Tag archive

good news

Vandalized And Abandoned Flag Pole On Remote Wyoming Highway Gets New Life Just In Time For July 4

in News/Good news
21661

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s a spot between Cody and Greybull on U.S. Highway 20 where cell service gets sketchy. It’s the highest point, just east of Cody, called Eagle Pass.

There’s a flag that flies there, that has been there as long as many can remember. Or at least, there was, until vandals knocked the pole over a few months ago.

But that act of disrespect for the American flag has motivated a wave of support that saw thousands of dollars raised to replace the flagpole and ensure that the American flag continues to fly at Eagle Pass for years to come.

It all started because Howard Lewis, a Navy veteran, wanted to honor his mother.

“His mother used to take them to Cody once a month,” explained Bobby Werner, post commander at American Legion Post 32 in Greybull. “And when the weather was permissible they’d stop at Eagle Pass and have a picnic lunch. And when his mother passed, in honor of her, he started putting up a flagpole.”

“The flag was on a plastic pole,” said John Arney, who was friends with Lewis in Greybull. “But the wind kept blowing it down. And so he got a hold of my friend Lee Snyder, who’s in the American Legion in Greybull with me, and he talked him into trying to put a better pole up there. So they asked me, and I told them that if they could get a permit, I would help and I would do the work.”

In February of 2010, the American Legion secured a permit from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put a permanent flagpole at Eagle Pass. But it wasn’t an easy task, according to Arney.

“So Lee got a piece of pipe, and I went to welding and putting the pulley on it and stuff,” Arney said. “And we got cement and an old wheelbarrow. I’ve got a handheld posthole digger, Lee and I tried to drill a hole in that rocky country out there – beat the heck out of us – but we got a hole dug according to the permit, and we put it up. My grandson come down, and he’s a horse – without him, we wouldn’t have got that pole up.”

Arney said that he and Lee took turns replacing the flags when they wore out, which was quite often due to the stiff winds that batter Eagle Pass regularly. 

But Arney said eventually they both “burned out,” and the duty was handed off to volunteers from Greybull’s American Legion and VFW posts.

“But then somebody wanted to knock the pole down with their truck and it really put a nasty taste in my mouth,” Arney said, “because there’s a lot of people that liked that flag up there.”



Werner said when they were notified of the vandalism in February of this year, he and another member of the American Legion went out to the spot to collect the flag. 

“It appeared that somebody pushed the pole over with the bumper of their vehicle, car, truck, whatever,” Werner said. “And it was bent pretty badly.”

That’s when the community rallied to replace the flag that, it turns out, was important to a lot of locals, who were alerted to the damage by an article in the Greybull Standard.

“On Valentine’s Day, the Elks Lodge had a dinner here in Greybull,” Werner said. “And a lady had a coffee can, and she put that article in there, and she walked around and started collecting money. And she collected about $240 that night. Later on, somebody walked up and handed me an envelope, and it was two $100 bills.”

Werner said after the Standard published its story about the vandalism, donations came pouring in.

“The next thing you know, we established an account at that Bank of Greybull,” Werner said. “And since then, we’ve raised (around) $10,000.”

“We raised some money,” Arney said. “There’s people from clear down in Louisiana that sent us this money, I don’t know who they are.” 

Werner said the money – much more than is necessary to replace the flag and flagpole – will be used to enhance the entryways into the community, as well as keep the Eagle Pass flag flying proudly.

“We’ll be putting new flags over there occasionally,” he said. “And then the other plan is, with the approval of the town of Greybull, we want to erect flag poles at each sign coming into Greybull.” 

“They poured the concrete and it’s ready for the pole now,” said Arney of the Eagle Pass flagpole. “They’re going to put it up Friday, and then hopefully they’re going to do the dedication the Fourth of July.”

“Everybody’s so used to seeing it when they go to Cody,” Werner said, “and hopefully it’ll be visible when you come back from Cody now, because we are putting up a taller pole.”

“Howard had a good idea there, to put it up there on top of Eagle Pass,” Arney said. “And when I go past it, I just stop and go in and salute it, and it’s just America to me. And it’s ‘bout the only thing I can do outside of belonging to the American Legion.

“As an American,” Arney continued, “I’m happy to see it up there.”

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

Wyoming July 4 Celebrations: Why Lander’s Fireworks Show Is Spectacular

in News/Good news
Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland
21608

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

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

LANDER — Grown-up kids love it. Dogs are terrified by it. Hundreds of people leave town because they hate it. Thousands of people come to town because they love it.

We are talking about the 14-hour pyrotechnic extravaganza known as the Fourth of July in Lander, Wyoming.

There really is nothing like it. Anywhere. And its level of explosiveness just keeps growing. Amazingly high-powered fireworks are set off by neighborhoods all over this town of 7,500 people. Once the sun goes down, it really turns into an experience, akin to the Bombing of Baghdad back in 2003.

Mick Pryor owns a tall building in downtown Lander that was built in 1892. He likes to sit on the balcony and enjoy the visual stimulus all around him of explosions and flashes. 

“If you’ve never stood on the roof of a building on Lander’s Main Street at dusk on the Fourth of July — to have the 360-degree effect of fireworks all around and a brilliant sunset, you are missing out!” he says.

“We always wanted people to be safe and to be responsible,” said former Mayor Mick Wolfe. “But people deserve to enjoy fireworks on the Fourth. It has always been a tradition here, where Independence Day is our biggest holiday of the year.” 


Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland

Leaves Town

Kathleen Averill always leaves town on the Fourth and just hates all the noise. 

“I know that some of the people in Lander who live on the taxpayers’ dime spend more on fireworks than they do on food for their family,” Averill said.

“We have to leave on the Fourth. We have not enjoyed a Fourth of July in Lander since 2012, when the City was forced to shut them down due to drought,” she continued.

“A lot of people that I know said that was the last best Fourth Lander ever had. I also know a lot of veterans that take their pets and head to the hills, leaving their spouses behind to watch their property for damage. How wrong is that?”

Averill said veterans cannot enjoy a holiday in their own homes or have their family over and that’s not right.

Loves The Parade

Andy Gramlich, retired administrator of the Lander Valley Hospital — now known as SageWest Health Care, in contrast, loves the Fourth of July in Lander, particularly its parade.

“I will definitely stay in Lander for the Fourth,” he said. “I’ve had the opportunity to attend the Rose Bowl Parade, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Doo Dah Parade (he suggests a person Google that one), the Kudzu Parade and the Gasparilla Parade but this one is distinctly different. Others may be more professionally done but here it’s personal. One hundred entries in a town of 7,500.”

“People spend a lot on fireworks,” he continued. “Families on a budget often spend hundreds of dollars on every kind of firework you could imagine. The town looks and smells like a war zone but people are, for the most part, safety conscious.”

“Oh, here you can get close to the action whereas many of the other parades and functions require reservations and/or remote parking,” he said.

Best In The State

John Brown, a relative newcomer to Lander, said he believes Lander’s fireworks show might be the best in the state.

“From my knowledge of other Fourth of July celebrations around the state, my impression was the fireworks show that was in Sheridan could have been the only one that rivaled Lander’s,” he said. “Now that it’s moved to Devils Tower, I’m not so sure it will even approach Lander’s as it will no longer be supplemented by folks in a town of 15,000 people.”

“I’d be willing to bet the amount spent on fireworks by the people in and around Lander dwarfs the amount spent by the city on its fireworks,” he continued. “The overtime the city pays the police and fire departments to direct traffic and be ready for an emergency is probably quite substantial, though. This will be my 11th Fourth of July in Wyoming. Of those 11, I’ve spent 10 of them in Lander. I will stay in Lander for this one.”

Oldest Paid Rodeo

The Independence Day holiday has always been a big deal for Lander since it is the home of the oldest paid rodeo on earth.

But in recent years, this holiday has become a fireworks maniac’s dream.

In this town of 7,500 people (about 12,000 if you count rural subdivisions), you can find at least 40 different locations where neighbors have banded together to light big displays of fireworks.

And this is in addition to the fire department’s official fireworks show on the night of July Fourth.

The folks in the Indian Lookout neighborhood pool their resources and explode perhaps the most serious “amateur” show in town. People are stationed with hoses to extinguish fires that may erupt in the neighboring nature preserve.

It is almost impossible to adequately describe what Lander on the night of July 4 looks like. The sight is incredible. Lander sits in a valley and a lot of folks live in the hills around town. They tell amazing stories of what it looks like, peering down at the siege.

Drone


Lander fireworks. Photo courtesy, Scott Copeland

In recent years, some amazing color time-exposure photos have been made of the explosions. Last year, one enterprising photographer sent a drone up into the middle of the flak to get some of the most amazing images ever.

The July Fourth events are part of Lander’s annual Pioneer Days celebration which begins Saturday and features a big pancake breakfast, lots of distance foot races called the Challenge for Charities, two days of rodeos, a wonderful parade on the morning of the Fourth (watched by 12,000 people), a huge Rotary buffalo barbecue at Lander City Park at noon on that day plus lots of other activities. 

A new addition this year on July 2 will be a fly-in at the local airport featuring pilots from all over the region.

Because the July Fourth holiday is such a big deal, just about all the high school reunions are held during that time, too. It is truly a homecoming for folks to remember.

So, on July Fourth, you will see smaller groups of unhappy residents heading out of town. Along the way, they will be greeted by thousands of happy folks headed to Lander for the craziest and most explosive experience they will ever have.

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

Campbell County Ranchers Throw Surprise Wedding At Branding

in News/Good news
21558

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

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Is there anything more Wyoming than having a wedding at a branding?

Short of having it in the middle of a rodeo, that’s hard to top.

But that’s exactly what two ranchers in northeast Wyoming decided to do last week.

Bonita “Bo” and Drew Persson were getting married anyway and the people who were coming over to their branding were the most important folks in their lives, so why not combine the two?

“It’s kind of killing two birds with one stone,” Drew told Cowboy State Daily.



Drew, a fourth-generation rancher in Crook County, thought it was so practical and “westernly-romantic,” that he proposed the idea to Bo, his girlfriend of six years. 

“People who attend your branding are your ‘ride or die’ people,” Bo said. “So, of course, I liked it.”

“Let’s get everyone together for the branding and then get hitched,” she said.

Best yet, she explained, it would all be a surprise for the guests. No one knew what they were planning.

She said she had never heard of someone throwing a surprise wedding for themselves but throwing in a branding to boot? That’s a one-of-a-kind experience that no one will forget.

Everything looked like business as usual Wednesday morning as a little more than 30 people drove their pickups and SUVs over the hilly dirt roads to the pasture where the cows were already in place on the Persson Ranch.

It wasn’t a weekend branding because they ranch for a living, Bo said, and weekends are for other things — like rodeos.

“We brand during the workweek because we’re ranchers,” she said.  “That’s what we do.”

But by 10 a.m., there was a problem. No Bo. No Drew. And brandings start on time.

That’s when Bo’s brother Tyler Lindholm took command. At 6-foot-7 and thin as a whip, Tyler’s all cowboy.

Guests thought there was something wrong with him though. He was all dressed-up.

“I was walking around in a suit jacket and a tie and everyone was looking at me like I was some kind of Cadillac cowboy,” Tyler said. 

Nobody came up to him though, he said. They just “figured that I was Bo’s brother so I might be a weirdo.”

But once they saw Bo in the distance riding a horse in a long white dress, it didn’t take them long to figure it out.

“You saw that look of surprise in everyone’s eyes and it was ‘Holy cow, this is a thing. We’re doin’ this,’” Tyler said.



It was Bo’s idea to ride the horse in her gown.

“How often do you get to do that?” she said.

It was a nice white dress but it wasn’t exorbitant. Nor were Drew’s clothes. That was a bonus of scheduling nuptials at a branding.

“It kinda helps the female pick a not-quite-so-expensive dress if you’re going to be riding in it,” Drew said.

Same with his clothes too. 

“I bought a nice looking shirt but not an expensive one. And you know, I got covered in dirt and blood,” he said, clarifying that the dirt and blood came from the branding, not the wedding.

The ceremony lasted 15 minutes. Tyler officiated. Nothing new for him, as the former Wyoming legislator is an ordained minister as well.

What impressed his sister was the scripture he picked. Ephesians 4:1.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

“Tyler said that this is not only perfect for marriage, but also in working cows and raising children and I thought that was just so perfect how he said that,” Bo said.

After Drew kissed Bo, it was time to work. The branding commenced. And that’s a lot of work.

“It’s long, hot, dusty, and physically strenuous, day,” Bo said, mentioning that she did change her dress for the branding part of the all-day ceremony.

“I would have ruined it had I branded in it,” she said.



Although the wedding was about as rustic as one can get, but it had some modern touches.

Drew cut a TikTok video on his @wyomingrancher account describing the day from his pickup truck in comments where he devoted a bit more time to the branding than the wedding. But who would keep score?

“Everybody that was watching, they all had a big smile on their face,” he said. “And Bo riding in her wedding dress. I’ll remember that forever.”

Bo said their day was proof that it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding.

“You don’t need to spend that type of money to have a perfect wedding,” she said. “All you need are your friends and family.”

Tyler called it a uniquely Wyoming day. Blue skies, green grass, lots of cattle and horses, the camaraderie of best friends, all out in the plains of northeastern Wyoming.

“It’s about as cow country as you can get,” he said.

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

Chris Navarro Proposes Taking Used Turbine Blades & Making Giant “Windhenge” Project

in News/Good news
21396

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Renewable energy being renewed.

That’s how one Wyoming artist sees his effort to bring together two very different concepts in a large-form art piece using the cast-off blades from decommissioned wind turbines.

“Windhenge” is a proposed modern art project that sculptor Chris Navarro has brought to city leaders in his community of Casper. He has based his concept on the Stonehenge monument in Great Britain, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. 

“In September 2020, I saw those blades that were being buried in the landfill in Casper,” Navarro told Cowboy State Daily. “I just thought, ‘What a waste of material.’ I mean, it just didn’t seem right. So, my artist mind kind of took off and started thinking of ways to repurpose it.”

Reach Out

Navarro reached out to NextEra Energy, which bills itself as one of America’s largest capital investors in wind energy infrastructure, with an idea to use its broken down wind turbine blades in his art project.

The company went for it.

“NextEra Energy, they said that when they decommission (blades), they’d be willing to ship them to Casper,” Navarro said.


Photo courtesy: Chris Navarro

Wind turbine blades are massive — in the U.S., they average about 164 feet, roughly the width of a football field. Most are made of fiberglass and carbon fiber, lightweight enough to be efficient, yet durable enough to stand up to storms. But that material is nearly impossible to recycle, so when windmills are decommissioned, the blades generally end up in landfills.

“(NextEra doesn’t) want to bury their blades,” Navarro said. “And they said that they’ve made a commitment that they’re going to try to do everything but bury the blades. Because recycling them, you can grind them up and heat them and do some other things, but it’s so expensive that a lot of these other companies are finding that it’s cheaper to just bury them.”

Only a handful of landfills in the U.S. accept the tens of thousands of blades that have aged beyond their usefulness. According to BloombergNEF, about 8,000 blades will be taken out of service in the next four years, and only places like Lake Mills, Iowa, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Casper have the capacity to bury the blades, which are placed 30 feet underground. 

Start A Trend

Navarro hopes that by using the blades in a large-form art piece in Casper, he might start a trend.

“Once I build the first one, I think it’ll give me some legs,” he said. “Then I’ll be able to maybe promote it more around the country, and even the world. It’s a big problem in Europe, because they don’t have the facilities to bury these blades – and there’s a lot of wind power in Europe.”



Navarro has come up with five different design concepts for large-form art pieces using wind turbine blades. The one he has proposed to the Casper City Council, which would be the biggest piece he has ever worked on, is based on the Stonehenge monument.

“I would truck the blades, using cranes and heavy equipment to put them into position, and cement them into place,” Navarro said. “In fact, (NextEra) has a lot of damaged solar panels that they’re going to donate, and we’re going to put solar panels over the top of the Windhenge so it’ll do all the lighting for the sculpture.”

Navarro’s proposed piece isn’t the first attraction based on Stonehenge using alternative materials. Carhenge, in the Nebraska panhandle near the town of Alliance, attracts thousands of visitors each year, according to Navarro.

“Carhenge is based on Stonehenge, a replica using junked cars,” he said. “I talked to the city because I had some questions before I made my presentation to Casper, like, what’s the upkeep? What’s the maintenance? How many people does it bring? And they said they recorded 114,000 visitors last year.”

Epic Piece For Casper

Carter Napier, the Casper City Manager, said after Navarro’s presentation to the council in early June, he was directed to follow up on the plausibility of the project. He said the council’s main concerns involved the cost to the city, and making sure the piece to be built would be unique to Casper.

“If indeed this is going to be sort of an epic piece for the community, they weren’t really interested in being one of six or seven other pieces just like it throughout the country,” Napier told Cowboy State Daily. “If it has the potential to be an epic piece that brings folks from around the West or whatever, it would lose its epic nature and the possibility of bringing folks off the interstate in Casper, if there’s going to be one in Omaha, and New Mexico and Utah,” he said.

Hosting Events

Navarro envisions the Windhenge sculpture as an interactive piece in which people could possibly hold events. It would certainly be large enough, as he said he’s planning for it to be 180 feet in diameter, taking up about one-half acre.

“We are investigating property options that perhaps the city owns, or property options that perhaps the city could jointly participate in with a private property owner, or with another agency owner,” said Napier. “We’re trying to cast a broad net to try to find the best, most suitable location for a piece of this size and stature, because it is a fairly sizable piece.”



Navarro and Napier both said that NextEra Energy has offered to take ownership of the sculpture once it is complete and be responsible for its upkeep.

“In this stage in the game, (NextEra) appears to be very comfortable with the idea of being the financial partner, or at least facilitating the finances necessary to make this project happen,” said Napier. “So it doesn’t appear at this point that the city of Casper would have any obligation or exposure as it relates to commissioning the work and providing the blades and those kinds of things.”

He said that the City would possibly be responsible for maintenance of a parking lot or other public access to the artwork unless a suitable location is found that already has that access or the funding partner is willing to foot that bill as well. 

“I think once we’ve kind of come to a conclusion with due diligence, and the funding partner is happy with a proposal, that our next step would be to go to the council,” Napier said. “And if they give us the green light, I would suspect that construction would start in spring and we’d be well on our way.” 

Others Interested

Navarro said he’s gotten some interest in other versions of his wind-turbine art pieces from other organizations around Casper. 

“I did get a response from the director of the Platte River Trails Walkway,” he said.  “They’re trying to put art along the walkway, and she said they’d be interested in maybe doing a smaller version of it. You know, not 120-foot blades, but maybe a third of the blades. The Platte River Trail walkway, it’s a bicycle trail through the city of Casper, so you’d be able to ride your bike through it.” 

Navarro said if he can’t get his project built in Casper, he has some other options.

“I’ll probably go to Cheyenne and Laramie, because NextEra Energy has a working relationship with both the schools there,” he said. “They train their wind energy technicians at LCCC and at the University of Wyoming.”

Navarro said his interest in the project is now a compulsion.

“It kind of got a hold of me,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this, believe me, it hasn’t been profitable or anything like that. It’s something I believe in, I think it’s a good cause. I think it can have an impact on things, and I mean, everybody wants to make an impact with their work, and that’s what I’m hoping will happen.”

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

The New Pioneers: New Arrivals Thrive In Chugwater, Wyoming

in News/Good news
21044

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

*This is the first of three stories in this series

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

When Jill and Christian Winger opted to buy a neglected 60-plus acre farmstead south of Chugwater in 2008, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

The two had met in Cheyenne, where Christian is from. Jill is originally from northern Idaho and came to Wyoming to study equine studies at Laramie County Community College.

Fresh out of college and newly married, the couple had no interest in pursuing a conventional life in the suburbs. So, they moved out into the middle of nowhere, hoping to find their purpose.

For their first two years in Chugwater, the couple worked long hours and commuted for miles in either direction. Christian, an electrician, headed off for Cheyenne while Jill drove to Wheatland to work as a vet tech. On the weekends, they kept to themselves and worked on their home and farmstead.

When Jill got pregnant with their first child, she gave up her job. As a young wife and mother living in the middle of nowhere, those first couple of years were rough for her. She missed socializing and being around people.

This loneliness led Jill to start blogging about her life. Her audience began as five friends, but over time it slowly grew to include others like her who were living self-sufficient lives on small homesteads or farms.

“It was really slow,” she said, “and definitely not a ‘Build it and they will come situation.’ But I began to connect with other people across the country and world and realized there was a way to monetize (the blog) while solving problems.”



Today, years later, Jill is a best-selling cookbook author and has nearly 250,000 followers on her “Old Fashioned on Purpose” YouTube channel and podcast, previously called “Prairie Homestead.” She shares canning and ag tips, recipes and baking how-to’s as well as entertaining stories of raising three children and living on a working cattle ranch and homestead.

The family sells grass-fed, grass-finished beef and also just purchased and totally renovated the historic Chugwater Soda Fountain, which boasts the oldest working soda fountain in the state.



The iconic restaurant was a big investment, Jill admitted, and some people were frustrated by some of the updates, she said. But much of it was out of their hands, as the renovation grew when they realized they had to update big things like the septic system and floors.

She kept all the historic pieces from the original business – including Wendall, an elk harvested in Jackson Hole who has hung in the Soda Fountain since 1946.

In fact, a town ordinance expressly forbids Wendall from being moved from the restaurant.



Though they technically own the restaurant, Jill said that she and her husband see their role more as stewards.

“We might own it, but it’s not ours,” she said. “It belongs to the community. I love the history and charm of its golden era, and I didn’t want it to look like anywhere else.”

More than her successful brand and businesses, Jill just appreciates being part of the history and community in a town and community she completely loves.

“It’s my calling and here I am,” she said. “It’s a special community full of talented people. And you can’t beat the history. Cowboys, Steamboat, covered wagons and all the ranches. The history is raw.”

More so, this new way of life created a gateway to allow the couple to live purposefully while not becoming “robots in the rat race.”

Rise in Homesteading Philosophy

The Wingers are part of a rising trend among millennials who are leaving the cities to live a more agrarian, rural lifestyle with a focus on self-sufficiency and building strong communities.

