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Cody Wyoming

Comedian Will Ferrell Stranded In Cody Because Of Yellowstone Floods

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Comedian Will Ferrell (right) poses for a photo with a fan in Wyoming.

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State daily.com

Will Ferrell, the star of blockbuster movies like “Talladega Nights” and “Step Brothers” made a few stops in Cody earlier this week, becoming pretty much a regular at one establishment.

Porter Koury, co-owner of Sitti’s Table, said Ferrell and his family came by her gourmet food market multiple times.

“He was just really nice,” she said.

Although he didn’t make any memorable jokes or one-liners, Scott said Ferrell was complimentary and told her he was drawn to her business originally because of the font on her sign outside.

“He’s one of my favorite actors so that was really awesome,” she said.

Koury said Ferrell told her he and his family had hoped to visit Yellowstone National Park while in the area, but were blocked in those efforts because of recent flooding that closed the park.

She recommended Ferrell check out the historic Chamberlin Inn and he took her up on the suggestion.

“He was great,” said Bill McPherson, general manager of the Chamberlain.

Ferrell shared some drinks in the cocktail lounge with his party at the Chamberlain and said he would return later in the day, but McPherson was unsure if he did.

McPherson said although Ferrell was not showing off his comedic chops, he was very polite and offered compliments for the Chamberlain, a historic hotel dating back to 1903 that has hosted guests such as Ernest Hemingway, Marshall Fields, and Larry Larom. 

“Just for him to check it out and get a compliment from someone like that feels really good,” McPherson said.

McPherson said Ferrell was traveling with around eight people in three RVs. He said they told him they were staying at the Ponderosa Campground. A representative from Ponderosa said she was unaware if Ferrell was staying at their establishment but joked that he may have been staying “incognito.” 

Ponderosa is next door to Dairy Queen, which means Ferrell could have easily walked over to get himself a cone or frozen treat. 

A manager at the Dairy Queen said he had no knowledge of Ferrell ever coming in. If he did, it may still not have been as good as the “Anchorman” themed  “Scotchy scotch scotch” ice cream he released in collaboration with Ben And Jerry’s in 2013.

Koury said Ferrell was headed to Livingston, Montana, next and planned to fly out from Bozeman.

Brush With Fame

The town of Cody is no stranger to celebrities. John Wayne was a parade marshal during the town’s Fourth of July festivities in 1976. “Yellowstone” star Cole Hauser will be the grand marshal this year.

Hip-hop star Kanye West called Cody home for about 18 months, from 2019-2021, and was spotted on numerous occasions around town.

McPherson said Ferrell was the most prominent celebrity he’s met, but he did meet the Prince of Monaco when he came to Cody a few years back.

Koury said she took it as quite the compliment that Ferrell would visit her business, which just opened this spring. She was able to resist the urge to ask for a signed photo to hang up. Signed photos with celebrities are a common fixture in many large metropolitan delis and restaurants.

“I didn’t want to ask him for that,” she said.

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Harley Rally Will Go On: Cody & Yellowstone Work Together To Accommodate 500 Motorcyclists

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A large Harley motorcycle rally taking place in Cody this week will be affected but not stopped by restrictions adopted by  Yellowstone National Park due to flooding events.

Because of the recent floods and damage that forced the closure of the park’s northern loop, including its north and northeast entrances,  Yellowstone staff enacted an alternating license plate system to control entry into the park and alleviate possible increased pressures on its southern portion.

Under the system, vehicles with license plates ending with an even number will be allowed into the park on even-numbered days, while cars with plates ending in odd numbers will be allowed entry on odd-numbered days.

But all motorcyclists are being allowed in on even days, regardless of the last digit on their license plates.

This rule allows groups of motorcyclists to travel and plan together for their Yellowstone trips. 

500 Motorcyclists

However, some planning still had to be done to accommodate the members of the Harley Owners Group who want to visit Yellowstone while they are in Cody.

“The original plan was to give them (Harley Owners Group) more flexibility and have that leeway,” said Cody Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tina Hoebelheinrich. “We’re going to continue to work with park staff on that plan.”

She said nearly 500 motorcyclists are in town for the rally. Originally, the plan was for the motorcyclists to be allowed to visit the park at their leisure, but Hoebelheinrich said they will now all enter Yellowstone together on Friday and spend the day in the park.

“It’s really great to see folks who put this level of trust in us, for them to still come,” she said.

The controlled entry system was put into place Wednesday, the first day the park was reopened after flooding closed its closure and evacuation on June 13.

The system does not apply to travelers with reservations in the park.

Adjusting Rules

During a conference call with the Cody Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said some consideration to adjusting rules could be made after the park’s reopening day on Wednesday. 

“If we say one gate has to do this and another gate has to do that, it gets out of control,” he cautioned.

The northern loop of the park is expected to reopen in two weeks, at which point Sholly said the park will revisit its entrance policies. The North Entrance will not open at that time.

However, there are still plenty of rides available for members of the HOG to take, Hoebelheinrich said.

“There’s so many great rides you can do in the Big Horn Basin,” Hoebelheinrich said.

One popular local destination for motorcyclists is the Beartooth Highway. 

Big Deal

Flooding outside Red Lodge, Montana, caused severe damage to the east side of this pass. A small section of highway on the west side of the pass is currently open, but from Cody, people can still access Cooke City, Mont., outside the Northeast Entrance.

Hoebelheinrich said considering the high cost of gas right now, it’s a feather in Cody’s cap to receive this large of a turnout. 

Hoebelheinrich said rallies put on by the Harley Owners Group typically draw around 1,000 riders, but since COVID-19, attendance has been running closer to a 50%.

For the celebration, Sheridan Avenue and a few side streets — the majority of Cody’s downtown corridor — will be closed on Thursday night for The Kick’n It in Cody H.O.G. Rally! 

There will be Harleys lined up along the street and a few Harley displays. 

There will also be a one-night open container policy in place for the event, allowing people to drink in the streets while they check out the bikes.

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Cody School District Says No To Banning “The Color Purple”

in News/Education

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By Leo Wolfson, political reporter

The Cody School District’s Educational Resource Complaint Committee resisted a push to ban two books on Thursday.

The committee’s decisions to oppose recommending banning “The Color Purple” and “How to be an Antiracist” from the high school library, came in response to complaints made about the books by Cody residents Carol Armstrong and Jim Vetter. These books both discuss the topic of race and inequality in America.

Armstrong levied the complaint against “The Color Purple,” a 1982 Pulitzer Prize winning book written by Alice Walker. The book is a fictional novel of an African American woman in the 1940s American South. 

Within her complaint, Armstrong, 88, mentioned she has also found around 100 books she deems offensive within the school library.

Book-banning campaigns are nothing new to the Cody School District. In 2018 the school board removed “A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl” from its shelves. Earlier this spring, Cody resident Sheila Leach filed a complaint about the book “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which the committee did not recommend banning.  

Under school policy, the committee makes a recommendation to the school board about what action to take on a particular book, but the board does not have to act unless the complainant files an appeal of the committee’s decision. 

Leach has filed an appeal on her book, which is scheduled to be considered by the school board on Tuesday. She said she has little faith the board will decide to remove the book because of its current makeup. 

Armstrong criticized “The Color Purple” as being vulgar, depressing and unhelpful for growing minds. She also contends the book to be pornographic in nature because it discusses rape and incest. 

“The decisions being made by our library about the type of books that are being selected and placed in our libraries is critical and will undoubtedly affect the minds and attitudes of our future leaders and citizens,” Armstrong said.

District Librarian Jennisen Lucas disagreed in a speech given before the committee, saying it’s the responsibility of parents to discuss and supervise the books their children are checking out from the library.

The school currently has a system that alerts parents anytime their children check a book out of the library, however this system will adjust next school year so that parents must “opt-in” to the notification system to get these alerts.

Despite the book winning numerous awards, being turned into a Broadway play and major motion picture, Armstrong said these accolades do not make it appropriate for adolescent reading.

“Is it any wonder that there is a rise in disturbed and confused youth in our schools because of gender ideology and messages that are being sent to our young impressionable kids,” Armstrong said.

Lucas said “vulgar” language was only used occasionally in “The Color Purple” and “many reviews show” the book as recommended for readers 15-16 years old and up, and sometimes even younger age groups. 

“When librarians are looking at that, they’re taking a look at what various published reviews are saying,” she said. Lucas is the president of the American Association of School Librarians and said the trend of book banning is rampant right now, with some groups proposing bans of more than 50 books at time and librarians facing death threats related to the effort.

Lucas said even though these books may be challenging reads for young adults, she said they provide valuable perspective for students in Cody, a community she finds has many members who are “backwards racially,” and possessing a “racist ideation.”  

Even though she doesn’t have children or grandchildren in the school district, Armstrong previously taught elementary school, and mentioned the tax dollars she has spent for 60 years funding the Cody School District as part of her justification for her complaint. Since the Korean War, she said, she has witnessed a “continual moral decline in our society and slow unraveling of our culture.”

“As a taxpayer, I’m saddened our school does not hold our students to a higher standard,” Armstrong said. 

The committee voted 9-0 against banning both books. This nine-person panel is made up of teachers and parents in the school district who are expected to read each book they review.

“It’s important we consider context and taking things out of the context they were written in,” committee member Yancy Bonner said. 

A brief applause greeted Bonner’s argument that banning the “The Color Purple” would infringe on student’s First Amendment rights. About 10 people in the audience wore purple in solidarity against the ban.

Although the push for book banning has typically come from more conservative circles, on Wednesday in Seattle, about 30 Amazon employees staged a protest of their company’s continued sale of what they say are transphobic books. Progressive groups have also pushed for the removal of statues and other historical references consider offensive.  

Vetter submitted an 8-page complaint about “How to Be an Antiracist,” a 2019 nonfiction book by American author and historian Ibram X. Kendi. Vetter was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting as he was on vacation and no other party besides the complainants were allowed to speak from the public. The board voted 5-3 against rescheduling the hearing for a different time he would be present. 

