,” said Wallace. 

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No More Squaw: Feds Remove “Squaw” Word From 100s Of Locations Including 41 In Wyoming

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

There were 19 different Squaw Creeks on federal lands in Wyoming until Thursday. Now there are none. 

The U.S. Department of Interior announced Thursday that it had assigned new names to 643 federal geographical locations nationwide and 41 on Wyoming federal lands that included the word “Squaw.”   

The word, used historically to describe Indigenous women but also used as a slur is now too offensive to be used in major landmark names, according to Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary.   

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming,” said Haaland in a prepared press release Thursday. “That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long.”

She thanked members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, which she created with an agency order last November, and the Board on Geographic Names, which was established in 1890.   

“Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America,” said Haaland.   


The mass name changes should not have been done by the same federal entity and unelected officials, Karl Brauneis told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.   

Brauneis, now retired, worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 30 years and lives near the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.    

“The issue I have with it is how it was done,” he said, adding that local representative boards like county commissions should be able to rename landmarks their constituents use routinely, if their constituents urge them to.  

“But to have an administrative function go through, of unelected officials making such a vast change – that really reeks of a dictatorship to me,” he added.    

Brauneis said one of the strengths of America and Wyoming has been their differences between separate regions, and the ability of all those to coexist. He worried that letting the federal government call the shots would eliminate that.   

“I don’t want to see a monoculture,” he said.   

‘Destroy Your History’  

Brauneis also was concerned that renaming hundreds of landmarks erases the very cultural struggles that society today has largely overcome.  

“You start to destroy your history,” he said, adding that mankind’s many injustices throughout history should be remembered now, and preserved as a warning and a chance to learn.   

“Recognize that we’re all fallible, recognize the fact of it, and how are you going to learn from this situation and not be one-sided?” Brauneis asked, rhetorically.  

‘She’d Frickin’ Slap Me’  

Eastern Shoshone Tribal activist Wade LeBeau agreed with the Interior Department’s efforts – when they first began. He told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that his agreement stemmed from how deeply offended native women are at the word “squaw.”  

“Every native woman is offended at the term,” said LeBeau. “If I called any native woman a squaw she’d frickin’ slap me.”   

Crystal C’Bearing, deputy director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Historic Preservation Office, told Cowboy State Daily in March that the word “has allowed settlers to see Indigenous women as less than human.”   

Sounds Like, Popozha  

But LeBeau said he was dismayed at the names chosen by the federal board.   

LeBeau and fellow activist Mike Garvin, along with the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes, were approved this spring to offer some Fremont County landmark name suggestions to the Lander City Council.  

The federal government re-named most Fremont County landmarks after the local Popo Agie River (pronounced: Popozha).   

LeBeau recommended the Shoshone-language version of “Medicine Woman Creek,” for “Squaw Creek” because he thought such a name could preserve the cultural history while mitigating the insult.   

“Naming it something like that (may have) negated any bad or ill feelings from the native side, while also remembering the woman that probably did live there,” he said, noting that many “squaw”-titled landmarks likely were named that way because of a native woman or women living in the area.   

Teton County  

Other Wyoming counties, however, received new titles with Indigenous themes. Especially Teton County. 

Teton County’s Squaw Creek is now Pannaite Naokwaide. Squaw Canyon is now Tuka Naa’iya Po’I Hunu’u. Squaw Creek is now Paateheya’ateka’a Naokwaide.   

“The name we had suggested, you could have pronounced it,” said LeBeau, adding that “Medicine Woman” translates as “Sogo Waipa” and “Creek” translates to Shoshone as “Ugway.”   

The Teton County Commission did not immediately respond to an email and a phone call requesting comment.   

A full list of Wyoming site name changes is below. 

Squaw Creek is now Lake Mountain Creek

South Squaw Creek is now South Sage Creek.
Squaw Butte is now Duck Butte.
Squaw Creek County is now Sage Creek.

Squaw Creek in Carbon and Natrona Counties is now Dugway Creek
Squaw Canyon is now Continental Divide Canyon

Squaw Mountain in Converse County is now Roaring Mountain
Squaw Peaks in Converse County is now Horseshoe Peaks

Squaw Buttes is now Bear Buttes.

Squaw Butte is now Muskrat Butte.
Squaw Lake is now Marys Lake.
Squaw Creek is now Popo Agie Creek
Squaw Creek shared by Fremont and Teton County is now Fireweed Creek
South Fork Squaw Creek is now South Fork Popo Agie Creek

Squaw Rock is now Bear Rock

Hot Springs
Squaw Teat Butte is now Sugar Butte.

Squaw Creek is now Paamus Naokwaide
Squaw Flat is now Paantsugu Seepaithe
Squaw Fork Canyon is now Huu’na Waippe Naokwaide

Squaw Creek is now Platte Creek.
Squaw Spring is now Deer Spring

Squaw Peak is now Kuchunteka’a Toyavi
Squaw Teats is now Crow Woman Buttes
Squaw Creek is now Kuchunteka’a Naokwaide
(A higher elevation) Squaw Creek is now North Fork Hoodoo Creek

Squaw Rock is now Slate Rock
Squaw Hill is now Maxwell Hill.
Squaw Mountain is now Slate Mountain.

