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Jim HIcks

Jim Hicks: Starting A Conversation When It’s Below Zero . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

Have you ever noticed when the weather makes a big change as it did in the first part of this week . . . everyone greets each other with some kind of what we call a “weather comment”
Most common has been things like . . .

“It sure is cold” — as if we hadn’t noticed.

“Now we know Global Warming is a hoax” — from the scientist who needs only one test to prove a theory.

“Man it’s cold enough to freeze the ________________” – And this one has wide variety of ideas (most we can’t print here).’

The best weather comment we heard this week came from James Iberlin after we actually got some wet snow recently. James said, “It might not soak into the frozen ground, but it will soak into the dust on top.”

Locals are also talking about basketball and how the Wyoming Cowboys have crawled out of the cellar to the top of the mountain this year. 

We’ve talked to a few who have attended home games at Laramie and they say the experience is a lot of fun.  Go Pokes!

The mild weather before this latest cold snap has made it possible for many people to get out and walk to promote their good health and keep the family dog from getting too fat.

Buffalo has an amazing walking trail system. Much of it takes advantage of Clear Creek where the scenery is terrific, wild life abounds and there is considerable shade on hot summer days.

The late Emil Hecht was Mayor of Buffalo when some of the first walking paths were being developed.

Emil was a man of action and someone suggested a trail along the creek west of the City Park.  Emil had some experience operating heavy equipment so he fired up the city’s new road grader and started blazing the new pathway.

According to employees of the city at that time, they had to use a cutting torch to get “a quarter mile of fence wire” that was wrapped around the axels of the grader.

But the results were wonderful and that stretch of trail is probably the most used in the entire system.

One section of the trail near the west end has been named after Bill Mentock, a tireless volunteer who helped develop that part of the system.

Bill is in his 80’s and still enjoys the trails whenever he can. He keeps track of how far he walks, and has averaged close to 1,000 miles a year. 

“I’ve walked about 12,000 miles on the trails since I first started.”

 That‘s like hiking from New York to Los Angeles . . . four times!

Finally this week we will pass a few more comments and observations from the Older and Wiser – Later in the Morning coffee group.

— What makes me really happy is not setting the alarm clock anymore.

— I got a new set of teeth when I was about six.  I went to the dentist last week and now I wish I could do that again

— I was trying to help my grandson with a math problem and said something about having 60 cantaloupe and 40 water melons . . . and he said “what the hell is wrong with you grandpa?”

— I save business cards so if I hit another car in the grocery store parking lot and anyone is watching . . . I can stick one of them under a windshield wiper and get away.

— I wish, when I put in my password, the computer would say “close enough.”

— Does anyone else have a plastic bag full of plastic bags, or is it just me?

— And . . . I never ask my wife “what’s for dinner” while she’s shoveling the front walk.

We hope you all are feeling good, can pay your bills and have a chance to help a neighbor out this week.

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Jim Hicks: Technology Is Changing “Courting” Methods

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

Whoops! There went January, and Valentine’s Day is just a week away.

We couldn’t find any of the Bench Sitters who still give Valentines cards or candy to their wives, and only a few who planned on taking Grandma out for a hamburger.

This group spends a lot of time talking about local history, and any discussion of romantic times is history for these old boys.

They are aware the art of dating and wooing girls has changed a lot. They learned more than half the couples who end up getting married these days met or connected through those internet dating services or at least by meeting their spouse in some other electronic manner.

Old “Back When” tells us he decided to spend a few dollars to sign up for one of those dating services, but when he started filling out the “questionnaire” he ran into trouble. “Don’t have any chance of getting anyone to answer if you don’t lie on the questionnaire and have a photo taken at least 30 years ago,” he said.

Back When tells us he did read enough of them to figure out some of the language they use.

He says when women fill out the forms you need to know some “translations.” If they write–

–40-ish – it may well mean somewhere between 50 and 70

–Adventurous – Looking for anyone still alive

–Athletic – May have the body of a man

–Average looking – Ugly 

–Contagious Smile – Her doctor prescribed mood changers

–Emotionally secure – Usually takes all her pills

–Feminist – Will be in charge of any relationship

–Free spirit – Should be on medication

–Friendship first – You might as well date your sister

–Fun loving – Annoying 

–Open-minded – Desperate

–Outgoing – Loud and often embarrassing

–Professional – Dominator

–Voluptuous – On the heavy side

–Large frame – Even heavier

–Wants soul mate – Stalker

If written by a man the translation could mean:

–Lonely – Would scare flies off a dead cow

–Energetic – Needs tranquilizers

–Well rounded – Belt is longer that he is tall

–Loves outdoors – Does not shower regularly

–Intellectual – A “know-it-all” pain in the rear

–Loves fishing – You need to own a boat to qualify

–Avid hunter – He won’t be around at all in the fall

–Likes to travel – You better have some serious cash

–Seeks companionship – Can’t afford to pay his rent

–Hard working – Had five jobs in the last two years

Speaking of the internet, a Bob Walker sent us a story about an elderly Florida woman who was returning to her car in a grocery store parking lot and found four young men sitting in it. She assumed they were trying to steal her wheels and she was “packing” that day.

She dug the .25 caliber pistol out of her purse and yelled “GET OUT OF THE CAR!”

After they exited and ran for cover, she noticed another car of the same model and color a couple of spaces away.  It was hers.

According to the story this lady reported the incident to the police immediately. They were in the process of taking a complaint about a “crazy white haired old woman with a gun.” 

No charges were filed.

We know of a similar wrong car incident that happened late one night in Buffalo years ago, but we will save that story for later.

We hoped you survived that shot of cold this week and are warming up and smiling again.

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Jim Hicks: Ice Fishing And Those Handy Power Tools

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

BUFFALO – If there has been any benefit to the sub-zero weather we enjoyed a while back, it has to be those little “fishing huts” starting to populate the ice on places like Lake DeSmet.

If you have never tried ice fishing, you might not understand why your neighbor does it nearly every weekend when he could be sitting in a warm living room, sipping a cool beer and watching a professional football game.

Sorry, but the Bench Sitters don’t have a good answer to that question.

But a couple of the old boys we know say they like the sport because they can get outside and commune with nature.  Not sure how freezing in a little canvas hut while staring at a hole in the ice qualifies. 

But most of them do enjoy fresh fish during the winter…and that is good for you.

Meanwhile back down on the Main Drag the other morning some of the discussion came around to what special presents a few of the boys had received for Christmas this year. 

The most common is a new power tool.

Everyone already has a bunch of them that have to be connected to a power outlet or have a small gasoline engine with a very touchy carburetor.

Now technology has brought us new high voltage batteries that can operate anything from a drill to a chain saw.

The Bench Sitters can remember the great development of the “Phillips” screw head that was such a wonderful advancement over the single slot that allowed them to jab a screw driver into their hands from time to time.

Now they have tossed all those in the trash can because “torx/star” screws are so much better.

But those battery operated tools made it possible for every amateur to mess things up by trying to do jobs better left to a professional.

This resulted in the Bench Sitters coming up with a few definitions for these tools.

Skill saw — A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

Belt-sander — An electric tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

Table saw — A large stationary power tool used to launch wood projectiles through sheet rock across the room.


Band saw – Another big stationary power saw primarily used to cut expensive wood into pieces small enough to fit in the trash bucket.

Phillips screw driver — Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening cans and splashing the contents on your shirt. Once used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

Leaf blower – An expensive reverse vacuum that will blow leaves around so they are more difficult to gather with a hand rake later in the day. Also can be used in an unsuccessful attempt to move snow while destroying your hearing.

