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Jimmy Orr

Leland Christensen: A Remarkable Man Who Brought Everyone Together

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor-in-Chief

On the same day that Wyoming Republican Chair Frank Eathorne told FOX News that “in Wyoming, we don’t necessarily embrace the idea of a big tent,” the state GOP became a big tent.

In fact, that tent was even larger. Republicans of all stripes and Democrats came together.

It took the death of one man. One remarkable Wyoming man to open up that Wyoming tent.

Not everyone knew Leland Christensen, the 62-year-old former state senator, county commissioner, deputy sheriff, veteran, father of six, and grandfather of 13 who died on Friday.

But the many, many who did, saluted him. For one weekend, Liz Cheney and Harriet Hageman were on the same side.

Arch foes Rod Miller and Joey Correnti were teammates.

Wyoming Equality Director Sara Burlingame and Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) stood together.

Leland Christensen brought everyone together. That’s what he did.

I saw it firsthand. 

I went on the road with Leland and his sons Hunter and Wyatt during his 2016 congressional campaign.

Leland liked everyone. And everyone liked Leland right back.

Line Up With Leland

Our slogan was “Line Up With Leland.”  It could have been “Line Up With Laughter.”  Because laughter was our constant companion as Leland visited all 99 incorporated communities (and many non-incorporated ones) with friends in each town.

No hyperbole. I saw it happen.

He wanted to go door-to-door in every community. He loved being out on the road.

One evening, we were knocking on doors in Bairoil when Leland ran into a friend of his that he hadn’t seen in more than 30 years when the two went to law enforcement academy together.  We stayed there until 9:30 p.m. as the two former cops had us all in stitches talking about the old days.

From Aladdin to Point of Rocks, from Moorcroft to Evanston, Leland had a friend wherever he went.

The only place where Leland didn’t run into someone he knew was in Chugwater.  But that could be excused. It was 2 a.m.

Leland and I had been on the road for weeks and decided to cut a video. The lights went out in the middle of the shoot and that was enough to put us on the ground.

I dropped the video camera and the two of us were howling in the middle of Chugwater, in the middle of the night, for no real reason. Leland saw the humor in everything.

Being with him was like being a little kid with your best buddy in church. You aren’t supposed to laugh. But you can’t help it. And that’s what made it funnier.

Liz Cheney

Our consultant said we had to draw a distinction against his primary opponent and now U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, and polling showed that the residency angle was the best route.

So instead of a mean-spirited ad, Leland insisted on a softer touch. He couldn’t be mean. Let’s make ‘em laugh, Leland said.

So he compared Liz to Sasquatch — an elusive being that was rarely spotted in Wyoming.

It should have been a simple video.  But it took us a full day to shoot because every time he would act like he was on a safari searching for Liz — Leland, Wyatt, Hunter, and I would burst out laughing.

When news of Leland’s ill-health became public recently, Liz Cheney was among the first to wish him well.

That’s the kind of guy he was. Everyone loved Leland.

Town to Town

In Greybull, Wyoming, the owner of a restaurant couldn’t get Leland’s name right. She was an immigrant and in broken English, she kept saying “Lyeland” or “Luland” or “Layland.” 

She had a great sense of humor in her own right.

Cameras were rolling.  The restaurant was full. Everyone — every single person — was laughing.  Even she fell over laughing, smashing a chair in the process.

A train horn blasting in the middle of a video shoot typically isn’t a big deal. But when it happened to Leland and his buddy, Stan Blake, the former legislator from Green River, the two laughed uncontrollably. That led to Wyatt, Hunter, his wife Anita, and me all laughing uncontrollably.

Our second trip to Wamsutter was one of my favorites. Burnt out from the road, Leland drew a blank on what to say about the community.

“Hello Wamsutter,” Leland began. “Second time through Wamsutter. What a …. uhhhh, what am I supposed to say?”

After a couple laughs, Leland bounced back with a solid energy message. You can tell from the video just how fun Leland was and how he brought joy to everything.

Dominos

We were all dominos with Leland. If he thought something was humorous, you couldn’t resist it.

Leland brought that aura with him.  You saw him.  You smiled.  You saw him.  You laughed.  Most of all, if you saw him, you went up to him. You had to say hi. He was a magnet.

I hope Gov. Mark Gordon calls out Leland during his upcoming State of the State address because Wyoming will be able to see that, in fact, we all can stand together.

Just maybe, Leland’s influence will take us a bit further than just that.

It’s worth a try, anyway. 

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis, his longtime friend, brought Leland onboard the minute she was elected because, as she put it, “I knew I needed Leland on my team because he loved Wyoming people.”

What a gift Wyoming had. What a gift Heaven has.

We all love you, buddy.  And we’ll all laugh again.