Squaw Creek is now L Quarter Circle Creek.

Squaw Teat is now Little Sandy Peak
Middle Fork Squaw Creek is now Middle Fork Sagebrush Creek
East Fork Squaw Creek is now East Fork Sagebrush Creek
Squaw Creek is now Sagebrush Creek
West Fork Squaw Creek is now West Fork Sagebrush creek

Squaw Hollow is now Nahguch Hollow

Squaw Creek is now Pannaite Naokwaide.
Squaw Basin is now Two Ocean Basin
Squaw Canyon is now Tuka Naa’iya Po’I Hunu’u
Squaw Creek is now Paateheya’ateka’a Naokwaide

Squaw Creek is now High Park Creek

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Queen Elizabeth II Leaves Lasting Legacy, Including In Wyoming 

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign over the United Kingdom was the longest in the country’s history, has died. She was 96 years old. 

“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” read a statement released by Buckingham Palace, referring to the queen’s palace in Scotland, near Aberdeen. 

The queen’s many years harbor experiences from across the globe, including in our neck of the woods.  The queen stayed a few days at a ranch near Sheridan in the 1980s.  

Queen Elizabeth in Wyoming 

In 1984, Queen Elizabeth spent four days in a quiet retreat at the Wallop family’s 4,000-acre Canyon Ranch near Big Horn. She was a guest of Lady Porchester, sister of Wyoming U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop. Lady Porchester was the wife of Lord Porchester, the queen’s racing manager and an old friend of the Windsor family. 

While in northeast Wyoming, the Queen traveled to the Bradford Brinton Museum to view paintings by famous western artists such as Frederic Remington, and expressed her gratitude for the privacy and restraint granted to her during the visit. 

While in Wyoming, the queen visited Ritz Sporting Goods in downtown Sheridan where the owner, Sam Mavrakis, presented her a fishing rod and flies to give to her husband Prince Philip. 

Mavrakis and Prince Philip got to know each other in 1969 when the prince first came out to Wyoming for a five day hunting and fishing trip.  

Mavrakis tied some flies for the prince and then took them out to the ranch. 

“I went out to the Wallop ranch to deliver them. Well, Prince Philip was just a regular guy. One hell of a regular guy,” Mavrakis told the Washington Post. 

That’s how most people saw the royal couple, he said. Not a big deal. 

“This isn’t Washington, D.C., you know,” he said. “Nobody goes crazy just because there’s a queen in town.” 

While at the ranch, the queen received a phone call from President Reagan during her stay where the two discussed the bombing of a hotel in England where British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been staying. 

Thatcher, who was not injured in the blast, spoke to Queen Elizabeth shortly after the queen’s conversation with Reagan. 

An Historic Reign

 Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, in Mayfair, London, in April of 1926, the queen began her reign on June 2, 1953, at the age of 27 following the death of her father, King George VI. 

At the time of her death, Queen Elizabeth II was head of state for 14 Commonwealth realms. Fifteen prime ministers served under her reign, beginning with Winston Churchill and including the most recent, Liz Truss, whom the queen appointed just two days ago. 

The queen was preceded in death by her “strength and stay,” Prince Phillip, who passed away at age 99 just last year. Married 74 years, the two had four children – Charles, born in 1948; Princess Anne, in 1950; Prince Andrew (born in 1960), and Prince Edward in 1964. They had eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. 

World Leaders Mourn

World leaders such as Emanuel Macron of France and President Isaac Herzog of Israel expressed their condolences on behalf of their countries. 

“Queen Elizabeth was a historic figure: she lived history, she made history, and with her passing she leaves a magnificent, inspirational legacy,” said Herzog. 

Macron commented on Twitter that Queen Elizabeth embodied Britain’s continuity and unity during her 70 years on the throne. 

“I remember her as a friend of France,” he said, “a kindhearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century.” 

Transition For Commonwealth 

Queen Elizabeth, while associated mainly with the United Kingdom, was also the monarch of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, a commonwealth that also included 11 other countries around the world. All together, 150 million people acknowledged her as their queen. 

In June, the Commonwealth celebrated the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, honoring her for 70 years on the throne, although her health was such that she did not participate in many of the events. 

With her passing, the Queen’s eldest son, Charles (formerly the Prince of Wales), has assumed the throne at age 73 as the new King. Prince William, 40, and Prince George, 9, are now first and second in line to the throne. 

“The death of my beloved Mother, Her Majesty The Queen, is a moment of the greatest sadness for me and all members of my family,” Charles said in a statement released shortly after news of the queen’s death broke. 

“I know her loss will be deeply felt throughout the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth, and by countless people around the world.” 