The book discusses the topic of racism and proposals for how to avoid taking racist actions and other systemic changes that can be made. 

Although the committee refused to make his complaint publicly available, different committee members referred to Vetter describing the book as inappropriate, false, one-sided, and from the perspective of someone who supports Critical Race Theory.

In research of the book, Lucas said she only found it recommended for adults, but said she spoke with other high school-level colleagues who have it at their schools.

“I don’t think this is going to be too heavy of a lift for our students to actually read,” Lucas said.

The committee said Vetter’s complaints were limited to the first 33 pages of the 240-page book, saying he does not want this to be available because it reports false information, with no conflicting viewpoints available to students in the library.  

Lucas said there are multiple books written by conservative black authors in the school library and mentioned an instance where a student used “How to Be an Antiracist” as an opposing viewpoint in a paper they were writing. Social studies teacher Stephany Anderson, also a committee member, mentioned how important she finds it for her students to experience a diversity of opinions. 

Committee member Jason Todd said even though he didn’t agree with about half the book, he found it to be a worthwhile read because it challenged many of his previous convictions.

 In Gillette last October, a couple wanted library employees prosecuted by the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office for making five sex education and LGBTQ-themed books available to young people. The office declined to press charges and the local library board declined to remove the books.

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Buffalo Bill’s Grave, Part 2: National Guard Called Out To Protect Buffalo Bill’s Body

in Cody/News

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This is the second part of a two-part series about Buffalo Bill Cody’s gravesite. Part one can be found here.

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In January of 1917, the citizens of Cody, Wyoming, were devastated to find out that their town’s founder, namesake and hero, Col. William F. Cody, had died of kidney failure while visiting his sister in Denver, Colorado.

But in the weeks following his death, their grief turned to anger as details emerged about how Cody’s wife, Louisa, had “sold” Bill’s body to the publishers of the Denver Post so the famous showman could be laid to rest in Colorado… capitalizing on the Western showman’s fame.

Bob Richard, noted Cody historian and author, told Cowboy State Daily that Louisa met with the mayor of Denver, along with the two owners of the Denver Post, Harry Tammen and Frederick Bonfils, shortly after her husband passed.

“After much discussion, and she has to catch the train at 11 o’clock, the mayor said, ‘I’ll give you $10,000,’” Richard said. “And that’s when the publisher said, ‘And here’s another $10,000, that’s $20,000 – if we can have his body and find a place and have a proper burial here.’ She says, ‘He’s all yours,’ and took the money and put it in her big bag. And then they hurried her very quickly to Union Station and got her on the train. 

“And she came back to Cody,” Richard continued, “and all of Cody – or a big portion – met the train across the way at the Burlington Cody Inn, and they waited for the baggage door to open, and it didn’t open. And they said, ‘Where’s Bill?’ She says, ‘I sold him,’ and got in the carriage. But the $20,000 in today’s dollars would be about $490,000 in value.” 

Switched Bodies

That’s when – according to the tale told to Richard by his grandfather, Fred, Fred’s brother-in-law Ned Frost and the Cody mortician John Vogel – a plan was hatched to go to Denver and switch bodies — Bill’s for a dead ranch hand who bore a striking resemblance to Bill.

According to legend, the plan was a success, and the three men buried Col. Cody where his 1906 will had requested, atop Cedar Mountain overlooking the town that he founded.

But, Richard said, in an effort to throw anyone off the trail, Vogel, Fred Richard and Frost created a very elaborate diversion as soon as they returned from burying Cody.

“They turned the horses in, and then went and showered, and then Ned, Fred and John hit every bar and club in Cody, commenting how Cody folks should go down to Denver and bring back Bill’s body,” Richard said, “never mentioning that he was already here.”

Richard said for three nights the men riled up their fellow townspeople, urging them to caravan to Denver to reclaim their beloved Buffalo Bill.

“On Friday, everybody in Cody got in a bunch of cars,” he said. “And I’ve heard 400, I’ve heard 100 – with three or four armed men. And as soon as they left town, Vogel got on the phone and called (Denver mortician John) Olinger and said, ‘Cody people armed to the teeth are coming down to steal Bill’s body.’”

Richard said the Denver mortician notified Denver’s mayor and the publishers of the Denver Post, asking for direction.

“And the mayor said, ‘Well, we’re negotiating on Lookout Mountain’ (for a burial location),” Richard said. “‘We’ll get it dug and get him buried today.’ So Olinger took the cadaver up there and they announced that there was going to be a burial, and notified Louisa and all the powers that be, and they quickly laid him to rest.”

Call Out The National Guard

But there was the matter of the mob that was at that moment driving to Colorado. So Richard said the powerful Denver contingent made a decision.

“They knew the Cody people were coming, so they sent the National Guard up to the Colorado/Wyoming border and repelled everybody,” Richard said. “So (the Cody caravan) went back to Cheyenne, and they called John Vogel and said, ‘John, the Army stopped us. We can’t even get into Colorado.’ And Vogel says, ‘Men, you’ve done your job well, come back, and we’re going to have a big party at the Irma.’”

While the historical record doesn’t quite match up to the tale Richard’s grandfather and uncle told him, a similar scenario actually did play out in 1948.

According to an article posted on the Denver Public Library’s website, that was the year that the Colorado National Guard was called to stand guard over the Lookout Mountain grave site after American Legion members in Cody offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could steal Cody’s body. 

The article also reported that in 2006, Wyoming legislators debated (jokingly) about mounting a “clandestine” effort to retrieve Buffalo Bill’s body.

No matter where the frontiersman, investor, entertainer and visionary is actually buried, the legacy of Col. William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody remains as vibrant today as it was 100 years ago, as even years after his death and burial, he continued to make headlines.

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The Question Persists: Where Is Buffalo Bill Really Buried?

in Cody/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

He was, without question, the most famous man of his day.  Col. William F. Cody, better known to the world as “Buffalo Bill,” brought the mystique and adventure of the Wild West to everyday people around the globe in the decades surrounding the turn of the 20th century.

But the community of Cody, his favorite part of the world, the town that bears his name, the place in which his 1906 will directed that he be buried — was not his final resting place.

Or was it?

Bob Richard is an author and historian from Cody. Last week, Richard presented a theory at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West that perhaps Buffalo Bill isn’t really buried on Lookout Mountain in Colorado.

Instead he theorized, the western showman’s body may have been stolen by Richard’s grandfather and two accomplices as part of a bold plot to bury  Bill’s body where he wished – at the top of Cedar Mountain overlooking the town he founded. 

Worldwide Fame

William Cody was many things in his storied life – as a young man, he rode for the Pony Express; he was an Indian scout and buffalo hunter for the railroad (hence his nickname, “Buffalo Bill”) who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Cody rose to worldwide fame as the star of thousands of dime novels romanticizing his exploits in the Wild West. He capitalized on that fame when he created “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show,” which toured across the United States and in Europe in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

And although he made a tidy sum of money with his Wild West Show  entertaining celebrities such as Queen Victoria of England and appearing at venues such as the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, Cody’s investments and spending habits soon ate through his savings.

“Buffalo Bill is in his prime in the late 1880s and 90s,” said Margie Johnson, who with her husband Mike has researched Cody’s history extensively. “He’s traveling the world, he’s promoted by the papers of the day, he’s going to country after country after country. He’s raking in the money.” 

Because he now had the ability to finance large projects, Cody, by the early 1900s, had thrown himself into a grand venture – creating the community that bears his name near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. He and his partners formed the Shoshone Land and Irrigation Company, acquiring water rights from the Shoshone River to irrigate 60,000 acres. 

Cody’s vision included the construction of the 325-foot-high Buffalo Bill Dam, one of the first concrete arch dams built in the United States and the highest dam in the world at the time of its completion in 1910.

Cody’s Will

It was during this time that Cody recorded his first will, written in 1906, which explicitly laid out instructions as to where he wished to be buried.

“It is my wish and I hereby direct that my body shall be buried in some suitable plot of ground on Cedar Mountain,” the will read, “overlooking the town of Cody, Wyoming, in order that my mortal remains shall lie in close proximity to that fair section of my native Country which bears my name, and in the growth and development of which I have taken so deep and loving an interest, and to which wheresoever and to whatever parts of the earth I have wandered I have always longed to return.”

“In (1906), he’s flush. He’s happy,” said Margie, “but he’s miserable with (wife) Louisa. He tries to get divorce and she won’t have it… but he makes his will at some time in that year.” 

Cody and his wife had had a contentious relationship for most of their married lives. Cody’s 1906 will bequeathed Louisa with very little of his vast land holdings.

However, money became seriously tight between 1910 and 1917, according to Richard, who said Cody made a fateful decision to take a loan out from the owners of the Denver Post, Harry Tammen and Frederick Bonfils.

“In (1912), he borrowed the money, it was $20,000 from Tammen and (Bonfills),” said Mike Johnson. “He couldn’t pay it back, and went to work for them on other shows.”

“He had a lot of property, but he was cash poor,” said Margie. “The Denver Post people were holding him in servitude. He was broke, and he went to them and borrowed money from them – I think it was $10,000 – to put the Wild West Show into storage, and he couldn’t pay it. So basically they made him work for them in substandard productions just to pay off that, and he was embarrassed.”

The Truce

It was during this period that Cody and his wife apparently called a truce, according to the Johnsons.  

“He changed his will in (1913) and he and Louisa apparently reconciled,” Mike said. “So now she’s in charge. She gets everything.”

When Cody fell seriously ill at the end of 1917, his finances were in disarray. And while a guest at his sister’s house in Denver, Colorado, the showman passed away on Dec. 10, 1917.

“He was laid in-state both at the (Denver) Elks club and the Capitol,” said Richard. “And 25,000 people attended his being in-state at one place or the other.”