Unlike their forbearers who were forced to make long, treacherous journeys across the plains and live with rudimentary basics, often miles away from their nearest neighbor, these new pioneers have the convenience of the internet and other modern technologies that allow them to tap into the past while earning a living and working the land.

And much like the Wingers, many of these newcomers have the resources to invest in communities like Chugwater as they help the communities through investments intended to promote the preservation of the history and communities they’ve come to love.

Josh Hopkins

Josh Hopkins is another of those newcomers who fell in love with the community and Town of Chugwater.

Hopkins grew up in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, which is also the hometown of artist Andrew Wyeth, whose realist paintings of the rural landscape and people left an indelible mark on the 31-year-old photographer and tech worker.

After college, Hopkins took a data analytics job that paid well and allowed him to travel. Wyoming was one of his first trips, which coincided with Cheyenne Frontier Days, where he said he got his first taste of the real west. He said he’d seen a rodeo back East, but nothing like the “Daddy of ‘Em All.”

“I’d never seen anything on this scale and the whole western town and climate was totally different,” he said.

That experience and subsequent loop through the state lit a spark in him, prompting him to eventually move to Cheyenne in 2019.

“The eastern plains of Wyoming stuck with me,” he said.

The rural landscape reminded him of the countryside Wyeth painted – minus the trees, which Hopkins said he doesn’t miss – and he appreciated the open landscape and rugged individualism of its people, particularly those in the ranching community.

Because he moved to Cheyenne in the middle of winter, Hopkins would take weekend road trips for as far as the weather would allow him, which typically was Chugwater. Despite its proximity to the capital city, Chugwater felt like traveling back in time. He loved it and began spending increasingly more time there.

He started hanging out with ranchers at the historic Soda Fountain and the Stampede Saloon, where he played guitar on Thursday nights at open mic night. He also started volunteering to work on area ranches and brandings, getting further ingrained in the local community, and today, he continues to work as a part-time ranch hand.

As far as cities go, Hopkins thinks Cheyenne is on the top of the list. But he wanted a quieter life. Last September, he bought a house and moved to Chugwater, and continued to work his computer job remotely.

Tri-County Mercantile

Before making the move, Hopkins inadvertently met two locals and Chugwater natives, Arden and Jesse Miller, who would become his close friends and business partners.

Together, the three have reopened the historic Tri-County Mercantile, which has been closed for decades.

Having a store in the community that supplies basic necessities and a range of ranching supplies from fencing materials to vaccines will be incredibly helpful to many residents, Hopkins said.



The store will also offer tourists – particularly city dwellers – an insight into the agrarian way of life when they come in and see salts and minerals on the shelves and cowboy ropes hanging on the walls.

“We want to add to that fabric of life,” he said.

The three eventually want to sell local eggs, meat and produce, some specialty items such as post cards and basic staples including toilet paper and paper towels that people are always running out of.

Hopkins also has plans for Chugwater’s former Conoco gas station and hopes to historically restore it as a working station, complete with an attendant in a bow tie and cap who not only fills the gas tank, but also washes the windshield.



Also on the Tri-County Mercantile property are grain bins and a grain elevator, but Hopkins isn’t quite sure if it makes economic sense to reopen those. But he said if they do remain, they won’t be presented as a “touristy” attraction, but will have some traditional use that benefits the community.

He added he has no plans of turning his adopted home into a tourist trap like Telluride or Jackson.

“What makes Chugwater Chugwater is not the bluffs or plains, but rather the people and the way that they live,” he said. “That’s our vision to keep it a fixture.”

The New Pioneers, Part Two: Keeping History Alive In Chugwater

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

‘We Are The Sheriff’: Residents of Jeffrey City, Wyoming (Pop. 35) Take Care Of Each Other

in News/Good news
20202

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

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

Somewhere in a vast and craggy rangeland in central Wyoming, two dogs walk into a bar.  

Not an unusual occurrence here, because in the modern-day ghost town of Jeffrey City, population 35, there are more dogs than people. 

But that doesn’t stop the rugged individualists within Jeffrey City and the roughly 100 people living in the hills around it from fending for themselves – and taking care of one another.  

Founded in 1931 as a simple homestead that welcomed passers-through, the town boomed in 1957 when Dr. C.W. Jeffrey invested in uranium development around the town following uranium discoveries in the area. Electricity arrived in the town that same year.  

Jeffrey City’s population hit 4,500 by the late 1970s, but when the uranium market crashed in the early 1980s, the town dried up almost overnight, leaving behind ranchers tending the land their families had occupied for generations, some homebodies and a few transplants fleeing society itself.     



With its ironic name, the sparse village of Jeffrey City, south of Riverton, is about 60 miles from the nearest hospital, police station or grocery store. Its last sheriff’s deputy, J. Dee Darnell, passed away in 2017 at the age of 67.

The town’s abandoned 1960s-era bowling alley, library and apartment complexes sit quietly, watching travelers rush by through the decades that have left them behind.  

If someone in Jeffrey City needs an ambulance, it will have to be a helicopter. If there’s to be a fight between residents, it had better be resolved quickly.  

But the town does have a thriving fire department with 13 volunteers, a motel serving travelers, a schoolhouse with two students, and – for its main artery of communication and human warmth – a bar: The Split Rock Café.  

‘We Are The Sheriff’ 

Nothing is as dead as it looks.  

“We’re not end-of-the-world type people, but we’re prepared for anything out here,” said Vern Redland, Jeffrey City’s fire chief.  

Redland said that due to the occasional harsh winters and the long distance to the conveniences of bigger communities, the locals like to stock their pantries. 

Plus, they’ve got guns in the house and keep their eyes on the road.  

Because so many buildings look abandoned, there have been issues with vandalism and theft, but no major crime, said Redland, adding that people look after one another just in case.  

“If we see somebody weird driving around, if I see them, I’ll go talk to them,” said Redland. “I’m pretty vigilant; I keep a pretty good eye on everything if I can.”  

Because Redland works in mine reclamation, turning old pit mines back into natural landscape, he can’t always keep an eye on the town.  

“But there’s others out here,” he said.  

Those others include Dusty and Isebel Hiatt, who own the Split Rock Café where thirsty ranchers exchange gossip over drinks; Kevin Robinett, who owns the Green Mountain Motel, which serves summertime travelers; resident John Turner, and Redland’s parents, Tom and Laurie.  

“We are the sheriff,” quipped Robinett in his own interview with Cowboy State Daily.  

Robinett said that, for lifelong rancher Charlie McIntosh — known to locals as Charlie Mac — and him, car crashes have been the town’s biggest problem historically.  

Both men serve as volunteer firefighters and could spill stories “into next week” about the crashes they’ve seen, he said.  

Robinett, 60, has been in town for about eight years but McIntosh, 72, has been there almost since birth, and has served on the fire department for 53 years.  



McIntosh’s retired cowboy hats hang as decorations in the Split Rock Café – an honor reserved for established locals.

Many crashes occur, said the men, because tourists who don’t know that antelopes have a deadly habit of wandering onto highways like to drive fast. 

But the town leaps into action when needed.  

McIntosh has a half-century of firefighting experience, Robinett does light mechanic work and Redland is a basic first responder, besides being fire chief.  

There are no doctors in town, said Redland, noting that life-flight helicopters are needed for medical emergency transportation.  

“The closest thing I’ve got to a doctor is Cheyenne,” he said. “She’s a vet tech.”   

Cheyenne Young, who moved to Jeffrey City from Pavillion a year ago, told Cowboy State Daily she has not doctored any people, but has carefully extricated them from crashed vehicles.  

Young, a former veterinary technician in Riverton, now serves on the fire department and works as a day rancher and as a bartender at the Split Rock Café.  



She and other fire department volunteers responded about a month ago to a wreck requiring a helicopter response.  

“I mostly just assisted with the extrication,” she said. “We work on getting the vehicle opened up so when the helicopter gets here they can just take the person pretty easily.”  

The fire department’s relatively large volunteer base leaves fire chiefs in surrounding districts scratching their heads, said Redland, as some of those departments struggle to find volunteers in much more populous regions.  

‘It Does Make Us Closer’ 

As a newcomer, Young sees the town through a newcomer’s eyes. And she likes what she sees.  

“It’s a tight-knit community, so everyone’s pretty much there for each other,” she said. 

When someone has a need, others step up to fill it. And if they can’t, they know someone else who can.  

There’s no set character type among townspeople, she added: there are ranchers, hermits, transplants and artists. Some come to Jeffrey City to escape civilization and some stay in the town to hold on to whatever planted them there to begin with.  

“It’s kind of a funny mix of people, but at the end of the day, everyone’s mostly there for each other,” she said. “The ‘pros’ are, everyone’s in your business, and the ‘cons’ are – everyone’s in your business.”   



Young recalled the day she realized that the hundreds of acres separating residents and a general lack of commerce didn’t stifle the embarrassing gossip tidbit that she’d wrecked her truck.  

It was foggy, Young was on her way home to Jeffrey City from Riverton and she hit a cow. She confided in one, maybe two people that day about the accident.  

“By the end of the afternoon, when I came into the Split Rock, everyone was asking about it; everyone knew about it,” she said with a laugh. “I got a hard time for that one for a while.”  

Although the town is lacking in what more urban dwellers would consider the foundations of a working society — police, grocery stores, hospitals — it’s the pluck, the resourcefulness and the general goodwill of the locals that keeps everyone in line.  

“You’re held to a different standard of accountability, because no matter what, someone’s going to know what you’re up to,” said Young, adding, “We kind of have to fend for ourselves a little bit out here, and I think it does make us closer.”  

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

Cheyenne Mom And Daughter Crafting Beds Out Of Meal Delivery Kits For Rescued Dogs

in News/Good news
20108

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Deborah Dunham said her mom, Alice Pitcher, is consistently trying to find a way to use items more than just once.

For pretty much all of Dunham’s life, her mom has been the type of person who does not like to waste things.

And Dunham has followed in her mom’s footsteps — now reusing packing material to make life for rescued dogs in Colorado a little more comfortable.

Dunham and Pitcher both make beds for an animal rescue operation in Colorado.

“We’re both sewers and we will randomly find things to use scrap fabric for,” Dunham said. “So we volunteer with an animal rescue down in Colorado and we were curious how we could do more for the animals.”

So the two began making dog beds, stuffing them with using scrap fabric.

This way, the dogs at Soul Dog Rescue in Fort Lupton, Colorado, would have fresh, new beds to sleep on as they waited to find their forever homes. Plus, if they tore up the beds, there is less likelihood of them choking on the tiny pieces of fabric, Dunham said.

But after making the beds stuffed with fabric, the mother and daughter discovered another way to make beds while also using what would have been waste.

“I started getting the Home Chef meals and the meal delivery kits come with a lot of packaging,” Dunham said. “There’s this insulation inside and while the company says it’s compostable, the only thing that can really be composted is the inside, the rest would just go into a landfill. But for a pet bed, it’s perfect.”

Now, Dunham and Pitcher are collecting meal delivery kit insulation material from Cheyenne residents in order to make more pet beds for the Colorado shelter, as well as a shelter in Cheyenne.

While Dunham noted that the beds themselves could not be washed due to the insulation material, the idea of getting one more use out of the insulation was attractive.

“It got used once and that was once more than it was intended for and it’s not going to waste. Plus, it will be a nice bed for a dog, even if it’s just to transport them,” she said. “Everything I do revolves around what else can I do for these animals. If we can make them comfortable in a crate, that’s great.”

Dunham put out a call for materials on Facebook and actually received “five or six” responses from people who wanted to help, she said. Pitcher is currently working on making the pet beds and the more material they receive, the more beds they can make.

Dunham said she never really thought about the desire she and her mother share to to keep more items out of landfills, but when she thought about it, she liked the fact that she and Pitcher can extend an item’s usefulness just a little bit.

“My mom is so much more creative in how we can reuse things. I just happened to have the material and she put it into action,” Dunham said.

Soul Dog Rescue works to save animals from suffering and mistreatment due to overpopulation and lack of resources in the Four Corners area of Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The organization works to spay and neuter animals on Native reservations and have rescued more than 15,000 animals to date.

Anyone interested in donating materials to Dunham can reach out to her on Facebook.

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

There Is At Least One Working Pay Phone Left In Wyoming, But There’s Gotta Be More

in News/Good news
20085

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

By Jen Kocher and Jimmy Orr

How many public pay phones are left in Wyoming? No one seems to know for sure. But we want to know.

New York City just got rid of its last group of pay phones on Monday. The city had a farewell ceremony for the oddities which are now more likely to be seen in a museum than anywhere else.

That’s exactly where the last working pay phone in Sundance is housed. About a decade ago, it was donated to the Crook County Museum.

Museum Director Rocky Courchaine told Cowboy State Daily that he didn’t have many details about how it got there but it’s a great conversation piece for children, he said, who point at it in confusion.

Beth Ellsbury, 4-H extension agent who grew up in Sundance and graduated in 1979, has many memories of piling up in the phone booth to see how many kids could fit. The phone booth sat on the west side of the courthouse and provided lunch-time entertainment for the school kids.

She said you could squeeze about 12 kids in there but a layered-approach was needed. A few of the boys would hunch down in the bottom and she was always piled at the top.


Crook County Museum

Where else do you look? Cowboy State Daily staff is ever-resourceful.

Leo Wolfson knew of a pay phone at Pahaska Tepee, a mountain resort on the way to Yellowstone near Wapiti. Is it operable? Nope. The sad voice at the front desk told Cowboy State Daily it hasn’t worked for at least two years.

Bill Sniffin said he saw two pay phones near Old Faithful on a recent trip to Yellowstone — whether they were working on or not, he didn’t know.  

Clair McFarland, never short for information, was stumped. None at all, she said. But promised to double check with the sheriff.

Jim Angell was silent. If anyone knew where one was, it was probably Jim. But he refused to participate. He was a dial tone when everyone else chattered.

There were those who theorized that he probably had one in his home. Next to his fax machine. And TRS-80.

Known for her sleuthing abilities, Ellen Fike came up with a list of alleged working pay phones still in existence in Wyoming.

It was a list, alright. But it was a loser list. Sorry, Ellen. But only three of those 108 phones rang. Two were now businesses (not operating in phone booths). The other phone just rang and rang. But with every ring, it gave us hope.

Of the other 105, an immediate pre-recorded announcement called out explaining that the number no longer works and all hope is lost.

Cowboy State Daily’s Wendy Corr knew of phone booth in Cody. She provided photographic proof too. It looks great, but it’s in retirement.


Cody, Wyoming phone booth

But leave it to the folks at Wyoming Department of Transportation. They uncovered one. And it still works.

The specimen is located in the town of Chugwater, also known for the longest operating soda fountain in the state.

The phone — not in a booth — in a wall-mounted kiosk is located in the Chugwater rest area.


Photo by Myron Witt, WYDOT

The relic is glorious. Instructions on how to use the phone are slightly askew and faded but still informational. Do not deposit coins until the desired party answers, it cautions. Then deposit quickly.

In case you had no idea where you were, the informative and colorful dented metal badge above the fashionable blonde vestibule reminded that 911 is the number to call in an emergency along with geographic information (milepost 54).

Need more volume? There’s a button you can push for that.

All of a sudden, the need for an iPhone evaporated.

WYDOT’s Doug McGee and Jordan Achs told Cowboy State Daily that local road maintainer Myron Witt took a photo on Tuesday to document its existence.

“Myron said kids come into the rest area and ask their parents, ‘What is that on the wall?’ And they have their picture taken while standing next to the old pay phone,” they said.

As for pay phones in other areas of the state, WYDOT is checking.

In the meantime, we’re turning this into a statewide community project.  If you know of a working pay phone in the state, let us know.  Take a photo.  Give us the number. And let’s document just how many are left in the Cowboy State.

Email us: News@CowboyStateDaily.com

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

Sentenced For Life, Wyoming Inmates Are Able To Make Positive Impacts On World By Training Rescue Dogs

in News/Good news
19972

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

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

In the weak nighttime light of a prison cell, a puppy wakes James Boulé every two hours and asks to go to the bathroom.  

Boulé, who is serving a life sentence in the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution in Torrington, alerts a guard and is escorted with his 9-week-old yellow lab, Atlas, to an outdoor potty area just for dogs.  

Boulé is one of three master dog handlers at the prison promoted recently to launch its new program of training service dogs for use by the hearing impaired.

Boulé, with the other master dog handlers Russell Henderson and Ken Nicodemus, had worked since 2014 to train rescue dogs with behavioral issues as part of a collaborative program between the prison and Black Dog Rescue, of Cheyenne.  

Henderson and Nicodemus, like Boulé, also are serving life sentences.  

Hearing Dogs 

This month, the prison announced its joint effort with International Hearing Dog Inc., of Colorado, which will entrust puppies to the three men for about a year.  

During that time, the master handlers are to take the pups almost everywhere. They’ll be expected to potty train, socialize and care for their puppies and to teach them some of the basic commands and auditory sound responses they’ll need to serve their future owners.   

After that, the dogs will return to IDHI for their final training phases. 

Henderson, Nicodemus and Boulé have been trained by and still face weekly training sessions from IHDI. They also are held to high standards for complying with and respecting the rules of the prison in order to keep their jobs as trainers.  

And they’re carrying the lessons they’ve learned from working with rescue dogs into their new specialty as service dog handlers.   



‘We Put Up So Many Walls’ 

In the rescue dog program, the men had about nine weeks per dog to turn a vicious, suspicious, fearful or rejected creature into a model canine citizen ready for adoption outside the prison’s walls.  

They discovered that even troubled dogs can change.  

“Russ (Henderson) had one dog that was on death’s doorstep” when she arrived, Nicodemus told Cowboy State Daily while his 12-week-old golden-doodle Augie slept nearby. “And he held that little dog, and she became a super awesome little dog.”  

Henderson’s rescue dog, Rylee, didn’t have health issues, but she was violent.  

“When she came in, she was wanting to kill other dogs on sight,” Nicodemus continued. “When (Henderson) was done with her, she was playing with other dogs in the play area and stuff. It was really great to see that transition – that transformation.” 

Henderson, who doesn’t have a puppy yet because he’s still training a rescue dog, countered that the dogs aren’t the only ones transforming.  

A lot of men inside the prison system have “put up walls,” preferring to be alone or to appear tough and unapproachable, he said, adding that he, too, was angry and withdrawn before he became a trainer.  

“And you see these dogs go up to (inmates), then you’ll see them making goo-goo noises, and kissy noises,” said Henderson with a laugh. “(The dogs) really humanize us in ways that, in here, you don’t really see, because we put up so many walls.”  

Touch Lives Outside of Here 

For Boulé, training rescue dogs and now his new puppy Atlas is a rare chance after the nearly 26 years he’s served so far to have a positive impact on the world on both sides of the prison’s walls.  

“There’s so little opportunities for us to make up for the things that we have done,” said Boulé, adding that training the dogs gives him a chance to help others and to improve his own character. 

“That’s a big thing for those of us that really want to try to make amends and to better ourselves as people,” Boulé said.  

Nicodemus agreed, saying that the dogs teach him while he teaches them. Because dogs are intuitive to people’s needs, he said, he’s reminded to consider the needs of others as well.  

And there are a lot of needs inside a prison.  

“You’ll have people who are sad, they’re down and out, people who are awkward socially; people with mental health issues and can’t really communicate,” said Nicodemus. “So those types of people have a tendency to be overlooked, to be neglected. And to watch these dogs go up to them when they’re in need, really has changed my life.”  

Nicodemus recalled one instance when his rescue dog went to another inmate and nudged his head under the man’s hand.  

Some time afterward, the man told Nicodemus that he’d learned by phone of his mother’s death earlier that day.  

‘Haven’t Seen It Do Anything Bad’ 

The master trainers credited WMCI Officer Bethany Sanders with organizing the two dog programs for them, along with Deputy Warden Marlena McManis.   

Sanders said she’s only seen good from the programs so far, and has watched multiple men go through their own training, then train their dogs, and emerge from that experience as different people.  

The staff are delighted by the dogs too, added Sanders with a chuckle.  

“It’s a good program, and I haven’t seen it do anything bad,” she said.  

Say Goodbye 

Henderson said it’s been difficult to say goodbye to the rescue dogs when their nine weeks of training ends, and it never got easier. 

“It breaks your heart every single time,” he said.  

Boulé and Nicodemus agreed.  

Nicodemus said he’s bonded more with some dogs than others, but he loves them all.  

Boulé likes the tough cases.  

“My favorite ones are the ones that are real fearful and they won’t let nobody touch them when they first get here – but (by the time) they leave, they’re going up to people and allowing affection,” said Boulé.  

“I really enjoy working with those.”  

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

Green River Man Honored For Saving Woman, Boy From Burning House

in News/Good news
19937

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man was honored this week for his heroism after he saved a woman and her young son from a burning house in Sweetwater County earlier this year.

Ryan Pasborg saved Stephanie Wadsworth and her son, Weston Wadsworth, from their burning home in early February after he stopped when he saw their house was on fire. Despite being late for work, Pasborg felt compelled to stop when he saw the smoke and flames, he told Cowboy State Daily earlier this year.

Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mower told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that the recognition ceremony held in Pasborg’s honor on Tuesday was an amazing event.

“I’ve been in law enforcement almost 15 years and this is just one of those stories you see on television,” he said. “Really, this is just a small token of our appreciation and admiration for Ryan.”

Pasborg was recognized during the Sweetwater County Board of Commissioners’ second meeting of the month on Tuesday. His family and the Wadsworth family, along with a number of friends, were in attendance.

Having the Wadsworths attend the ceremony made it that much more special, Mower said. Shortly after the rescue, there was questions of whether Stephanie would survive the ordeal.

“As time went on and we heard through the grapevine about how she was hanging in there and beginning to improve and how she was likely to survive, we wanted to wait and hold this ceremony until they could all be in attendance, too,” Mower said.

Mower said the ceremony was emotional for everyone in attendance, from Sweetwater County Sheriff John Grossnickle to Pasborg himself and even the commissioners.

Pasborg has repeatedly insisted that he was not seeking recognition for rescue but Mower said it was important for Pasborg to be honored for his heroism.