Electric nail gun – A tool designed to do considerable bodily damage in the hands of a weekend carpenter. Equally dangerous as the one powered by compressed air.

Electric chain saw – A tool to create firewood and sometimes trips to the emergency room.  Not as powerful as those powered by gasoline engines, but become dull just as quickly after hitting a rock with the blade.

Reciprocating, circular, jig and other saws – Handy tools which can make nearly any small home repair project turn into a major remodel to be finished by professional craftsmen when they finally get time to put you on their schedule.

Portable angle grinder (our favorite) – a tool purchased to sharpen lawn mower blades. Only used once and then hung above the work bench forever.

We assume you have all the exterior Christmas decorations down, packed and stored by now. That the tree ornaments are all back in their boxes in the closet.  If not, you probably have more company than you might imagine.

Stay healthy and we’ll drop a line again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Holiday Letters You Get Around This Time Of Year . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

The Bench Sitters hope that each and every one of you has a special Christmas this season.  Their wish is that this special day if filled with the real important things of health, happiness and the true spirit of the day.

These last days before Christmas have been flying by, and most of the old boys at the coffee club don’t get very exited anymore.

One of them said he bumped into Delbert (Del) Herman the other afternoon and asked the usual . . . “You ready for Christmas?” question. 

Del said yes, but it was a close call.  

“How’s that?”

“Well,” Del grinned, “We bought one of those Christmas trees from the 4-H club a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t want to put it up right away, so I laid it next to the house. Because of all that wind I had to walk a half-block to find it.”

This is the time of year when most of us hear from old friends and relatives who only write one note a year and send it along with their Christmas Card.

Sometimes those cards include a long letter detailing some or all of the following–

1) Complete itinerary of all their travels in the last 12 months:

2) A listing of achievements (real or imagined) of children and/or grandchildren:

3) Chronology of their health issues including surgical details (sometimes with copies of X-rays):

4) The full load of bad news about everyone in the clan, especially those who have passed on or been put in jail.

5) Or the “financial statement” discussion of wealth or possessions accumulated in the last year.

And it seems the older people get, the more time they have to write up all the details nobody really cares about.

A few years ago we got a letter from some “snow-birds” who had migrated to Arizona for the winter. They were living in a “single-wide” in a park they claimed was called “El Campo del Estomaga Grande.”  That translates to something like “the place of big bellies.”

Benefits at the park included “tennis, golf, spa, pool and physical fitness center.”  That turned out to be a ping-pong table (warped by too much time in the sun), a putt-putt green, one hot tub which appeared to contain split-pea soup; small un-heated swimming pool and a worn out stationary bike gathering dust next to card tables in the “recreation center.”

According to their letter they had many choices of activities including the “Hip Replacement Cloggers Club, Organ Donors Society, Arthritic Athletes Anonymous and Heart Surgery Marathon Jogger’s program”

A big part of each morning was spent studying advertisements in the local paper to find the best price in town for bananas. An hour drive in heavy traffic to save six cents?

This “wild and crazy” life of a snow-bird featured “eating out” at places that specialize in meeting the needs of this group. The bargained price meal starts about 4 p.m. and features no spices, requires very little chewing and will not cause gas under any circumstances.

Styrofoam boxes come with the dinners so customers can take the leftovers home for lunch the next day.

The best part of their letter had to do with visits to a doctor where the receptionist was located behind a sheet of plastic and patients are asked to wear masks. 

That’s when the old guy from Minnesota yells “HEMORIODS!” through his Covid mask.

 “That’s not news,” they wrote, “everyone at the park has hemorrhoids.”

We hope you have been getting a lot of wonderful Holiday Greeting letters from friends and family.  Have a great weekend and we’ll write again.

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Jim Hicks: After Some Maritial Trouble, His Wife Still Missed Him . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

Didn’t think we’d ever say this . . . but it’s good to see the weather cool down a little. Last Monday it was pushing 90 degrees, and those thin-blooded Bench Sitters were actually complaining about the heat.  Most of them are on blood-thinners and have darn little meat on their bones to help keep warm.

Last week old “Back When” told us a story about buying a load of hay from Curley Galusha back in 1949, and darned it that didn’t trigger another memory worth repeating.

It was about the Prom decorating committee of the high school Junior Class in the spring of 1953.  It was tradition for the Junior Class to handle the job, and that particular class was loaded with “over-achievers”. 

Their theme was “under the sea” — complete with a false ceiling of crepe paper in the old gymnasium and a huge coral reef in the middle. 

Of course, coral was hard to come by in these parts, so the decorating committee decided spray-painted tumble weeds would work just fine.

They gathered up a truck load (not a big job in Wyoming), and took them out to a barn near town to do the paint job.  That barn belonged to the Howard Watt family (Camilla was on the decorating committee).

But the kids didn’t realize spray painting where a lot of hay was stored might not be a good idea. 

Shortly after the Junior Senior Prom the Watt’s herd of dairy cows started getting sick. The Veterinarian was called and all the milk had to be dumped for fear it would be contaminated. It didn’t take long to discover milk cows don’t do well on hay soaked with spray paint. 

Mr. Watt was a gentle soul. He understood it was not intentional, and forgave the decorating committee. 

Meanwhile back down at the Bench Sitter’s coffee club we picked up on a good conversation between two of those old boys.  It went something like this . . .

“I hear your wife finally got tired of some of your bad habits and moved in with her sister over in Powell last week.”

“Yup, I guess tracking grease in on the new carpet was the final straw.”

“Well, now the story around town is that she missed you, and we’re glad to hear that. Is she going to move back over?

“Nope . . . I think she’s re-loading.”

For those of you with short memories, it was the second week of September in 2014 that the mercury slid below 20 degrees and we were blessed with about 14 inches of heavy wet snow  . . . bringing down some trees and loads of branches.

The city allowed people to pile all those limbs in the parking area at Prosinski Park and the County pitched into move all that to a spot near the sewage plant to be burned later.

And in 2016 the area got about three inches of rain at the end of September.  Had it been colder, it would have been a repeat of the “tree disaster” two years earlier.

That year one of the locals said, “That was a great rain . . . I had almost three inches in my rain gauge.”

“Well, up where we live northwest of town we measured three and a half.”

“I can top that!  We had almost four inches at our place.”

And then a retired rancher from Powder River spoke up. 

“I left one of those five gallon buckets outside near the garage and used yard-stick to measure it.”

The coffee group was quiet and waited for his report.

“How much was in the bucket?” one of them asked.

“Just a trace,” he said. “The bottom of the bucket was cracked.”

Not much hope for moisture like that for the fall of 2021, and we are seeing a few livestock trucks hauling cattle. That’s a sure sign winter grass in short supply and hay has reached the “tipping” price where selling the cows makes economic sense.

Old Bad News says this is all a being caused by the same people who put stuff in the Covid vaccine that caused his cousin’s left testicle to swell up and turn purple.

Most of the other Bench Sitters believe senility will be a smooth transition for old Bad News.

Stay healthy, remember to get your flu shots and we’ll write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Yellow Leaves And Wisdom From Old Bad News . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

The Bench Sitters always seem to be among the first to spot a few yellow leaves showing up in the tops of some of the cottonwood trees around town, and the next topic of conversation soon drifts to when the first freeze of the fall season will nip all the gardens.

Everyone knows we are fast approaching the time of year when we can wake up to 14 inches of wet snow and yards full of downed tree branches. Just because it hit 90 last week is no guarantee.

But fall is here and Wyoming Cowboy fans were all smiles after their team won a close battle with Montana State with some fourth quarter heroics.

Now if they can just start playing some offense in the first half of a game . . .

Denver Bronco fans are waiting until next Sunday to see their team open against the New York Giants.  This week Denver was a 2.5 point favorite to win their opener.