Because of Cody’s financial debts, despite his express wishes to be buried on Cedar Mountain overlooking his town in the Rockies, Louisa was convinced by Cody’s debtors, Denver Post owners Tammen and Bonfils, to allow Cody to be buried near Denver instead.

“The mayor and the owners of the Denver Post met with Louisa, but she turned them down and said ‘No, he’s not for sale,’” Richard said. “And they said, ‘We want to take you to breakfast and talk about it and see if we can work out a deal.’”

By the end of breakfast, Louisa had changed her mind.

“‘(We’ll give you) $20,000 if we can have his body, and find a place, and have a proper burial here,’” is how Richard said the conversation went. “She says, ‘He’s all yours,’ and took the money and put it in her big bag. And then they hurried her very quickly to the Union Station and got her on the train, and she came back to Cody.”

Richard said that sum of money would have allowed Louisa to pay her husband’s bills and meet the obligations that he had been committed to.

But that’s where the official record ends – and the legend begins. 

Rubber Bag Full Of Ice

Richard said the following tale was told to him by John Vogel, Ned Frost and his grandfather, from the time he was a young boy:

“John Vogel, the undertaker in Cody had a rancher south of Cody bring in a ranch hand that had died, and this was in late January,” Richard said. “And John proceeded to look at the cadaver, and he went and got some scissors and trimmed up his beard and his mustache, and went over to his phone, and he called Fred Richard (Bob’s grandfather) and Ned Frost (Fred’s brother in law, both were friends of Bill Cody’s). He says, ‘Boys, we’re going to Denver, we’re going to trade bodies. I’ve got a cadaver here, and I think we can pass him off for Bill.’”

So, Richard said, the three came into town that night and left early the next morning, putting the cowboy in a rubber bag full of ice in the back of a Packard for the two-day trip to Denver.

“When they got there, they went directly to the mortuary and met with Ohlinger (the mortician) because Vogel knew him,” Richard said. “Then they said ‘We’d like to see Bill,’ and he said, ‘Sure, we’ve got him down under the stairs because that’s the coolest place.’ And when the men went down, Fred, Ned and Vogel pulled Bill out and looked in, and said ‘Yep, sure enough, that’s Bill.’”

Richard said that after dinner that night, the three men went back to the mortuary, went down the steps, and exchanged the bodies.

“They carried Bill up, put him in the iced rubber bag back in the car, and they were gassed up and headed out of town,” Richard said. 

He explained that when the men arrived back in Cody, they transported the body to an undisclosed location at the top of Cedar Mountain, where they buried their friend.

Could The Switch Have Happened?

In all the years Richard has relayed this tale, questions inevitably arise. Could the switch have happened? Wouldn’t anyone have noticed that the body in the Denver mortuary did not look exactly like the man who was possibly the most recognizable person in the world?

“It could have been done,” said Mike Johnson, who several years ago walked through the mortuary, which still exists as it did in 1917. “The crypt room was big enough to pull the casket out, take the body out, change clothing, change bodies, do it all in the crypt room, slide the wrong guy back in the casket and take the rubber bag out the door. So the answer is yes. It could have happened.”

The official record, though, is that Buffalo Bill Cody is buried on Lookout Mountain near Golden, Colorado. Bill’s foster son, Johnny Baker, oversaw the formation of a visitor’s center at the site of Cody’s memorial, which still stands today.

But the Johnsons, who have kept the legend of Bill’s burial alive through the business they founded in the early 2000s, Cody Trolley Tours, would like to see the showman’s 1906 will fulfilled. Even if Cody’s body really is buried on Lookout Mountain, the Johnsons said the townspeople of the community that bears his name could honor the 1906 request of the man whose larger-than-life presence is still felt today.

“I further direct that there shall be erected over my grave, to mark the spot where my body lies, a monument wrought from native Red stone in the form of a mammoth Buffalo,” Cody’s 1906 will read, “and placed in such a position as to be visible from the town, in order that it may be a constant reminder to my fellow citizens that it was the great wish of its founder that Cody should not only grow in prosperity and become a populous and influential metropolis, but that it should be distinguished for the purity of its government and the loyalty of its citizens to the institution of our beloved Country.”  

“The whole town is built on his back,” said Mike Johnson. “But (the monument) never happened. And it shouldn’t be a difficult thing, it’s an issue of engineering. It’s windy up there. But once it’s engineered, it’s just a matter of money. It should really be somebody just taking charge of it.”

There is a fiberglass statue of a buffalo on top of Cedar Mountain, which was given to the community by the city of Golden, Colorado, where Buffalo Bill is officially said to be buried, as a sort of peace offering in the tug-of-war between the two cities.

Even without the buffalo statue Cody requested in his 1906 will, the city of Cody has definitely paid tribute to its founder. 

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s bronze statue “The Scout” features prominently at the west end of Cody’s main street, Sheridan Avenue. Cody’s likeness can be found on business signs; the famous Buffalo Bill Center of the West is the town’s primary tourist attraction, where visitors can find out more about Cody’s legacy.

“His spirit is in this town,” said Margie Johnson. “The creativity. Look what Buffalo Bill did with his life.”

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Delta Stops Cody Airport Service Because Of Pilot Shortage; Air Service Cut In Half

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Flights in and out of Cody’s Yellowstone Regional Airport will be reduced by nearly half this summer, due to a shortage of available pilots.

Airport Manager Aaron Buck said a shortage of pilots has caused Delta Airlines to cancel all of its planned flights between Cody and Salt Lake City, leaving only United Airlines and its flights to and from Denver as the only service to the airport.

“We will have four flights a day that are coming in, and four flights out,” Buck told Cowboy State Daily. “And then in July, it looks like there’ll be some days that are four and some days that are just three.”

This summer’s schedule will be significantly less active than what the airport has seen in the past.

“You know, last year we had seven flights a day on Saturdays,” Buck said. “We won’t have anything close to that this year.” 

Last summer, Delta offered up to two flights a day between Cody and Salt Lake from early May to October, making up around 25% of YRA’s total flights.

“It’s going to be about 400 seats less per week that we get to get in,” said Buck. “So if you think about it that way, rather than just flights, you know, it’s about 400 less seats during that time frame during August and July.”

The airline announced in January that it was going to cut back its flights by 25%, due to pandemic-related staffing issues that saw thousands of Delta pilots take early retirement, as well as disruptions caused by training schedules. 

YRA has seen record numbers of enplanements so far this year – January, February and March saw the highest number of travelers ever flying out of Cody’s airport; 2,055, 2,044 and 2,623, respectively.

As a result, Delta’s cancellation comes as a blow, Buck said.

“What’s unfortunate about it so far, is January, February, March, April, have all been up,” he said. “And so we’re having a banner year, but we don’t have a banner year of flights in the summer.” 

Buck pointed out that the cancellation of daily flights between Cody and Salt Lake City will have a negative economic impact.

“It will greatly affect the income of the airport directly,” he said. “It also will affect the income of the community a little bit as far as the number of people. I mean, 400 less people a week that can get access to Cody through the airport.”

A factor working in Cody’s favor, however, is the fact that the Jackson airport will be closed through the middle of June for runway repairs – so some travelers who would have flown into Jackson will be coming to Cody instead.

“They added one flight a day to us that would have been going to Jackson during that time,” Buck said. “They have a significant runway closure that’s going on there. But yeah, we have an extra flight a day during Ma, because of that. 

“So we’re still going to have a really strong April and a really strong May, and even a really strong June compared to last year,” he continued. “Some of the extra flights that we’re missing are going to be in our July, August timeframe.”

Ryan Hauck, Executive Director for the Park County Travel Council, said the pilot shortage is just another impact that the COVID pandemic has had on the country’s economy.

“That’s the next ripple effect from what COVID did,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “First, it was no travel, then last year, it was staffing, and this year, it is lack of pilots.”

But Hauck pointed out that most people come to Cody by car, rather than plane, so the lack of plane traffic may not have much of an effect on the local businesses that rely on tourism.

“Luckily for us, we have always been a very heavy drive market,” he said. “So I will tell you, talking with Yellowstone, talking with the hoteliers here, demand is still coming. We are still on point to have an amazing year this year.”

And Buck noted that next year should be back to normal when it comes to airline traffic in Cody.

“I don’t imagine that we’ll have trouble getting it back once there’s pilots to fly on planes,” he said.

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Harley Rally In June Expected to Generate Millions in Revenue for Cody

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The impending arrival of up to 1,000 bikers converging on Cody in late June might spark trepidation in some.

But downtown business owners in the northwest Wyoming community plan to welcome the riders with open arms.

“We are totally pumped,” said Gail Nace, who owns the Silver Dollar Bar. 

Nace and others whose livelihoods depend on tourism dollars in the summer say they are excited about the Harley Owners Group (HOG) Rally to be held in Cody June 23-26.

“It’s nothing but good for this town,” Nace told Cowboy State Daily. “It generates revenue, it generates excitement. People are excited to come down and look at all the motorcycles. I see absolutely no naysayers in the entire community that I visited with.”

Part of the excitement might have to do with the estimated revenue the event is expected to generate.

“We are expecting about a $2 million-plus economic impact from this,” said Ryan Hauck, executive director for the Park County Travel Council. “Obviously, lodging tax will look great. Cody is going to definitely benefit from this, but then our downtown restaurants and attractions, they’re going to do amazing. 

“These are people with disposable incomes that are here to spend money and have fun and really get themselves involved with the destination,” he added.

Hells Angels Rally

Many residents of Cody remember the Hells Angels World Rally that was held in Cody in 2006, when local law enforcement agencies strengthened their presence in town to counter any trouble that might come with a group that has a reputation for lawlessness. 

That trouble never materialized – and biker-friendly shop owners are quick to point out that the Harley Owners Group doesn’t have the same reputation.

“You can’t have those expensive bikes and be a deadbeat,” said Monie Harrison, who owns a retail clothing store in Cody.