“His motivation was that he hopes someone would do the same thing for him,” Mower said.

After saving the Wadsworths from the fire, he ensured the children were reunited with their grandmother and taken to a warm, safe place.

Following that, he went home, grabbed some money and went to Walmart to buy clothing and toys for the children who had just lost everything.

“What strikes me is that we can see the impact Ryan had on the Wadsworth family, but maybe Ryan needed to be there for Ryan, too,” Mower said. “This is something that may not only have saved the Wadsworths’ lives, but possibly, Ryan’s too.”

Pasborg did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Thursday.

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

“Hobo Haven” Discovered After Demolition of Shoshoni Motel in Shoshoni, Wyoming

in News/Good news
19621

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

By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

When the Shoshoni Motel was demolished late last month, workers found one extra room — a hobo haven underneath the building.   

“We found a little underground lair,” Mike Dimick, a Shoshoni City Council member and the contractor assigned to demolish the 1950s-era motel, said in an interview with Cowboy State Daily.  

Dimick said the “lair” appeared to have been dug from the ground outside a room on the northwest corner of the property. 

“Somebody had dug out and created almost a hobo living space underneath it,” said Dimick, noting that the nook, which measured about 12 feet long and 12 feet wide, could have been anywhere from 20 to 40 years old.

“It was funny as we were demolishing it,” Dimick added, saying the living space resembled a “prison camp” cell: the occupant had “carved little shelves into the dirt.”  

Dimick confirmed that he did not find a human body.  

Built in the 1950s, the Shoshoni Motel had been abandoned for about 20 years. The town council agreed to destroy it when the town was awarded a grant to build affordable housing in the area.  

Chris Konija, town clerk and police chief, said he and others working on the project hope to have the housing designed and planned within the next two months.  

Historic Sign 

The hotel’s historic road sign, which was installed in 1968 by the parents of current Shoshoni Mayor Joel Highsmith, is safe and sound.  

Photographer Carol Highsmith, no relation to the mayor, shot a photo of the sign in 2010 that has since become a part of her famous Americana collection “Legends of America.”  

Joel Highsmith said the town is keeping the sign for now but hasn’t decided what to do with it. It’s too large to mount on a basement wall, said Highsmith, but it may be auctioned off at some point.  

State statutes, added the mayor, dictate that a town must sell items by auction when their value exceeds $500, as he believes the sign does.  

Thousands in Dump Fees 

Disposal fees on the motel debris, said Dimick, are estimated to be about $15,000, but his company was able to save the town another $15,000 in dump costs by agreeing to recycle the 200 tons of concrete that were removed in the process.  

The concrete is to be repurposed for future town projects.  

The hobo haven wasn’t the only interesting discovery in the project, said Dimick. Construction oddities in the old building piqued his interest as well.  

“It was interesting to look at how things were built, when it was built,” he said. “To think the world would let us build like that again for economical purposes – they just wouldn’t.”  

For example, said Dimick, one of the building’s foundations was constructed of cinderblocks with no mortar to hold them together.

Lip Rippers Dropped Too 

In addition to the Shoshoni Motel, the vacant tackle shop Lip Rippers was demolished in late April as well. The store’s location is slated to become another housing site.  

Dimick said the rubble from Lip Rippers has not been disposed of yet, but he’s estimating dump fees for that project at around $8,000.  

There were no odd discoveries at Lip Rippers but, as with the motel, many citizens in the area struggled with the demolition because they had sentimental ties to the condemned building.  

“That one was pretty straightforward,” said Dimick. “Just knock it to the ground; take a lot of criticism.”  

Although some disagreed with the demolition of both the motel and the tackle shop, Dimick said many residents are excited to see the new housing in town and Shoshoni’s potential growth.  

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

Lovell Officers Praised For Rescuing Boy From House Fire 

in News/Good news
19000

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A Lovell police officer has been given the department’s “Lifesaver Award” for his role in saving an 8-year-old boy from a deadly fire.

Officer Dusty Schultz, who has been with the department since 2018, was honored last week by the Lovell Town Council for saving the life of a young boy trapped in a house fire on Montana Street in Lovell on March 4.

“That (award) is reserved for when an officer goes above and beyond the expectations of service, and actually their actions end up saving a person’s life,” Police Chief Dan Laffin told Cowboy State Daily. 

Schultz and Big Horn County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Angell worked together to prevent what would have been a terrible tragedy, Laffin noted, in an incident that no one in the department will soon forget.

“You know, it’s one o’clock in the morning, the whole family’s asleep,” he said. “The house caught on fire. There was a raging fire at this point. And the family had three small children. In the chaos of rounding everybody up, they thought they got everybody out. But there was an 8-year-old boy still trapped inside the house.”

Not Much Time

Officer Schultz told Cowboy State Daily that he and Deputy Angell were the first on the scene.

“Big Horn County Deputy Jeff Angell and I were in the Annex at the police department, and dispatch received a call – the dispatcher put it on speaker so we could hear what was going on – and it was a pretty frantic person trying to get help to the house because everything was evolving pretty quickly,” he said.

Schultz said he and Angell headed straight for the scene, where they found people gathered outside of the burning building. The way the structure was being consumed, Schultz said he knew they had very little time.

“In a lot of situations in law enforcement, you have time to think about things,” he said. “This is one of those situations where you really don’t; this is where you really rely on instinct.”

Schultz said he and Angell hurried around the house, shining their flashlights in windows and listening for any sounds of life from inside.

“We had to walk around the flames and it was so hot,” he recalled. “I mean, you could feel it just burning your face as you’re walking by. And as I was walking looking for an entry, I heard what I thought was a faint cry. It was really hard to hear, because when a fire like that is going, I mean, it’s super loud.”

“I Could Hear Him”

In trying to pinpoint the location of the voice, Schultz said he and Angell eventually came to one particular window, through which they could see nothing.

“I could hear him, but I couldn’t tell if he was in the room, or if he was in the hallway outside of the room, or in the room across the hallway,” he said. “And then I figured if I could hear him he could hear me.”

However, the closed window was a problem, and because Schultz said he doesn’t have any formal fire training, he relied on Angell, an experienced firefighter, for guidance.

“I know from fires, you don’t go and break windows out in fires because if you provide oxygen to the fire it gets worse,” he said. “So I told (Angell), I said, ‘I can hear a boy crying in here, can I break the window?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, the fire has already vented. You can break the window.’” 

Schultz said he used his expandable baton to break the window, which wasn’t easy, because it was framed in metal.

“I began beating on the window as hard as I could – I actually bent my baton a little bit,” he said. “I was beating on it pretty good, trying to make a hole big enough to fit through, either for me or for a child. And the whole time I’m beating on the window, Deputy Angell, he’s screaming through the window the kid’s name, Connor, telling him to come to the window.”

“The Smoke Was So Thick”

Schultz and Angell called loudly to the child for what felt like many, many minutes, but in reality, was just a short time.

“It felt like 45 minutes, but it was really only maybe three minutes,” Schultz said, “We made a hole big enough for a child to fit through, and we shined a flashlight in there – and I mean, you couldn’t see more than four inches through the window into the room. (The smoke) was so thick.”

“And it’s very discouraging at that point, because you think, if I can’t see in there, and the smoke is that bad, is this kid going to be able to move? Is he still alive? And it got real quiet. I couldn’t hear the boy. 

“And I told Deputy Angell to move back a little bit so I could break the window open some more, and just as he stepped back, he told me to stop, and he shined his flashlight in there, and then Connor’s face just came right through the smoke,” he continued.

Schultz said Deputy Angell reached in the window and pulled the boy out, walking him to safety. The boy is still undergoing breathing treatments, Schultz said, but was not burned in the fire.

Schultz said that in his opinion, incidents like this reiterate the need for emergency service cross-training for officers, which he said Chief Laffin is actively promoting.

“I’m a police officer, not a firefighter, so this is the last thing I was trained for or expected,” he said. “We’re all CPR certified. We all carry AED’s, so we’re ready for medical emergencies. I think this incident might spark some interest in being a little cross trained as far as what we can and can’t do with fires. I know the assistant fire chief, when I was speaking to him the night of the fire, he talked about doing a basic course for all first responders.” 

Schultz added that in a town the size of Lovell, the police department is the only emergency service that is on duty 24 hours a day.

“And so when we get a call, whether it’s a med call or a fire call, we’re first on scene 99.9% of the time,” he pointed out.

Team Effort

Even though Schultz was the officer who was recognized by the Lovell Town Council last week, Laffin said he wanted to be sure to stress that Schultz didn’t save this young boy’s life all by himself.

“Dusty Schultz received the Lovell Police Department Lifesaver Award because it is a departmental award,” he explained. “That is not to say that Jeff Angell didn’t carry out the same exact tasks that Dusty Schultz did, and I’m sure his agency will recognize him at some point for sure.”

Although the police department in Lovell has only six sworn officers (Laffin pointed out that no police chief will ever say that they have enough officers in their department, they could always use more), he noted that he couldn’t be prouder of the people on his team.

“My new patrol sergeant, who just came up last year from Texas, he was stopped on the street by people – just randomly by citizens – telling him that this is the best police department they have ever seen in the town alone,” Laffin said. “So I’m extraordinarily proud.” 

Laffin added that the “Lifesaver Award” has only been issued once before in the history of the department, and that was last year.

“Officer Shantel Stahl responded to a cardiac patient who’s having a heart attack,” Laffin said. “So she rushed in there, performed CPR and actually regained the man’s heart rate and pulse. He ended up being life flighted for further cardiac care, but he made a full recovery. And he actually presented the medal to Officer Stahl during the ceremony.”

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

Cheyenne Man Says Flight Erupted In Cheers, National Anthem When Mask Mandate Ended

in News/Good news
18948

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

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne man said passengers on his Delta flight cheered and sang the National Anthem when they were informed about 15 minutes into a flight that the mask mandate on airlines was lifted Monday evening.

Vince Bodiford, who was traveling from Denver to Detroit, said at about 5:45pm (Mountain Time), flight attendants began telling passengers that the Transportation Security Administration would no longer enforce the federal mandate requiring masks on airplanes due to a U.S. district court ruling on Monday.

“The whole cabin erupted in cheers,” Bodiford told Cowboy State Daily. “Some sang National Anthem, others chanting USA, USA. Very emotional flight.”

Bodiford said shortly after the flight attained cruising speed, flight attendants went from row-to-row to inform passengers the mandate had been lifted.

“At first, passengers were in disbelief or didn’t quite know how to react,” he said.  “They were asking for reassurance that is was true.”

Bodiford said he then heard clapping from the rear of the cabin along with chants of “USA! USA!”

“Then people started singing the National Anthem,” he said.  “It was amazing.”

After awhile things got back to normal, he said. “Beverage service began but this time when the masks came off, nearly everyone kept them off.”

Spoke With Captain

After the flight, Bodiford said he went up to speak to the captain of the plane and was told that his flight (Delta 2159) was the first Delta flight that got the message that the mask mandate was over.

He said Captain Lawlor told him that this was the first flight for him in over two years where he didn’t have to wear a mask.

“He said the mask mandate was really hurting their customer relationships because they had to be the enforcers,” he said. “The captain told me this flight was special for him and it felt historic.”

Bodiford, who owns The Cheyenne Post and the auto-enthusiast site ‘The Weekend Drive,’ said he’s never seen so many happy passengers on a flight.

“What a fun flight to be on,” he said. “The mood is like wow, the long nightmare is really over. I’ll never forget Delta 2159 to Detroit. What a wonderful flight.”



Judicial Action

Earlier in the day, a federal judge struck down the mask requirement on airplanes, trains, busses, and other public transportation. The ruling let individual airlines determine what to do. Delta was one of four airlines which immediately dropped the mask requirement.

President Biden had asked the Centers For Disease Control to implement a mask mandate for all travelers shortly after taking office on February 2, 2021.

Months later, the Health Freedom Defense Fund, an advocacy group registered in Wyoming, challenged the legality of the mandate.

Following the announcement, the group said the ruling was a “victory for basic American liberty and the rule of law.”

“Without any public comment, or serious scientific justification, CDC bureaucrats imposed a sweeping Travel Mask Mandate applying to every American over the age of two,” said HFDF President Leslie Manookian. 

“There are laws that set boundaries for federal agencies to protect individual freedom and the Court clearly found that CDC exceeded those limits. Unelected officials cannot do whatever they like to our personal freedoms just because they claim good motives and a desirable goal,” she said.

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

Laramie Woman Sets Sights On Ending Human Trafficking In Wyoming

in News/Good news
18197

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

By age 11, Ashleigh Chapman knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

It started when she was a young girl growing up in Nashville, where her father was a pastor at an outreach mission. She saw a lot of brokenness in her community, as when when her family took in a woman who said she and her three children were escaping an abusive marriage. 

Within a day, it was clear that the woman was the abuser. She was asked to leave, and Chapman’s parents launched a legal battle to foster the children and keep them safe.

The children had undergone every form of abuse and neglect you can imagine, Chapman said, which opened her eyes to a level of hurt she could never have imagined.

“It was my introduction to the terrible things that could happen to people and I couldn’t comprehend how broken a community had to be to allow it to occur and not have the resources to keep those kids safe,” she said.

She told her parents that she was going to do something to help fix these broken communities,. Even as a sixth-grade student, she knew that effort would have to include law school.

“I remember sitting down and pulling out a big piece of paper and trying to figure out what I had to do to get there and what needed to be done,” she said, laughing.

Today, at age 40, Chapman has achieved her childhood mission as a national and global human rights lawyer working to end all forms of trafficking, including in Wyoming.

To this end, she’s founded and runs several organizations — including Engage Together, Justice U and Altus — that help fuel solutions and provide training to identify and stamp out all forms of human trafficking. 

As a lawyer focused on legal advocacy work, Chapman helps create policy and bring entities together to focus on finding solutions to address all forms of sex, labor and human trafficking.

Her work in the field recently earned Chapman recognition of one of USA Today’s “Women of the Year” for Wyoming.

It’s a life that’s largely kept her on the move, traveling about 48 weeks out of the year. 

But in 2018, Chapman told her husband – who also did a lot of traveling – that it was time to find a home base. On a whim, the couple traveled to Laramie during a homecoming weekend and Chapman didn’t want to leave.

“I told my husband that I needed to find a home that was restorative to me,” she said. “And that was it. I fell in love in love with Laramie and Wyoming.”

On Wednesday, Chapman was back on the road, speaking with Cowboy State Daily from a youth camp in Nashville that she continues to support. 

Despite the traveling, her passion never wanes from the mission that launched her career.

Anti-Trafficking Efforts In Wyoming

Along with her other projects, her Engage Together group just wrapped up a human trafficking community assessment survey in partnership with the state’s Division of Victim Services and Human Trafficking Task Force to address the strengths and weaknesses in Wyoming’s current anti-trafficking services and help the state come up with a five-year action plan.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks Chapman runs into, she said, is the mistaken belief that trafficking doesn’t happen in Wyoming.

“It does,” she said. “It’s everywhere, if you know what you’re looking for.”

In her experience, once people in the health care, hospitality and retail sectors begin receiving training from law enforcement, the number of reported cases will begin to increase.

Globally, Chapman said, human trafficking is a $150 billion business with more than 25 million victims every year.

In 2020, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 47 contacts from residents in Wyoming with 11 human trafficking cases reported. Of these, 10 involved adult women being sex trafficked. One one labor trafficking case was reported.

This data is incomplete at best, Chapman noted, given the number of cases that go unreported and the fact that the data is currently very hard to track. Wyoming, itself, was late to the game as the last state in the union to enact anti-trafficking laws in 2013.

As Wyoming’s assessment showed, there are currently 56 organizations in the state that provide some form of education, prevention or services for victims that Chapman indicated as a strength in the state’s response. Areas that could be strengthened, according to the assessment, are temporary shelters and immediately available services including after-care and reintegration support as well as increased training.

Chapman stressed that all solutions need to come from the community, including private, government and non-profit organizations, as well as individual citizens, working in tandem to strengthen communities to help survivors and prevent trafficking from happening.

This means individuals stepping in also to get trained by taking courses like the free human trafficking awareness and strategy certification course on Justice U.

Chapman’s goal is to get 1 million people to take that course, she said, starting in her adopted state.

In the meantime, she will continue her efforts to strengthen communities in order to create a place where such atrocities do not happen. She feels strongly that this is her calling.

“God has put all of us on this planet for a time and a reason,” she said. “I’m incredulous this is happening all over the world to nearly 40 million souls. I try to stay solutions focused or it gets really dark really fast.”

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

Stop Sign In Middle Of Nowhere, Wyoming May Not Get Buried By Snow This Year

in News/Good news
18125

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

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It may not have the same national appeal as the Super Bowl or the Daytona 500, but for a select few, watching the snow pile up to hopefully bury a stop sign in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming is enormously dramatic and gratifying.

And, to put things in terms of the aforementioned events, it’s the 2-minute warning and the white flag is waving for the “Wind River Stop Sign Snow Challenge” at Togwotee Pass.

Every year, since 2015, the Wind River Outdoor Company in Lander has presented a challenge to its patrons: pick the date that snowfall will eventually engulf the lone stop sign perched on top of Togwotee Pass on U.S. Highway 26/287. But the sign must be buried by April 1 or the contest is over.

It doesn’t happen every year, and it is disappointing when it doesn’t, according to the founder of the contest, Ron Hansen. But when it does, it calls for a big celebration.

“It’s very unrefined humor,” Hansen said laughing.

But it’s really caught on.  The first year or two, Hansen said, about 50 people signed-up. Now, that number is over 1,500.

“We have people from all over the country signing up for this every year,” he said, mentioning that to watch the action, people just need to go to the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s webcam page and click on the U.S. 26/287 camera.

The idea for the challenge originated over lots of beer, Hansen said. His team was learning how to use social media effectively and it came up with the idea.

“We needed something fun to do,” he said.  “It can’t just be about work. And this takes the business out of the business sometimes when you need it.”

The contest has its own page as well with running commentary and screenshots of the stop sign in various stages of snow-cover.

As for this year, it’s going to be tough. Hansen believes Togwotee needs two feet of snow to snuff the sign by April 1 and Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day isn’t optimistic.

Thankfully, the contest has expanded. Now there are two contests: the day the stop sign gets buried and the day when the snow disappears, which is usually in mid-June.

By the way, this isn’t “The Price is Right.”  Hansen does not award a prize to the person who comes closest to the date without going over.

“There’s not closest,” he said sternly. “It’s either buried or it’s not.”

As for the grand prize the winner, or winners, gets a swag-bag full of t-shirts, hats, stickers, and other items from the outdoor shop.

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

Iconic Moulton Barns Of Teton County Have Colorful History

in News/Good news
18018

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s an image familiar to anyone with an interest in the Grand Teton mountain range. A shot of the sunrise with the Tetons in the background and a weathered barn in the foreground. 

What many people don’t realize, perhaps, is that there are two different structures that appear in the famous photos. In fact, Steve Moulton pointed out that many people get the barns mixed up.

“The T.A. Moulton barn is the furthest barn to the south on Mormon Row, and it has the peaked roof, a very steep peak on the roof, and there are no other buildings surrounding it,” Moulton said. “The John Moulton barn has several buildings surrounding it – it is a larger barn that has a big gambrel-style roof on it. So that’s how you tell the two apart.”

The Moulton family, which built the two structures, was one of several Mormon families who settled in the Jackson Hole area in the early 1900s. Steve is a direct descendent of Thomas Alma Moulton, who built the famous barn with the steep-pitched roof in three stages, beginning in the mid-1910s.

“The first (stage was) the square box built in 1913, then in 1928 more logs were added to the top of the box and the pitched roof was added,” Moulton told Cowboy State Daily. “This portion of the barn housed mostly their milking operation. Much of their income was from milking cows. 

In 1934 the south lean-to was added,” he continued. “This is where they harnessed the teams and I assume kept horses overnight there at times. In 1939 they added the north lean-to and used it for a hog shelter.” 

When the National Park Service approached landowners about acquiring properties on Mormon Row in the early 1950s, Alma held out until 1963, when he sold 159 of his 160 acres to Grand Teton National Park. 

“Rockefeller was (putting up) the money to buy these holdings in the Park,” Steve explained. “And they were offered a good price for their place, and the Park Service was pushing them hard to sell. 

“Now here were two brothers, with families, trying to make a living on 160 acres,” he continued. “Well, you know, that doesn’t happen. And they decided to take the money, and so we (Alma’s son Harley and his family) moved to Cody at that time.” 

The remaining acre was withheld and deeded to Alma’s other son, Clark, (Steve’s uncle), who with his wife Veda chose to keep the parcel for future generations. 

“That stayed on that side of the family until 2018,” Steve said, “then they sold that and it is now back to being a part of (Grand Teton National Park).”

Even though the T.A. Moulton barn has been dubbed “the most photographed barn in America,” the Moulton family receives no benefit from the exposure.

“If we had a nickel for every photo, we’d be rich, of course,” Steve said. “You know, Conrad Schwiering, he was a major artist in the Jackson area in the late 50s, he would come and bring people and he would have art classes. They’d get out there and draw the barn and paint it and whatnot.”

Steve himself became part of an iconic rendering of the barn.

“In about 1957, John Clymer, he was a famous Western illustrator,” Moulton said. “Apparently, he drove by one day and he saw some kids out in the barnyard playing with a calf. Well, the only children that could have been was my older brother, me and my sister. And he went home and he painted a picture, an illustration of that, and that illustration ended up on the front cover of the Saturday Evening Post.” 

Steve recalled another instance in which he realized the family’s land was something special.

“In 1961 we had moved to Cody, and I remember going back in 1962, and driving by the barn – I guess I was maybe 7 – and they were filming ‘Spencer’s Mountain,’” he said. “And they used the barn to do a milking scene, Henry Fonda is in the barn milking. And my uncle Clark was there, he had to show Henry how to milk the cows, because he didn’t know how.”

The John Moulton property, which is where the gambrel-roof barn sits, was developed more fully than T.A.’s, as John took a lifetime lease on his homestead after selling the property to the National Park Service in 1953.