But around the village we are starting to find a lot of Buffalo Bill fans too. Their loyalty migrated to that team when former UW quarterback Josh Allen became a franchise player with the Bills.

And those who follow that team have learned he is a respected team leader. Many will not forgive John Elway for failing to see his qualities and drafting him for the Broncos.

Good weather on a Labor Day weekend brings out a frantic effort for most locals to enjoy every moment of that last bit of summer recreation.  We saw boats loading up with water ski and fishing equipment, golfers competing for the best tee-times and popular mountain camping and picnic spots at a premium.

Meanwhile back down on the Main drag this week we overheard a local resident complaining about the driving habits of his neighbor who is “getting along in years”. 

“This guy has had two bypass surgeries, a hip replacement, one new knee, survived prostate cancer, wears two hearing aids and his eye glasses are usually so dirty you can’t tell if he’s awake or asleep,” he said.

“My neighbor takes a dozen different medications, admits some of them make him dizzy and his wife knows he’s subject to blackouts and moments of dementia.”

“He has outlived most of his friends, and can’t remember if he’s 86 or 88.

“But he told me this week he could prove he was OK because the state had given him a “Pioneer Driver’s License.”

“I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that was a “Pioneer fishing license.”

And we have to complain about all the smoke from the California fires again. Have we only had four days when we could see the peaks of the Bighorns in the last two months?  It sure seems that way.

The only benefit we have heard about this problem came from a local who’s wife has had him on a “lose weight and improve health” program. 

“I like it when I can complain the smoke make me cough too much and can’t take the daily two-mile hike on the Clear Creek trail,” he said.

Before we close this note out we need to quote one comments from Old
Bad News.  He never disappoints us with some negative stuff each week.

Talking about this summer’s weather he said, “I’ve got to get my life together! This summer’s heat and smoke have made me certain I don’t want to go to hell.”

We are hoping you had a great weekend and are able to keep smiling.

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Jim Hicks: Up Here In Johnson County, You Have To Live By The ‘Buffalo Code’

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

When you find yourself  rejoicing over the temperature cooling down to the upper 80s,  air conditioning is as necessary as heat in your house and smoke from fires blocking any view of the mountains for two months of the summer . . . then it may be time to consider global warming could be a fact.

If you could see the high peaks of the Bighorns you might spot a few snow banks remaining, but the amount of water running in Clear Creek under the Main Street Bridge is getting dangerously low.

Haven’t seen it like this since 1988 when the Lost Fire burned 16,000 acres in the Bighorns west of town.

Those local snowbirds who head for Arizona every winter are starting to wonder if they gained much coming home. Keith and Ileta Neustel spend their winters in Yuma, and noted it was cooler there than in Buffalo the other day.  

The annual Bighorn Trail Ride was held on the west side of the mountain this year, and the Bench Sitters understand there were no big horse wrecks or similar items to report.  One guy shut his pickup door on a finger, but that was about the only blood to be spilled. 

We did learn that Steve Powell got his dad, Gerry, to come up for one evening. Gerry and Donna moved to Billings a few years back after being residents here for many years. 

And the entertainment for the ride this year was provided by the Terry Waugh Band. They will be playing for the “Night in the Park” during the annual Fair and Rodeo. They are a very popular and talented group.

The “ride” has been going on here for more than 50 years, and it has changed . . . A LOT!  Some of the earlier events were wild and wooly, with serious poker games and rodeos nearly every morning as the weekend cowboys mounted up.

Meanwhile, back down in the village we bumped into Lyle Lund at the hardware store and learned you can improve the gas mileage on a motor home by unloading all the stuff you don’t really need.  However, the back of your pickup will be full.

There seems to be new faces around the village all the time, so the Bench Sitters have been working on something they call “The Buffalo Code” to help them become acclimated to the village. A few items on the list so far –

–When giving directions, you always must start with . . . “Go to the traffic light at Fort and Main ” . . .

–Learn how to explain how I-90 turns into I-25.

–We have two traffic lights on Main Street and they are not “timed.”

–Once the light turns green at Hart and Main, only 3 cars can go through the intersection . . . eight more go through on yellow . . . and three more on red. 

–If it looks like a ranch truck or a small white head appears between the top of the steering wheel and the dash board . . . the blinking turn signal means nothing. As Garvin Taylor once said about driving in California –“Don’t use those turn signals . . . It’s a sign of weakness.”

–Interstate roads are always under construction during the summer (it’s a law and you can’t do anything about it).

–It is perfectly acceptable to brag about the size of your air conditioner. 

–When rain is forecast, it is acceptable to be cynical, cynical and snide, doubtful and/or disgusted.

–You realize that boats and snow machines can only be used a couple months each year, but still seem to be great investments.

–If you were born here, down deep you’re angry at everyone who has moved here since that date, and it’s dangerous to start any conversation with “We should change that because it was better where we used to live.”

–You can borrow a man’s pickup, his horse or flirt with his wife . . . but don’t ever steal any of his irrigation water.

–It’s important to know which bit of flowing water is called “creek” and which should be known as “crick”. 

–Counting on finding your favorite camping spot in the mountains to be unoccupied when you arrive is a myth.

–Say “hello and how-ya-doin?” to everyone you meet. It messes with the heads of most newcomers.

 That’s about all from the Bench Sitters this week. They write again if they don’t melt.

Jim Hicks: The Cowboy Is Drinking From The Brim Of His Hat Again…

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

BUFFALO – The Bench Sitters have been “shading up” a lot in the last week while the temperature pushed near the 100 degree mark several times. Brown spots are showing up in lawns and smoke from fires as far away as Oregon is hiding the peaks of the Bighorns from view.

The weatherman is suggesting we might get cooler (if you can call 80’s cooler) temperatures and maybe some rain showers. After several days of hot, dry wind we sure hope he’s right!

If the local traffic is a good indicator, an excellent “tourist season” is underway. Most of us complain about waiting too long at the stop light, not finding a parking spot or waiting too long to get a burger, but it’s good to see local business get a little boost after the dismal summer of 2020.

The Tourist Information Center east of town features a life-sized bronze of a cowboy getting a sip of water from the brim of his hat. 

For several years that stood in the middle of an empty pool and no water was running from the hat. Not sure what the problem was, but this season it is operating properly and often being photographed by travelers. Good for whoever go it fixed!

Traditions are hard to stop or to cure. Getting together to discuss current events and local news is a serious habit, and we notice one group has found an answer as to where to gather. 

They all bring their own coffee and huddle at a picnic table located under a big cottonwood tree some distance behind one of the Hart Street eateries about 7 a.m. It has turned out to be so popular most have to bring along a chair or sit on the ground.

Meanwhile the comment from old “Bad News” this week was interesting.  He said there was a time when negative people in the community could have fun spreading rumors and gossip.  Must be a feeling of power they get when they spread a hurtful story, and especially if they can invent a few more details to add to the shock impact.

Now Bad News says “social media” has ruined all that fun for them. “And that stuff can spread faster and further with this new technology.  It’s a bummer when I have a juicy piece of nasty gossip and someone will say they already read it on Facebook or Instagram or Tweet and Twitter.

Finally this week one of the Bench Sitters showed up with some “groaners” we have not heard before.  We will let you decide which are good and which are so bad they should be forgotten – 

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

“I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians should be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, dog trainers debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

What hair color do they put on the driver’s licenses of bald men?

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

Why is it people say, “It’s only a game” when their team is winning.

And our favorite–

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea, does that mean the fifth person ENJOYS it?

Keep a smile your face and don’t start any fires!  We’ll write next week.