Big Moneymaker

Harrison also owns a retail clothing store in Red Lodge, Montana, where a HOG motorcycle rally was held a few years ago. She said the event was a great experience for the community. 

“It was our biggest moneymaker in Red Lodge,” said Harrison. “And all of them were kind. I never had one problem with a biker.”

“I have never had a problem with any of the motorcycle people coming through (Cody),” said Nace. “I never had a problem with the Hells Angels coming through. They were delightful humans to work with. 

“And I don’t expect anything other than that from this wonderful group coming through, and they’re from all over the country,” she continued. “And the riding out here is just spectacular.”

Open Container

Hauck told Cowboy State Daily that the HOG Rally is such a significant event that the Cody City Council has authorized the closure of a portion of Sheridan Avenue, Cody’s main thoroughfare, for a few hours and has decided to let pedestrians carry open containers of alcohol downtown during the event. Such actions are usually reserved for the Fourth of July celebration and other major community events.

“(June) 23rd is the welcome night, and the 24th and the 25th there will actually be mass guided rides throughout the big scenic loops that we have,” Hauck said. “So they’ll be leaving at seven or eight in the morning, and then come back in the early afternoon, and then back in town spending more money with everybody every night.”

Hauck said that the rally’s coordinators are keeping him updated daily about the number of people expected to attend the event, which was held last year in Durango, Colorado.

“Durango had right around 800, 900 rally members,” he said.

Response for the Cody event has been strong, Hauck said.

“The event started off pretty hot – I mean, they got up to 350 almost immediately once they released registration,” he said. “I think they’re right around 400 or so, but they said it is pretty typical to where the last 60 days, they’ll see (registrations) double, maybe even triple at that point in time. So I think we’ll be right around 700 to 900 people.”

“We always love sharing our town with all of the newcomers,” said Nace, “but the numbers of people and the street closure and the open container (permits) and just the general excitement, we are like, over the top ready for this.”

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Yellowstone Actor Cole Hauser To Lead Cody’s Stampede Parade

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cole Hauser, a star in the television show “Yellowstone,” will serve as grand marshal for the Cody Stampede Parade on July 4.

Stampede Parade officials announced this week that Hauser had agreed to headline the annual parade, sparking a storm of social media commentary.

“This is the best news I’ve heard all year,” commented one Facebook user.

Mack Frost, president of the Stampede Parade Committee, told Cowboy State Daily that Hauser’s appearance comes thanks to his association with a Cody resident.

“(Cody resident) Jim Dager is associated with Cole Hauser in the Special Operations Warrior Foundation,” said Mack Frost, president of the Stampede Parade Committee. “Cole has recently become a member of the board, and Jim Dager has been one of their ambassadors.”

The Special Operations Warrior Foundation provides support for the families of fallen members of special operations forces.

Frost said one of the members of the Stampede Parade Committee who knew of Dager’s association with Hauser asked if Hauser might consider serving as grand marshal for this year’s parade.

“Cole is coming down here at Jim’s invitation to attend a benefit dinner (for the Warrior Foundation) that Jim is going to hold at his place,” Frost said.

“And as long as he was going to be here, they asked him if he would be willing to do the stint as our grand marshal. He said ‘You bet, be happy to do it.’ He just asked us to keep it quiet until about now,” he said.

Hauser’s leading role in “Yellowstone,” set in Montana on a fictitious ranch in the Yellowstone National Park region, has brought him into the spotlight, although his family background is one of Hollywood royalty.

His mother, Cass Warner, is the granddaughter of film mogul Harry Warner, a co-founder of Warner Bros.; his father is actor Wings Hauser, who appeared in television shows including “Murder, She Wrote” and “Roseanne,” and his paternal grandfathers were Hollywood screenwriters.

Social media has been buzzing about the news since it was announced at a chamber luncheon on Monday. 

“So excited! We will be there for sure,” wrote one Facebook user.

“Might have to change our holiday for this!” wrote another.

Frost said that Hauser won’t be making any additional public appearances once his stint as grand marshal is over, but the thousands of people who line up each year to see the parade will be able to get a glimpse of the famous actor.

Hauser’s credits also include roles in the films “School Ties,” “Dazed and Confused,” “Hart’s War,” “Tears of the Sun,” and “2 Fast 2 Furious,” prior to his very popular turn as the character “Rip” in the Paramount series “Yellowstone.”

Frost pointed out that there hasn’t been a celebrity grand marshal in the parade for a few years now.

“The last celebrities we had were (Robert) Taylor and his sidekick (Adam Bartley, both actors in the TV series Longmire),” said Frost. “They were the last celebrities we had,” and that was in 2017.

Other grand marshals of previous Cody Stampede Parades include Chuck Yeager, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, champion bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, Wilford Brimley, Dennis Weaver and Steven Seagal.

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Wyoming Cities Reach Out To Cody About Its Six Geodesic Wind-Proof Domes

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Apparently, it was a good idea. And now, people are taking notice of the strange domes springing up in downtown Cody.

When Ryan Hauck, executive director of the Park County Travel Council, began the constructing the six clear domes outside the Cody Chamber Visitor Center, people noticed.

“The public has reached out to me with interest in how I got them, where I got them, what they can be used for,” Hauck told Cowboy State Daily.

Hauck said since the project started taking shape earlier this year, he’s fielded many calls expressing interest in the domes. The volume of calls increased, he said, after a story about the domes appeared on Cowboy State Daily.

“Anything from dude ranches to guest ranches to event venues,” he said. “I’ve even had people reach out to me in regards to, if these would work well for, like, a yoga studio or something like that on their own land, or maybe they’re trying to do something for the public. But we’ve had interest locally, and now statewide, after Cowboy State Daily posted (the story).”

Since that story was released earlier this month, Hauck said representatives from communities such as Cheyenne and Laramie have contacted him, interested in using the unique structures in their cities.

“Typically, I’ve just been directing them to hypedome.com, because that’s the brand that I got, and that is the style that we went with,” he said.

Facebook comments on the structures reflected mixed reactions, with some readers bemoaning the use of tax dollars to pay for the domes and others expressing great interest in the structures.

“I think these look like fun,” read one comment. “Having food trucks available would entice folks to use these.”

“I think they’re cool,” read another. “It’s so windy almost all the time, which is not conducive for, say, enjoying a book in the sunshine on a pretty day. This was such a great idea!”

The cozy outdoor spaces, which Hauck said were paid for with federal coronavirus relief funds, are intended for use by the public as a place to gather while remaining sheltered from Wyoming’s unpredictable weather.

“Whether it’s locals that want to enjoy the outdoors and stay away from the 60 mile an hour wind, or if visitors just want a fun place where they could stop and read a book or eat a quick lunch before they head into (Yellowstone National Park), it’s an option really for anybody and everybody,” Hauck noted.

He said after the Wyoming Business Council conducted a study that showed a need for improving public spaces in towns such as Cody, the Travel Council began brainstorming ideas that would encourage visitors to stay overnight and enjoy the community’s night life.

“I kind of envisioned, maybe we have a food truck night once a month, or something like that,” Hauck said.

He added there are many other possible uses for the domes.

“For example, at the end of the end of June, we’re going to be hosting a 900-person Harley rally,” he said. “During their site visit they saw those, and they actually mentioned that they would love to use them for their big staff get together (during the rally).”

Hauck added that the unique look of what have been dubbed the “Cody Visitor Center Domes” will encourage social media posts that will promote Cody to potential visitors.

“People are going to be looking for that ‘Instagrammable’ moment,” he said. “I think it’s going to be something that will help draw people in that way.”

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Cody Builds Six 150mph Wind-Proof Geodesic Domes

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cody is a western town. 

Every step through the community reveals a town steeped in western history — including the Chamber of Commerce building modeled after the home of western showman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

So a collection of clear geodesic domes poses a stark contrast to the rustic log cabin the rest beside.

The other-worldly “Cody Visitor Center Domes” are the result of efforts by the Park County Travel Council to create attractive public spaces and entice visitors to stay in Cody a little longer. 

“We’re always looking for ways to keep people more overnights in Cody-Yellowstone,” said Ryan Hauck, the executive director for the Park County Travel Council (PCTC). “Our goal is to always try to bring people either in shoulder season, or get them to come for multiple nights, or whatever that looks like.”

One way to do that, Hauck said, is to create more evening activities, which encourage visitors to stay more than one night. 

The domes that have taken up residence on the Chamber’s property will allow people to gather outside in the evenings and remain sheltered from the elements.

“I kind of envisioned, maybe we have a food truck night once a month, or something like that,” Hauck said. “They honestly work perfectly for food trucks. Also, a lot of destinations do what’s called a restaurant week, in which maybe in a shoulder season we could feature restaurants every day for a week straight.”

The domes also encourage the use of outdoor public spaces, which Hauck said is how the idea for the project came up in the first place.

“I think it was the WCDA (Wyoming Community Development Authority) that has a grant for public spaces that comes out every single year,” he said. “And they ran a study to see what communities really need public spaces, and honestly, Cody came up as one of the top ones in all of Wyoming that really need public spaces.” 

“There’s just not a lot of places where people can go to hang out, and enjoy what we have, other than a few places downtown,” he added.

Hauck said the project was funded with federal money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or “CARES” and to that end, addressed social distancing concerns.

“This does give another option to enjoy a public space in a COVID friendly way if that’s something that people are actively looking for,” Hauck said. “And people still are actively looking for those options.”

In deciding to utilize the CARES Act money for this project, Hauck said local leaders supported the idea completely.

“These were federal dollars for destinations like us, and everybody else throughout the state, to help us recover,” he said. 

A company called HypeDome provided the materials, which Hauck said should withstand all that the Wyoming weather can throw at them, from sub-zero winter temperatures and snow to the state’s ever-present wind.