“He fooled the park and lived to be 103,” Steve Moulton said. “His family was able to stay there until 1991 – that is why there are more buildings on the John homestead, because they were there much longer.” 

But the Moulton Barns are more than just props for photos – they are still standing because of concerted efforts by locals and the Moulton family to preserve a piece of Wyoming’s history.

“The Park Service, for so many years, their idea was to eliminate all of that,” Steve said. “They didn’t want the barns on there. They wanted them just to fall down and be gone. But my wife, Candy, who’s a journalist, contacted the State Historic Preservation Office.”

Steve said Candy coordinated with the SHPO and the National Park Service, which in 1994 finally gave permission to the family to restore the T.A. Moulton barn.

“Contractors from Jackson gave us materials, and a lot of different family members from all over,” Steve said. “People showed up from the ages of three months to, well, my uncle Clark was 81 at the time, and we put a new roof on that north side and did some other work – and it saved the barn.”

Steve said the restoration and community support seemed to convince the National Park Service that the photogenic buildings had historical value.

“Then the Park Service realized how much people wanted to see those buildings, and they were taking a lot of pictures of it and they finally got it in their head that people liked the history and wanted to see that stuff,” he said. “And so after that, Habitat for Humanity came in, they did a lot of work. The Park Service has done a lot of work on the T.A. barn, on the John barn, and some of the other buildings.” 

In 1997 the area was added to the National Register of Historic Places. So now, for years to come, the two most famous barns in America will continue to draw professional and amateur photographers alike to capture that iconic image.

“In the summertime, before daylight, the cars are just streaming in one right after the other,” Steve said, “because people want to be there when that first bit of sunlight comes over behind them and shines on the face of those barns.” 

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

Former Game Show Host Left L.A. & Nashville For Life In Cody, Wyoming

in News/Good news
17790

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming attracts people from all walks of life who choose to leave behind fascinating careers to settle in a place where wide open spaces meet spectacular mountain ranges. 

Cody resident Dan Miller left the bright lights of Hollywood and the big stars of Nashville for a quieter life out west, a choice driven by his desire to raise his two girls in a more peaceful environment.

“I had played music in Wyoming and Montana in the 1970s,” Miller said, “and besides it being a cultural pull on my spirit, I thought it would be a great place to raise our daughters.”  

Miller was a regular fixture on The Nashville Network in the 1980s and 1990s. As co-host of the hit talent show “You Can Be A Star,” Miller was the Ed McMahon to Jim Ed Brown’s Johnny Carson. 

“Perfect Job in Television”

Later came the opportunity to co-host the show “American Magazine,” and eventually the chance to host his own two game shows – “10 Seconds” and “Top Card,” for which Miller won a Cable Ace Award in 1990.

“If there’s a perfect job in television, it’s hosting a game show,” Miller told Cowboy State Daily. “We would tape seven shows a day for two and a half weeks, and then I would have the next two months off. It was the perfect lifestyle, I had sponsors for my clothing (Botany 500 suits, Justin Boots), and it was very financially rewarding.”

But his journey to that pinnacle of success began years earlier. From a young age, Miller had dreams of stardom. Growing up in rural Indiana, he took off for the bright lights of Hollywood shortly after a college football career at Hanover in southern Indiana.

“When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know a single person in the City of Angels, which at that time had a population of about 11 million,” he said. 

He soon signed with an agent as a music act and he and his band were booked in Montana for the first time in 1977.

“From the moment I arrived in the Big Sky Country, it was love at first sight,” Miller said.

Returning to California in the early 1980s, Miller studied acting and went to the Los Angeles School of Broadcasting. He took a job at a local radio station monitoring traffic jams from the rooftops of Los Angeles and sold shoes at Bullock’s Wiltshire to the likes of Doris Day and Victoria Principal. 

“Doris Day actually became a good buddy who sent me cards of encouragement over the years,” Miller said. “That relationship made my whole show biz journey worthwhile to my dad, who was an absolute Doris Day fan.”

Miller was offered modeling jobs, bit parts in commercials, and did radio voiceovers. But he was still looking for that big break when he had an epiphany.

The Nashville Network

“I turned on the television and The Nashville Network was on,” he said, “and it literally hit me like a lightning bolt – that’s where I needed to be. I knew I had something to contribute to that network.”

Miller picked up and moved to Tennessee, taking a job at a radio station in Franklin (just south of Nashville) and signing with a talent and modeling agency in the Music City. 

“It was the perfect storm,” Miller said. “I was in the right city at the right time, and not only did I get a lot of auditions, I got more than my share of work in national commercials, industrial films and voice overs.”

His big break finally came when he heard about auditions being held at The Nashville Network for a game show host

“I literally auditioned against a ‘Who’s Who’ of established country music stars for that job,” Miller said. “The good news is, I got the job. The bad news was, they canceled the show two weeks later, before we even got started.”

But that wasn’t the end.

Hosting TV Shows

“This is one of those show biz stories, when I tell people to never give up,” Miller said. “I left the studios of The Nashville Network, literally broken-hearted, thinking I had missed my chance. 

“When I walked into my apartment in Franklin, the phone rang, and it was the head of programming for TNN asking if I would be interested in taking over the co-hosting position with Jim Ed Brown on ‘You Can Be A Star,’” he continued. “Within 24 hours, I went from being unemployed to co-hosting an established national television show. Never give up!”

Miller spent the next five years hosting various television shows, all while living in the Nashville area. During this time, he was offered an opportunity that took his career in a new direction.

“During a hiatus in filming my game show, I received a call from The Nashville Network asking if I would be interested in co-hosting a rodeo series with 8-time world champion bull rider Donnie Gay,” Miller said. “And that’s the kind of luck that is involved in the world of show business. That one phone call has led to a 35-year relationship with the world of rodeo.”

Shortly after the birth of his daughter Sarah, Miller realized that his hosting schedule might just allow him the freedom to live in the part of the country that had captured his imagination while playing music back in the 1970s.

“I had just built a new home on a hilltop south of Nashville and decided to take a trip to Montana to visit my buddy Jack Hanna (from the Columbus Zoo and late night television fame),” Miller said. “He had just built a cabin outside of Red Lodge and invited me out for some fishing and a pack trip. I went and had a great time, and when I got back to Nashville I explained to my wife, ‘Well, I love this new house, but we’re moving west.’”

Moving to Cody

Miller and his young family moved first to Park City, Utah, while he maintained his television hosting schedule, then to Columbus and Red Lodge, Montana, before settling down in Cody in 2001.

“Cody was the perfect choice for us,” Miller said. “Excellent schools for our daughters, snow skiing and hiking close by, and the opportunity to live in the best state in the country for horseback riding.”

Miller continued to host “Mesquite Rodeo” on television with Donnie Gay, and added a hosting job with the Outdoor Channel’s hunting show, “Best of the West,” which was based in Cody. 

But soon he turned his attention away from television and toward his first love – music. 

Cowboy Music Revue

In 2005, Miller debuted his “Cowboy Music Revue,” which is getting ready to launch its 18th season in downtown Cody, entertaining audiences from around the world. Six days a week in the summers, Miller plays guitar and sings songs from years gone by with his younger daughter, Hannah, on the fiddle and mandolin, along with bass player and vocalist Wendy Corr. 

Together, the three have played more than 2,000 shows in Cody, as well as traveled from coast to coast bringing Wyoming to the rest of the country.

“What an absolute blessing this music show has been, and continues to be,” Miller said. “What a privilege to share our great state with the rest of the world.”

Miller said his career paved the way to his life in Wyoming and has been a blessing to his entire family.

“Both of my girls are beautiful, smart and successful, and their mother, Brenda, deserves all the credit for that,” Miller said. “They both graduated from Cody High School and the University of Wyoming, and are proud to call Wyoming home.”

Miller said that while his television career paid the price when he made the choice to move to Wyoming, the tradeoff has been well worth it.

“The views, the weather, but most importantly, it was the people that brought me here,” he said. “I love to ski, I love to ride horses and be in the outdoors, but the genuine kindness and honesty of the people is what attracted me, and honestly, still keeps me here. Wyoming is home.”

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

Douglas Couple Escapes Ukraine With Adopted Children

in News/Good news
17500

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

For Douglas residents Sarah and Tony Witbrod, bringing their children home from Ukraine has been like something out of a movie.

Bombs dropping nearby. An hours-long drive past lines of people looking to escape the country. The death of the man whose organization facilitated the adoption of the Witbrod children — killed defending his country just days after the family crossed into Poland.

But for now, it’s peaceful.

“We are safe and in Poland,” Sarah told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “We hope to come home soon, we are waiting on the American embassy medical clearance for the children.” 

The Witbrods adopted 2-year-old Juniper and 14-month-old Caius from an orphanage in the Odessa region of Ukraine. Both are special needs children, but the baby has severe medical issues as well.

“Caius has Arthrogryposis, or AMC,” said Sarah. “With therapy and casting he will have much more movement in his arms and legs and will likely even walk. He has what’s called joint contractors that make his arms and legs tight. He also has club feet. 

He is in this shape because he lay in his crib since birth with little interaction or intervention, she said. “He is precious and perfect exactly how he is, but we know that with proper medical care his life will be even fuller.”

A year ago in the adoption process, there was no indication of the terrifying events to come. 

“We went to Ukraine because it was a stable adoption country,” Sarah said, explaining that they had experienced a harrowing adoption process several years ago, when they adopted two children from the Congo.

“We literally got out of Africa right before Congo had their very first independent election, and the country shut down for six months,” she said.

Even when the Witbrods arrived in Ukraine on Feb. 20 to bring the children home, they weren’t worried about the rumblings from the East. They posted photos of outings to the Black Sea with the children, precious moments spent getting to know their new family members and letting the children become accustomed to their new parents.

Sarah and Tony went to court to finalize the adoption process on the Feb. 22, picked up their children from the orphanage on the Feb. 23 — and woke up to bombs on the 24th.

“I heard the first bomb go off,” Sarah recalled, “and because in Douglas they do a Veterans Day assembly, and every Veterans Day, they shoot off a cannon – and so it was very, very much like that sound – but much louder.”

The two weren’t sure what they had heard, although there were several explosions in a row. Because it was 3 a.m., they didn’t want to call their Ukrainian adoption facilitators, Alex and Yulia — especially since a glance outside their window showed no unusual activity.

“We didn’t want to wake Alex and Yulia up if it was just us being hysterical, because we’re looking out the window, and we can’t see anything,” Sarah said. “The street below us is just completely dead. Like, there was one person out sweeping the streets.”

But an email from the American Embassy an hour later set them in motion. Alex and Yulia arrived within hours and hustled them into a waiting vehicle, in which they spent the next 70 hours traveling through a surreal scene.

“We’re passing military vehicles,” Sarah said. “There’s all these people that are walking on the sides of the roads with suitcases, and every gas station had a line for blocks, and we were just driving along the border between Ukraine and Moldova hoping that Moldova would let us in.”

Moldova did let them in, and they stayed the first night in, of all places, a Romanian wedding chapel.

“We drove from like (9 a.m.) until midnight,” Tony said, “and stayed at this Romanian wedding chapel – just like an apartment, wedding chapel thing, and still under construction, so we’re just like, ‘This is a weird place,’ but it was nice.” 

The couple that drove them the entire way, Alex and Yulia, were nothing short of guardian angels, according to Tony, dropping everything to make sure the Witbrods made it safely to Poland.

“They were amazing,” he said. “They handled everything that needed to be handled while we were in-country and when we left, all the paperwork, they took care of it — they’re just amazing people to do all they did for us.”

In a Facebook post on Monday, Sarah expressed anxiety over the fate of their friends – one of whom has now chosen to take up arms against Russia to defend Ukraine.

“My hands are shaking as I type this,” she wrote. “Our friend Alex is taking the train in the morning to Kiev to fight. I don’t even have words. I can’t even imagine what Yulia is going through. Please pray for them. Please pray protection over Alex. Please pray for peace for Yulia. Please pray for their family.”  

But their adoption team has already suffered a heartbreaking loss. Serge Zevlever, a Ukrainian-American who ran an organization advocating for adoptions for medically fragile children, was reportedly the first American citizen to die in the conflict. He was shot and killed Saturday.

Sarah said through this experience, she has come to love Ukraine and its people.

“Ukraine is a beautiful country filled with strong, resilient, brave, amazing people,” she wrote on Facebook. “People like Alex, Yulia, Serge and Luda. Putin has no idea what he’s up against. Tanks, missiles, and guns aren’t enough when you’re up against people like that. People who are rightly proud of their country. A country with its own language, culture, cuisine, and history. Ukraine is not Russia.”

The family is currently in Poland, waiting on the American Embassy to approve the children’s visas so they can go home to Douglas. There they will be welcomed by the couple’s six other children, three of whom have also been adopted from other countries.

The communities in Converse County have been incredibly supportive of their efforts, according to Tony.

“The town of Douglas and all the people there that, every time Sarah posts something, it’s like 200 people are just cheering us on,” he said. “There’s the most outpouring of love from all our family around the country and all of our friends, everyone back home in our town. It’s been a pretty wild and awesome experience.” 

fundraising site has been set up to help offset the costs of the adoptions, as well as the unexpected rise in airfare since the conflict began. 

“We have blown through our money paying tolls in Moldova and Romania and paying our people to taxi us that far,” Sarah posted. “Plus plane tickets are INSANE.  We had to pay $1,000 a person, when tickets are normally less than a hundred to fly out of Romania.  Plus we think tickets home are going to be triple what they were. 

“But I would do all of it again,” she continued. “They are so worth it. I think they are the last babies to make it out.”

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

East Coast “Horse Kid” Marries Wyoming Cowboy, Lives Out Dream on Ranch in Carlile

in News/Good news
17455

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Citabria Wolfskill and her horse are both 10. Her grandpa Dave bought his granddaughter the stocky, tan quarter horse, Winnie, as a weanling when Citabria was born.

Now, Citabria wants to learn how to rider her trusty mare. For the past decade, the two have been watching one another from afar as they both develop the requisite muscles and abilities to ride. They are both physically ready to go, so now the focus is on learning the necessary skills.

Enter Whitt Hawk of Hawk Horses, a horse trainer from Carlile (north of Moorcroft) who lives near the Wolfskill’s ranch and is helping Citabria develop the chops to control the large mare. They’ve been working together since mid-January. The focus of one of their recent sessions was another lesson in learning to read horse body language before taking over the reins.

On Saturday, Whitt led Citabria in a wide circle through the fenced corral on Wolfskill’s ranch, demonstrating to her young charge how to navigate the long lines attached to on either side of the horse’s bit. As Whitt walked alongside the horse, she lifted one arm and then another and Winnie turned left, then right in tight circles guided by a couple of “whoa girls” from the trainer.

Because horse are prey animals, Whitt said, they tend to react to everything going on around them. They need to trust their rider, who has the responsibility to communicate in the horse’s language, body signals.

Whitt guided the horse in a figure eight before it stopped threw its head in the air with a disgruntled whinny. It was just Winnie living up to her name.



The mare has a bit of an attitude, Whitt told Citabria. Like people, horses’ attitudes change daily though their dispositions and temperaments are unwavering. Winnie had some training in the past, but enough time has gone by that she’s out of practice. As such, she’d much rather be out in the pasture with her buddies than working in the corral. She’s a good horse, just a bit unmotivated, Whitt said.

The horse is also testing them, she noted, to see what she can get away with.

“I always say that horse psychology and child psychology are really similar,” Whitt said. “Kids are always trying to figure out their environment to test their boundaries. That’s how they learn, right? Well, it’s the same thing in a horse’s mind.”

Winney has got an idea in her mind that maybe she doesn’t actually have to do this, Whitt told a nodding Citabria, and is testing them to see if they’ll make her do what they ask.

It’s about earning the horse’s respect by being consistent and fair, she said.

Winnie is also on the older side when it comes to being trained. Usually horses come to Whitt for “tuning” or “legging up” and a refresher on training and physical conditioning to prepare the horse for the owner to ride. The horses Whitt works with range from weanlings to mature horses. The riders she helps start at age 5 and ride up to adulthood.

That said, Winnie is coming along nicely in the month Whitt and Citabria have been working with her. Whitt typically works with a horse nearly every day for two to three months and has a 60-day minimum on her training contract, which she feels ensures the horse has a solid foundation.

“The big thing is developing a relationship of respect,” she said. “Quiet, repetitious exposure helps develop muscle memory, so horses give the desired response. Physical conditioning is necessary to prepare the horse to carry the weight of the rider.”

Now it’s just a matter of helping Citabria gain the skills to navigate the much larger horse.

East Coast “Horse Kid”

Standing with his elbows on the fence outside of the corral, grandpa Dave Wolfskill watched Whitt and his granddaughter move in head-dizzying circles as the trainer longlined Winnie while Citabria looked on.

Wolfskill met Whitt two years ago when his neighbor, Everett Zimmerschied, brought his new bride home from Wolf Creek, Montana. He was immediately impressed with her horse knowledge, and after watching her work with both the mare and his granddaughter, Whitt has further earned his respect as a “horse whisperer.”

Despite the cliché, Wolfskill is effusive in his praise of the 35-year-old Pennsylvania native who he said is as talented as she is driven.

It’s been a long ride for Whitt to get to this point, living a dream that was unwavering ever since a young age. 

Whitt estimated she was about 4 years old when she got her first pony. She grew up in northwestern Pennsylvania near the New York border in Warren County. Though her grandfather ran some cattle, Whitt’s parents weren’t ranchers or “horse people,” so she had to be determined and creative when it came to pursuing her interests.

Her dad was a mechanic and her mom worked in computer technology. As a child, she boarded her horses at other properties until the family could afford to build a small, two-stall barn on their land to support Whitt’s goal of one day working with horses full-time.

Admittedly, to her school mates, Whitt was considered a “weird horse kid” because she was so passionate about her interest, participating in competitions from the age of 8.

“I guess they call it bullying now,” Whitt said. “A lot of kids weren’t that motivated, but I wanted it bad enough to make it happen.”

Because her family didn’t have a lot of money, Whitt traded chores with her wealthier friends to borrow their fancy shirts for competitions and then traded and bartered for other things she needed.

When her parents split up, Whitt moved to Idaho with her mother and new stepfather, an accountant. She had to sell her horses for the move, which was the hardest part for the then 16-year-old girl.

Once in Idaho, however, Whitt got a job guiding trail rides. From there, she attended the equine program at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, and also worked with individuals with disabilities in a residential care facility. During this time, she did part-time work as a loper and stable hand for other horse professionals.

Later, she moved to Wolf Creek, Montana, to manage a horse facility for a large ranch.

She initially thought the safe move was getting her teaching degree. But in the end, she decided that stability and money weren’t going to make her happy, so she stuck with horses against the advice of some who told her she was setting out for a rough life. 

Over the years, she worked a myriad of jobs training horses on private ranches, guiding tours on dude ranches and working at the Boys and Girls School in Montana, where she taught horsemanship for the school’s physical education program.

A few years ago, a couple mutual friends introduced her to Everett. Though she never set out to deliberately marry a cowboy, she admitted that it was a nice surprise that has worked out really well.

Everett, a fourth-generation Wyoming rancher, has a spread on Cabin Creek outside of Carlile, where the couple runs cattle and uses horses to ranch, including Whitt’s favorite pony Snowy, a Missouri Foxtrotter.

Today, even the worst days are better than she ever imagined, she said — even the sleepless nights during calving season.

It’s safe to say that training horses full-time and helping Everett with the ranch and cattle are her dream job.

“Even on those days when you’re feeling a bit down or tired, all I have to do is think about how I don’t have to sit around in an office,” she said. “You just a grab a cup of coffee and get to work for the day. Just looking at the horses and beautiful view is all it takes to get motivated.”

As for advice to others who also want to pursue their dreams — whether it be horses or anything else — Whitt suggested just sticking with it. Much like the attitude she brings to horse training, she said the key is consistency and determination.

“I always say it’s like being water on a stone,” she said. “You just drip away until you wear it down.”

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

Winter Chariot Racing Raises Money To Help With Medical Bills For Wyo Children In Shriners Hospital

in News/Good news
17275

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Teams of horses kicked up mud and snow on the race track in Afton this weekend as chariot racing teams competed for a great cause.

The annual All American Cutter/Chariot Races that took place in Star Valley last weekend brought out residents of surrounding communities in support of kids who must undergo treatment at Shriners Hospital in Salt Lake City.

The event, which last year raised over $42,000 for the hospital, drew hundreds of people who bet on which team would reach the finish line first in their custom-made horse-drawn chariots.

Tomi White, the secretary for the local chapter of the Shriners, told Cowboy State Daily the event has been going on in one form or another in Wyoming for 50 years.

“The Shrine races started up in Jackson in 1972,” she said. “It hasn’t been in Jackson for a few years, and three years ago, we were approached by the Jackson Shriner club, with them saying ‘Hey, what would you guys think about doing the Shrine races down here in Star Valley?’” 

Cutter (or chariot) racing involves two-horse teams racing side-by-side 40 miles per hour along a quarter-mile track. 

White said that everyone is welcome to participate – either by racing or betting.

“Anybody and everybody that’s got a team or wants to come and play is welcome,” she said. 

White explained that money is collected at the gate and is more is raised through a 50/50 raffle, calcutta betting and a banquet.

“The first year (that we held the races) I think we were able to give close to like $10,000 to the Shriners, and we started up a nonprofit organization,” she said. “And last year we sent $42,000 to the Salt Lake Shriners Hospital. We haven’t gotten through everything quite yet (from this year’s race,) but we’re looking at about $42,000 again.”

That money is then used to help the families whose children are patients at the Salt Lake City Shriners hospital, according to White.

“They receive the money and they pay people’s bills,” she said. “They help with the housing for the parents so that the parents don’t have to worry about trying to stay in a place and feed themselves and all this other stuff. They ask, ‘What’s our bill?’ And they’re like, ‘Nope, it’s paid for.’”

Families right in Star Valley have benefited from the money raised by the Shriner races. Jamie Ellis’ 17-year-old son, Bradyn Jenkins, received care at the Shriner hospital three years ago.

“My oldest son was diagnosed with scoliosis,” she said, “and they tried to do a brace and some other things to slow the progression, but it just ended up being really bad. And so when he was 14, he got a spinal fusion through Shriners.”