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Jim Hicks: What To Do When A “Two-Holer” Is In The Passing Lane

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

About the time we were all giving up on any chance of moisture, much of Johnson County got some nice showers over the past week . . . and a few cloudbursts as well.

Near as we can tell . . . someone must have washed the pickup and the car, decided to cut some hay and stripped the shingles off a roof. 

Whatever the reason, the moisture was a welcome pause in the worry about seeing the mountain catch fire this summer.

Over the years one of Sven’s favorite subjects has been Larry Brannian, a man of various talents and activities including auctioneering and occasional pranks.

Maybe those farm and ranch auctions have proved the old rule that “one man’s junk is another’s treasurer.” 

So when Larry had the opportunity to assume ownership of two outhouses that were in fairly good shape . . . he jumped at it.  Even in these modern times there is still a demand for a good outhouse.

Among his friends are the Yoders located south of Buffalo.  He called them and asked if they might be interested in owning one of the small buildings.  He had a “one holer” as well as a “two holer”. 

Larry had both loaded on a flat-bed trailer, so he decided to haul them out so they could take their pick.  Both were secured to the trailer with lightweight straps.

South of town on I-25 Larry was doing about 70 when he heard a noise and looked in the side mirror of his pickup.

The two-holer had come off the trailer, was in mid-air and seemed to be gaining speed in the passing lane.

He got things shut down and was frantically trying to move assorted parts of the building off the highway and direct traffic and the same time.

He needed some help . . . in a big way.  So Larry got his cell phone out and dialed 911.

When the dispatcher answered, he must have had “caller ID”.

Rather than the usual . . . “This is the 911 operator . . . what is your emergency?” . . . the voice said . . . “Larry Brannian, we understand you have an outhouse problem on Interstate 90 south of Buffalo.  Is that right?  We’ve had a lot of calls about this. How can we help?”

Once again we learn how wonderful it is to live in a small community where folks know each other. 

Meanwhile, back down on the Main Drag we hear people making plans to celebrate an important holiday next Sunday.  The 4th of July is set aside for us to remember what a treasure we have to live in a country where we can ALL vote to elect those who run the government . . . a democracy.  And we are learning it is fragile, not guaranteed and can erode. 

Over the years Sven has reported on some family celebrations that have been memorable for various reasons.

Many years ago fireworks being sold included some powerful firecrackers later outlawed.  Those “cherry-bombs” and “M-80s” had to come close to a quarter stick of dynamite in power.

And once the fuse was lit, it would not go out even if under water.

When a hole was cut in a large watermelon and one of those pushed deep into the center . . . it can make a family picnic resemble a war zone.  The time is coming close (statute of limitations) when we can disclose what nine-year-old made the decision to pull that stunt.

And finally this week we have another quote from old “Bad News.”  This week he said his mind thinks he’s 20, his sense of humor is 12 and his body is asking if he’s not already dead. 

Have a great Forth and we’ll drop a line again next week.

SVEN

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Jim Hicks: Memories Of A Gourmet Evening In Jackson Hole

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

BUFFALO – A while back Maudie and Sven took a trip over to Jackson Hole.  We found the Tetons are as breath-taking as ever.

It’s good to get away from home base once in a while, and it gave us an opportunity to try some new kinds of food.  We picked up one of those “What–to-do-in-Jackson” books and read the list of places to eat.

Local restaurants have “catchy” names . . . like “Teton Thai” and “Bon Appe Thai.” We talked it over and decided to have an evening meal at a place called “Thai Me Up.”

“I like Chinese food every once in a while,” I told Maudie.

“You must be thinking of Taiwan,” Maudie replied.  “I think this has something to do with Thailand.”

“Close enough for me.”

So, we put the address of “Thai Me UP” in the GPS we bought ourselves for Christmas in 1998.  It had been in a box under the seat until this trip. It directed us to an empty field near Teton Village.

“I guess this GPS is out of date,” I said. Maudie guessed I didn’t punch in the right numbers. So, we asked a guy in a gas station if there was a Thai restaurant nearby.  He sent us down the road. We went in and a tall blonde kid directed us to a table and dropped the photo-copied sheets (Menu) in front of us.

“My name is Eddie . . . Wan som-tin-ta drink?” he asked.

I wanted to act like a sophisticated user of restaurants, so I ordered a “My Thigh.”

“What’s that?” asked Eddie. 

 “You are thinking of a Mai Tai,” says Maudie.

Eddie looked confused . . . so I said . . . “bring me a beer.”

Maudie asked for ice-tea. We started to study the sheet of paper listing the specials at the place I was now calling “Thai Me Down.”

Nothing on either side of the sheet made sense so we asked Eddie for help. Eddie seemed to know his stuff.

He told us “chok” is some kind of rice soup.

And he explained there were no rodents in “kuai tao rat na” . . . only fried noodles.

We passed on the suggestion of snake-head fish served on fresh lemon grass.

I pointed to the menu and said, “how about some of this ‘khao phat moo’. . . can’t go wrong with a beef dish.”

“No,” says Eddie. “That’s pork.”

“Well, why don’t they call it khao phat oink?” I asked.

Eddie didn’t laugh

I could tell he felt he was working too hard, so we told Eddie to just bring us some soup and a nice dinner with some shrimp or pork and a bowl of rice.

“How many stars do ya want?” Eddie asked. 

Thinking it was like ratings on hotels, I said we always go for the “five star.”

Thai food can be HOT!

After dinner we started looking for an ice-cream shop.

Take care, watch what you eat.  We will drop a line again next week.

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Jim Hicks: It Could Be Another Crowded Summer On The Bighorns

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

BUFFALO = Most years Memorial Day weekend is a “sure thing” for cool and raining weather on at least one day.

But the 2021 version produced some perfect conditions for all kinds of activities. And, if you happened to drive around some of the local recreation areas, it was evident people have broken out of COVID isolation and restrictions in droves.

Camping at the Mikesell-Potts recreation area was packed full and kids were enjoying the beach in the bay there in spite of some cold water temperatures.

Campers and recreation vehicles seemed to be all over the mountain.

The Bench Sitters are wondering why the Forest Service is allowing campers along the road to Gross Mountain just west of town. That is no doubt the most photographed wild flower meadow in the Bighorns (with the snow-covered peaks in the background). But not any longer.

Some say it’s because they have access to internet signal.  A few years ago, no one camped there.

If early numbers are an indicator, this may be another record year for campers locating in just about every conceivable place on the mountain. If you thought the invasion of out-of-state campers would disappear after the COVID restrictions were lifted . . . it may turn out that was just the beginning.

Last week about 30 members of a local classic car club make a tour to Jackson which included a stop at newly opened National Museum of Military Vehicles at Dubois. Carl and Lois Madden were in the group and they tell us it is a “must see” attraction with over 450 vehicles from Jeeps to tanks.

They recommend calling ahead and signing up for a guided tour.

“Just amazing,” they said.

And from the mailbag this week we wanted to share a few musings by Wes Buckmaster, a retired attorney who lives in South Dakota. If you have a few grey hairs, read it slowly and for most it will generate some personal thoughts.

When older there is an urge to yell at the top of the voice.

Yell for the things gained and lost.

Yell for loss of the things never gained.

Yell for the opportunities squandered.

Yell for the accomplishments realized and then lost.

Yell for the loss of values held dear in the past.

Yell for the worthlessness of long allegiances misplaced.

Yell for the confusion caused by a dimming trail where past aspirations have since dissipated in the mist.

Yell for the weaknesses which left footprints exposing reasons why things are as they are.

The reasons, yes the reasons, some having been in our control.

Some that never were.