“Also, we do live in Wyoming, and we have wind here,” he said. “And so, going off memory here, I believe we had to have a structure that could withstand 85-mile-an-hour wind and 150-mile-an-hour gusts up to three seconds. And these can do that.”

Hauck pointed out that these permanent structures are perfect setups for social media posts.

“People are going to be looking for that ‘Instagrammable’ moment, just like they have been for the last few years,” he said. “And they’re going to look awesome. I think it’s going to be something that will help draw people in that way.”

But he pointed out that the project isn’t quite finished yet.

“There are going to be some accessories like cement tables, vases, things like that,” Hauck said. 

“Every single one of them will also have rope lights around the base of them, and fairy lights all throughout the top part of the dome.” He continued. “So you know, at dusk and nighttime, they’re going to look pretty phenomenal.” 

The chamber asks that users finish up in the domes by 10 p.m., but at this point, there are no locks to keep people out.

Hauck added that there is no plan to ever charge to use the domes.

“Whether it’s locals that want to enjoy the outdoors and stay away from the 60-mile-an hour wind, or it’s tourists looking for that fun Instagrammable moment – or if they just want a fun place where they could stop and read a book or eat a quick lunch before they head into the park. It’s an option, really, for anybody and everybody,” he said.

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Cody Veterinarian Saves Horses’ Lives With Prosthetics

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A catastrophic injury doesn’t have to mean a death sentence for a horse. 

Dr. Ted Vlahos, a veterinarian in Cody, specializes in fitting horses for prosthetic limbs.

“After 911, we started having a lot of guys and girls come back from the Middle East with prosthetics,” Vlahos said. “And it was intriguing to me, and I had a horse that needed to have that as an option — either an artificial limb prosthesis or be euthanized. So I did my first case in 2000.” 

Vlahos held up one of the prosthetics he has used to put a horse back on its “feet.”

“This prosthetic for a horse actually comes apart, like a ski boot with a horse’s leg in there,” he described. “We clamp it, and we actually tighten this cable system shut.”

Vlahos said giving a horse a prosthesis is only considered in worst-case scenarios.

“Some of them are expensive breeding animals, some of them are just backyard pets. And I would say more than half of them that we deal with are family members,” he said. “We don’t care how much the horse is worth on paper. We care what quality of life we can give it, and if we can’t give it a good quality of life, then we’ll stop. 

“But the vast majority of the horses that we’ve done amputations on, over 70% of them long term have a really normal quality of life – so they can be turned out to be brood mares, be pasture pets, be therapy horses for wounded warriors, and we’ve done a few of those as well,” he continued.

Vlahos used an X-ray of a horse’s injured leg to demonstrate.

“This was one that was not salvageable,” he said. “So we, and the owners, elected to give him an artificial limb, and we did the amputation and prosthesis here. So he spent a few months here in the clinic, and he’s back in California running around and is a pretty happy horse.” 

Vlahos explained that he works with two prosthetics companies, Comfort Prosthetics in Michigan and Hanger Prosthetics, a Wyoming company.

“They’ve been really helpful to put together safe limbs for the horse,” he said. “So we’ve had quite a few of them. We’ve done, I think, six of them this year.” 

Dr. Vlahos explained that although his practice is based in Cody, he’s been able to travel the world helping horses with extreme injuries live normal lives. He said that so far, he and his team have done around 100 cases on four continents.

“What makes an expert is if you’ve seen every complication possible, so I am an expert,” Vlahos said. “And our job is to troubleshoot and deal with them.” 

In addition to traveling himself, Vlahos works virtually with teams, coaching surgeons around the globe.

“I have to be in surgery in the morning, 2 o’clock tomorrow morning in Italy, via Zoom, to work with a team at the University of Bologna on a horse over there,” he said. “So we help surgeons all over the planet.” 

Vlahos’ regular practice is busy year-round – he sees between 5,000 and 6,000 horses a year, and he said he performed six surgeries just last week. 

“It’s not our everyday job, we see regular horses for everyday lameness and everyday preventive care, but we just kind of fell into this about twenty-some years ago, and it’s worked out well.”

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Questions Surround Death Of Cody Woman

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The story dominated headlines in early January. A homeless woman found dead in Cody. 

The woman, Texas resident Rachel Leigh Sirman, had been 29 years old. No foul play is suspected by local law enforcement

But that conclusion does little to bring solace to Rachel’s mother, Connie Malo.

Connie spoke with Cowboy State Daily recently, shortly after her family returned from Wyoming, where they held a memorial service for Rachel in Cody. 

Of all the places to hold a funeral, Connie said that Wyoming might be the best given the friendliness of its people, from the funeral director down to those who just turned out to pay their respects. 

Many noted to Connie that after reading Rachel’s obituary, they’d had no idea she was so accomplished. They had just known the free spirited homeless woman who lived at a campsite near Sulphur Creek.

The campsite was where Rachel was ultimately found, curled up in a sleeping bag with her tent and campsite intact around her. It’s not clear what happened or how she died other than it appears to be of natural causes.

“We may not ever know,” Connie said.

Who was this woman?

In some ways, Rachel was an engima even to her family.

For starters, she was intensely private, her mother told Cowboy State Daily, particularly on matters relating to her mental illness and health. For years, her family and medical team had towed a fine line in granting Rachel independence while looking out for her safety and health. As other parents of mentally ill adults have no doubt have experienced, Connie said, it’s often a dance between wanting them to live their lives to the fullest while keeping them safe.

In mid-December, after Connie and her family had been privately investigating her for months, Connie reported her daughter missing. It’s not clear what happened or how she died other than it appears to be of natural causes.

Over the years, Connie had reported her missing four other times. It was always a hard call on her part because Rachel was an adult and had a tendency to go off the radar for short periods of time. Always in the past she’d emerged – sometimes with a hello call or text to Connie in the middle of the night –  and was always surprised to hear her family was worried and annoyed to learn she had been reported missing.

Up until now, there had been nothing to worry about.

Her daughter was always capable, very private and fiercely independent.  

“Mental illness has a way of robbing someone of so many things, and it’s easy for people to forget who they really were before the struggle,” Connie said.

World traveler

From an early age, Rachel was exceptionally smart and precocious, her mother said. At age 8, Rachel struggled to understand why her mom wouldn’t let her travel the world and go to college. Her dad Sam had traveled internationally for work, and it left an impression on the young girl.

Rachel ultimately got her wish after being accepted at age 16 into the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. A local news article depicted her as a young scholar. 

Earlier, at age 15, Rachel had spent a year in Brazil as a Rotary Club exchange student. Connie laughed when she recalled that her daughter rang in her 16th birthday with a trip down the Amazon. Later, Rachel made two solo trips back to Brazil to visit friends at ages 17 and 19, respectively.

Her dream, Rachel told her mom, was to travel the world. She was intelligent, Connie said, and did a good job of taking care of herself even from a young age. 

Connie recalled a trip home from Washington, D.C. where Rachel had been attending leadership conference. Hurricane Rita had just pummeled the Southern states just as Rachel was due to fly home. While her family worried, Rachel navigated two flights and several layovers home on her own, nonplussed that anyone thought she might have been in danger.  

She also had a knack for learning languages and went on to study linguistics in her home state at the University of Mississippi, where she was also in a sorority and excelled academically and socially. 

No cure

Her mental health issues hit later when she was in college. She left school before graduating and came home to treat her illness, which went on for the next five years.

Connie wasn’t clear on Rachel’s official diagnosis because it varied from doctor to doctor and Rachel didn’t like to talk about it. Nor did she want it to define her life. 

Furthermore, none of the treatments Rachel sought seemed to work. Either the pills doctors prescribed made her daughter feel lifeless – not to mention she preferred natural alternatives – and treatment was prohibitively expensive. At one point, Rachel found a holistic treatment center she really liked but the family’s insurance wouldn’t cover the cost and the family could not afford the monthly fee of $10,000 to $40,000. 

Unlike other people struggling with mental illness, Rachel had access to many different programs, Connie said, but often exercised her right to refuse treatment because nothing seemed to work. 

Between 2015 and 2018, Rachel was on disability until she received clearance from her doctor to get a job. Connie, who works in the tourist industry, suggested her daughter get a job at a resort, which seemed like a good option because most included housing. Rachel went on to work at resorts in Texas, and most recently, Wyoming, where her grandparents had lived when she was a girl.

In between gigs, Rachel often took bus trips to explore the country and at times was homeless. Her family worried about her, but again, wanted to respect her freedom. From time to time, she also went off radar and didn’t contact friends or family. More often than not, she had just been living her life without realizing anyone was worried. 

There is always that gray area of whether she was missing or whether she was gone. Sometimes she was hiding in plain sight. Rachel hated being reported missing when she didn’t consider herself lost. 

“It was a dance between protecting her and letting her live her own life,” Connie said. “This meant letting her make her own choices and letting her have her independence, which as a parent, was a hard thing to do.”

Because Rachel was also vehemently private about all aspects of her life, her family is not sure to what extent her mental illness factored into her life choices and decisions. Nor do they truly understand if Rachel actually had a mental illness or was just a free thinker who chose a different way of life.

After all, her daughter was incredibly spiritual, Connie said, and frequently told her mother that she felt called to live among the homeless, once writing that “if you call my spiritual work homelessness, then that is an honorable position.”

In some cultures, her daughter’s stance would be considered normal, Connie noted.

Rethinking mental illness

If anything positive is to come out of her daughter’s death, Connie hopes it will be a conversation about how Western medicine treats mental illness in general. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, Connie said. 

“Let’s start with what we don’t know,” she said, noting the number of adults with mental disabilities who like Rachel often go missing. 

Connie sympathizes with other parents as well as law enforcement agencies with overstretched resources who are often charged with finding these adults and medical providers who try to care for their patients to no avail. 

“We need to figure out how to treat that particular individual,” she said. “Rachel tried the drugs and the side effects weren’t good for her body. They didn’t work, and there were seemingly no other options but medication.”