Ellis said that since Bradyn’s surgery, his quality of life has improved remarkably.

“There’s still a lot of bending and twisting and things that he just can’t do anymore, because they fused everything together,” she said. “But as far as his pain levels, he was in a lot of pain before, and school was hard for him. Everything was hard because he was hurting all the time. But his pain levels now are very, very, very little compared to what they used to be.”

Ellis said that the family’s financial burden was lightened because of the money raised through the Shriner Races in Afton and her son can now concentrate on living his life.

“He just went in July and had a check up, and now I think he’s supposed to go every couple of years, she said. ”But I feel like he’s just really been able to move forward and kind of plan his future. That’s what we’re working on now.” 

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

Greybull Man’s Life Saved By Medical Device Championed By Late Father

in News/Good news
17230

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A device purchased after years of requests by Greybull’s fire chief has been used to save the life of the late chief’s own son.

On Nov. 17, a first responder used an automated external defibrillator to revive 25-year-old Nick Murdoch whose father Paul was an early proponent of putting the portable defibrillators in emergency response vehicles.

Murdoch told Cowboy State Daily that on Nov. 17, he had just returned from an emergency trip to a hospital in Billings, Montana, for the treatment of complications from the Type 1 diabetes, a disease Murdoch has lived with since the age of 7.

On his arrival at the hospital on Nov. 14, Nick Murdoch’s heart had to be shocked three times, he said.

“My heart had kind of stopped that night so they shocked me three different times to get it beating regularly again,” he said. “And then they released me from the hospital three days after that.” 

Murdoch said he was going to stay with his mother after returning from the hospital so she could keep an eye on him, but they stopped first at his house to pick up a few things.

“I just sat down on the couch and I guess my heart stopped on me,” he said.

What happened next, Murdoch has had to learn from others. 

“My mom was outside waiting for me while I was getting my stuff, and my brother was right down the street,” he said, adding that his older brother, Preston, had advanced EMT training. “So luckily, he showed up, and he started doing CPR for five or seven minutes, or whatever it was until the cops showed up with the AED.”

Greybull police officer Drew Patrick was on patrol that night when he got the call.

“(Preston) was doing CPR when I got there,” Patrick said. “And then I hooked up the AED, which recommended that we do the shock. So everybody got back, we shocked him, and then we continued CPR for a little bit until he actually woke up.”

Patrick said he and Preston Murdoch were working hard to keep Nick awake because the ambulance was taking longer than expected to arrive.

“We only have one ambulance in the area, and they were busy already,” he said. 

Patrick said once the ambulance arrived, Murdoch was taken to the local hospital and later life-flighted to Billings once again for further treatment.

In a way, it was in part thanks to Murdoch’s father, the late Paul Murdoch, that Nick’s life was saved.

“He was the fire chief in town, and he had seen the AEDs work and pushed for those, as far as helping them get the grant money and stuff like that,” Nick Murdoch said. “He got them in the police department, because he knew they were always in their cars, and always first on scene before the ambulance could show up.”

Three years after Paul’s death, in August of 2020, the Wyoming Department of Health announced that the Helmsley Charitable Trust had donated $4 million to purchase more than 1,500 Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), which were distributed to law enforcement and first responders across the state.

“I think every police car in Wyoming has one now,” Patrick said.

Although Patrick told Cowboy State Daily that he had worked with the devices before in his 16 years in law enforcement, this was the first time that he had actually saved a life using an AED.

“I had the right tools to do what I needed to do, and they worked,” he said.

“I would recommend anywhere there’s people, to have an AED for sure,” added Murdoch.

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

22,000+ Students Participating in 6th Annual Wyoming Random Act of Kindness Week

in News/Good news
17161

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A statewide organization is aiming to bring smiles to the faces of people around the state.

Mandy Fabel, executive director of the nonprofit organization Kindness Wyoming said her group works throughout the year to share kindness around the state — with a special emphasis on the week of Valentine’s Day.

“In 2017, we launched the first efforts around Random Acts of Kindness week,” she said.  “And we’ve been doing some focus efforts on Random Acts of Kindness week every year, which is right around Valentine’s Day.”

According to Fabel, 22,000 Wyoming students, 2,000 Wyoming workers and 100 Wyoming families all signed up with Kindness Wyoming to embrace Random Acts of Kindness Week from Feb. 13-19. 

With support from The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross Blue Shield and Jonah Bank, the nonprofit was able to send out nearly 500 kits, she said, to be utilized by over 25,000 residents of Wyoming. 

Fabel said each year the group sends out “Kindness Kits” to schools around the state to encourage people to spread good will to others. 

Each kit includes a variety of activities and challenges to be completed during Random Acts of Kindness Week. Families and students can also complete their challenges to be entered into a drawing for a gift card to be donated for yet another act of kindness.

Each kit is slightly different, Fabel told Cowboy State Daily. Some sent to schools include a classroom “bingo” card including 25 squares that all list some act of kindness to be completed. For every completed task, a square is marked off.

“And then there are school kits that include a giant 3-foot by 4-foot poster with 307 acts of kindness (playing off of the Wyoming 307 area code), and some of the squares are filled in with ideas and some are blank, so students can write their own idea in the box and then mark it off,” Fabel said. “And then they also got stickers and kindness prints that they could put up in their classroom as well. And then for those who complete the bingo cards, they’ll get to be entered in a raffle for some gift cards that they could then use for another act of kindness.”

For some students at Cody High School, ‘Kindness Week’ means a little bit more. 

Brooke Davidson, faculty sponsor for the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), said for students in the group, “kindness” is the rule.

“The group is all about inclusion and making people feel accepted for who they are,” she said, pointing out that the group has made a tradition of hanging up hearts with messages on them around Valentine’s Day, prior to students arriving at school.

“It’s just a way to help people enjoy the day, especially knowing that you know, Valentine’s Day can be very fun for some people depending on their situation — and it can also be a little hard for some people, depending on their situation,” she said. “And so the idea is that everybody gets a chance to have some nice words said to them or to smile for some reason throughout the day.”

Cody High School junior Rey Bakewell said the GSA club is a safe place for many students, where kindness and acceptance are the focus.

“Having a place to be, where you can just be who you are — like, everyone there just accepts you no matter what,” Bakewell said.

“Especially with student mental health, it’s good to have support around you at all times,” added senior Delaney Farmer.

The GSA Club marked Kindness Week by spreading random notes of support around the school, including some of the items from the “Kindness Kits” sent to schools by the Kindness Wyoming organization.

“Just, be love. Just love in general,” Bakewell said. “Because I feel like everyone doesn’t get to experience that on Valentine’s Day, and they deserve it.”

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

Severely Burned Woman Leaves Hospital Months After Jumping Into Yellowstone Geyser

in Yellowstone/News/Good news
16911

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A woman who jumped into a hot spring in Yellowstone National Park in October to save her dog has finally been released from the hospital.

Laiha Slayton has undergone 18 surgeries since October to repair the damage done by the scalding water.

“I’m doing a lot better,” Laiha told East Idaho News. “I’m undergoing some physical therapy and occupational therapy, and just working on getting better every day.”

She is also walking and gaining independence every day.

Laiha was burned when she jumped into a hot spring south of Madison Junction to rescue her dog, which had jumped out of the family’s vehicle and gotten away. Her father pulled her out of the spring and the dog ultimately died from its injuries.

She was in the scalding hot, 190-degree water for about eight seconds and received a mixture of second- and third-degree buns to 91% of her body below her chest. She was placed in a medically-induced coma after the incident.

“It was the worst pain I ever felt in my life, and I don’t think I could compare it to anything,” she said.

Laiha noted that the family had to drive 16 miles from where the incident occurred to call for help due to the lack of cellular service in the park.

She was unsure about the process of recovery now that she is out of the hospital, but noted that the Slayton family should know by the end of the month when she will be allowed to go home to Ohio, where she was moving from Washington when the family stopped at the park.

“A lot of people didn’t think she’d survive, let alone be where she is now,” Laiha’s sister, Kami Slayton, said. “She’s doing amazing. It’s a miracle.”

Laiha credited her father for helping her stay strong while in the hospital.

“My dad would always just tell me ‘In two weeks, you’ll be better than you are now.’ Every time, it proved right,” Laiha said.

One of Laiha’s goals is to become a dental hygienist once she recovers.

Slayton’s was the second significant injury in a thermal area in 2021. The first occurred in September at Old Faithful when a 19-year-old woman left the boardwalk on the park and suffered second- and third-degree burns to 5% of her body.

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

Ariana Grande’s Pigs Receive New Houses From Wyo Students At Kindness Ranch

in News/Good news
16927

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Four pigs living at the Kindness Ranch whose transport were partially supported financially by pop singer Ariana Grande received new houses this week made by Wyoming students.

Fluffy, Dream, MaryEllen and Daya received new insulated houses on Tuesday made by SkillsUSA students from the Guernsey-Sunrise School.

“Today, we are so very, very honored to receive some custom built pig houses for our newest residents from our local community,” ranch Director John Ramer told Cowboy State Daily. “When word got out that we had received some very special residents all the way from California, a local teacher, Troy, reached out to see if we needed anything for them.”

Squeals of joy could be heard from the four pigs who would get their first chance to sleep in their new warm homes Tuesday night.

The houses were particularly special for the pigs, as each one bore its resident’s name above the door.

SkillsUSA is a national organization that promotes skilled trades among middle and high schoolers.

“Our local chapter focuses on community service to develop strong work ethics, interpersonal and trade skills amongst the chapter members and the community,” Ramer said. “Amazing things happen when we all focus on building relationships, and not just networking.”

The Kindness Ranch houses animals that have been the subjects of tests in laboratories, and the animals that live on the ranch range from beagles to cats to livestock like pigs, cows and sheep

The pigs came from California in August. Grande partially funded the transport of the pigs to the farm.

Ramer said that he has shared photos of the pigs in their new houses with Grande, and is waiting to see if she will respond.

“I have not written her in a while and I am quite certain a little man from Wyoming is not the top of her list to respond to,” he said. “Fingers crossed.”

Grande has a fondness for animals (she has at least nine dogs), with pigs being no exception. She actually adopted a small pig, Piggy Smallz, with her former fiance, comedian Pete Davidson.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story said that Grande financially supported the pigs’ room and board. This was not correct.

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

Green River Man Encourages People To Be Kind After Saving Family From Fire

in News/Good news
16890

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Ryan Pasborg did not even stop to think about the danger he faced when he ran into a burning house last week.

“As a dad myself and a volunteer firefighter, I had to make a split-second decision,” Pasborg told Cowboy State Daily on Saturday. “I know the decision I made could have resulted in something bad happening to me, but at the same time, I’ve also got three little kids looking at me, hoping I was there to do something.”

On Feb. 1, Pasborg saved a woman and her 4-year-old son from a burning house in James Town in rural Sweetwater County, not far from his hometown of Green River. The mother is in stable condition in the hospital, and the little boy is also recovering well.

Three other children, ages 12, 8 and 6, made it out of the house unharmed.

Pasborg was actually running late for work when he saw the flames and smoke pouring out of the house. He pulled into the driveway, saw the three older children fleeing the house and asked them if anyone else was inside.

When they told him their mother and brother were inside, he ran in through a kitchen door to help. He could not see much inside due to the heavy smoke, so he crawled on his hands and knees through the kitchen until he bumped into the young child. He grabbed the boy around the waist and took him outside.

Since the wind chill was below 0, Pasborg put the four children into his truck to keep them warm. Then he entered the house a second time, again crawling through the home in search of the children’s mother.

He found her lying on the floor, badly burned and struggling to breathe. After dragging her outside, Pasborg noticed the woman was not breathing, so he performed lifesaving measures until she took a breath and sat up.

Pasborg said that while he was giving CPR to the mother, he was also on speakerphone with 911, directing emergency services to the house.

Once EMS arrived on scene, Pasborg was directed to comfort the 4-year-old in the ambulance before he and his mother were taken to Sweetwater County Memorial Hospital.

“He was very shaken up,” Pasborg said. “He couldn’t hardly talk, so I tried to change the subject, ask him when his birthday was and just treated him like he was my own kid. That calmed him down some.”

By the time the boy and his mother were taken to the hospital, the children’s grandmother arrived and Pasborg took the family to her house, which was directly behind the burned home.

Pasborg then went home, but soon got a call from the grandmother, asking if any of his three children might have any clothes to spare.

Along with his sister-in-law, Miranda Martinez, and fiancee, Alexandria Price, Pasborg collected clothing from their children and then went on to collect money for the family.

Price and Pasborg then headed to Walmart to buy new clothes for four children who had just lost everything. After spending several hundred dollars on clothes, Pasborg delivered the goods to the three oldest children and their grandmother.

“As I’ve told everybody, I just did what I would hope somebody else would do for me in the same situation,” Pasborg said. “I actually got a call from the dad/husband on Friday night, and he told me he loved me, that if it wasn’t for me, those two wouldn’t be here. They have a long road to recovery, but without me, there wouldn’t even be that road.”

Pasborg said the family’s patriarch also told him that he expects to see the Pasborg family at next Thanksgiving.

“I hope that by telling my story, somebody in my shoes might do the same thing,” he said. “Well, I wouldn’t ask anybody else to run into a burning building. But if you see somebody in need, help them. Hold the door open. Take a lady’s groceries to her car. If you see someone on the side of the road with a flat tire, pull over. Stop and help people.”

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

Two Sheridan County Youths To Represent Wyoming in U.S. Senate Youth Program in DC

in News/Good news
16897

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Two students from Sheridan County have been selected to represent the state in a virtual program that will give them an insight into how the American political process works.

Next month, Cameron Reckard and Tamica Smith will be part of the U.S. Senate Youth Program Washington Week, when 104 students interested in public service careers will attend virtual meetings and briefings with senators, U.S. Supreme Court justices, cabinet leaders and senior members of the national media.

Reckard, a junior at Sheridan High School who serves as the student council junior class president and is involved in a number of school and community organizations, told Cowboy State Daily the U.S. Senate Youth Program is a chance to understand a little more how government works.

“Washington, D.C., is the home of essentially all of our nation’s leaders,” Reckard noted. “All of the representatives we elect — the president, all of the government officials, essentially. And so by learning through the interviews that Washington Week provides, and being able to have these, not quite one-on-one, but close to personal interviews with these government officials, and people who have to have amazing leadership skills each and every day to simply do their job, it’s really going to be incredibly invaluable.”

Smith, a senior at the Arvada-Clearmont High School in Sheridan County, is an active member of numerous student organizations, including serving as the president of student council and president of National Honor Society. She said the media aspect of the event excites her.

“I feel like the media is a different level of politics in and of itself,” she said. “And a lot of the ideas behind the media convey and change between state level as well as national level.”

Arvada-Clearmont is a small school — just 97 students in Kindergarten through 12th grade and more than half of those, 48, are in seventh through 12th grades, according to Principal Boyd Brown.

“So we’re a fairly small school but our students do a great job of competing, no matter what they’re doing,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “Tamica has been involved in student council since she was a seventh grader. She has always been involved.” 

Smith, who plans to pursue undergraduate degrees in marketing and studio arts, said she hopes to inspire other youth in her community to become involved in local issues.

“I really believe that the youth should be involved in politics in any way they can,” said Smith, “whether it’s just by the everyday interactions, reading the news, watching the news, or actually taking a step forward to participate in their local government activity. I think it’s also really beneficial for students, as well as just people in America, to understand the exact inner workings of all politics.”

Smith said many young people back away from politics because they don’t understand it. 

“I think that by attending this activity, I can gain more insight and come back to my community and help other students about it,” she said. 

After graduating in 2023, Reckard said he hopes to pursue an undergraduate degree in  business, followed by his MBA.

“Business is such a big part of everything we do in our world,” he said. “And by being able to have those skills, of even combining business as well as knowledge about public policy, I think that that equips me really well to make essentially any change that I want, to positively impact the world going forward into my life.”

Sheridan High School Principal Michael Carnes, believes that Reckard has that ability to make a difference for others.

“He’s one of the best advocates for our school,” Carnes said. “He accepts everybody – like, he is all inclusive. He’s a top notch kid. I mean, they don’t make them better than him.” 

“I would definitely love to be able to make a change in this world,” Reckard said, “whether that’s through directly a public office position, or in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve holding public office. I still want to be able to make a positive impact on the world.”

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

Wyoming Game And Fish, Landowners Save Moose Calf From Icy Pond

in News/Good news/wildlife
16825

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department joined forces with a number of Jackson community members recently to save a moose calf from an icy pond and a tragic fate.

“This is not necessarily a unique situation, with moose calves falling through the ice, but it is also unique in the fact that we were able to get there in time to save the calf,” department spokesman Mark Gocke told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “We normally don’t get a call about this situation until after the calf has died and been found.”

The afternoon of Jan. 24, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department office in Jackson was contacted by a landowner in the South Park area, alerting them to a moose calf that had fallen through a hole in an icy pond and could not get out.

Three department staff arrived on the scene to find a large manmade pond with at least four aerators in it, with open water around each of them, surrounded by thicker shelf ice. The calf could not touch the bottom of the pond, but was also unable to climb out of the hole due to the thick ice surrounding it.

Gocke noted there were several hurdles to overcome to save the calf, the main one being a cow moose, which had previously been collared by the department, standing nearby.

“You have an adult cow that’s obviously stressed out about its calf and is likely going to be protective against people getting near it,” he said. “Then, you have the ice that could break while you’re trying to get an animal out of the water. Plus, this is happening during the winter and it’s cold, so you have to do this in a certain amount of time.”

He noted that the Game and Fish staff wore lifejackets while doing the rescue, in case anyone went into the water.

To solve at least one problem, the Game and Fish staff tranquilized the cow moose for her own safety and the safety of the humans in the area.

However, then another issue popped up: she laid down on the ice. While the ice might have been relatively thick, a 600- to 700-pound animal falling asleep on it was probably not going to end well for anyone. One of the biologists was with the cow when she heard the ice crack underneath them.

The decision was made to reverse the tranquilizer, which got the cow up and off the ice in about five to 10 minutes. Then, she just watched as her calf was rescued from the icy water.

“Interestingly, she just laid down and watched and allowed everybody to get the calf out,” Gocke said.

A moose calf watches as its calf is warmed up after being rescued from an icy pond.

A rope was tied around the calf, and it took at least four people to pull it out of the pond. By the time the young moose came out of the water, it had been in for at least 90 minutes and was hypothermic and exhausted.

By this time, two department wildlife veterinarians arrived on scene and went to work getting the calf warm by using blankets, towels and hot water bottles provided by all of the neighbors. It took about 45 minutes to get the calf warm and strong enough so it could stand on its own.

A moose calf is warmed with blankets, towels and hot water bottles after being saved from an icy pond.

The mother and calf were reunited and the next day, a Jackson resident sent over a picture of the two after he spotted them while driving.

Gocke noted the incident was a good lesson for landowners who are using aerators in their manmade ponds to stop using them during the winter months, as animals can easily fall through the ice and drown.

“It was an exhausting and stressful situation, but what a great story this was,” Gocke said. “We could not have done this without the help of the landowners and neighbors, though.”

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

Green River Man Hailed For Saving Family From Burning House

in News/Good news
16804

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

The house Ryan Pasborg saved a woman and her child from as it burned.

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Green River man risked his life Tuesday to save a woman and her youngest child from a burning house in west of Green River and is being hailed as a hero for his actions.

Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Mower told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that in nearly 15 years of working in law enforcement, Ryan Pasborg’s selfless act of heroism is one of the most incredible he’s ever seen.

“I think his takeaway, what gives him comfort, is that he did the right thing,” Mower said. “Those three children who made it out of the house safely are always going to remember him as the man who saved their little brother and mom.”

Pasborg was running late for work as he drove past a home on Highway 374 in James Town in rural Sweetwater County around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday and saw smoke and flames coming from a bedroom window.

When he did not see any emergency lights, Pasborg pulled into the driveway of the home and saw three children, ages 12, 8 and 6, walk outside. They told him their mother and 4-year-old brother were still inside, and Pasborg entered the home’s kitchen through the garage door.

He could not see much inside due to the heavy smoke, so he crawled on his hands and knees through the kitchen until he bumped into the young child. He grabbed the boy around the waist and took him outside.

Since the wind chill was below 0, Pasborg put the four children into his truck to keep them warm. He entered the house a second time, again crawling through the home in search of the children’s mother.

She was found lying on the floor, badly burned and struggling to breathe. After dragging her outside, Pasborg noticed the woman was unresponsive and not breathing, so he began performing lifesaving measures until she took a breath and sat up.

Pasborg then drove the family away from the fire to the end of their driveway, where they waited until emergency services arrived about eight minutes after Pasborg called for help.

The three children who were out of the home when Pasborg arrived are now staying with their grandmother. The mother and child in the fire are still in the hospital.

“Last we were aware, the mom’s fighting for her life, she’s still in critical condition,” Mower said. “But, no matter what happens, he was the difference between life and death. He gave the family a fighting chance. Had he not gone into the house, that chance probably wouldn’t have been provided for that mom and little boy.”

Mower said investigators believe one of the children’s hoverboards malfunctioned and caught fire, which spread through the house.

“Whether it was on the charger too long and something happened, I don’t know,” he said. “This is why when we talk about fire safety in Wyoming, one of the big things we talk about is leaving space heaters unattended. I just think it’s important people know that fire investigators determined the hoverboard as the potential cause of the fire.”

But it was not just the fact that Pasborg ran into a burning building to help people that impressed Mower and the rest of the sheriff’s office.

It was the fact that after Pasborg got home from work on Tuesday, he showered, changed his clothes — and began collecting money for the displaced family from among some of his family members. He went and spoke with the grandmother, got the children’s clothing and shoe sizes and went shopping.

“I believe he bought an entire carload of clothing and necessities and then he went to grandma’s house to deliver it to the family,” Mower said. “He said to me that’s what made all of this worthwhile. He was sitting in grandma’s house, sorting through the clothes and the kids were just hugging and thanking him for helping them.”