And finally, this week we need to share some lines from the late Phyllis Diller sent our way from former residents Ken and Nadine Gross.

As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.

Housework can’t kill you, but why take a chance?

Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing up is like shoveling the sidewalk before it stops snowing.

Best way to get rid of kitchen odors — Eat out.

I want my children to have all the things I couldn’t afford. Then I want to move in with them.

Most children threaten at times to run away from home. This is the only thing that keeps some parents going.

We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve years telling them to sit down and shut up.

His finest hour lasted a minute and a half.

I asked the waiter, ‘Is this milk fresh?’ He said, ‘Lady, three hours ago it was grass.’

You know you’re old if they have discontinued your blood type.

That last one gets big laughs at the Senior Center.  Get ready for a hot summer and we’ll write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Up Here In Johnson County, The Hills Are Turning A Beautiful Green

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

BUFFALO – Some of the readers of this column can remember when the Beach Boys were the hot musical group with songs with lyrics like “Help, help, help Ramona.”

That could be the theme song for Frank Peck these days because of a minor “mule” problem he was involved with about three weeks ago.

Frank and Pat have owned, packed and rode mules for years.  Last year Frank decided they needed a new mule and spotted one at a sale.

A middle aged lady rode “Ramona” through the sale ring and she (the mule) showed no sign of being anything but gentle.

Frank bought Ramona and used her in his pack string for the rest of the summer and fall.  She never gave him a bit of grief. This spring he decided to saddle 

Ramona and see just how smooth she might be for riding. Not showing any sign of discontent as he tightened the cinch, Frank was comfortable stepping into the stirrup and swinging up into the saddle.

That’s when Ramona demonstrated the other side of her personality. In seconds Frank was airborne and looking down at some very hard ground.  He learned some bad things can happen when 64-year-old bones hit hardpan prairie. 

Frank had separated his hip, and is walking with a stick. 

Not deterred, Frank bought another mule in Cody and named it “Ron.”  Then he and Pat decided Ramona should stay in the pack string. 

In case you were wondering what caused the very cold weather this past weekend . . . it was an automatic thing.

It seems that every year they plan the state soccer tournament at the Polo Grounds near Bighorn, the weather includes cold winds, rain, sleet, and snow with very short breaks of sunshine.

Last weekend was not exception, and teams (along with associated families) from all over Wyoming gathered for the event. It’s amazing to see a nearly two-mile parking lot that rings some 15 or 20 soccer fields that have been laid out on the polo grounds. 

Most of Johnson County is turning green as a few warm days and a few showers have jump-started grass in this part of the state. More rain and some warm days will be critical to the chances of avoiding a drought this summer and fall.

We never seem to know for sure. Perhaps this is why “seasoned” stockmen and women of this area don’t seem to get excited over the weather. They’ve seen worse.

Talking to a few old timers, we’ve heard them say Clear Creek was no more than a trickle by the end of May in1988 (just 33 years ago). 

That was the year Yellowstone Park burned, and about 16,000 acres of timber west of Buffalo went up in smoke during “The Lost Fire.”

Local hikers had seen the smoke a day or two earlier, but it was not located until it exploded into a major blaze on a hot Sunday afternoon. The Johnson County Fair and Rodeo was underway when people in the grandstands noticed a yellow tint to the light. 

Looking back toward the mountains they could see the huge columns of smoke blocking the afternoon sun. The Bench Sitters recall the fire burned well into September and over $3 million was spent fighting it.

The main fire camp was located at Circle Park. Many local people worked to provide “taxi service” from the camp to town, haul supplies and a number of other jobs.

It’s amazing how Mother Nature can heal things. Young trees have regenerated in the burn area. As another 30 years pass, most signs of that fire will be gone.

If it gets too dry in the coming weeks, we’ll take up a collection so the guy who claims to be “the most unlucky citizen of Buffalo” can wash his car. The Bench Sitters have given him the nick-name of “Bad News.”

He swears it rains every time he washes that rusty old 1972 Dodge. 

We’ve all known people who don’t seem to ever be able to see the bright side of anything.  

You don’t want to get old “Bad News” talking about politics. He can ruin a pretty good day in 15 minutes. 

When Liz Cheney got demoted his comment was . . . “that’s what she gets for telling the truth!”

He makes a huge conflict out of the smallest of issues. 

Bad News thinks a quarterback is a refund, and General Motors was in the army. 

His wife told us he spent 20 minutes looking at a bottle of orange juice at the IGA store because it said “concentrate”.

She also said he sold their car for gas money, and didn’t think he was supposed to use his AM radio after lunch.

We hope you are having a better day that old “Bad News.”

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Jim Hicks: So, What’s Wrong With A Little “Sick” Humor Once In A While ?

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By Jim Hicks

(It’s hard to believe this column was written 10 years ago. But I noticed it in the files and decided it was worth a “re-read” while we each can evaluate how technology is changing our lives.  If there is a “big brother” watching us … we may have identified him.)

 April 28, 2011 — The Bench Sitters have been reading in the paper about how new technology just keeps invading everyone’s privacy.

We saw an article that claimed close to 90 percent of the people living in this country own a cell phone, and more and more people are deciding to drop their “land lines” and rely totally on the cell phones for personal communication.

But we also read technology exists that will keep track of every place you go or visit 24-hours a day, seven days a week if you need a cell phone along.  And, some of the new ones do that even if you turn them off.

We knew the big computers, humming away in some far-off building, were keeping track of every web-site you visit, every purchase you make over the internet, all the activity of your credit cards, and lots of data about your health condition.

Now it looks like that giant data-base in far off cyberspace may be tracking your movements both day and night.

If you start seeing a lot of “pop-up” advertising about stool softeners on your screen, it’s possible the “big computer that keeps tabs on all of us” may have determined you are spending more than 40 minutes a day in bathrooms.

And you may get “cold calls” on your phone from “stock brokers” if you increase the limit on your credit cards.

Young people are growing up with all this technology, and many would rather “text” someone than actually have a conversation.

We can’t just pick on the younger generation. Some adults are jumping right into the techno-world with equal enthusiasm.

Meanwhile, back down on the Main Drag this week the Bench Sitters got in a debate about what is funny and what is not.

Have you ever noticed that some of the best jokes you hear are sometimes the “most sick?”  Perhaps these jokes are really a test of our ability to laugh at tragedy or difficult times.

Whatever the reasons, these certainly are a check on what kind of a sense of humor you possess.

One of the funniest stories we’ve heard in a long time exemplifies this point with amazing clarity.

It was about the man who lived in a small fishing village on the coast of Alaska. His wife had disappeared one weekend and he had the local search-and-rescue team looking everywhere possible.

Finally, after several days of waiting, there was a knock on his front door. When he opened it, the Captain of the rescue team was standing there with a serious look on his face.

“Bob,” he said, “we have some bad news, some good news and some VERY GOOD news for you.

The worried husband braced himself and said, “Give me the bad news first.”

“Well,” the Captain said, “we were dragging Knakic Harbor this morning and found your wife’s body.”

Bob sagged against the door jam, gathered his composure and asked . . . “what in the world could the good news be?”

“When we pulled her up there were three dozen of the biggest crabs we’ve seen in years hanging on. That catch was worth over $1,000 and you are entitled to half of that,” the Captain said.

Bob was still visibly shaken when he asked, “What could the VERY GOOD news possibly be?

Then the Rescue Captain smiled and said . . . “We are pulling her up again in the morning and you’ll get a share of that catch too.”

Next week the boys on the Bench promise to visit about more contemporary news from around the village.

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Jim Hicks: From Shirt Sleeve-warm To Shoveling Snow In 36 Hours Or Less

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

It might be hard to believe we can enjoy a sunny day in the mid-70’s on Easter and then be shoveling snow two days later.