For Connie and other parents of adults with mental illness, there is a fine line to walk between locking someone up against their will and letting them live their own lives according to their terms. She believed her daughter went off the grid when she was struggling to make sense of her life. Because she largely kept her feelings to herself, they relied on what she told them. 

“She said she was doing just fine,” Connie said, noting her conversations with Rachel up to her disappearance and death had been positive. “I allowed her to come to me to tell me how she was doing. We just kind of met her where she was.” 

Remembering Rachel

In the wake of Rachel’s death, Connie and family are left piecing together events in her short life while remembering the joy she brought to them and so many other people. Likely, her life will remain a mystery which they accept.

The family is content to celebrate her spirit, including her intense generosity and kindness to those less fortunate then her. 

Connie recalled receiving a call from Rachel while on a bus trip from Texas to Wyoming. On a stopover in Colorado, Rachel called her mom to ask for snack money because she’d given hers away to a Latina mother with several young children. Rachel was able to converse with the mother in Spanish, and in doing so, decided she needed the snack money more than Rachel did.  

“That’s just how she was,” Connie said. “Always thinking of others.”

Rachel also died doing what she loved, traveling and living on her own terms, Connie said. There’s some solace in knowing she seemed content when they last had contact with her. 

“She was stubborn and independent,” Connie said, “but she lived life on her own terms and we respected that.”

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Some $1.18 Million Worth Of Art Sold At Cody’s Buffalo Bill Art Show

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When the gavel dropped on the final piece of artwork at the 40th annual Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, nearly $1.18 million worth of art had been sold.

The Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale benefits the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. This event was held in conjunction with By Western Hands’ exhibit for Western Functional Art during the annual weeklong celebration of the arts known as Rendezvous Royale. 

“It is without a doubt the most successful shoulder season event bringing hundreds of people to Cody each year,” organizers said.

They called last week’s events in Cody a success, saying that, while the 2021 season looked different, they were “extremely grateful to be back in the tent and back in person.”

Produced by the Cody chamber, the art show generated more than $1.5 million in gross revenue. While in-person attendance was limited, hundreds of patrons, artists and community members enjoyed a variety of art-related events throughout the week, culminating with the annual Quick Draw Saturday morning. 

The live auction’s highest selling work went to Tucker Smith’s work “Glacier Carved,” which featured mountain sheep and sold for $65,000. Pieces were sold online with the LiveAuctioneers platform, through phone bidding and in-person bidding at the 15,000 square foot tent.

Chamber CEO Tina Hoebelheinrich praised her team and its partners at the Center of the West.

“We truly could not have pulled this off if not for the tenacity and dedication of the best art show director in the West, Kathy Thompson, the volunteers who came from Nevada, Utah and Washington to participate as well as the loyal volunteers from Cody who show up year after year,”  Hoebelheinrich said. “Workforce became an issue for our tent and food vendors, so a tremendous thank you to the facilities team at the Center of the West who never rested and helped us overcome every challenge.”

A total of 110 contemporary Western artists were invited to participate in the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale — hailing from Wyoming to New York to Australia and offering works relating to the land, people and wildlife of the American West. Works ranged from oil paintings, watercolors, pastels, sculptures, ceramics and mixed media.

Judges of Annual Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale remarked on high caliber of artwork

The 2021 jurors were:

• Jan and Bruce Eldredge, former Executive Director and CEO of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West,

• Donna Poulton, art consultant, author, and former Curator of Art of the American West at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and

• Tylee Abbott, head of the Department of American Art at Christie’s Auction House in New York City.

The judges praised this year’s selections overall, with Bruce Eldredge declaring the show to be “of exceptional quality.” He said it stood out especially for the works of art on paper, which “show a mastery of working in watercolor, pastel, charcoal, and collage” — mediums that Jan Eldredge said are “always unforgiving.” 

The Spirit of the Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale Award

This award recognizes the artwork that is most representative of the show in terms of location, history, and the greatness and grandeur embodied by the “spirit” of the American West. The judges awarded this honor to “South Fork Wanderers,” a 32- by 45-inch oil painting by Mark Kelso.

Bruce Eldredge said the painting perfectly embodies the “location, greatness, and grandeur” defined in the award criteria, and all judges agreed.

The judges selected “The Fence Inspector” by T. Allen Lawson as the two-dimensional artwork of exceptional execution and craftsmanship. Tylee Abbott called the 14- by 14-inch oil painting “a whisper of a Western winter landscape.”

Poulton lauded the artist for his color work on a diminutive canvas, saying that “not all artists could accomplish such a small-scale snapshot with such a limited palette.”

Three-Dimensional Award

The judges selected Joshua Tobey’s sculpture “Stepping Stone” as the three-dimensional artwork of exceptional execution and craftsmanship. This patinated bronze stands 55 by 18 by 21 inches.

Abbot called Tobey’s piece “a combination of accuracy, engineering, originality, and playfulness” and Bruce Eldredge remarked that “the artist captured both the heron and the turtle in an exceptional way.”

Judges’ Awards of Excellence

A mark of the show’s overall quality, the judges decided to recognize four additional artists for their excellence in design and execution.

• Campbell Dosch, “Apsaalooke,” bronze, 37 by 18 by 12 inches.

• Dolan Geiman, “Midnight Moonlight,” vintage paper collage, 46 by 36 inches.

• Paul Rhymer, “Chicken Hawk in Repose,” bronze, 66 by 18 by 18 inches.

• Kyle Sims, “Glider,” oil, 16 by 32 inches.  

People’s Choice Award

Members of the public who visited the Live Auction gallery cast votes for their favorite piece of artwork. Heide Presse received the most votes for her 40- by 30-inch oil painting “Tall Tales.”

Gilly Fales Fine Art Scholarship Award

The Gilly Fales Fine Art Scholarship Award is a local scholarship opportunity provided by the Gilly Fales Memorial Foundation for the Arts, which seeks to empower young artists ages 18-30 who have a passion for the arts. Olivia Christensen received the honor for her 40- by 30- inch oil painting, “Heart of Wyoming.”

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Wyoming’s Patron’s Ball Cancelled; Art Show Will Still Go On

in Cody

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

*** Note: The art show has NOT been cancelled. Only the Patron’s Ball. See below. ***

The Patron’s Ball is a long-standing tradition at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. For 40 years, the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale and the Patron’s Ball – which is the major fundraiser for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West – have brought famous artists, politicians and just local folks together for a week of western art and fashion.

Regular attendees to the Ball include Dick Cheney, Prince Albert II of Monaco, current and former Governors for the state, retired Senator Al Simpson and other high profile dignitaries from around the state.

But this year, the Patron’s Ball has been cancelled due to the recent spike in COVID cases, which have caused local health care facilities to go into crisis mode.

“With the patron’s ball, it’s an indoor event,” said Tina Hoebelheinrich, the Executive Director of the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce. “There’s dancing, there’s a shared meal. And so when you’re trying to mitigate for those COVID risks, an indoor event like that is pretty challenging.”

The Patron’s Ball is the endcap to the annual week-long celebration of arts and western culture in Cody called “Rendezvous Royale,” which takes place the third week of September every year. The event has been held annually for over forty years, and is the primary fundraiser for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West. At $350 per ticket, it draws the rich – and modestly wealthy – to what is affectionately known to some as the “Cody Prom”.

Rebecca West, the Executive Director for the Center of the West, thanked the community members and patrons for their understanding.

“We are humbled by the kindness, and the understanding from community members and businesses, patrons, and visitors – especially this week – but really throughout the year,” she said. “Cody is a town known for its character and ability to get through tough times, and we are proud of everyone’s efforts to keep going and look ahead to a better future.”

But West also pointed out that the Ball isn’t the only event going on this week – and that the community and visitors to the area can still participate in the annual celebration.

“There are still great opportunities during Rendezvous Royale week to enjoy and support the arts in Cody and the Center, whether online or in person,” she pointed out.

Kathy Thompson has directed the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale for almost 15 years. She says the live auction, which has brought in over a million dollars each year for the past few years, will go on as planned.

“We’re more limited in our numbers, but we are in our party tent again,” she smiled. “And we’re excited about that, everybody likes to party in a tent. I have 70 artists coming out of 109 (who have pieces in the show). Everybody wants to play.”

The Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale is the major fundraiser for the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce, along with other local organizations. Thompson said this year’s event is the best ever.

“This is the 40th year of the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, so it’s quite a celebration this year,” she pointed out. “And knowing that, our artists brought on the very best show I’ve seen in 15 years. We have all kinds of mediums, and I must say, very little repetition of theme.”

The artists whose pieces are included in the sale range from celebrated painter M.C. “Mike” Poulsen, whose oil painting of an otter and a blue heron in a stream is valued at $7,800; to sculptor D. Michael Thomas, whose huge bronze of rodeo cowboy Chris LeDoux now stands at the gate to Frontier Park in Cheyenne. A smaller version of “Just LeDoux It” is part of this year’s show.

“We’re making new rules, new ways to sell our art,” Thompson noted. “We have ways, any way you can possibly buy a piece of art in here, you can do it. Whether you’re here in person, or you’re doing it online, or you’re talking to my phone bank, who are expert concierges, to help people purchase the art they want. And we’re hoping that everybody will look at every which way to do that, because these pieces all need to go home with someone.”

But the cancellation of an event like the Patron’s Ball, which has such an impact on the local economy, will have a trickle-down effect on small businesses. In a Facebook reply to the news that the Ball had been cancelled, local businesswoman Sarah Growney pointed out that the cancellation means that small businesses lose out on income.