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

Cody Woman Reunited With Cabbage Patch Doll She Lost 37 Years Ago

in News/Good news
16720

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

As Kim Harris was deciding whether or not to take a trip down to the Bargain Box thrift store in Cody last week, her 18-year old son, Brandon, urged her to just go.

“You never know,” he told her. “You just might find something you didn’t know you were looking for.”

That turned out to be something she had searched for — but many years earlier. Harris found what she believes is a favorite doll lost about 37 years ago.

When Harris was just 9 years old, she wanted nothing more than what most other girls in America wanted for Christmas in 1984 – a Cabbage Patch doll.

“They were extremely popular,” she told Cowboy State Daily, “and boy, did I want one. And Christmas time came around and there was a gift under the tree that I knew for sure was a Cabbage Patch Kid – and I just pestered my mom until she let me open it on Christmas Eve. And sure enough, it was this cute little preemie named Ozzie Hector.”

Harris said she had never wanted anything so bad in her life.

“He was my little baby,” she said. “I took him everywhere. And I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything so bad since then.”

But their time together was short.

“A few months later, I think it was springtime, I couldn’t find him,” she said. “I just couldn’t. I looked everywhere. I went to school at Livingston (Elementary) and looked in the lost and found, looked around the neighborhood, looked in our house. I couldn’t find him anywhere, and I was just devastated. He was gone.”

Fast forward 37 years. Harris returned to Cody after leaving for a few years. She was planning out her errands on Jan. 25.

“Before I went to the Bargain Box, I said, ‘I want to go look for these items,’ but I wasn’t really in the mood to go,” she recalled. “And Brandon, my son, said ‘You know, you might find something you didn’t realize you were looking for.’”

Harris said she picked up the items on her list and was paying for them when an item in a nearby display case caught her eye.

“In the glass case was a bunch of Cabbage Patch dolls,” she said. “And I saw him on top, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that looks exactly like Ozzie.’”

After paying for her items, she said she went over to the case and was stunned at the sight of her favorite childhood companion.

“There’s a chocolate stain on his shirt,” she said, “and when I saw that chocolate, I just almost started to cry. I was like, ‘Oh, oh my gosh, it’s got to be him.’”

When the cashier took the doll out of the case, Harris was near tears.

“I told her that I lost a doll when I was 9, and I think this is the doll,” she recalled. “I said ‘I’m going to go ahead and get him,’ and she said, ‘Wait, the actual doll?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I think that’s my doll.’”

Harris posted on a community Facebook page, hoping to find out where Ozzie has been for the last 37 years.

“A week ago I found what appears to be my long lost Ozzy, at the Bargain Box. I nearly burst into tears when I saw him. I’m 99% sure it’s the very doll I lost – he’s wearing the same outfit and still has the old plastic disposable diaper I put on him.

“I grew up on Casper Drive, and this happened in the summer of 1984-ish. I know it’s a long shot, but nine-year-old me is dying to know if it’s really him. If anyone can help me put the last piece of this puzzle together, I’d really appreciate your help! Where has he been all my life??”

While Harris is certain the doll she found is her long-lost Ozzie, there’s still some uncertainty.

“Even though my heart says ‘Oh, yeah, it’s him,’ I thought, ‘Well, I’ll post something on the classifieds. Everybody knows everybody in Cody,’” she said.

“And maybe somebody knows who donated him – because he is in perfect condition. He has not been touched. He’s still got the same plastic disposable diaper on that we don’t use anymore, probably since the (1980s). So I don’t know if he got taken to someone’s house and then just put on a shelf or whatever, but he’s in absolutely perfect condition, except for the chocolate stain on his shirt,” she said.

Harris said she has since found pictures of herself holding Ozzie when she was a little girl. 

“The only two pictures that I have with him,” she said. “One is when I was opening his box on Christmas Eve, and he’s got that same outfit on.” 

Since the find last week, tragedy has struck Harris’ family — her father Tim, passed away just a few days after her original post. In an addition to the post, Harris said finding out about the missing years of her favorite childhood toy would be even more meaningful now. 

“I will welcome back and enjoy the (possible) return of a very strong childhood connection,” Harris wrote, “while mourning the loss of the man who taught me best how to love in the first place.”

Comments on the Facebook post have been very supportive.

“If this is your original Cabbage Patch or not, Ozzy is right where he was meant to be at just the right time,” read one comment. 

Other comments recalled similar incidents.

“Same thing happened with a stuffed kitty I had as I kid!” another wrote. “Found it there and sure enough my name was on the tag!”

Harris said she would really like to find out who donated Ozzie to the Bargain Box store, so she can put the mystery to rest.

“It’s like my heart knew,” she said. “And I’m still convinced it’s him, but if anybody can find out where he’s been, man, that would just make my day.”

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

Powell Man Recognized For Worldwide Stamp Collection

in News/Good news
16082

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

By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

A post-World War II uprising in Hungary attracted the attention of a 12-year-old Powell boy and inspired a life of stamp collecting.

Hungarians revolted against their Stalinist government in October of 1956, but their declaration of freedom was quickly crushed by Russian tanks and troops. Wes Learned of Powell remembers feeling empathy as the world watched Russian forces clamp down on the Hungarians’ bid for freedom.

“I came to understand that we just couldn’t help them, and felt bad for them at the time,” Learned said.

He turned to a nascent interest in stamps in response. At age 12, Learned had already been introduced to philately (stamp collecting) under the arm of the late Ray Easton, a longtime Powell funeral home director and father of Don Easton.

“I researched more of the history of Hungary and their stamps,” Learned recalled. “I like the geography of it and learn from it.”

Now 77, he has accumulated more than 4,400 regular issue Hungarian stamps through a variety of sources — individual collectors, auctions and eBay. Learned also knows the owner of the Hungarian Stamp Exchange, from whom he has made numerous acquisitions.

All are meticulously numbered in order and mounted in one of the several albums in his collection.

His early and persistent interest in Hungarian stamps has landed him in an unusual position. Working from his study in his Powell home, Learned serves as treasurer of the Society of Hungarian Philately, a group whose members worldwide have a strong interest in Hungarian philately and have ties to Hungary.

In correspondence with members of the society and the editor of the group’s newsletter, Learned’s background in finance and accounting appeared to sync up with the needs of a soon-to-be vacant treasurer position. He was asked to replace the retiring treasurer and did so in 2005.

The Society meets annually at large stamp shows around the country. He has recently attended meetings in Riverside, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Next year’s meeting is set for Chicago. 

He’s never been to Europe, but has also actively collected stamps from the Baltic Sea states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, along with many others.

Again asserting “geography is my deal,” his stamps portray the relative disappearance of Estonia for some 50 years. From the time of Hitler’s German invasion of Estonia in 1939 through the Russian domination at the end of World War II, Estonia didn’t issue a stamp until 1989-90.

“I’ve collected all of the Estonian stamps — including all the souvenir books of stamps since then,” Learned said.

He has no idea how many stamps he possesses in his various albums. They number in the  thousands.

Cody Regional Health

“I’ve got a U.S. stamp collection, too, but I’m not done collecting worldwide yet,” said Learned, who is also a member of the American Philatelic Society.

Of course, he has a copy of the first postage stamp ever issued in the world. Known as the “Penny Black,” it was issued in Great Britain in 1840, a crude black stamp showing the head of Queen Victoria. Postage stamps debuted in the United States in 1845.

Learned’s nearly 50 years of stamp collecting began as a young boy, then tapered off in his early adult years. He credits his wife, Linda, with stimulating his renewed interest in stamps when he began suffering serious hearing loss.

“Linda said it would be good for me. I’ve been collecting seriously since about 1980,” said Learned. “I don’t spend much time at it any more, but when I was traveling the state in my job, I would take stamps with me. I could spread them out on the table in my room and put them in the proper place.”

Learned worked as an auditor for the State of Wyoming Department of Audit for 33 years.

His favorite stamp is from his U.S. collection, a commemorative stamp issued in a set of five to mark the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase from France. The acquisition doubled the size of the United States in 1803-04, including lands in 15 present states west of the Mississippi (Wyoming being among them).

The set of five Louisiana Purchase commemorative stamps was sold only at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri. It took some doing for Learned to find all five.

“There are prettier stamps,” he said. “But I had to look so hard for the final one, and it felt so good when I finally completed my set of five. 

“That’s my favorite stamp,” Learned affirmed.

He looks at it every day: His daughter, Rae Eckley of Cody, had the stamp enlarged as the face of a clock that resides in the master bedroom of the Learned home.

History, geography and satisfaction are the takeaways of Learned’s many years adventuring in stamps.

He also offers a piece of advice:

“Stamp collecting is a hobby, strictly for the enjoyment of the collector,” Learned said. “If you think you are going to make a lot of money at it, you’re sadly mistaken.”

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

Cowboy State Daily’s Annual Interview With Santa Claus

in News/Good news
16019

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

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

As you know, we here at Cowboy State Daily pride ourselves on our ability to track down what may be the busiest man on the planet in the days leading up to Christmas.

After making calls to several sources who will remain nameless at the risk of putting them on the “naughty list” and checking flight plans filed across the state, I was able to track down Santa Claus (aka St. Nicholas, Pere Noel, Kris Kringle, etc.) in an unnamed small community in northern Wyoming.

Recognizing me from our interview last year, the big man (again, since I share the round little belly, I’m allowed to use the phrase) kindly took time out of his busy holiday season for a quick interview to fill us in on the state of things in his world as he prepares for his round-the-globe trip on Friday night.

CSD: Thanks again for your time, Mr. Claus. I know you’re busy at this time of year.

SC: Please, call me Santa. Mr. Claus was my father. No, that’s an old joke. Actually, since I’m almost 1,900 years old, I guess I’m sort of an old joke. Far too old to stand on formalities in any case.

However, someday, you’re going to have to tell me how you track me down! I don’t mind the interview, but I like to keep my plans a pretty tightly held secret. It looks like there may be some people at the FAA getting coal this year.

But back to your question — we are indeed busy! The elves are putting the finishing touches on the toys, testing the electronics, making sure the reindeer are ready for the trip and loading the sleigh as we speak. But I’ve always got a minute or two.

CSD: How are things different for you this year from last, now that the pandemic seems to be loosening its grip on the world a bit?

SC: Oh, things are infinitely better. The best thing is I’m not hearing from so many boys and girls asking for their friends and family members to recover from COVID. Now, just for the record, making sick people well is above my pay grade. I can make them happier — but making them well is up to the doctors.

Anyway, the kids seem seem so much happier this year. I suspect it’s because they’ve been able to get out, get back to school and see their friends. While kids may complain about going to school, I think they secretly enjoy it. At least, they prefer it to staying at home and having mom or dad as their teacher. Mom and dad probably prefer it as well.

And my travel restrictions have been relaxed considerably! Last year, we all had to get tested for COVID as we flew between countries. Do you know what kind of time that takes? I was held up in customs in Canada for hours! But the Canadians are so polite that I really didn’t mind. Gave me cocoa and the reindeer some carrots while we waited for test results to come back. 

CSD: What about behavior? Are more kids being good this year?

SC: You know, I think they are. As I said, I think once they were able to get out of their homes and resume a relatively normal life, a lot of stress went away. They’re nicer to each other, to their siblings and to their parents. There are a lot of adults — and you know who you are — who could learn from them.

Along those lines, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many harsh words between grown-ups as I’ve seen this year! And over the silliest things. Parking spots. Grocery carts. Movie choices. Politics. Things that really don’t matter in the long run.

You know, I’ve even gotten some Christmas letters from — what is it you call them — trolls, telling me I’m too fat, I’m judgmental and I smell of peppermint. Well, trust me, I know some trolls and most are better behaved than you lot! And remember, I have coal and unlike California, I’m not afraid to use it.

CSD: What are the popular toys this year?

SC: Oh, video games are still big, as are devices like pads and cell phones. But this year, I’m seeing more requests for the non-technical toys like Legos, dolls, board games and books. Now, this is just a theory, but I think the kids got a little burned out on screen time last year and they’re interested in toys that make them think or keep them active.

Of course, I’m getting a fair amount of requests for radio-controlled monster trucks and drones. Those are fun for the kids, but they’re kind of a liability up at the North Pole. See, about the only thing I can drive is a sleigh. I’ve caused so much property damage in the workshop with remote-controlled cars that the elves won’t let me drive them any more. They call me Evel Knievel. And not in a good way.

As a side note, more kids seem to be asking me what I want for Christmas. Which is always a nice change.

CSD: And what’s your answer?

SC: World peace. And new socks.

CSD: Really?

SC: Well, who doesn’t want world peace? And I have access to all the toys I could ever play with. And the elves — while they’re great at almost everything they do — really aren’t all that good at making clothes. Everything they make is too small. Could you imagine a man my size trying to squeeze into a sweater made for an American Girl doll? Trust me, that leaves an awful lot of belly exposed — not something that would bring the holidays home to a person.

CSD: How has the air traffic been? We’re hearing there are fewer commercial flights, so that should leave the skies more open for you.

SC: Well, last year was very quiet. Except for over Libya, where I was escorted by two jet fighters. They’re still a little upset about the shipment of coal their leaders got in 2005.

I expect things will be a little busier in the air this year, but the pilots have always been great about sharing the skies.

CSD: I’ve heard that’s because you refuse to stay in your designated flight path.

SC: Do you want to get coal?

CSD: Moving on …

SC: Look, nothing personal, but I really do have to get back to the Pole. I just got a text that a bunch of Barbie dolls are sporting G.I. Joe heads. I’ve got to get back and straighten that out.

CSD: Understood. Anything you want to say in closing?

SC: I’d just like everybody to remember that, whether you’re a believer or not, the spirit of Santa is something that should be shared with everyone. 

I can’t be everywhere all the time, but maybe if you act a little more like me when you deal with each other — be a little more tolerant, a little more patient, listen a little more, speak a little less, smile more often — it will feel a bit more like Christmas through the year. And I think everybody would agree that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

And with that … Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night!

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

Make-A-Wish Wyoming Helps Dubois Cancer Patient Get His Own YouTube Channel

in News/Good news
15976

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

GasMaskGamerWyo’s YouTube channel has 869 subscribers. He posts videos about his dog, family trips to the grocery store, and power outages — and his battle with leukemia.

12-year-old Oughen (pronounced Owen) Karn from Dubois was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago — and thanks to Make-A-Wish Wyoming, his dream of having his own YouTube channel has come true

“GasMaskGamerWyo” refers to the face mask he has to wear during his cancer treatments.

Oughen’s mom, Sara, said that his diagnosis came after he didn’t recover from a minor illness.

“We came down to the clinic thinking it was tonsillitis or strep throat or something like that,” she said, explaining that his glands were extremely swollen, and didn’t respond to high doses of antibiotics.

“We took him over to Jackson, they did some tests, and they immediately sent us to Salt Lake. And it was leukemia. So starting that day, we began living in the hospital for 35 days straight. And we got to come home after that point for a few days, but basically lived in Salt Lake for the first year of treatment for him.”

“I really don’t have a lot of energy,” Oughen said. “It takes my energy away. At first, it was really rough, because I would like, throw up every 10 minutes. Now it’s better, I am getting my energy back. But super slowly, though.”

First Told About Make-A-Wish

Oughen’s family was first told about Make-A-Wish Wyoming shortly after his diagnosis. 

“He couldn’t decide what he wanted,” Sara said. “He kept trying to think of things for the whole family. And we’re just like, ‘Buddy, you’re the one who’s fighting this, you need to think more for yourself, what you want long term.’ And then we just became aware that that was the perfect wish, because we’ve been having to homeschool all three of the kids with COVID. And then you know, the cancer. So his immune system is shot, and so it’s really how he socializes as well.”

Morgan Poloncic, CEO for Make-A-Wish Wyoming, told Cowboy State Daily that Oughen was among 28 Wyoming kids who were granted wishes this year ranging from a golf simulator to a baby grand piano.

Make-A-Wish recipients must be children diagnosed with a critical illness, Poloncic said.

“One of the biggest misconceptions of Make-A-Wish is that our kids have to have a terminal condition to be eligible for a wish, but that’s not true,” she said.

Poloncic said that many different conditions qualify a child for a wish — kids with all types of cancer, even up to a year after the child has gone into remission, due to continued risk; kids who have had or need an organ transplant, and kids who have conditions like Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy, or rare genetic medical conditions. 

“We currently have 52 wishes in progress across the state,” she said.

Making A Wish Come True

Making a wish come true for critically ill kids is no small feat. The Karn family has been coordinating with many people to get Oughen’s YouTube channel set up.

“They got a marketing company involved to help get it rolling,” said Sara. “And they came and did photoshoots with him. And they’re in the process of working with us to help get all of his equipment hooked up. So there’s been quite a few people involved in this, which is amazing.”



Poloncic said that the kids they help have had some very creative wishes.

“Right now we have a wish kid who has wished to have a triple tandem bike,” she said. “Not just a tandem bike, with two people riding it, but a triple tandem. And then there’s Oughen.”

Poloncic said their organization had never had a child wish to be a YouTube personality, and it’s taken some coordination to grant that wish.

“We are our own 501 (C)(3) (tax exempt charity) here in Wyoming, so the funds that we raise here stay here in Wyoming,” she said. “But one great thing about being a part of Make-A-Wish America and that national organization is that we can reach out to the 58 other chapters across the country and say, ‘Hey, has anyone granted a wish to be a YouTuber before, and how did you do it?’”

Poloncic said Wyoming’s organization set up Oughen’s YouTube channel and partnered with a Wyoming marketing agency, Kalen Marketing Solutions, and they ran with it. 

“So they created artwork for his channel, so he has his own logo and his own graphics to go along with it,” she explained. “And then they also really helped us figure out what he needed in his house to be able to run a YouTube channel, especially for it to be a video game-themed channel.”

Oughen’s mom said just the process of picking the name for the channel says a lot about her son’s character.

“It was for a school project, he was supposed to come up with an idea for a superhero, and do a drawing” Sara explained. “And so he came up with this superhero name, ‘Gasmask Gamer,’ because his facemask that he wears to the hospital always reminds him of a gas mask. So he was the superhero, and his job is to help other people, other kids who are sick, through his experiences.”



Hoping Sick Kids Will Recover

Poloncic said the work of Make-A-Wish is rooted in hopes that the sick children will recover.

“Our hope for every single child is that they will beat their condition or have a successful transplant and hopefully be able to go on and live a somewhat normal life,” she said.

And Oughen is doing just that. His mother said that thanks to Make-A-Wish, he’d like to do this for a living.

“They’ve set him up just so well, to really make this his dream,” Sara said. 

And Oughen’s big heart has given him a bigger perspective, too — he said that although the cancer has been hard, his family has been blessed.

“A lot of bad has come out of the cancer, but a lot of good has come out of it, too,” he said.

You can find Oughen’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTO2W3-3pLJcLDFaLM0buvw/videos

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

Bridger Walker: Cheyenne Boy’s Heroism Led To Renaming Of World Boxing Council Weight Class (And Much More)

in News/Good news
15894

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

This was originally published in the December 2021 “Wyoming Lawyer”

By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Ever since Bridger Walker, then 6 years old, stepped in front of his younger sister to protect her from an attacking dog, he’s received support from people around the world who wanted to commend him for his bravery.  

But who would have guessed that their love and admiration would be expressed with thousands and thousands of rocks? 

Young Bridger, whose father Robert (R.J.) Walker and grandfather John Walker are Cheyenne attorneys, was severely injured on July 9, 2020, when the dog attacked him. The wounds to his face required 90 stitches to close.

Bridger later said he protected his sister because “If someone had to die, I thought it should be me.”

“That quote pushed the story over the top,” R. J. Walker said.  

His story — and the photo taken of him with his 4-year-old sister Brielle, his face swollen and scarred — went viral. From that point on, the outpouring of love from complete strangers overwhelmed the family. 

Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a New York dermatologist, contacted the Walkers soon after the incident and offered to treat Bridger’s face with laser technology — pro gratis.  

Still, people wanted to contribute toward the boy’s medical treatment, but the family made it clear it did not want financial assistance. The Walkers asked the public to give instead to organizations that provide help for those whose needs are greater: Mission 22, Operation Underground Railroad and The Wounded Warrior Project.

Mail Trucks Full Of Rocks

But people seemed to want to do things for Bridger, Robert said. Recognizing that, the family let it be known that Bridger is a rockhound and suggested that people take pictures of their favorite rocks to either post on Facebook or send to Bridger. 

“I figured it would let them do something to make them feel good,” Robert said. “We got a small P.O. box at the post office and almost immediately had three or four rolling bins full of boxes. They were HEAVY.  People were sending rocks — tens of thousands of rocks.” 

For weeks, mail trucks full of rocks pulled up daily in front of the Walker home.  

“One person said, ‘I heard Bridger likes rocks,’” said Robert“So the guy sent him driveway rocks in a shoebox. He probably spent $80 sending them to him.”

Beautiful Letters

The letters accompanying the rocks were personal and touching, he added — like the man who wrote that his wife, who had recently passed away, kept some rocks by her bedside. The man explained that he couldn’t think of a better way to honor her than by passing them on Bridger.

“Some (letters) would just break your heart,” Robert said. “For a month, we were just opening those envelopes and crying.”  

Some people sent other items that carried sentimental value — like an honorary green beret someone sent him in recognition of his bravery.  Another man mailed Bridger his Purple Heart. 

He wrote: “I earned this saving my friend.  You did the same thing. I think you deserve this.”

Celebrities

Bridger has also received a lot of attention from celebrities.  In addition to baseball/football player Bo Jackson, actors Chris Evans, Tom Holland, Zachary Levi, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and others reached out to Bridger to acknowledge his act of heroism.  

Musician Bret Michaels, the front man for the group Poison, sent the boy an autographed guitar. 

“Bridger looked at it and started crying. ‘I don’t know how to play,’ he said,” said R.J., explaining that Bridger believed Michaels had sent him his only guitar and he felt bad taking it from someone else who could play it.   

The World Boxing Council made Bridger an honorary champion “for his courageous actions that represent the absolute best values of humanity” and sent him a championship belt.

“That was amazing,” Robert said. “We have the belt hanging in the basement.”

Later, the council notified Bridger’s father that it was adding a new weight class to heavyweight boxing and requested permission to name it after his son:  the Bridgerweight. The new weight division is for boxers weighing between 200 and 224 pounds. It is a middle division between the cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions. 