The United Kingdom will go into a period of mourning over the next 10 days, while funeral arrangements are made. 

Editor’s Note: Cowboy State Daily will have more extensive coverage on the queen’s past visit to Wyoming on Friday.

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Wyoming’s 2022 Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off & 200-Foot Pumpkin Drop Scheduled For Oct 1

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For most people, topping 1,000 pounds would be nothing to celebrate, but Jay Richard of Worland is ecstatic. 

All three of Richard’s pumpkins are about to break the half-ton mark.  This is a good thing when competing in a pumpkin contest. 

Weight is the name of the game when it comes to the annual Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off in Worland. 

This is the Super Bowl for pumpkins in Wyoming. It’s not only the chance to break the state record — for fattest pumpkin — but Richard said Wyoming’s championship is better than surrounding states because once the pumpkins are weighed, they explode (see video below). 

Three Weeks Away 

This year’s championship is only three weeks away and will be held on Saturday, October 1 in Worland. 

Richard, a competitive pumpkin grower, has been running the championship weigh-off for six years now. The contest started in 2011. 

His 1,000-pounders aren’t close enough to topple the state record — which is 1,545 pounds — but a competitor of his likely will, he said. 

“Barring disaster, Andy Corbin of Cheyenne is going to break the record this year,” Richard said.  

Richard said he saw Corbin’s pumpkin last week and it’s “not one to trifle with.” 

“It was as big as mine before mine imploded,” he said. 

Richard knows something about disaster striking right before the big game. 

His pumpkin weighed 1,631 pounds in 2021 but then the stem became infected and pumpkin goo started oozing out. 

“The pumpkin rotted from growing over its vine,” he said sadly. “That was so disappointing.” 

This Year

A stretch of cold weather in June slowed his current crop from growing. Richard said the temperature got as low as 26 degrees on June 13, which killed his chance for a championship in 2022. 

The growing weather in Cheyenne, however, was conducive to producing heavy plants.

The overnight temperatures in June, the most critical month for growth, stayed warm. And the constant threat of hail never materialized. 

“Andy’s been real quiet,” Richard said. “He’s not saying anything. He knows he’s got a winner.” 


Although more than 1,000 people attended the championship weigh-off last year, the majority showed up toward the end of the competition. 

That’s because after the weigh-off is over and awards are bestowed, many of the pumpkins are driven over to a football-sized field to meet their explosive end. 

This is where Richard gets animated and barks orders like an SEC football coach. 

He’s got a whole team in place. Each member has a different responsibility. All working together for destruction.

A massive 200-foot crane is positioned at the end of the field.  One-by-one, the pumpkins are hoisted up in a canopy and elevated to maximum height. 

And one-by-one, the pumpkins are dropped. And obliterated. 

The crowd, like the cliche says, goes crazy. 

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Wyoming Friends Mourn Passing of Cody Musician Luke Bell 

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Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

The nation is mourning the loss of Luke Bell, a country singer-songwriter whose star was on the rise. But in Wyoming, where his roots lie, Luke Bell is remembered as a charismatic young man who “lit up a room” whenever he entered. 

Bell died in Tucson, Arizona earlier this week, the victim of an illness that plagued him in recent years.  

The Saving Country Music website was the first to report Bell’s disappearance in late August.  

“The public is being asked to keep an eye out for country artist Luke Bell who went missing in Tucson, AZ on Saturday, August 20th,” read a Facebook post by Saving Country Music. “If you have any information, please reach out to fellow artist Matt Kinman or local authorities.”  

The same site was the first to report Bell’s death, revealing that the musician had suffered for several years from bipolar disorder.  

But a glance at Bell’s Facebook page provides a snapshot of the love his friends and family back home held for the 32-year-old Cody native.  

“You were a protector. A confidant. A jokester. An artist,” wrote one childhood friend. “There are so many ways I wish I could have supported you, been there for you in more recent times.” 

“Rest easy buddy,” wrote another Cody friend. “You will live on through those who loved you so.” 

Unconventional Career 

Bell’s time in the spotlight began playing bars in college, according to fellow Cody musician Kalyn Beasley, who grew up just down the street from Bell. 

“Probably like a lot of us musicians, Luke wasn’t super interested in going to class,” Beasley told Cowboy State Daily. “So he kind of took up gigging and playing in bars.” 

Beasley said Bell also took up train-hopping while in Laramie, riding the rails to the next town, the next gig, the next adventure. 

“There’s people that do that, you know,” Beasley said. “They ride trains, and they write songs about it, and sing old folk songs, and live in an off-the-grid sort of way. And Luke was doing that.”  

Bell spent the early part of his music career in Austin, Texas before moving to Nashville, Tennessee in the early 2010s. 

“I didn’t know that he was musically gifted until he came back from living in Austin,” said high school friend Mike Vanata. “And he just came back with a plethora of songs that spoke to his storytelling. And I was just blown away.” 