But that’s Wyoming weather, and locals understand the only real safe time to put the snow shovel in the back of the garage is around the 4th of July.

There have been times when it snowed six inches the day the first round of Men’s League Golf got underway here.

Old time sheep ranches always claimed they could bring on a spring snow storm by scheduling a shearing crew to come in.

We understand Meadowlark Ski area has shut down for the season. In the late winter or early spring, the very best snow pack arrives . . . people start opting for other weekend activities like fishing.

The snow machine riders tell us “snow has settled and you can ride anywhere!”

Of course they are talking about “anywhere it’s legal.”  And they also notice their machines will cover a lot more ground on a tank of gas than when they are plowing through deep snow.

We see the Wyoming Legislature has ended their 2021 session without finding any answers about how to fund some important items such as financing education in this state.

The state’s Congressional delegation voted against the last stimulus bill, but the legislature gladly accepted the money. They used it to cover the shortage in the budget and get out of Cheyenne without really solving the big problems with the state’s tax structure.

The Bench Sitters love politics almost as much as second guessing coaches and referees.

And speaking of giving advice, we received the following miscellaneous suggestions from one of our long-time readers.

–Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.
–Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.
–A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
–Words that soak into your ears are whispered….not yelled.
–Meanness don’t just happen overnight.
–Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.

–It doesn’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.
–The best sermons are lived, not preached.

–Don’t judge folks by their relatives. 
–Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
–Timin’ has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. 
–The biggest troublemaker you’ll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin’.
–Always drink upstream from the herd.
–Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.
–Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin’ it back in.
–Live simply, love generously, care deeply, 

–Don’t pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he’ll just kill you.

The Bench Sitters would like everyone to believe that last one, but they know better. It’s almost time to plant some potatoes and think about the rest of the garden.  Take car and we’ll write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Do We Still Measure Trips In Wyoming ‘By The Six-Pack?

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By Jim Hicks

BUFFALO – Watch out!  March came in like a lamb . . . so we probably shouldn’t hang the snow shovels up in the back of the garage yet.

One of the best stories we’ve heard around the village this week has to do with an “older” local couple who up-graded their transportation recently.

They didn’t buy a new car, but it was new enough to have one of those dash-board screens as part of the equipment.

That was a complete mystery to them, but a younger neighbor (in his early 70’s) volunteered to help them learn how to use it.

He explained one of the biggest advantages was a “navigation system” that would remove the Atlas Map book from his wife’s hands and save on a lot of “rolling” arguments.

He demonstrated how to “punch in” the address of destination and then simply push the “GO” button and a nice lady’s voice would give them directions during the trip.

“Let’s set one up and you can take mamma for a drive and see how it works,” he said.

So, he typed in “10 Hillside Avenue, Buffalo, WY” and told the happy couple to push the “GO” button and follow the nice lady’s directions.

They did that and the voice from the dashboard started telling them where to turn as they progressed.

It took them south of town near the high school and then west on the road toward Klondike Ave.

As they approached Willow Grove Cemetery the voice said “turn left here”. They were a bit surprised, but followed the directions.

That’s when they found out their helpful neighbor had a pretty good sense of humor.

The lady’s voice came over the speaker in the car and announced . . . “you have reached your final destination.”

Meanwhile, at one of those clandestine coffee meetings that have sprung up since the Covid crisis, we were being up-dated about what was going on with the Wyoming Legislature.

A lot of it has been conducted with computers over the internet with something called “Zoom” meetings where participants show up in boxes on a computer screen.

They say they are making progress, but also admit they are millions and millions of dollars short of what they need (mostly to finance education).  Those serious problems make issues in past years seem a lot less dramatic.

As recently as 2016 the lawmakers were struggling with what now appears not to be so important.  At that time Doug Osborn was serving as the Representative in House from Johnson County.

When the session was over he got a letter from one local voter that was pretty funny.

Noticing that the lawmakers had passed a bill to drop the sales tax from grocery items, this guy asked Rep. Osborn why he didn’t have to pay sales tax on olives when he still had to pay it on vermouth.

“It’s kind of like paying tax on bread, but not on butter,” he wrote. 

And the same guy told Rep. Osborn that the bill to ban open containers in vehicles was going to cause a lot of confusion in Wyoming. He claimed that everyone “knows Casper is one six-pack from Buffalo and Cheyenne is a little over a half-case away.”

(It was in jest and not a plea to support drinking and driving)

Rep. Osborn’s response was classic.  He told them age would take care of the problem.

“Soon,” he wrote, “you all will measure distances in “potty stops.”

And it’s probably good to see the lawmakers consider doing away with the death penalty. It’s almost never used and results in costing taxpayers millions as those cases drag out in court for years.

It’s not a new idea. In the late 1970’s the death penalty was being debated in the Wyoming Senate when one member got up and said . . . “well if they are gonna kill one of us we are gonna kill ‘em back.”

Another explained that he didn’t know if it was the right action to take or not, but he had noticed it put a stop to recidivism. (Most of us had to look that one up in the dictionary).

We hope you have a great week and the Bench Sitters will write again if they get time.

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Jim Hicks: And Then It Got Cold . . . And We Mean Really Cold . . .

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By Jim Hicks, columnist

A week ago it got cold in Buffalo. 

And then each day seemed to be a little colder as the low temperatures sank past the minus 20 mark.

Finally it looked like Sunday might be a bit better (warmed to 4 below), but along came wind with gusts of 30 miles per hour.

Going outside to do any chores gave a new meaning to “wind-chill.” 

And this week it warmed all the way into the low 30’s and it seemed like summer was back. We’re surprised we didn’t see some wearing shorts.

Younger people are able to ignore this kind of weather. They load up the snow machines or strap on skis and have a good time.  We can remember those days.

Now winter catches most of the older residents by surprise. We suddenly realize we are moving slower that before . . . and that was already pretty slow.

Nobody says things like . . . “let’s run to the grocery store.”  Now it involves a planning session with “list making”, checking prices in the newspaper insert and taking an inventory of the refrigerator because we can’t remember what looked at for more than 10 minutes.

But senior citizens are almost always positive and believe they will be full of energy when it warms up next June.

That’s when a “new adventure” will begin. Most seniors we know value every day, and also know that wealth has less to do with the bank balance. It’s more about family and friends.

After a discussion on this issue, the Bench Sitters came up with a few thoughts about the “fourth quarter” of life.

One remarked he realized he was getting old when his kids started looking like him and his grandkids had turned out to be perfect.

We all know going out is fun, but coming home is even better.

It’s alright if you forget names. Most of those people thought you had died years ago anyway.

It’s this time of life when you become aware you are not going to be any better at doing puzzles, figuring out how much to tip or playing golf. In fact, you know you are no longer really good at anything.

It’s when you know there were certain things always at the top of your bucket list, and now you don’t give a darn if you do them anymore.

When did you start sleeping in the recliner with the television at 400 decibels? Then you wake up at 2 a.m. and stagger off to bed . . . where sleep is now impossible. You sleep better on a lounge chair with the TV blaring than in bed.

We won’t talk about the sick jokes Mother Nature plays on your body as the aging process moves along. You know — veins that stand up on the back of your hand, the crepe skin, vanishing muscle mass and thin or disappearing hair.

Freckles have changed to “liver spots” bruises appear with no memory of an injury while toenails grow so fast they seem to need clipping twice a week.

Your clothes closet is packed, and less than a quarter of those items will fit anymore. That’s OK because most of it is out-of-style.

This is the time of life when the actors in movies that are on the television seem to all speak in “whispers”, and so do a lot of people you meet.