All-Family Vacation

The most extravagant expression of appreciation for Bridger’s courage was extended by Yas Island, an entertainment destination in Abu Dhabi, which invited Bridger, his parents Robert and Teila, his siblings and many of his extended family — 24 family members in all — to an all-expense paid vacation in Abu Dhabi.  

Last summer, the family visited the Yas Island Water Park, the Qasr Al Watan (presidential) Palace, the Warner Brothers World, and Ferrari World.  Both amusement parks were bedecked with large signs that read  “Welcome Bridger and his family” and their employees and patrons gave Bridger special recognition. 

Bridger’s grandfather, John Walker, told the Casper Star-Tribune upon the family’s return to the states that he realized his grandson was honored in the United Arab Emirates because of the importance of family to its people. 

“The part of Bridger’s story that touches the very heart and soul of so many of those residing within the UAE is his love for and devotion to family,” he said. 

Though the Abu Dhabi trip was unforgettable, Bridger’s father maintains it is only one small part of Bridger’s story. 

“It’s amazing —  the wonderful, miraculous support Bridger has received from around the world,” Robert said. “I don’t know what his emotional recovery would have been without it. It took his mind off his recovery.  His wound would drip, but instead of worrying about the drops of blood all over his shirt, he always had the next package to look forward to.”

“Not Inflated His Head”

Perhaps just as amazing is the way Bridger has handled the incident itself and the international attention he garnered as a result of his actions.  According to R.J., “the bad has not dragged him down and the good has not inflated his head.”   

“We were out rockhounding and I asked him, ‘How do you feel, getting all this attention?  Does it change who you are? ’ and he said, ‘No, I’m just me.’  That’s been his attitude.”

“The whole situation has made him more sympathetic to others and what they’re feeling. He knows what it’s like to be in pain,” Robert added.  “There was a kid in Laramie County who got bitten (by a dog), and Bridger worked to put together a care package for him.”

Bridger’s face is healing well, thanks to the laser treatments he’s received, and the scars are fading, his dad said.  He has full sensation and muscle control in his face. 

“It’s amazing there’s been no reconstructive surgery,” said Robert  

Bridger has plenty to smile about as the University of Wyoming Geological Museum opened an exhibit of some of his rocks on Nov. 12.  In introducing his son’s exhibit that night at the opening reception, Robert said the collection is less about Bridger’s heroism than it is about the kindness and support people have shown a little boy. 

“They’re only going to be able to display 1/1,000 of his collection,” Robert said.  “It seems like just a portion of the goodness people sent.”

The exhibit will run through June, 2022. 

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

Wyoming People Who Have Received Holiday Assistance Give Back By Volunteering

in News/Good news
15728

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

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

For many, the holidays can be a a time for anxiety — in part because of the financial pressures posed by the season of giving.

But some, whose anxieties have been eased in the past by generous organizations, are now giving their own assistance to the groups that helped them get through the holidays.

Jennifer went through a rough patch about 25 years ago. A single mother who had just been through some extreme personal difficulties, she was concerned about making Christmas a happy one for her 6-year-old daughter in Cody.

“At the time, I didn’t have a job,” said Jennifer, who asked that her last name not be used. “And I had my daughter, and my mom and dad were taking care of my rent and stuff, but there wasn’t really extra money. I don’t remember exactly how I got in contact with Holiday Helpers, but they let me come out to the armory, and I went through and picked some items for my daughter for Christmas.”

In addition to gifts for her little girl, Jennifer said she was able to pick out some clothes for herself that had been donated.

“I was always so grateful for that,” she said. “And so I continued to receive a couple years after that until I got more on my feet, and then I felt like I really needed to give back.”

Jennifer started giving back by wrapping gifts for other recipients shortly after that first year, even though she was still receiving assistance herself. 

“I went in and wrapped a few times by myself, and then I started taking my daughter with me,” she said. “I did different things different years – I’ve shopped in the past, I’ve helped fill boxes, I delivered packages for quite a few years, I’ve run errands if they need that. Now I’m there every disbursement day.”

Jacque Sims, who has been the Holiday Helpers coordinator for over 20 years, said she has witnessed countless ways in which people give back to the organization after being helped themselves.

“One year, this gentleman came up and he put a $10 bill in my hand,” Sims recalled. “And I said, ‘No, this is free. You don’t have to do it.’ And this gentleman starts tearing up and says ‘No, you don’t understand, without you, my children and I have no Christmas.’”

Another time, Sims said the group was short on volunteers, and the people who were waiting to receive their share jumped in to help.

“One year we didn’t have any volunteers show up to help load the boxes out,” she said. “And I kid you not, the guys who were standing in line said, ‘I’m going to help them,’ and some of them stayed all day long to help us. They are more than willing to give back.”

Sims has witnessed other ways in which the recipients of assistance from Holiday Helpers go out of their way to help others in tough situations.

“People were going down and picking up their Cody Cupboard (food distribution) and then coming down to us, and I’d see two baskets of food in their vehicles,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s kind of greedy.’ And then I thought about it — some of these people don’t own cars, so people are out there helping each other. The community support from everywhere is incredible, because everybody wants to help somebody.”

The spirit of good will at this time of year is infectious, according to Wendi Henderson, who runs the Toys for Tots program in Cheyenne. The program serves around 2,000 children in Laramie County and Henderson coordinates between 45 and 70 volunteers at any one time during the holiday season.

Henderson said many of the volunteers who offer assistance have been recipients of the program in the past.

“We have had people come and just bring us a big shopping cart full of toys,” she said. “Why? Because we helped them in years that they were having a really hard time. So it does work both ways.”

Henderson said she has had the opportunity to get to know some of the families that Toys for Tots assists and her heart goes out to them.

“I’ve gotten to know some of them pretty well, and we’ve had some pretty in-depth conversations about situations and what’s going on in their life,” she said. “We have an awful lot of grandparents raising their grandchildren, because of what our society’s like right now, and a couple of great-grandmothers raising their great-grandchildren. It’s just real rough on people right now, especially with us coming out of COVID and going back into COVID.

“But they do come back to help,” she continued. “It may not be in the form of coming in and working the warehouse, but they might work the parade with me. There are volunteers that have received from us and then volunteer for us.”

Jennifer’s involvement with Holiday Helpers is now multi-generational.

“My daughter has also been a recipient in the past,” she said. “And she now comes in and helps. She’s helped us on disbursement day, she tries to go down and wrap packages. And my granddaughter, if you ask her, she’ll tell you she’s a full blown Holiday Helper.”

“You say, ‘Gosh, I know that I made a difference this year,’ because you can just see it in their faces when you see the anguish go away, when they see the stuff they’ve gotten,” Sims said. “I mean, people need to know they are important and people care. We all care. This whole community cares. It’s incredible.”

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

Wyoming Barn Find: 1958 Chevy Bel Air Stashed in Lander Barn for 40 Years

in News/Good news
15710

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

The 1958 Chevy Bel Air was covered in dirt and cobwebs after being stashed in a barn in Lander for nearly 40 years. Two trees had since taken root in front of the barn doors, towering nearly 40 feet in the air and blocking the entrance. 

But a peek through the doors with a little assistance from a flashlight showed that the car nicknamed “La Bomba” was still in prime condition — if just a little worse for wear.



“La Bomba” belonged to Tom Bott, who died at the age of 32 in a car accident with his girlfriend Kathy. The couple had been coming home from a party in Hudson, 9 miles outside Lander, on St. Patrick’s Day when Kathy’s car hit ice and slid into oncoming traffic. 

The two died instantly, leaving behind a huge hole for those who knew, particularly Tom’s longtime best friend Buzz Thurber.

At the time of Tom’s death, his parents had moved to Ten Sleep. They asked Buzz and his other friends if they could help clear out Tom’s rental house and possessions, including the beloved Chevy that Tom had purchased seven years earlier from classmate Brenda (Larsen) Iden.

Distraught, Tom’s longtime friends Thurber, Mike Burns and Sam Parks weren’t sure what to do with the car, so they decided to stash it in a barn owned by Sam’s family until they had a better plan.

But life got in the way and a plan never materialized.

Until Sam’s death in 2020 brought the guys back together when Sam’s daughter, who had inherited the property, asked that they finally do something with the car. 

Now, Buzz, Mike and Tom’s other friends had to figure out what to do with La Bomba.

A Car With History

Buzz can still remember when his buddy Tom bought the two-toned slick Chevy from Brenda in August 1976. The two were back in Lander after graduating from Utah State University, where they’d been roommates.

At the time, Tom was working as a psychologist at the Wyoming State Training School, where Buzz had worked briefly before going into the restaurant industry, first as a waiter then as a salesman for a wholesale restaurant food distributor.

Back then, their lives could not have been more different. 

Tom was a bachelor with a cool car who had just started dating a co-worker, while Buzz was married and a father of three putting in 60-plus hours a week to take care of his family. Before that, Buzz had been a music promoter in Utah, working with big-name acts including Waylon Jennings, Olivia Newton John, Neil Diamond and many others.

As Buzz recalled, the car was a beauty.

On top of the powder blue and white paint job, it had a 348-cubic inch V8, four-barrel carb with 315 horsepower coupled with a two-speed power glide transmission notorious for its notable “W”-shaped valve cover. That year was also the first Chevy to feature dual side-by-side headlamps, making it the “it” car of 1958.

They Were Inseparable

Buzz remembered tooling around in it with Tom and their other buddies. But he had less time to spend in “La Bomba” than the rest of his friends because of his family and work obligations.

As boys, the Buzz and Tom had been inseparable, becoming instant friends when Tom’s family moved to Lander from Cody. Buzz said the two were closer than brothers and shared many great memories. 

One of the best for Buzz was the road trip he and Tom took with buddies Sammy Parks, Greg Waldo and Jim Bell to see the district basketball finals in Cody in 1968. Somewhere along the way, the boys had discovered helium and entertained the crowds by yelling down at passers-by from their second-story window at Cody’s Irma Hotel. 

They’d also weathered some tough times together, such as Tom’s older sister Glenda’s died in her senior year of high school, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning from her heater. As a boy, Buzz stayed with the Bott family during his parents divorce when he was in junior high school. 

The two were like brothers and Buzz took Tom’s death hard.



He remembers Tom as the most generous person he’d ever met. In fact, he would get on his pal from time to time because Tom had a tendency to bring home random strangers he met at Art’s Bar who were down on their luck. He’d let them sleep on his couch, then leave the next day for work, welcoming them to stay as long as they want and make breakfast. 

Didn’t Tom worry that he’d be robbed, Buzz asked his friend. 

Tom told his friend it was a risk he was willing to take.

Buzz also recalled complaining to his friend back then about not having enough money despite working so much. Tom offered to lend him $100, but Buzz declined. He’d just been complaining.

A couple of days later, when he was gathering Tom’s possessions in the wake of his death, he found his checkbook. 

It showed a balance of $109 in his account.

That was his best friend, Buzz said.

Recovery Mission

This past year when Sam’s daughter Amanda called Buzz to come get the car, he immediately reached out to his long-time friends Mike Burns, Jim Bell and Randy Mitchell. 

As a “car guy,” Randy was the person to ask because Buzz knew nothing about cars or what to do with this one.

After talking to Tom’s older brother Stuart, a Vietnam veteran, as well as Tom’s younger sister Andrea and Tom’s other friends, the group collectively decided they wanted the car to go to someone who would appreciate it and who would restore it to its original condition. 

Randy suggested running a “for sale” listing on Hemmings Motor News auction site. The response was overwhelming, with more 50 bids submitted. 

Barn cars, as Buzz noted, are a much-coveted anomaly. 

Rare Treasures

By definition, according to Motor Trend magazine, a barn car is a classic car that’s fallen off the radar of classic car aficionados due to lack of use. Typically, these are old cars or trucks which, like Tom’s, was stashed away to protect them and keep them out of the way.

In short, they are considered automotive treasures by car collectors because they’ve been hidden away and largely protected from the elements. They’re also not easy to find, and as Buzz found after placing the ad, there are a lot of people looking for them.

The trick for Buzz and company was not just selling the car – the first bids at around $1,500 seemed pretty low to him – but also finding the right buyer. Someone who would not just restore and sell it for a buck but who would lovingly restore it into its original state like Tom would have wanted.

After sifting through the offers, Buzz zeroed in on David, a U.S. Navy veteran in New Hampshire who expressed genuine love for the car itself. 

Because two trees had since blocked the barn doors from being open, the car had to be offered “sight unseen,” but David wasn’t deterred by the situation.

Sealing the deal for Buzz was the guy David planned to send to pick up the car on a trailer. Professional car hauler, Howard Miller had an impressive resume, Buzz said, having hauled cars for Mecum Auctions as well as five NFL teams. 

Howard was also a Vietnam vet, and after a conversation in which Howard explained that David is a legit guy with honest intentions, a deal was made for $3,500, with the money to be split between Stuart and Andrea.

“David also promised to give me a ride when it’s fixed up,” Buzz said. “So that sealed the deal.”

Out of the Barn



Now, they just needed to get the car out of the barn.

Buzz, who lives in Las Vegas now, planned to fly in and get together a group of old friends to be on hand for the rescue operation.

Then, Howard contracted COVID and plans were delayed for a couple weeks. When he felt better, they rescheduled until Howard once again got sick. This time, during a stop at his son’s house in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Again, the plan was put on hold, with Howard planning to send his son Ben and another family member in his stead.

In the meantime, however, Buzz had flown out to Salt Lake City to meet Andrea, who lives there, and had arranged for a handful of their old pals – including Brenda, Cory Huff, Jim Lewis, Debbie Coy, Scott Carlson, Chris Burton, Becky Nicol, Jay Martin and Jeff Archambault – to dig out the car from Sam’s barn. So they went ahead as scheduled, cutting down the two trees in the path, muscling the doors open and clearing a clean path to the road.

It was a bittersweet occasion, Buzz said, full of shared memories and heartfelt loss, particularly where he was concerned.

“It’s hard to have to have such wonderful friends who occupy such a big part of your heart die,” he said. “It’s just really hard.”



Loading La Bomba

A few days later, another friend met Ben’s father-in-law and cousin who drove to Lander to help them load La Bomba onto the waiting trailer.

Although Buzz and the others weren’t on hand to see the car get trailered, Buzz nonetheless appreciated the updates from the now-healed Howard as he made his way eastward.

Howard reported receiving plenty of thumbs-ups, appreciative honks and waves from passing admirers on the drive home, as well as the “red carpet” treatment from a hotel owner in Topeka, Kansas, who granted Howard a prime parking spot on his overnight stay.

When La Bomba finally made it to New Hampshire, David was happy to report that his barn find had arrived in prime condition.

“The whole process was a lot of love and God blessed,” Howard told him.

Shortly after, David also got COVID, so Buzz will be checking in on him to see if everything is OK and when he should plan on booking his ticket back East to see his dear friend’s newly restored car back in mint condition. 

“I’ll be looking forward to that ride,” Buzz said. 

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

Powell Man Hires Diver to Rescue Late Father’s Fly Rod From Bottom Of Cody Reservoir

in News/Good news
15745

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

By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

Ben Borcher was on the water with his son, Christian. Fishing is a long tradition in the family and on this day, it was just the two of them in a small raft on Cody Reservoir.

Alongside Ben was a very special fly fishing rig. He had helped pick it out for his father’s 59th birthday. It was the nicest fishing pole Lynn Borcher had ever owned.

“He never had great gear, but he loved to fish,” Ben said.

Shortly after receiving the gift, Lynn was out fishing on the North Fork in a deep hole near a rock formation locals call “Laughing Pig.” He was on a rare Monday trip instead of in his Powell office selling insurance. 

After a great day on the river with his brother, Kenny, the 59-year-old stopped to chat on the trail leading back to the truck — and he fell. Lynn suffered a massive heart attack, his fishing gear in his hands.

“It was the best worst thing that could have happened,” Ben said. “He died doing what he loved.”

After his father’s untimely death in 2008, Ben wasn’t about to retire his father’s fishing gear. Despite the sentimental value, he wanted to keep it in the rotation. Every time he held it happy memories of time on the water with his father would rush in. 

“I used it exclusively,” he said. “He used it all the time, so I did the same.”

But on this day on the reservoir — Friday the 13th — the happy memories suffered a setback. While paddling to a good spot, the straps securing his father’s fly rod to the raft came loose and it sank to the bottom of the lake. Ben immediately went in after it.

“I tried to jump in and grab it, but it sank too fast. Lost my shoes, too,” he said.

Efforts to rescue the equipment failed that day, but he didn’t give up. He and his children, including his daughters Rowan and Peyton, returned several times to try and snag it with a casting rod to no avail.

“I was pretty much at peace with not getting it back, but still miffed at myself that I had lost it in such a careless way,” Ben said. “I knew I’d never be lucky enough to snag it.”

He eventually called off his search. But then his wife, Jessi, took to social media and told the story of the missing pole. Some locals took to the water, also trying to snag the rod and reel, but nobody could get a hook on it.

Then Jessi got a message from Kris Brock who tagged her husband and expert scuba diver, Paul, and suggested he could help. Ben made the call immediately.

“I got on the phone with him and he said, ‘do you think you can find it?” Paul recalled. “I told him, if you can put me within 100 feet of it, I can find it.” 

In the high desert region of northwest Wyoming, Brock is a master diver. He used to run a local dive shop, but it has since transitioned into a scuba-themed travel company called Yellowstone Divers LLC. in Cody. He travels internationally, taking clients on bucket-list underwater adventures.

Paul still dives in Wyoming, but much of his time in the water in the Cowboy State is spent volunteering his services for Park County Search and Rescue. Kris volunteers for the team as well, running trained cadaver dogs on rescue and recovery missions throughout the area.

Unfortunately, Paul has yet to have the opportunity to make a rescue in his 15 years of volunteering for the organization.

“They’ve all been recoveries,” he said of his many missions across the West.

Paul has traveled to several states to assist in human and evidence recoveries. Despite never saving a victim, he said “it’s important to bring [the victims] home so the family can have closure.”

Park County Sheriff Scott Steward has been very impressed with the husband and wife team.

“With his wife being on [Search and Rescue] with her dogs and Paul with scuba, they make great assets,” Steward said, adding, “It’s very important to have a master diver. They are in short supply in this area. We have very few on [the team] that are scuba qualified and we no longer maintain any scuba equipment.”

Soon after making contact, Ben and Paul headed to the small, but deep reservoir together. Ben watched Paul disappear into the blackness of the deep water while attached to a rope. The idea was, if Ben thought Paul was out of the general area he thought the pole would be, he’d give the rope a yank.

Under the water, Paul was in absolute darkness. It might freak out some folks, but it was nothing new for Paul. Much of his time underwater with Search and Rescue is in murky water with very low visibility. “I’m out there searching underwater and you can’t see a thing. So I’m just feeling my way along.”

While keeping his eyes on the bubbles, Borcher gave the rope a yank. Paul surfaced with one of Borcher’s lost shoes in his hand.

Knowing they were in the right area, Paul went back for another pass. A short time later, Brock slowly worked his way to the surface of the dark water with the long pole leading the way — “like a narwhal,” Borcher said.

“It was amazing,” Brock said. “When I came out with his fishing rod he was ecstatic. I found his other shoe, too.”

Finally reunited with his father’s fishing gear, Borcher plans to continue to use it. But he’ll be a little more careful in the future, holding on a little tighter to the fly rod and his fond memories of his father.

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

Wyoming’s Ram Center: Where Broken Men Come To Get Whole

in News/Good news
15106

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Like a lot of addicts struggling to bury demons from their past, Scott had a rough childhood. Abuse, neglect. Stuff he really doesn’t want to talk about other than to say he has a lot of anger about everything that happened to him.

He started drinking at age 10 when he found his grandfather’s homemade chokecherry wine. 

At 15, he entered his first treatment center but relapsed by the time he was 21. 

“I basically drank … and did drugs for the next 25 years,” he said quietly, looking down at his folded hands on the table.

His unresolved anger had pretty much hijacked his life, he admitted, costing him his marriage and the three grandchildren that he’d helped raise in his small town in North Dakota. 

A welder by trade, Scott was always able to keep a job while drinking and doing drugs until he ended up in jail and lost everything. Homeless, he had nowhere to go. 

He’d tried rehab in the past, but it was only a temporary solution. Typically, the most he’d gotten out of the court-mandated treatment had been better drug connections.

At age 50, he’s finally ready to tackle his problems head on as he celebrates more than six months of sobriety at the Adult and Teen Challenge Center in the Black Hills.

A Different Kind of Program

The Ram Center is a former church camp off of U.S. Highway 14, between Moorcroft and Devils Tower in the northeast corner of the state. 

The center falls under the national Adult and Teen Challenge organization, which is the largest faith-based recovery program of its kind in the nation with more than 1,000 centers worldwide. 

Unlike many rehab programs, the ATC program emphasizes recovery by focusing on Christ as a means of transformation.

The idea to create an addiction recovery center grew out of the mission of a small-town preacher, David Wilkerson, who felt called to bring the word of God to inner city youth and gang members in New York City, one of whom threatened to kill him.

Wilkerson believed that people can do anything when grounded in their faith, and that addictions, crime and violence are the result of people trying to fill empty holes in their lives created by the absence of God. 

The focus of this tailored recovery program is to provide the care necessary to help people become mentally sound, emotionally balanced, socially adjusted, physically well and spiritually alive in order to overcome their addictions.

Since its inception in 1960, the program has expanded to address the needs of adults as well as youth.

The treatment center in Wyoming, which is ATC’s only facility in the state, was founded by Patty and Clay Dykes in December 2020 after Patty inherited the grounds from her father, a pastor. 

The center accepts adult men ages 18 and older only and is free and completely voluntary. Thus far, they’ve had 11 participants.

Of those 11, five are still are still there, two have completed the program and are doing well. Another four left without completing the program.

Cabins and a dorm scattered across the forested grounds serve as home for the students and staff who live full-time on the premises. A large main building provides living space for meals, classes, a TV and game room, a big commercial kitchen and chapel for church services. 