Vanata, a videographer based in Laramie, helped Bell with some video projects. 

“We probably did maybe eight to ten videos, just performing live,” said Vanata, “and then I did one music video with him, the ‘Where Ya Been’ video.”  

Bell released his first Nashville album in 2014, “Don’t Mind If I Do.” In 2016, he was signed to the Thirty Tigers label, releasing his second album, titled simply “Luke Bell,” but then he retreated from the music scene for a few years, although his latest release, “Jealous Guy,” came out in 2021. 

“In certain respects, Luke Bell stood in the way of his own success, shirking opportunities for the spotlight and big stages to dig post holes, work carpentry jobs, and play un-promoted shows in dive bars with friends,” the Saving Country Music site posted. “He was too real for the spotlight.”  

Ranch Background Influenced Bell’s Music 

“I met him through his music,” said Cowboy State Daily columnist Rod Miller. “(He was” playing a song at the Buckhorn (bar in Laramie), and then we sat and started talking about ranch life, kind of being a cowboy in Wyoming.”  

Bell knew quite a bit about ranch life. His mother’s family, the Flitners, have run cattle east of Greybull for generations. 

“We talked about Wyoming and branding and digging post holes and irrigating,” said Miller. “And snotty broncs that had dumped our ass in the dust.” 

Miller said he would run into Bell around Laramie, before Bell took off for parts unknown – but he continued to follow Bell’s career because he loved the authenticity of his music. 

“The songs he wrote, there’s no lie or hypocrisy in his lyrics,” said Miller. “And his voice was like this pure 1950’s, straight out of the jukebox, Lefty Frizell – a voice that you just associate with the roots of country western music.” 

National Appeal 

Media coverage from CNN, MSN, USA Today, and other national news outlets are a testament to Bell’s far-reaching appeal. 

“Luke sounded so much different than some of the other country artists at the time who were more progressive,” said Miller. “Luke was really into the foundation stone of country music.” 

“He was a real deal traveling troubadour out there on that lost highway,” reads a post by the band Mike and the Moonpies.  

But back home in Wyoming, his family and friends mourn much more than just the loss of an up-and-coming musician. 

“He was a wild, charismatic and loving guy,” said Vanata. “He brought joy into the room, every time.” 

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“Touchstones To Our Past” – Volunteers Restore Historic Buildings In Shoshone National Forest 

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

Since 1936, the Crandall Ranger Station, located an hour northwest of Cody, has been home to forest rangers and their families year round.  

But the years have taken their toll on the buildings – so the Forest Service has partnered with HistoriCorp volunteers to restore the buildings for future generations. 

For the last six weeks, volunteers with the nonprofit organization HistoriCorps have been sanding, pouring cement, crafting replacement logs, and painting the interiors and exteriors of historic cabins at the Crandall Ranger Station, located between Cody and Cooke City, Montana on the Shoshone National Forest. 

“This building has needed some repairs for quite a while now,” said Kristie Thompson, Public Affairs Officer for the Shoshone National Forest. “And through the Great American Outdoors Act, we’ve been able to find that funding, finally.” 

Funding the Restoration 

Thompson said funding for the restoration was made available through the Great American Outdoors Act, which was passed in February of 2021.

“Thanks to Great American Outdoors Act, the Forest received funding for the ‘First Forest Initiative’ to begin work to improve historic Ranger stations,” Thompson said. She explained that for the first two years of the initiative, work will be done at the Crandall Ranger Station, which is projected to cost $300,000.

“And then one year so far has been funded at our Sunlight Ranger Station,” she added.

But that money goes much farther thanks to the efforts of HistoriCorps, a nonprofit organization based in Morrison, Colorado, with a mission to engage volunteers to save historic places.  

“We have a strong relationship with the Shoshone National Forest,” said project supervisor Reid Saunders. “And so there’s a lot of projects and a lot of opportunities out here. It’s a really historically important forest, which is really exciting for us.” 

Volunteers, like Linda Saunders from Virginia and Lydia Jakovac from British Columbia, learn about historic restoration and preservation on the job. On this day, Saunders and Jakovac are carving pieces of wood to replace log ends that have rotted away – skills, they say, that they learn on the job. 

“The little points that come out (from under the roof) are called purlins,” said Saunders, whose daughter is the project manager.  

Jakovac found out about the opportunity by going on HistoriCorps’ website, where projects are listed and volunteers can sign up. 

“I am a grade three teacher in British Columbia,” said Jakovac. “So I have July and August vacations, and this is the best way to see America, and to help with historic preservation.” 

Attention to Detail 

Thompson pointed out that HistoriCorps volunteers do their best to match the style of the original building. 

“We are matching everything the best we can to a time period,” she said. “So this was built in 1936 – colors have changed, the way that we build things has changed, but we’re trying to do as much to that historic nature as possible.” 

Thompson pointed to the frames around the main cabin’s doors and windows. 