It’s hard to find a television program you like. So mostly it’s a diet of re-runs of M.A.S.H., All in the Family, Everybody Loves Raymond and Golden Girls.

Any music later than the 1980’s doesn’t have a melody, and “rap” is an absolute mystery.

But you remember when there were lots of stores downtown . . . places where you could buy dresses, shoes, suits, shirts and even pajamas. When you stopped at Ellis Hardware the items you bought were in a paper bag and not sealed in plastic so tough you need a hammer and a cleaver to open it. It was the same at the grocery stores.

But the best part of these days is the absolute knowledge that old songs, old movies, and old friends are the best.

We’ve got to stop writing about grey hair.  People are going to get the idea it’s on our mind too much. Be happy, don’t worry about aging and we’ll write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Another Good Reason For Keeping In Touch

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnnist

One of our favorite Bench Sitters said it right this week.  

When a friend asked him about being excited to see 2020 over and the start of the New Year, he quickly replied . . . “at my age any new year is a great accomplishment. Pandemic or not, it’s a gift to be here.”

While we try to remember to stop dating things with “2020”, there have been a few other random thoughts from the members of the “older and wiser” coffee group.

–We can’t help but wonder if John Elway has been kicking himself for not drafting Josh Allen after he watched him play as a Wyoming Cowboy in the Potato Bowl in Boise a few years back. That was a multi-million dollar mistake.

–They tell us it’s hard to sell a 2021 daily planner.  Most of those from last year are still empty.

— To keep a good attitude, we have always tried to avoid negative people.  Now the policy is to avoid those who are “positive.”

— It’s ironic we used to get so mad when the kids snuck out of the house, and now they are telling us to stay home all the time.

— Covid has done what a lot of women have long wanted to accomplish.  You know, cancel sports, shut down the bars and keep men at home.

— The “good news/bad news” part of the vaccines is “there are plenty of doses, but hard to get one”.

Last week one of Sven’s favorite readers shared a poem we’d like to share. We should know who the author is, but can’t find that out for certain.

Jake, the rancher, went one day to fix a distant fence. 

The wind was cold and gusty and the clouds rolled gray and dense.

As he pounded the last staples in and gathered tools to go,

The temperature had fallen, the wind and snow began to blow.

When he finally reached his pickup, he felt a heavy heart.

From the sound of that ignition he knew it wouldn’t start.

So, Jake did what most of us would do if we had been there.

He humbly bowed his balding head and sent aloft a prayer.

As he turned the key for the last time, he softly cursed his luck.

They found him three days later, frozen stiff in that old truck.

Now Jake had been around in life and done his share of roaming.

But when he saw Heaven, he was shocked — It looked just like Wyoming!

Of all the saints in Heaven, his favorite was St. Peter.

Nobody was keeping’ score — In Heaven, time is free.

‘I’ve always heard,’ Jake said to Pete, ‘that God will answer prayer,

But one time I asked for help, well, he just plain wasn’t there.’

Peter listened very patiently and when Jake was done,

There were smiles of recognition, and he said, ‘So, you’re the one!!’

That day your truck, it wouldn’t start, and you sent your prayer a flying,

You gave us all a real bad time, with hundreds of us trying.’

A thousand angels rushed to check the status of your file,

But you know Jake we hadn’t heard from you in quite a long while.’

‘And though all prayers are answered, and God ain’t got no quota,

He didn’t recognize your voice, and started a truck in Minnesota’

Be good and well write again next week.

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Jim Hicks: We Can Still Make Christmas 2020 Special . . .

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

There is no doubt about it. Christmas 2020 is going to be a little different for most of us. Many won’t be able to attend church services and fewer place settings at the table when the special meal is served.

One of our friends saw this as a special opportunity to make Christmas special by reaching out to others in every way we can. That phone call to and old friend or relative you haven’t seen for years . . . delivering some cookies or other goodies to the neighbors you know don’t have family to join them . . . a small gift or simple “thanks” to the mailman, the clerk in the grocery store or any other person who provides service or help to you during the year.

Not a bad idea.

But we will survive and will all place a lot more value on Christmas 2021as a result.

Why are some people so organized while the rest of us seem to be in a whirlpool of demands on our time we can’t seem to get things done on time?

You know the people we are talking about.  Those are the ones driving clean cars and pickups. 

They live in neat and orderly homes, all the tools in the garage are neatly hung in the proper place and they start sending out their Christmas cards as soon as they clean up from Thanksgiving dinner.

Here in Buffalo, Sven and Maudie are sure not in that group.  Sometimes they don’t know whether to send Christmas cards or wait another week or two and send Valentine wishes.

A few years back the Bench Sitters got into a discussion about the many essays that have been written about the meaning of Christmas.

One of our favorites is from a writer by the name of Oren Arnold. He was born in 1900, was a newspaper writer who went on to be a successful author.

Arnold said he had been most influenced by five other writers . . . and he named them . . . Mathew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. This guy said “humor is the calisthenics of the mind.”

One of his most often quoted thoughts was about “Christmas gift suggestions.” His ideas were:

To your enemy, forgiveness

To an opponent, tolerance

To a friend, your heart

To a customer, service

To all, charity

To every child, a good example

To yourself, respect.

Another American writer by the name of Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon wrote, “Remember this December . . . love weighs more than gold!”

Every family has special stories about Christmas. One of ours goes back many years when Hollis Voiles (owner and chef at the old Busy Bee Café) would dress up in his Santa suit and make a few “calls” for families on Christmas Eve.

It was a tradition for Hollis and he loved the job. His only problem was having too many requests for the evening. He needed to show up, empty his sack and get going as quickly as possible.

Hollis entered the house with a big white bag over his shoulder and greeted all the little ones with a robust “Ho Ho Ho.”

He sat down in the easy chair, opened the bag and started to hand out gifts as every little face stared at him in absolute awe . . . except for one. This three-year old was sobbing and rubbing his eyes.

“What’s the matter?” we asked.

“He’s sitting on my apple!” the three-year-old replied.

We hope nobody sits on your apple this Christmas.

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Jim Hicks: Always Take Your Stock Trailer Along For Potty Breaks

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

Anyone who has owned a horse or stock trailer knows that if “push comes to shove” they can be used for a bathroom in a pinch. 

Some true stories just can’t include names, but rest assured this one is factual.

About a week ago one of the early morning coffee group (now gathering at an undisclosed location with proper social distancing) told a story on himself.

He was pulling his empty trailer back over the mountain to Buffalo and was stopped to wait for a “pilot car” at a highway construction project west of Powder River Pass.

“I had enjoyed too much coffee before I left that morning and really had to go,” he said. “So I walked back to the trailer and took care of the problem.”

As he was closing the door on the trailer a driver from a car behind him walked up, smiled and said . . . “Could I use your bathroom?”

Trailer owners who have taken advantage of this option will also tell you it is important to make sure the trailer door doesn’t latch behind you on most models. 

It’s possible to lock yourself inside and no way to get out without some help.

A couple of years back a local lady found herself in serious need of a “rest-stop” so she pulled off to the side of the highway, got in the trailer and took care of the problem.

While she was “going” she was struck with a cold and chilling fact. When she had pulled the trailer door closed, she remembered hearing that latch fall into place. There was no physical way to open it from the inside of the trailer.

She stuck her arm though the opening on the side of the trailer and waved frantically at passing cars for nearly 40 minutes.  

That just wasn’t working and no one even slowed down. But ranch girls are resourceful.

When she started waving her bra . . . it didn’t take long before she heard the tires squealing on a passing vehicle.

Two young men walked back to see what the signal was all about. After some joking around about the situation they freed the young woman and she joined them in the laughter.