Apart from the curriculum that all ATC centers follow, the program at the Black Hills center, operated under Patty’s direction, is specifically designed to meet the needs of each individual man, taking into consideration where they are in their recovery. 

It also assists them in getting their lives back on track financially by helping them catch up on outstanding bills, fines or child support payments and providing a place for them to stay while they work and save money to buy a car or get an apartment. 

Some of the guys, including Scott, work with Clay at the sawmill in Hulett. Scott spends his mornings at his jobs, then comes back to work in the welding studio at the Ram Center, where he creates welded crosses and other art items fashioned from used horse shoes, nuts, bolts and steel that have been donated by local ranchers and others in the community. 

Scott sells his wares on his Etsy page and other local craft fairs and donates the proceeds back to the program. 

Other students do woodworking projects and are helping to build a garage on the premises where they eventually hope to be able to service vehicles. 

Along with their jobs and crafts, they also take care of the chickens and a large garden and also frequently volunteer to help area churches and neighbors with various construction and service projects.

In the year they’ve been operational, Patty has been blown away by all the support from the community and the way they and the program have been welcomed with open arms. 

Finding Hope

On the day he spoke to Cowboy State Daily, Scott was busy cleaning horse shoes that had just come in. He sifted through the pile on his big work table and talked about the many ways his life has changed since coming to the Ram Center. 

Prior to his arrival, he didn’t have much hope of his life ever getting any better. For starters, he never knew he had it in him to be an artist, nor did he know the power of quietly working in the shop in the presence of God, which he said has helped ground him in his faith and ability to put aside his past anger and pain. 

After decades of struggling, he’s finally started to feel at home in himself, thanks primarily to the structure of this particular program and the way in which he feels loved and forgiven regardless of his past.  

“For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m part of a family,” he said quietly, examining a horse shoe. “I feel so loved and accepted.”

This is a big piece of the puzzle that was missing for him both in life and in earlier attempts at recovery. He feels lucky to wake up here every day, he  said, and hopes to remain on as a mentor helping others in the welding shop. 

Momma Bear

Described as one of the kindest people Scott has ever met, Patty, a mother of three teenage boys, is a quiet force for these men. 

With shoulder-length dark hair and clear blue eyes, Patty is soft spoken yet tenacious in her love of these guys and their ability to succeed and move on to have successful lives. 

As Scott said, she asks the hard questions and cries with them, which has been effective for a guy like him who grew up in an abusive household with neglectful parents and who never had a person in his corner rooting him on.

“She doesn’t judge us,” he said. “She just listens and helps us work through it.”

Former student James Martell can speak to the effectiveness of the program. He arrived last year a broken man and has since moved on to a sober life in Gillette where he lives and works full time.

He was a mess when got there, he said, but like Scott, he flourished in the tight-knit setting that immediately made him feel right at home. The center even let him bring his pet rat Lil’ Homie, which was pretty much all he had left in his life when he arrived there.

“I would say it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “It’s life changing. In the midst of losing everything, I found a family in the community that run and support the center, which didn’t stop when I walked out of the doors.”

To this day, he regularly talks to Patty, Clay and the other students and volunteers. 

No Pity Parties

“These guys constantly amaze me,” Dave Wolfskill, a volunteer and ATC board member, said last week as he gathered with Scott and Patty around the main table in the dining room. 

Wolfskill talked about weeping through the stories the men told when he attended one of their recent testimonies at a local church.

“You listen to these guys and you’re just embarrassed that you ever felt sorry for yourself over some things,” he said. “And these guys don’t feel sorry for themselves. I’ve never heard a pity party from them.”

Their stories stick with him, he said, which he finds inspiring.

“These guys are all their winners,” he said. “They don’t take their past and use that to say ‘This is the way I am because I had this horrible childhood’ or whatever. That was the past, and they’re just so positive.”

It’s contagious, he said, noting that he comes to the camp on the pretense of volunteering with various chores, but he actually gets a lot more out of his visits than the students do.

“This is my happy place,” he said, softly punching Scott on the arm. “These guys build me up. Patty builds me up. They think I’m coming up to be helpful or whatever. But I come up here for me, you know. I always leave here better.”

Patty agreed and confessed that she had her own share of troubles in the past, beginning after high school in her fit of rebellion from having grown up the preacher’s kid who had to follow all his rules. 

Once free, she was determined to break every one of his rules and she did. Her dad knew all about her antics, she said, but a couple years later when she’d settled down and confessed her transgressions to her father, he forgave her with grace.

“He told me that it was OK and that he and God loved me despite my mistakes,” she said.

Forgiveness is the message she brings to her role as director and she digs deep when helping the guys work through the pain and underlying issues causing them to self-destruct.

This means sitting with them in their grief, she said, and sometimes, crying – and worrying – about them as they struggle to get past their demons and pain. 

“This place is all love,” Scott said, brushing away tears. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Those interested in applying or learning more about the program can do so at the group’s webpage or by calling (307) 257-3193. 

Visitors are also welcome as are donations including horseshoes, nuts and bolts, random metal and household items.

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

Rescue Animals Enjoy Halloween Pumpkins From Cowboy State Daily

in News/Good news
14893

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

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s the time of the year for pumpkin spice and even pigs are getting in on the seasonal treat.

Well, not so much the spice part, but they love pumpkins.

The Kindness Ranch in Hartville, Wyoming, put out a plea last week for the public to bring it Halloween pumpkins instead of discarding them so the animals at the ranch — especially pigs — could enjoy the exotic treat.

So Cowboy State Daily rounded up a number of pumpkins and drove the 90 minutes to the 1,200-acre preserve on Friday to provide some autumn goodies to its residents.

Caretakers of the ranch, who provide homes and rehabilitation for lab test animals who would otherwise be euthanized at the end of their medical research experiments or clinical trials, were appreciative of the pumpkins but not nearly as much as the pigs.

“The pigs got their Halloween treats today! They all loved their pumpkins so much! Just look at Dream and the others living their lives to the fullest here with Daya,” caretakers wrote in a Facebook posting accompanied by many photos of the pigs enjoying the gourds.

“Pumpkins tend not to be a common thing at the sanctuary,” John Ramer, executive director of the ranch, told Cowboy State Daily last week. 

The ranch had a big day on Saturday as well. Four of the more than 100 beagles it rescued recently were adopted.

“We want to thank each family for coming out.  We would also thank them for giving Savannah, Cheyenne, Roselle, and Helena good homes.  May they have many fond memories together.  Safe travels back to your forever homes,” ranch officials said on social media.

Along with the other dogs and other animals, the Kindness Ranch also has several cats available for adoption. Like the other animals at the sanctuary, these felines that once were housed at product or medical testing facilities now live in the sprawling cat house overseen by their caretakers.

Anyone wishing to drop off a pumpkin or tour the ranch can do so, Ramer said. The Kindness Ranch is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (307) 735-4177 or go to www.kindnessranch.org.

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

Wyoming Animal Rescue Ranch Looking For Halloween Pumpkins As Exotic Treats

in News/Good news
14836

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Not sure how to get rid of your Halloween pumpkin? John Ramer at the Kindness Ranch will be happy to share it with the dozens of pigs, goats and beagles occupying the 1,200-acre animal sanctuary.

The animals don’t often get such exotic treats, said the executive director of the ranch north of Hartville.

“Pumpkins tend not to be a common thing at the sanctuary,” Ramer said, adding that the more than 100 four-legged animals at the ranch appreciate new experiences that help keep their minds – and stomachs – fulfilled.

But pumpkins for beagles? Ramer said the gourds will provide new smells for the beagles he recently adopted from a medical testing facility.

Along those lines, Ramer reported that the beagles — some of more than 100 adopted from the facility — are coming along nicely. The dogs are being socialized by the ranch’s staff and will likely be ready for adoption by the end of the year, he said.

Along with the other dogs and other animals, the Kindness Ranch also has several cats available for adoption. Like the other animals at the sanctuary, these felines that once were housed at product or medical testing facilities now live in the sprawling cat house overseen by their caretakers.

In honor of Elderly Cat Month, Ramer wanted to feature two residents, Felix and Mildred, who are looking for new homes.

“Felix is a very special senior kitty looking for a special home of his own,” his caretaker Lori wrote, “and prefers the company of adults and would like to be the only pet in the home.”

Mildred is 13 years old and is as sweet as can be, her caretaker said. 

“You can often catch Mildred sitting on the edge of our bench, staring up at you and gently tapping you with her paw to let you know it’s time for pets.”

Anyone wishing to drop off a pumpkin or tour the ranch can do so, Ramer said. The Kindness Ranch is open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (307) 735-4177 or go to www.kindnessranch.org

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

Cheyenne Hospital Offering Gas Cards To Cancer Patients

in News/Good news
14627

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Cancer Center at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center is offering gasoline gift cards to cancer patients who must regularly travel to the capital city for treatment.

Due the rising costs of fuel and the high expense of cancer treatment, the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Foundation awarded a $10,000 internal grant to the Cheyenne Regional Cancer Center to buy gas cards for patients in need.

“Fuel has gotten expensive. Many of our cancer patients have to travel to our cancer center multiple times a week for treatment,” the foundation announced on social media Thursday. “This unfortunately causes a financial burden and can prevent compliance with receiving treatment.”

The doctors at the cancer center treat about 50 types of cancer, including breast, lung, brain, skin and much more.

The center offers radiation and medical oncology treatment, a on-site ambulatory infusion center and lab, cancer screening and prevention programs, financial counseling/navigation services, community outreach and education, social work consultations, local transportation services and a resource center and library.

The American Cancer Society said in a report that in 2018, U.S. cancer patients paid $5.6 billion out of pocket for treatments, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The organization also shared in the same report the fact that 16.9 million Americans have a history with cancer.

According to the Wyoming cancer plan, issued by the state Department of Health, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the state, killing around 1,000 people each year.

The most common types of cancer seen in Wyoming are prostate, female breast, lung, colorectal and melanoma. There are an estimated 40,000 survivors living in the state.

While there are nine cancer centers in the state, none treat childhood cancer, meaning families have to leave Wyoming in order to receive treatment.

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

Lander Man Wages Losing Battle (So Far) Against Skunk Invasion

in News/Good news
14447

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Ron Hansen thought he finally had them beaten after weeks of battle.

Then his dog Kai got sprayed once again last Thursday night, and it was back to the shower. Vinegar. Ketchup. Baking soda. The gag-worthy, homemade concoction to remove the skunk smell that stands in stiff competition with the odor itself. 

This is the third time in less than three weeks that the two have gone through the ritual because the 5-year-old German shorthair can’t seem to stop herself from charging the skunks despite the consequences.

His other dog, 2-year-old Skeena, is a bit smarter, but she too likes to roll in anything remotely smelling like a skunk. 

“They’re like a couple of kids,” Ron told Cowboy State Daily Friday. “If it stinks, they find it.”

And there’s plenty of stink to go around as the surfeit of skunks continues to wreak havoc on Camp Hansen, despite the dispatching of 12 skunks to date. 

If he wasn’t laughing about it, he would be crying, Hansen told Cowboy State Daily last week as he chronicled the events leading up to the latest smelly assault, a tale he shares with many readers who have been following it on his Facebook page.

From The (Smelly) Beginning

It all started in the last week of September when Kai got sprayed the first time. At first, it was no big deal. Hansen had grown up on the ranch 7 miles west of Lander and later built a house for his family on the land. Over the years, he’d seen a few skunks in the field where he was haying, and yes, occasionally the dogs would get sprayed. 

That first night the skunks invaded, it was just a mild inconvenience. He cleaned up the dog and figured the skunk would move on.

It didn’t. 

The next night, he saw one running out of his garage. He keeps the garage door cracked to give his handful of cats access to their food bowls. The dogs also hang out on the couch that he put there for just that purpose. It’s worked for the past 17 years and has never been a problem.

Until now. 

When he investigated after seeing the intruder flee the garage, Hansen couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a full-on party. One skunk ran into the corner, another cozied up under the dog’s couch and others milled about cautiously as if they owned the place.

“It was a whole herd of them,” he said. “Everyone was looking at each other like a Mexican standoff.”

Worse, the skunks had the upper hand and seemed to know it. The last thing Ron wanted to do was make them nervous enough to spray, so he waited them out.

Operation Stink Bomb

It was time, he decided, to go “full-on Western” and “Operation Stink Bomb” was launched. 

Step one, arm himself with a couple pints of Fireball Whisky. 

Step two, know your enemy. He did the research, learning that skunks are nocturnal and forage for food at night and typically gather in a group – or surfeit – to mate. From the numbers he’d seen, he figured there was plenty of mating going on.

“So, I now operate and live in a whorehouse for skunks,” he wrote in one post. “Great, at least I found a new term that makes me look smart to my kids and those who I challenge in trivia – surfeit.”

Step three was to gather the ammo for his 15-year-old son Craig, who told his dad he would do the shooting while Ron held the flashlight. Luckily, Ron owns both a liquor store and a sporting goods store in Lander. 

Finally, no successful plan is complete without a little pep talk, so Hansen created a video with outlaws shooting up skunks to “get the team pumped up.”

That night, they set out some live traps and caught a few invaders who Bob the cat was conscripted to guard overnight. But in the morning, not only were the skunks gone, but they had escaped with the food in the garage as well.

Bob, a stray cat who adopted the Hansen family by walking into their living room one day, was put on notice and his loyalty called into question as he was relegated to the couch. Eventually, he wormed his way back into Ron’s good graces, although the skunks did not. 

Wanted: Scarface Le Pew

By then, they had clearly worn out their welcome, and Ron had put one in particular — nicknamed “Scarface Le Pew” — on notice with a “wanted” poster describing both the culprit and crime.

“This suspect made a daring escape from live trap jail during the evening of 9-28 between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” the poster read. “Suspect is considered armed and dangerous. Last seen wearing a long black coat with two white stripes down the back.”

The suspect was described in the poster as being approximately 3 feet long and weighing around 20 pounds with a large hairless scar on the right side of its face. 

At this point, Hansen gave up on the live traps and decided it was time to bring out the big guns. Subsequent operations were looking good with “three enemy soldiers eliminated…and several others holing up in hostile territory.” 

The battle went on for several days with the high point being when Hansen finally dispatched Scarface, who Ron said was the size of a cow, along with a few of his mates. 

The euphoria didn’t last long, however, as the skunks just kept coming and the overwhelming odor perpetually hung in a cloud over the family’s home. After more than a week of late-night reconnaissance, Ron was feeling the pain.

Fun Was Fleeting

As he noted in a post, the first night was kind of fun, but by day 10, he wasn’t sure his liver could take any more Fireball. In short, it began to feel like a circus and Ron was the clown.

In between bouts, he sought advice from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, where officers told him that such a gathering of skunks was rare, but did occur. He was also told he was doing everything right to ward them off, including shutting the garage door and putting food for the cats on the porch. 

Others weighed in, recommending that he set traps for the interlopers, but as an animal lover, Ron didn’t like the idea of accidentally injuring one of his dogs or a baby antelope. 

Now, however, it appears that the skunks have the edge, multiplying in number and morphing into ninjas who stay one step ahead of Ron and his son. Ron knows the skunks are there because he can smell them, he said. 

“These ones are half-cheetah. They caught on,” Ron said, describing how he and Craig chased several down the driveway with guns and flashlights blazing.

And though he thought the cold weather might slow them down, Hansen was discouraged to see little tiny paw prints in the fresh snow last week. In addition, the family house continues to smell like a “skunk testing ground.”

The War Rages On

The battle continues as Ron tries to make sense of this freak invasion of skunks that for him is a first.

“I’ve seen lots of crazy stuff out here,” he said. “I’ve had my truck stolen, high-speed chases and fires and even had a porcupine invasion that killed off the trees when I was a kid. I’d seen a skunk or two but nothing like this.”

In the meantime, he’s trying to come up with Plan No. 4,023 to eradicate the smelly pests. 

“They are here because I smell them, but damned I if can find them,” he said. “It might take Yellowstone blowing up to solve this issue.”

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

Good Samaritans & Mystery Tow Truck Driver Find Lost Dog In Snowstorm On I-80

in News/Good news
14396

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

By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Tammy Davidson didn’t think there were any good guys anymore. 

Then, her faith was restored after a handful of strangers — and an unknown tow truck driver known only as Shawn — went out of their way to help her and her husband find their beloved dachshund after a wreck near Rawlins.

Tammy and her husband David had the bad luck to run into the Oct. 12 snowstorm near Rawlins as they drove on Interstate 80 from their home in Missouri to Washington, where they would be dropping off a trailer for a client.

Tammy recalled David driving the truck across a bridge and the pickup being hit with a gust of snow and wind that jackknifed their trailer and swung them around, causing the pickup to roll over and trapping the two inside the vehicle.

Tammy is not sure how the family’s 12-year-old dachshund “Buddy” got out of the pickup but speculates he might have been thrown through the broken sunroof and gotten lost in the snow.

Buddy’s Gone

Buddy is a service animal for David, who has diabetes. He has never been away from the Tammy and David or even out on his own, let alone in the middle of the snowstorm. 

While the Davidsons waited for emergency responders to come to their aid, all Tammy could think of was that the truck would ignite and they’d be burned in the fire. Then her thoughts turned to Buddy, even as she remained trapped inside the cab of the pickup truck.

Her first words to Wyoming Highway Patrol Trooper Nick Haller, who she said stayed with her in the vehicle, had to do Buddy’s disappearance. 

Although Haller tried to cut Tammy out of the cab, she would not be removed from the pickup truck until firefighters spent 45 minutes cutting her out of the vehicle. She was told she survived only because she had been reclining in her seat. Had she been sitting upright, she would have been crushed on impact. 

From the moment of their rescue, the kindness shown by strangers in Carbon County continued in ways that still blow the Davidsons away as they look back on that terrible day.

After a quick trip to the hospital where they were examined and released with minor cuts and bruises, the Davidsons received an escort to the Best Western Cottontree Inn in Rawlins. 

When the night auditor saw that Tammy was dressed in warm-weather clothing and flip flops, she told her manager Casey Shinkle that she was taking Tammy to Walmart to get some clothes. During the trip, Tammy told the employee about Buddy and the woman immediately took up her cause, explaining the situation to Shinkle.

“We’re all a bunch of animal lovers,” Shinkle told Cowboy State Daily Tuesday, “so we wanted to do whatever we could to help.”

The Search For Buddy

He posted a photo of Buddy on his Facebook page and several others locally and the picture was later shared by radio station KTGA in Saratoga. The post got more than 1,500 shares, Shinkle said, and community members went to work trying to find the dachshund wearing a little brown sweater who was lost in the snow. 

If it hadn’t been in the middle of a snowstorm, Shinkle said he would have gone searching for the dog himself, but instead he and desk clerk Moselle Wolfe and the night auditor did what they could to help spread the word.

That night was probably the longest night of the Davidsons’ lives, Tammy said. The two were absolutely despondent not knowing where Buddy was or if he’d survive the night alone along the highway. 

David took it particularly hard. Tammy can’t remember the last time she saw her husband cry, but that night, the tears flowed. Buddy is not only David’s service animal but travels and sleeps with him when he’s on the road, twice saving his life when his blood sugar levels dropped perilously low.

“We were sick,” Tammy said from her home in Missouri, “and absolutely devastated. Buddy is his lifeline and I was scared David would go into a deep depression.”

Tiny Paw Prints

Finally, about 9 p.m. the next evening, the couple got a call at their hotel room. It was a tow truck driver named Shawn, who had called to say he’d found Buddy when he’d gone back that day to haul out the trailer. 

The driver said he’d followed a set of tiny paw prints through the snow to find the shivering pup near the accident scene. Tammy asked the driver if he’d bring the dog over to their hotel since they had no transportation and the driver agreed.

“David was on cloud nine,” Tammy said when the couple reunited with Buddy in the hotel lobby. “His whole mood. Everything changed. It was such an incredible moment.”

Other than having bloodshot eyes and being very cold, Buddy was just fine and happy to be back with his people, Tammy said.

She thought the tow truck driver worked for Metz Towing, but Cowboy State Daily could not find any such company after making several phone calls to Rawlins businesses.

Apart from all the people who went out of their way to help the couple, the Davidsons were also pleasantly surprised when Quality Motors loaned them a car to drive to Cheyenne to get a rental car.

“I was shocked by the people and how nice they all were to us,” Tammy said. “They did everything for us. There’s usually no good guys anymore but now I have a totally different view.”

For his part, Buddy is happy to be reunited with his “wife” Dora and one of their puppies.

Now safely home, the couple continues to count their blessings as they reflect on the experience.

“God was definitely riding shotgun with us that day,” Tammy said.

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

Snowmen Survive All Day In Middle Of Wyoming Highway

in News/Good news
14262

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

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyomingites have big hearts.

That was demonstrated on Wednesday in Ten Sleep, Wyoming.

Someone built two miniature snowmen and placed them in the middle of Highway 16 which runs through the community and no one ran over them.

And it’s not like there wasn’t traffic.  There was.

“When I took my pictures, a line of pickups with camp trailers, a semi, and cars went by them very carefully,” said resident Barbara Coutis Lee. “The drivers slowed way down so they wouldn’t hit them.”

Carol Greet, a rancher in the area who originally posted the photos on her ranching-based “Red Dirt In My Soul” page said drivers paid extra caution not to smush to the arctic figurines.

“By the time I saw them, they’d been there for three hours! Everyone’s been careful to let them be. Thanks for the smiles!”, she said.

It could be tempting for some to squash them but they made it the entire day without being annihilated.

Why is that?

Greet told Cowboy State Daily that the community embraced them.

“I think there was an innocence about them in addition to the humorous nature of them,” she said.  “People just liked them and wanted to share.  I was not the only one to stop and photograph them.”

The goodwill or the weather didn’t cooperate overnight, however.

She reported that by daybreak, the snowmen had met their demise.

“I was sad to see there was nothing left this morning. I thought it might be cold enough for them to last,” she said.

The good news is there will be a fresh supply of ingredients for new snowpeople for months to come.

Photo by: Barbara Coutis Lee
Photo by: Carol Greet
Photo by: Barbara Coutis Lee
Photo by: Barbara Coutis Lee
Photo by: Carol Greet
Photo by: Carol Greet

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