“My hair lady just lost a job,” she observed. “Lots of nail techs will lose extra business. My seamstress will no longer get a check from me.  Eyebrow wax lady- probably will have some cancellations- eyebrow exensions, tanning salon, babysitters, pizza delivery while kids are being babysat, taxi services, hangover meals at local breakfast hubs, etc. The servers that night. The caterer. The flower shops. The food vendors. The alcohol sales, servers, and tips. My shop and other shops and local restaurants where people may now otherwise decide not to visit if they decide to call off entire trip. Hotel and VRBO cancellations (which I am aware of one already.)”

But despite the cancellation of one part of the week’s events, Hoebelheinrich said she hopes that attendees will make the most of the other activities – especially the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, which is being put on with public safety in mind.

“Our event is a little different,” she pointed out. “We are in a 15,000 square foot tent, we have the ability to roll the flaps up and increase the ventilation. And normally, we would sell about 750 tickets to this event, and we’re only selling 300 tickets. We’re making some changes to how our buffet is served. We have increased restroom facilities, increased hand washing stations, and all of our patrons will be provided a KN95 mask, which will be in their packet.”

Hoebelheinrich adds that the Chamber of Commerce and the Center of the West are working together to make Rendezvous Royale as enjoyable – and safe – as possible.

“The reality of it is, there are very deep ripples to this,” she acknowledged. “And so when the Center of the West made their decision (to cancel the Patron’s Ball), our Chamber board made the decision to move forward (with the Art Sale). We took all of our health protocols, ran them by Park County Public Health, and received their blessing. And so, you know, we’re moving forward together, just very differently, with our local economy in mind.”

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Park County Health Care In Crisis Mode

in News/Coronavirus

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The sharp rise in COVID cases in Park County has caused health officials to re-implement crisis procedures.

Ashley Trudo, Marketing Director for Cody Regional Health, says that the organization has implemented the Wyoming Department of Health Crisis Standards of Care (CSC) and initiated their internal Incident Command System (ICS) in response to the large influx of COVID patients.

The increase in summer tourism has put an additional strain on resources, Trudo said.

To make matters worse, she said Montana and surrounding state hospitals have been unable to accept transfers requiring critical care, because those facilities are either at, or over, capacity.

Trudo said the guiding principle of the Crisis Standards of Care is to do the greatest good for the greatest number of persons. The CSC is defined as a “major” change in usual healthcare operations, which can affect the level of care provided made necessary by some pervasive or catastrophic disaster” – in this case, COVID-19.

Dr. Elise Lowe, Hospitalist at Cody Regional Health, said due to this “major” change in health care operations, the organization may have to go to an even more extreme standard of care in order to meet patient needs.

“This could mean double occupancy in our ACU/CCU units,” Lowe said. “We have communicated our situation with the Big Horn Basin Healthcare Coalition, Park County Public Health, the Wyoming Department of Health, and Homeland Security.”  

Elective surgeries are at risk of being canceled depending on staffing availability, bed capacity, and supply chain resources at Cody Regional Health.

Trudo says that only emergent surgeries will be considered moving forward if COVID cases continue to increase as they have over the last several weeks at Cody Regional Health’s Emergency Department, Walk-in Clinic and Acute Care/Critical Care units.

She said this is the main reason the organization has implemented their Incident Command System – a system that was dismantled in the spring when cases fell to almost nonexistent levels.

Keith Ungrund, Chief Clinical Officer at CRH, said people can still count on the local health care system but that the system needs help from the community.

“Please social distance, wear a mask and stay home if you are experiencing COVID symptoms,” he said.

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“Don’t California My Cody” Billboard Stirs Controversy

in Cody/Cody/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

To some people in Cody, Californians have a bad reputation.

In fact, many new residents who have moved to Cody from the Golden State introduce themselves to locals by apologizing first when they are asked where they’ve moved from. 

Some have received less-than-enthusiastic responses from Wyomingites who have had negative interactions with newcomers from the west coast – many of whom have differing ideologies (i.e. liberal ideals) from the conservative norms of Park County.

A billboard that was put up in Cody recently epitomizes that divide. It reads, “Don’t Calilfornia Our Cody,” and it greets drivers as they enter the town from the east. 

The billboard was erected on property belonging to a longtime Cody businessman, Ron Hill, and was commissioned and paid for by Blackwater, the private military company.  And it’s received some criticism – but also some strong support.

You never know when or where an argument will break out. Warring factions appear in-person, on social media, on talk shows, and in the newspapers.

This past week, the local newspaper was a popular location for dissent.

In a letter to the editor to the Cody Enterprise, Cat White (a California resident who says she spends significant time in Cody and has long ties to the state) wrote, “You may not agree with politics, but you cannot deny that without Californians visiting, the people of Cody would not have the jobs that our tourism affords. Many members of my family benefit from this who work in the service and hospitality industry.” 

She went on to say the billboard made Cody citizens appear “childish”.

A rebuttal letter from the owner of the property on which the billboard stands, Ron Hill, explained that as a landowner, he has rights to rent his billboard to whomever he chooses, and said White’s letter, which included a plea to the public to put pressure on the landowner to take the billboard down, was in itself an attack on free speech.

“There is zero tolerance for attacking the fundamental foundation of what makes our community and our country great – the principles of private property rights, free market business rights and the freedom of speech,” Hill wrote.

In a response to the original letter, Cody resident Schelly Jordan explained that from her perspective, the sign is “a reminder to Californians that they left their former home state and come here for a reason. Probably several.” 

Many comments upheld Jordan’s views, some using inflammatory language, while others remained restrained, while still supporting the idea that “California values” have no place in Wyoming.

In the past week, vandals have painted obscene images on the billboard, similar to graffiti that was sprayed on an anti-abortion billboard north of Cody last month. 

Response on the Facebook page “Cody Chit Chat” condemned the vandalism, many deriding the Cody mayor, school board, and other so-called “blue” elected officials. Scott Weber, Cody businessman, wrote, “We will NOT allow “Act Blue” to take hold by any means.”

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Cody Hospital Converts Entire Wing To Treat COVID

in News/Coronavirus

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The recent increase in COVID cases has the state’s health care workers — and its communities in general — scrambling to keep up with the ever-changing conditions that the virus creates.

In northwest Wyoming, Cody Regional Health has converted an entire wing into a COVID treatment ward — something that has not occurred since last winter.

As of Tuesday, the COVID wing was at full capacity with all 8 single beds in use. But the number of patients is changing day by day, according to Barb Mullaney, inpatient nursing director for the hospital’s acute care and critical care units.

“We are seeing an increase in COVID inpatients, which is causing a bed crunch,” she said. “So we’re limiting visitation to keep our staff safe, so we can keep our staffing up to take care of the patients we do have. It’s hour by hour, whether we have beds or not.”

As of Wednesday, 99 coronavirus patients were in hospitals across the state, compared to 52 one month ago. Hospitalization for COVID treatment across the state peaked in November at 247.

The number of people visiting emergency rooms with respiratory illnesses is also increasing.

“We’re seeing a lot of people coming in with common complaints of headaches, sore throat, muscle aches, cough, congestion, sinus infection related symptoms,” said Megan Moss, director of Cody Regional Health’s Emergency Department.

Moss said not every patient visiting the ER gets tested for COVID — but if the provider recommends testing, a rapid results test will be administered and medical staff will take appropriate steps depending on the outcome.

And Mullaney adds that the positivity rate is climbing.

“I think 90% of what we tested yesterday (Tuesday) came back positive. But overall within our system, we have a 15% positivity rate,” she explains. “In order for us to go back to visitation and scaling back some of our precautions, we need to be less than 10%.”

Statewide, the 14-day average for positive test results stood at almost 6.4%

The increase in COVID cases in Cody is creating difficulties for some local businesses as well.

At the Irma Hotel, built by Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody, managers were forced to close the hotel’s restaurant because of the illness, said Mike Darby, one of the hotel’s owners.

The closure was just one of several changes the hotel had to make after some employees tested positive for COVID.

“We made modifications to how we operate our business,” Darby said. “We tried keeping our bar open, as we had no cases there. We kept our original lobby, which is basically the lounge, and our porch services open. We had shut down the restaurant due to not having enough employees to operate the restaurant properly.”

But it’s not just employee issues that have caused headaches for business owners. Darby reported that the pandemic has led to delays with supply chains, so finding simple parts to repair equipment is difficult.

“We had to replace an entire cooler – thousands of dollars – because we couldn’t get a part,” he says. “We can’t get certain chicken products, or things like corn dogs. Some customers are patient and understanding, but some aren’t.”

With the new cases increasing in number, Mullaney urged residents to use caution — once again.

“As a community, we need to go back to social distancing,” she said. “Washing your hands, wearing a mask when you’re in public, and just trying to decrease your exposure, so you’re not getting sick. We have the vaccination now, but you may still may get sick with that — you just won’t get as sick. And so that could keep you out of the hospital.”

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New Cody Plaza Celebrating Buffalo Bill Cody & Frontier Journalism

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When brave souls ventured forth to settle the Wild West, visionary leaders knew that eventually, people would be hungry for news of the outside world. And in the late 1800s, newspapers told those stories.

In Cody, it was Western showman Buffalo Bill Cody himself who established the town’s first newspaper, the Cody Enterprise. 

And last week, a memorial plaza was dedicated on the spot where the first actual newspaper building stood, drawing a large crowd.

The Enterprise Plaza is adjacent to a building that celebrates innovation and artisanship — By Western Hands. It features plaques offering information on historical events and benches which are replicas of the ones at the D-Day cemetery and memorial in Normandy, France.

Harris Hasten is a founder of By Western Hands, which joined with the LLC Helping Hands to donate the property. 

Hasten said the decision was made to create an outdoor space that not only would benefit downtown merchants, but also commemorate the historical importance of the site.

“We felt it was appropriate to dedicate it so that future generations would recognize that, ‘Hey, this was an important start, and a communications effort to the whole world, right out of here from Cody,’” Hasten said.

The small plaza dedicated Thursday is historically significant because it was the home to the newspaper built after Buffalo Bill Cody himself that determined that news of the world needed to be brought to the citizens of the small town named in his honor.