Meanwhile, back down on the Main Drag in Buffalo this week one of the Bench Sitters got a lot of attention when he announced he had come up with a great “Covid Test” anyone could do right in their own home. 

“It’s inexpensive and you get fast results,” he claimed.

“Take a glass and pour a decent shot of your favorite whiskey into it. Then see if you can smell it . . . if you can smell it then you are halfway there. Then drink it and if you can taste it then it is reasonable to assume you are currently free of the virus.

“I tested myself six or seven times last night and was virus-free every time, thank goodness.

“I will have to test myself again today because I have developed a headache, which can be one of the symptoms.”

We knew at once he was pulling our leg.  All of us with the exception of one who will remain unnamed.  With a straight face he asked . . . “Will that work with beer too?”

We hope you found some shade this week.  Monday was a scorcher for sure.

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Jim Hicks: Hosting Wyoming Tour Sure Reminds Us Of Our Blessings

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By Sagebrush Sven (interpreted by Jim Hicks)

This past week Sven had the opportunity to take some friends from South Dakota on a little mountain tour. They had driven over our Bighorn Mountains in past years, but never had the opportunity to see much of the area.

As we headed up Crazy Woman Canyon, Wes and Cathy were amazed at the rugged natural beauty of the stream and rock formations. 

It seemed nearly every possible camping site in the canyon was being used. This makes us wonder how people get some of those larger campers into those spots.

After the compulsory photos by the elevation sign at Powder River Pass, we doubled back to Sheep Mountain Lookout.

A summer rain shower hit as we climbed toward the lookout, and turned to hail as soon as we reached the end of the road. 

As usual, a 15-minute wait was all it took for the sun to come back out and the vistas to re-appear as the clouds rolled southeast.

Noticed a “dirt bike” parked with no rider in sight.  When the hail stopped he emerged from the outhouse. It might have been a long wait in there unless someone had left a magazine.He seemed glad to get going in that clear fresh air again.

Although the lookout can be rented out by those seeking adventure, it was empty the day we visited. Again, it appeared every possible camping spot along that road was filled.

The next stop was Tiehack Reservoir where nearly a dozen people were fishing from the dam. It was hard to estimate how many people were using the camping and picnic spots, but it’s obvious this has become one of the most popular recreation areas on the Bighorn National Forest.

It was interesting to see the City of Buffalo is drawing considerable water from the reservoir right now. And it will refill next spring with ample water tumbling down over the spillway.

The little tour proved once again we often forget how fortunate we are to live at the foot of the Bighorns. Even with a proliferation of camper trailers on the mountain, our guests kept talking about the vast expanse of scenery.

Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to get an “out-of-town opinion.” And the day was a great reminder of a major blessing we take for granted too often.

In other news, the 2020 Johnson County Fair and Rodeo is now in the history books, and considering concerns about Covid-19, fire danger, hot weather and a few other things . . . it was a great one again.

The Saturday morning parade may not have drawn as big a crowd as in the past, but over 50 entries made it a good one.

One of the Bench Sitters said he was a little late that morning, and coming west on Hart Street he noticed all the tourists were being diverted north on Lobban Ave.

He was following two out-of-state cars and wondered what the conversations might have been as they traffic moved north at about 3 miles per hour. Just out of interest he kept following the two cars.

When they finally ended up on the truck-bypass at the north end of town, he said it was easy to tell they were completely lost.

Interesting traffic plan, and a lot like navigating an endless circular series of security instructions on an internet site.

That’s about all this week except the observance on one of the older members of the Bench Sitters group.

As he struggled to get up out of his chair he said, “A horse gets up with his front feet first, a cow gets up with its hind feet first, and elephant can use all four to rise . . . and I need both legs, two arms and . . . give me a hand will you?”

Hope you are bouncing out of your chair these days. Stay cool and we’ll drop a line again next week.

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Jim Hicks: Social Isolation Up In Buffalo Derailing Its Most Prominent Benchsitter

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By Sagebrush Sven, (translated by Jim Hicks)

BUFFALO – Your friend Sven is sitting at his old Royal upright typewriter with a blank stare on his face this week.  He won’t speak. Not even blink. We think he is either in a mind-numbing trance or might be semi-comatose.

We are not sure. But we are pretty certain it has to do with “social isolation” which, until just recently, was not classified as a mental disorder.

So, a couple of the Bench Sitters have volunteered to “fill in” for a week until his condition improves.

We’ll do our best to write what we think he may have wanted to say . . . but in reality nobody ever knows what might come out of that moldy old mind and twisted sense of humor.  We can only do our best.

Before he went silent, Sven said the “stay-at-home” thing was easy for some and damned hard for others. “They might have as well outlawed smoking, drinking, sex, and a few other things as well. Let’s get over it all at one time.”

He had earlier mentioned that being cooped up was only part of his problem. Reading the newspapers and watching television has made him into some kind of “germ-a-phoebe” who was starting to actually see those little virus bugs on his box of cornflakes in the morning.

Maudie caught him trying to put cereal in the bowl using one knee and both elbows.  Big mess on the kitchen floor. He peels the banana and then washes his hands before slicing it up on top of the cornflakes.

When groceries are brought to the house by a very kind person or two, he insists they be left outside next to the front door.  After a half hour he cracks the door open, reaches out with his old three-iron to lift the bags one-by-one and carry them to the kitchen counter. Then each item will be wiped down with a cloth soaked in 10 percent bleach before being put away.

At least he stopped doing that to raw chicken since serving Maudie some “teeth whitening” home-made chicken noodle soup that tasted mostly like laundry detergent.

Last week he put the family dog, “Muffin,” in the sink in the laundry room and gave her a full-body scrub down. 

Now every time Sven gets that Clorox rag out . . . old Muffin either hides behind the couch or runs out the dog-door.

We found a note Sven had written to his cousin in Florida the other day.  Imagine it was good that this bit of correspondence didn’t get mailed.

He wrote: “Dear Katy, I heard a doctor on TV say to have inner peace we should always finish things we start and we could use calm in our lives. “I looked through the house for things I had started and hadn’t finished. “So, I finished off a bottle of Crown Royal, a bottle of Tequila, a bodle of some old pinot, a butle of wum, tha mainder of Valiumun srciptuns, anda box o chocletz. Yu haf no idr how fabulous i feel rite now!”

We doubt that.  Sven gets ill after the third Keystone Light and we know that’s a fact.

So, this week we’ll pass along a few more “corona-one-liners” you may have already read in your e-mails. 

Half of us are going to come out of this quarantine as amazing cooks. The other:

— Half will come out of this with a drinking problem. 

— I need to practice social-distancing from the refrigerator.

–Every few days try your jeans on just to make sure they fit. Pajamas will have you believe all is well in the kingdom.

–Homeschooling is going well. 2 students suspended for fighting and 1 teacher fired for drinking on the job.

–I don’t think anyone expected that when we changed the clocks, we’d go from Standard Time to the Twilight Zone.

–This morning I saw a neighbor talking to her cat. It was obvious she thought her cat understood her. I came into my house, told my dog . . . we laughed a lot.

–So, after this quarantine . . . will the producers of “My 600-Pound Life” just find me or do I find them?

–Quarantine Day 5: Went to this restaurant called THE KITCHEN. You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal. I have no clue how this place is still in business.

–My body has absorbed so much soap and disinfectant lately that when I pee it cleans the toilet.

–Day 5 of Homeschooling: One of these little monsters called in a bomb threat.

–I’m so excited — it’s time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?

–Classified Ad: Single man with toilet paper seeks woman with hand sanitizer for good clean fun.

And so it goes this week without old SVEN. Maybe he’ll improve by next week.

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