“Some of these pieces of wood are from 1936, when this building was built,” she said. “However, you can’t really tell the difference between that and the newer parts. Our volunteers through HistoriCorps have repainted everything and sanded it down to look all the same.” 

Thompson said HistoriCorps volunteers are paying close attention to detail. For example, the Sherwin Williams paint store in Cody had to create a new shade to match the cupboards in the cabin’s kitchen. 

“The name of the color for that, at the Sherwin Williams down in Cody, is now called Crandall Kitchen,” said Thompson. 

Historic Significance

The Shoshone National Forest encompasses 2.4 million acres of rugged mountain beauty – more than 1.4 million acres of which is congressionally designated wilderness. 

For Thompson, the ruggedness of the backcountry landscape is what makes this forest unique, and emphasizes the determination of those who chose to live and work at the Crandall Ranger Station when it was built 86 years ago. 

“If you think back to even 30 years ago, what the Chief Joseph highway was like, and being able to get all of the supplies up over that pass, to be able to build these buildings in 1936 – the amount of work must have just been phenomenal,” said Thompson. 

She pointed out that the two ranger stations in this part of the forest – the Crandall and Sunlight stations – had rangers and their families inhabiting them year round. 

“They were vital to our preservation and conservation of the Shoshone National Forest,” said Thompson. 

Preserving National Heritage 

Archaeologist Kyle Wright was the individual responsible for contacting HistoriCorps to begin work on these structures. He explained that by restoring these historic buildings, a piece of our national heritage is being preserved. 

“I think, the Shoshone National Forest, being the first national forest in the nation, it’s kind of a special place,” said Wright. “We have a long history, our historic structures are a reflection of our growth and our progress through the years.” 

He said the work has been prioritized based on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. 

“That’s the charter for preserving and making sure we don’t destroy our cultural resources,” said Wright. 

Victoria Ibarra, an engineer with the Shoshone National Forest, said these buildings will continue to be used. 

“This is where our employees are staying throughout the summer, who come and help us, so we want to make sure these buildings stay upkept,” she said. 

Work Will Continue  

Work on the Crandall Ranger Station is wrapping up for this year, but Saunders said HistoriCorps volunteers will return next year. 

“This is our last week here at the end of August,” she said. “And then we have another session next summer.” 

“(It’s been a) great partnership with HistoriCorps and the phenomenal work that Reid and Rachel, the two program managers, are doing here,” said Thompson. “They’ll be coming back to us next summer, and probably following on for future work here on the Shoshone as well, as part of HistoriCorps.”  

For Saunders, working in the Shoshone National Forest has been fulfilling. 

“It’s a place where people have wanted to be for a very long time,” she said, “and to kind of see the way people have migrated through this area, and the different relationships they’ve had with it – all these buildings are giving us touchstones to our past.” 

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Dayton and Ranchester – Twin Towns In the Shadow of the Bighorn Mountains 

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily 

In the shadow of the Bighorn Mountains in northeastern Wyoming lie two small towns, just a few miles apart. 

Dayton and Ranchester, communities of similar size in Sheridan County, have a near-symbiotic relationship. They share a school district (Sheridan County School District #1), a Rotary Club, a Fire and Rescue agency, and church congregations. 

But the eight-minute separation between the two communities also symbolizes the distinction between the towns, and the different reasons they came into being. 

The End Of the Indian Wars 

The region that would become northeast Wyoming was the site of a number of clashes between Native American tribes and United States soldiers after the Civil War. The Battle of Little Tongue River in 1865 and the Fetterman Fight in 1866 were the two bloodiest battles in the area, later topped by the historic battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, just north into Montana. 

Just two years after the Little Bighorn, white settlers began establishing homesteads along the Tongue River, which gathers its waters from creeks that roll down the east side of the Bighorn Mountains. 

The confluence of the Tongue River and the Little Tongue River created an optimal townsite in 1882, when homesteaders gathered at Henry Baker’s general store and named the town “Dayton,” after a young man who had moved to the area from Colorado. 

Dayton’s Place in History 

A stage stop on the Bozeman Trail route to Montana, by the early 1900s Dayton had two hotels, three general stores and four saloons, along with a flour mill, a bank, and a stucco factory. 

The town of Dayton claims to have held the first rodeo in Wyoming in the early 1890s – although that fact is uncorroborated, the town definitely was booming by western standards.  

The centerpiece of the community of Dayton is the Mercantile, still an operating business today, nearly 120 years after it was built. 

It was shortly after the Mercantile opened that the town was incorporated, in 1906. Dayton’s first mayor, Neal Ketcham, served for six years – but his place in history was overshadowed by his successor, Susan Wissler.  

Wissler served just three years, from 1912 to 1915, but has the distinction of being the first woman mayor in Wyoming, and the second in the entire United States (Kanab, Utah, holds that record, electing a female mayor and all-female town council in 1911).  

She was a school teacher, a shopkeeper, and a tough businesswoman.  She was elected not with just the votes of local women, but by a significant number of men from the area as well.  