Cody historian and author Lynn Houze explained during the deciation that the newspaper building at the site of the new Enterprise Plaza was in the center of town at the time it was built, in 1900, and the newspaper remained there during the first formative years of the small frontier community. 

She said that while there were a few newspapers in the state at the turn of the century, Buffalo Bill felt a newspaper was necessary in his town to keep people connected.

“At that time, Cody was one of the few towns that actually started out with electricity and telegraph, which was unusual for towns of those early years,” Houze said. “But they still needed that connection of bringing national and international news to the townspeople.”

“If you look at those early editions, there was almost as much national and international news as there was local news,” she added.

Bruce McCormack is the longest-serving editor and publisher for the Cody Enterprise, holding those roles for 30 years. 

McCormack credited the Bruce Kennedy family, which has owned the newspaper for more than 50 years, for keeping that legacy of frontier journalism alive in Wyoming.

“Bruce Kennedy, in his book ‘Community Journalism’ that he published, really became kind of a bible for small newspapers across the United States,” McCormack said. “It really helped so many publishers lift their game and publish a better newspaper – not just in Wyoming, but across the country as well.”

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Wyoming’s Irma Hotel Restaurant and Bar Closed by COVID

in News/Coronavirus

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The Irma Hotel is an icon in Cody – the property was built by Buffalo Bill himself in 1902, before the town was even incorporated.

It houses a cherrywood bar that was a gift to Colonel Cody from Queen Victoria, and is a must-see on the list of tourist attractions in a town known for its western history.

But this week the restaurant and bar has been closed down, because of a cluster of positive cases discovered in a routine test of employees – although most of them were asymptomatic.

And Bill Crampton, the Public Health Nursing Supervisor in Park County, says the restaurant is one of several in the county that closed its doors voluntarily this summer due to the virus.

“The Irma would be the… 1,2,3… fourth, I think, that chose to shut down,” he estimates. “Everyone else has been, you know, just motoring along, some of them wearing masks, and some of them not.”

Park County has had a surge in positive cases in the last week – and medical services have responded by making sure that people know that tests are available. Cody Regional Health released a statement this week reminding residents that they are still offering drive-through testing two days a week.

In addition to the increase in positive tests, the County has been relying on wastewater based epidemiology to monitor the presence of the virus.

According to the Park County Health Officer, the percentage of people using the Cody municipal sewage system that are shedding the COVID virus has increased from 1.7% to 2.0% – that’s about 500 people estimated to be carrying the coronavirus, including people who have recently recovered.

And Crampton says the increase is having an impact on their available resources.

 “The contact tracers are starting to get overwhelmed – the state contact tracers are starting to get overwhelmed.”

But Crampton adds that the surge is happening amid a push by residents to relax measures – in fact, Governor Mark Gordon this week announced relaxed restrictions on spaced-out seating in restaurants, and Crampton notes that a movement by “anti-maskers” is gaining momentum across the state.

But health officials continue to urge caution and remind people to take the best care to avoid spreading the virus to those who are at the most risk. 

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Wyoming Volunteers Build Beds For Needy Kids

in News/Good news

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

On a blustery Saturday morning, a group of volunteers in Cody are sawing, sanding, cutting and stacking boards that will soon become a needy child’s very own bunk bed.

The person in charge of organizing the day’s event is Dan Frederick, president of the Bighorn Basin chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a national organization dedicated to making sure every child has a safe place at night to lay their head.

“They estimate that about 3% of the kids in the nation don’t have beds,” Frederick said. “And we’ve found that to be at least 3% in the basin.”

For more than two years now, the Bighorn Basin Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace has organized “build days” about once a month to construct beds that will be distributed throughout the region. 

“We’ve got too many kids that are just sleeping, maybe on an air mattress, or on a pile of clothes on the floor, on the couch, something like that,” Frederick said. 

Families who may qualify for a bed can apply for one at shpbeds.org, and many are referred to their local chapter by churches, schools, or other agencies.

The Bighorn Basin Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace is one of three chapters in Wyoming – the other two are located in Cheyenne and in Rock Springs. 

Frederick said there is a definite need for more volunteers in other parts of the state.

“In Fremont County, in Natrona County, there’s some real needs over there, and I’m constantly getting bed requests from those areas,” he said

Frederick encourages people who may be interested in helping the effort to log on to shpbeds.org and click on the box that says “get involved”.

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Wildfire Closes Highway Between Cody And Yellowstone

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A wildfire burning west of Cody forced the temporary closure of the highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park over the weekend.

The Lost Creek Fire, first reported Saturday afternoon about midway between Cody and Yellowstone, reduced visibility on U.S. Highway 14 to the point it had to be closed, said Kristie Salzmann, the fire’s public information officer.

“As the smoke was really impeding traffic,” she explains, “Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Highway Patrol just thought that would be the smartest thing to do to allow for safe firefighting access.”

The response by fire officials was swift – by Sunday morning, 89 people were already assigned to the incident.

“That includes two of our type 1 hand crews, also known as Hot Shot crews,” Salzmann details. “We have multiple fire engines from local units, as well as Forest Service, BLM and county. We have two heavy air tankers, three single engine air tankers, and then we also have two of our larger type one helicopters and then a smaller type three helicopter.”

Salzmann points out that the fire settled down some Saturday night after growing to about 591 acres, but conditions were expected to be a bit more favorable for battling the flames on Sunday.

InciWeb, a website that tracks wildfires around the nation, said minimal fire activity was seen Sunday.

“We know that the forecasted winds are less than yesterday and the forecasted temperature is less than yesterday, so while we do expect there to be some growth, we’re just uncertain how much that will be today.”

According to officials, at this time, no structures are threatened, although evacuations did take place at two nearby dude ranches on Saturday.  Fire managers are continuing to keep the public informed of any major developments. 

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Cody Spends $10k On Poop-Testing Coronavirus Machine

in News/Coronavirus

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The town of Cody made an interesting purchase recently.

The Cody Enterprise reports that the town bought a Teledyne ISCO 6712C Compact Portable Sampler for just under $10,000.

Don’t recognize it?  It’s not likely you have one at your house. But this machine and similar ones are becoming more and more popular across the globe.

It’s a machine that tests poop for the coronavirus.

The device is a five-gallon bucket that is placed in a sewer, fills up with the pertinent “materials,” and then is examined by someone who might really hate their job.

But this is nothing new.  It’s happening everywhere it seems — or at least in 40 states across the U.S.

So far the wastewater epidemiology firm Biobot has collected 300 samples in 40 states.

The company says they use the poop to “measure the concentration of the virus and estimate how badly each area has been hit.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is looking into it as well.

“The CDC is exploring the potential for wastewater testing to inform the response, but we are not conducting any testing at CDC,” a spokesperson told Politico. “However, there are external groups that are currently conducting wastewater testing.”

But why would Park County do it?  After all, there’s only been one confirmed case there.

Scientists say it’s because of asymptomatic carriers. We really don’t know how widespread the virus is.

“With wastewater, you can very quickly get a snapshot of an entire population,” Biobot founder Mariana Matus told the LA Times.“The closest approach to replicating the data from wastewater would be to literally test every single person in a community and then take the average of that. It is very powerful.”

Testing in Cody begins this month and takes between seven and 10 days before the test results are returned.

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Cody Students to Lobby Legislature on Vaping, Voyeurism, and College Tuition

in News/politics

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Being a teenager can be hard — caught between adulthood and childhood, and it seems the adults have all the power.

But a program at Cody High School allows students to have a say in the laws that govern them.

The Youth For Justice program started as a social studies project 25 years ago. But coordinator Deb White said she and her students became passionate about the legislative process after a tragedy struck a local youth just one year later.

“That next year, a kid in Cody died in a single car rollover,” White said, “and there were no seatbelt laws in the state of Wyoming at the time. My kids were like, ‘There should be a law about that.’ 

“So we went down to Cheyenne and started lobbying,” she continued. “It took us two years to get that through, and since then, every year, we go down and get laws passed.”

A group of Cody High School students travel to the state Capitol each year to attend one day of the Legislature’s session, lobbying for everything from seatbelt laws to a ban on teenage smoking. White noted that the students decide which bills they want to see passed.

“We actually start researching in September or October,” White said, “and start thinking about things that the kids believe should be a law.”

According to White, the students research what other states are doing with regards to similar laws, then find a sponsor for the bill they would like to see passed.

“We’re to the point now where people call us,” White said, explaining that a local police officer reached out to the group last year to lobby for a law that would require medical professionals in Wyoming to report gunshot and stab wounds.

“It’s ridiculous that the bill didn’t pass last year,” White said. “Wyoming is one of two states where medical professionals don’t have to report gunshot wounds to the police.”

Danny Deming, a senior at Cody High School, pointed out that the program allows students to interact directly with the legislators, and he said that makes a difference.

“Legislators get a unique perspective,” he said, “because they hear from students who are directly affected by the laws they’re passing.”

This year, the students are putting their efforts behind four different bills – one of which would require local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal laws banning vaping among those under the age of 21.

“We’re working with local legislators and local businessmen on ways to reduce youth access (to vaping products),” White said. 

Other bills the group is working on include one that would allow students who are children of active members of the military to attend Wyoming colleges at in-state tuition rates, as well as a bill that tightens up language in voyeurism laws.

At one time, there were eight to 10 schools in Wyoming that sent students to the legislature, but White said Cody may be the only district that sends kids every year.

“It is the most educational experience I’ve ever had with kids,” White said. “Even though I was a science teacher, and this is a social studies program, it’s all the skills. It’s research, and media creation, and public speaking. It’s authentic assessment.

“And word on the street is, the Cody Youth For Justice kids are the most effective lobbyists in the state of Wyoming.”

The Wyoming Legislature convenes on Feb. 10. Cody High School’s Youth For Justice students will be there to make sure their voices are heard.

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