Ranchester’s Bloody Birth 

Ranchester’s development followed closely behind Dayton, but was fueled by a different mode of transportation – the railroad. 

With the arrival of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad in 1894, industrialist John McShane saw an opportunity, building a railroad tie mill in Ranchester. The timber for the ties would come from the Bighorn Mountains southwest of Dayton.  

McShane oversaw construction of a 35-mile long log flume to float the lumber from the mountains to the mill. But this development came at a cost. At least seven men were killed during the construction of the flume – four died in a powder explosion, and three others perished in rock slides. 

But those sacrifices were not in vain, as the railroad tie industry became the lifeblood of the town of Ranchester, which thrived through 1912.

But when the railroad canceled its contract with the timber company, the town was forced to carry on despite the economic downtown. Residents continued serving the railroad and local agriculture-based businesses. 

Fastest-Growing Small Town

For communities with fewer than 2,000 people, Ranchester is now the fastest-growing town in Wyoming, according to Mayor Peter Clark. 

“We’ve been growing about 2% a year for the last 10 years,” Clark told Cowboy State Daily. He attributed the growth to an influx of people looking to escape the big cities. 

“We have more land and we’ve got cheaper building costs than the city of Sheridan,” he said. “And we have developers that are willing to work with the town.” 

Clark, who moved to Ranchester in 1994, has seen the town nearly double in size in the last 28 years. But he said that the town can handle the growth. 

“It was over-built back in the ‘80s, during the coal boom,” Clark said. “We had a community survey done in 1980 or ‘79, and it said our population in 1990 would be 1,700. We haven’t even reached that yet.” 

He said the coal impact money available at that time allowed the town to build out their water treatment infrastructure based on those numbers.  

“So we’re benefiting from that mistake,” Clark said. 


Students transition from Tongue River Elementary and Tongue River Middle School in Ranchester to Tongue River High School in Dayton. 

But Clark said the town is growing so quickly, even the new elementary school is becoming crowded. 

“We have some younger families that have a lot of kids,” he said. “So when they built a new elementary school, which has been in operation about four or five years, it’s already to capacity.” 

Clark said the old elementary school has been converted to a “learning center,” but is available should the district need to split off some grades to a separate building. 

New Growth 

Clark said many of the new residents are retirees, or families who can work remotely due to the fiber optic network in place, allowing for high speed internet. 

“Some people, I don’t know, they just show up here,” he said. “I think they put their finger on a map and decide this is probably the atmosphere they want to live in, politically, socially, economically.” 

That political and social atmosphere is what drew Ted and Barbara Ross to the area in 2018.  


Ted Ross is a retired Lt. Col. in the Air Force, and scouted several communities before settling on the Dayton-Ranchester area in 2018. 

“I had been researching for about three years and Wyoming kept coming up at the top of the list,” Ross said. “Then we came over here for three days and I decided this was the area that I wanted to be in.” 

“We are very aligned with the state of Wyoming and the mindset and the quality of life,” said Barbara, who has recently taken on the presidency of the Ranchester-Dayton Rotary Club. The club’s members come from both communities, and take on special projects to improve quality of life for its residents. 

“Like hand in glove, this whole community works so well together,” Barbara Ross said. 

She said the towns come together for celebrations and events, like the annual fishing derby or the weekly farmer’s market. 

“I just think it’s wholesome Americana,” said Ross. “It’s charming the way it is – and will it maintain that charming wholesomeness if it expands? That’s the challenge.” 

Lacking Some Services 

While the town of Ranchester is able to meet the infrastructure needs of its growing population, it lacks some basic necessities, like a grocery store. 

“We might qualify as a food desert,” Clark said, pointing to the lack of any local store that offers fresh produce. The Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Buckhorn Travel Plaza convenience store offer processed or frozen food options, but residents are forced to shop in nearby Sheridan for full-service stores.  

But Ross said for such a small town, Ranchester has a number of businesses that improve quality of life for its residents. 

“We have bars and we have restaurants and we have a coffeehouse and bakery,” she said. “We have a dentist, we have a veterinarian; a post office, a hotel and RV park.” 

Ross added that Dayton has restaurants, a gas station and a swimming pool, shared by both towns.  

“There’s a lot of things that we have for being in a small, rural area,” she said. 

The Dayton Cow Pie Classic and the Ranchester Wife-Carrying Championship 

Every small town has its celebrations, and the Dayton and Ranchester communities are no different. Dayton Days, this year held July 23-25, boasts a parade, pool party, pie-eating contest, shoe-kicking competition, and a local favorite, the Cowpie Classic golf tournament. 

For Ranchester, its standout attraction is the annual Wife-Carrying Championship, held on the 4th of July. 

The internationally-sanctioned event advances the local winners to the North American Wife Carrying Championship in Newry, Maine in October; and the winners there go on to Finland for the world championships. 

“I think the second year we did it, the couple that won here was actually here for a family reunion, but they lived in Virginia,” Clark said. “So they went up there and got second in North America.” 

Strong Connections, Despite Distance 

Despite the proximity of the towns, their shared history and values, Clark said Dayton and Ranchester will never grow closer together physically. The Padlock Ranch owns property that separates the two communities. 

“It’s one of the largest cow-calf operations in the country,” he said. “They control like 250,000 acres. And then there’s a big chunk of land between Ranchester and Dayton is actually owned by Pacific Power and Light.” 

But Clark said the connection is strong between the two towns. 

“We share the same river, same valley,” Clark said.  

Ross added that the trick is to keep that sense of community togetherness in the face of continued growth.  

“It’s that fine line of keeping it wholesome,” she said. “And you’re also sharing it with others who want the same thing.” 

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How Ranchers Actually Live: New Film Series Features Ranches Near Laramie, Lander, Lovell

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By Mark Heinz, public lands and wildlife reporter

Make it about the ranchers who actually do the work and live the stories – that’s the approach the co-producers of a new three-part wildlife conservation film series decided to take. 

“There hasn’t been a lot of creative content about the lives that these ranchers live and the sacrifices they make so the big game species can persist and thrive,” co-producer Emily Reed told Cowboy State Daily about the “My Wild Land” film series. 

Reed and co-producer Patrick Rodgers are researchers with the Wyoming Migration Initiative (WMI), which operates through the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming. 

Each of the films features a family-owned and operated Wyoming ranch. Those include the Terry Creek Ranch near Laramie, the Hellyer family ranch outside of Lander and the E.O. Bischoff Ranch near Lovell. 

“It (the film series) shows what we do in our day-to-day operation, what we do to make the ranch go,” Bischoff ranch manager Tyrell Bischoff told Cowboy State Daily. “It does highlight what we’re doing to make things better for the wildlife.” 

The “My Wild Land” films were about a year in the making, including roughly four-months of on-the-ground production work, Rodgers said. 

That meant getting out and filming the ranchers in their everyday routines, and connecting that with how their methods help benefit wildlife, he said. 

“We wanted to highlight a diversity of ranch management styles and offer views from different parts of the state,” he said. 

Bischoff said being on camera as he went about his days wasn’t natural for him, but he appreciates what the films could do for ranching and wildlife conservation. 

“It was a little embarrassing, but it’s kind of cool. You really don’t want to be in the spotlight, or at least I don’t anyway,” he said. 

 “Anything that’s going to benefit wildlife is going to benefit us as ranchers,” he added. “We follow all the same water sources and use all the same rangelands as the wildlife.” 

It was important to make the movies about the people directly involved, rather than about scientific facts and data, Rodgers said. Good stories are what draw the audience in and demonstrate why the topic – in this case, wildlife and habitat preservation – is meaningful and important. 

In their own way, ranchers are researchers, because they’re constantly observing what’s going on with the land and the animals that depend upon it, Reed said. Hunters, research scientists and others take only temporary forays into the lands that ranchers see every day. 

“They have a much more intimate and deep connection with the rhythms of the landscape,” she said. 

Ultimately, the films are about two things at the heart of Wyoming’s culture, she said – protecting wildlife and preserving the ranching way of life. 

 “It was just a treat for us to get to know these under-represented people and what they do for the wildlife and the landscape,” Reed said. 

Screenings of the films will be free and open to the public, and free raffles and informal discussions will follow, Rodgers said. 

“It will be a time for people to just visit, ask some questions and share stories,” he said. 

Along with WMI, the films were supported through the Muley Fanatic Foundation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, with additional support from Maven Outdoor Equipment Company. 

Screenings are scheduled for: 

·         September 1 in Jackson at the Teton County Library. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the films start at 6 p.m. Hosted by WMI, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. 

·         September 22 in Laramie at the Gryphon Theatre. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the films start at 6 p.m. Hosted by WMI and the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust. 

·         September 29 in Lander at the Lander Community and Convention Center. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the films start at 6:30 p.m. Hosted by WMI and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. 

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“Not Cool:” Wyoming Muscle-Car Enthusiasts Not Thrilled About Dodge Electric Vehicles   

in Wyoming Life/News

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

You can’t fake muscle.  

Wyoming muscle-car enthusiasts are not excited about the imminent end of the gas-powered Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger. But to an electric-vehicle fan, it’s a step into the future.   

Dodge announced last Monday that it will discontinue gas-powered Chargers and Challengers by December 2023, as the car maker switches to fully electric vehicles by 2024.    

To some Wyoming gearheads, it’s impossible to call an electric vehicle a muscle car: The combustion engine’s guttural roar is a language of its own.    

“There’s just something visceral about it,” said Ty Becker, president of Rocky Mountain Rebels car club in Riverton. “It’s good for the soul. It’s therapy for hot-rod guys.”     

Becker has been in love with cars since he first knew the word for them. To him, the stuttering explosions are the car’s way of communicating its needs.     

“The whine of an electric motor just doesn’t do anything for me,” he said.     

Through Speakers    

Dodge on Wednesday unveiled the 2024 Dodge Charger Daytona – a fully-electric vehicle featuring sound effects resembling the roar of a combustion engine. Somewhat.     

Becker said the more metallic-sounding roar could never replace a real, repeating explosion under man’s control.     

“Sound effects through a speaker will never match the fell, the rumble, the smells of an internal combustion engine,” he said.     

Arnie Zertuche, a Wyoming autocross racer who runs a 2015 RT Challenger, agreed.     

“That’s not a muscle car. That’s just another battery-powered vehicle – like a kids’ toy you get from Walmart,” said Zertuche, who is headed to Rock Springs this weekend for a fundraiser autocross race.     

Zertuche said the new Dodge looks impressive. But its synthetic roar is “totally different,” from the real thing.     

Electric vehicles like the Tesla are so fast and efficient, they have their own class at autocross events. If placed in a general category, an electric car with its characteristic whisper would likely win the course.     

But for Zertuche, it’s not about the speed. It’s about learning from the car and knowing how to empower it.     

“I think that anyone, after listening to the EV (electric) Charger, can tell the difference between a ‘fake’ and a real muscle,” he said.    

Zertuche said he didn’t want to disparage either the electric market or Dodge for their efforts, especially since electric vehicles fit well in high-emissions areas like large cities.     

And yet, he added, the loss of “real” Dodge muscle altogether is “very sad.”    

Green Market    

Dodge’s parent company, Stellantis, is in Europe and is responding to market demands there.     

But the company’s American child, Dodge, might be “killing its own brand off,” said Becker.       

“They’re going against what their customer base wants,” he said. “It’s still an electric car… It’s just not cool.”     

Stellantis is based in the Netherlands and is subject to the European Union’s environmental trading regulations. In 2020 alone, Stellantis company Fiat Chrysler paid electric-car maker Tesla about $362 million for green credits, according to CNBC. Green credits are part of a European Union trading system by which carbon-producing companies must exchange environmental credits for the right to generate carbon-dioxide.      

At least 11 American states have adopted a carbon-credit system with a maximum emissions limit.     

The Inflation Reduction Act, which became law just one day after Dodge announced the end of its gas-powered muscle cars, could accelerate carbon-credit markets because it incentivizes carbon capture and other environmental strategies.    

The eight-cylinder 2022 Dodge Challenger has an emissions score of 466 grams of greenhouse gas emissions per mile, according to The eight-cylinder 2022 Chevrolet Camaro put out 452 grams of greenhouse gases per mile; and the eight-cylinder Ford Mustang of the same year piped out 500 grams per mile.   

‘They’re Tired Of Getting Beat’  

Though the transition may be hard, electric cars are the way of the future, according to Patrick Lawson, co-owner of an electric charging-dock installation company, Wild West EV.

Lawson said Dodge’s shift into electric is about more than saving money amid government regulation.   

“They don’t want to get left behind,” he said. “All the electric cars that are coming out are significantly faster off the line: more power, torque, response. They (Dodge) have done all they could on the gas side – and they’ve got to keep up with the times.”  

Lawson wasn’t a car enthusiast until he started driving a Tesla.   

Five summers ago, while hanging out at the annual Riverton car show that Becker’s club hosts, some bystanders saw Lawson’s Tesla and told him he should try it in the autocross race the next day.   

Lawson did very well, and kept with it.

He now visits autocross races around the country, including the Holley High Voltage electric-only race in California.   


Electric vehicles are required to make noise as a safety provision for pedestrians. Most have a faint, whispery whine.   

To Lawson, Dodge’s efforts to emulate the gas-powered roar is “funny” and to some, it’s seen as hypocritical – since authorities banned Tesla from marketing a slew of “silly” sound effects such as “ice cream truck” and “horse.”   

“A lot of people in the Tesla community are upset Dodge is putting out this big noisemaker and that’s OK, but putting silly sounds in a car is not,” he said.  

Yet, Lawson theorized, the noisemaker may help reluctant consumers transition to the electric Charger.  

Lawson is not sentimental about combustion noises.   

“I’d prefer the dead silent. That’s cool to me,” he said.  

No Wrenching  

Other than replacing suspension, tires, or other non-motor components, a car owner doesn’t have the same ability to enhance, or “soup up” a car with the electric engine.   

But many can order an upgrade, said Lawson. And some people can hack the system.   

“There are hackers that have figured out ways of modifying the software with external boxes and things that unlock the hidden power within the vehicle,” he added.   

The cars also have a mind of their own. In the new Tesla, door handles “don’t exist. It just opens when you get near it,” said Lawson.   

The car also decides when to go backward or forward, depending on the surroundings.   

“They’re getting close to that point where somebody would not have to pay attention (while driving),” he said.  

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