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Wyoming GOP No Longer Recognizes Liz Cheney As a Republican

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Republican Party is no longer recognizing U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as a member of the GOP.

The Republican State Central Committee on Saturday voted 31-29 in support of a resolution that states that it will no longer recognize her as a member of the Republican Party.

The resolution is similar to the those adopted by nine county-level parties across the state earlier this year.

Not Just Symbolic

Although the resolution holds no legal authority to remove Cheney’s registration in the party, Joey Correnti, chairman of the Carbon County Republican Party who spearheaded the statewide effort on Saturday, said the gesture is more substantive than one might think.

Correnti compared it to the Wyoming Republican Party’s censure of Cheney earlier this year, which he said resulted in change.

“Yes, our resolution to censure her was symbolic,” Correnti said. “It also helped to get her removed from leadership.

“Yes, our resolution not recognizing her as a Republican is symbolic, but is exactly the thing that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Rep. Lauren Boebert, Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and Rep. Matt Gaetz have hinted to needing in order to kick her out of the House Republican Conference,” he continued.

Correnti said Cheney must now be removed entirely from the Republican Conference, comparing her to a political spy.

“Liz Cheney is sitting in our locker room, taking notes on our playbook and running it back to her Pelosi committee and basically committing treason on the Republican Party,” he said.

He said the resolution will help bolster support among Republicans to have her removed from the conference.

“They don’t have the outside support within the conference that says even the people this representative was apparently elected by don’t want her here anymore. And now they’ve got it.”

Completely Pointless

Not every Republican agreed with the resolution as evidenced by the razor-thin vote. Nor do all Republicans share Correnti’s view that the resolution is substantive.

Natrona County Committeeman Dr. Joe McGinley said the resolution is “completely pointless and means nothing at all.”

“The Wyoming GOP has lost all credibility and respect among most legitimate Republicans in the state,” McGinley said.  “So anything they say, no one really cares.”

McGinley said what was important, however, was the margin of the vote. Because it was so close, it told him that members of the Republican Party are getting tired of the narrative.

“The close vote really was symbolic of people getting fatigued on this issue,” he said. “Some people like to keep bringing it up, I think more personally for attention more than anything else.”

Won’t Affect Cheney

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, a frequent critic of Republican Party leadership said the best part about the resolution is that it won’t affect Cheney.

“She still gets to run as a Republican because the party doesn’t dictate who belongs and who doesn’t,” Brown said. “That’s not how the GOP works.”

“Sadly, the small amount of people that passed this resolution are the people who couldn’t get elected in their own area,” he said.

Laughable

Cheney spokesperson Jeremy Adler said it was “laughable” to think Cheney is anything but a conservative Republican.

In fact, she voted with Trump 93% of the time and has a 80% lifetime rating with Heritage Action for America — much higher than the congresswoman who replaced her in House Leadership Rep. Elise Stefanik.

“She is bound by her oath to the Constitution,” Adler said. “Sadly, a portion of the Wyoming GOP leadership has abandoned that fundamental principle, and instead allowed themselves to be held hostage to the lies of a dangerous and irrational man.”

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Josh Allen Appears On Peyton and Eli’s Monday Night Football Show

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

We learned a lot about former University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen on Monday night.

Appearing on “Monday Night Football with Peyton and Eli” featuring brothers Peyton and Eli Manning, we learned that Allen credits his ability to play in the cold Buffalo weather to his time in Laramie, he may assault a table in a parking lot like so many Bills’ fans and he doesn’t mind that Peyton’s son wears an Allen jersey — not a Manning one.

Allen held up well on the three-hour improv show, which showcases the weekly Monday Night Football game as seen through the eyes of the Manning brothers. Although the focus of the show is reportedly the game, the guests get easily distracted and talk about many other things.

The never-ending diversions are what makes the show fun to watch, as when Peyton chided Josh for his son’s refusal to wear a Manning jersey on his youth football team.

“My son’s name is Manning. It’s my name, it’s my dad’s name. I’d like him to put Manning on the back of his jersey. Instead, he puts J. Allen. Tell me how to interpret that and will you please tell him that’s not a nice way to treat his father,” Peyton said.

Allen responded by saying if Manning’s son was throwing to any teammates with the last names of Bills’ receivers on their jerseys — like Stephon Diggs or Cole Beasley — then it’s a team thing.

“No, no, it’s just him,” Peyton said while Eli watched, laughing. “Everyone else had their normal names.”

“I don’t know what to tell you there,” Allen said smiling.

Then Eli stepped in and mocked Peyton on another topic. Notably, it was the first week where Eli did not make a joke about Peyton’s forehead.

As for the time-honored tradition of usually drunk Bills’ fans jumping onto tables (and breaking them) in Buffalo’s parking lot before game-time, Allen said he would do it, but only after winning a Super Bowl.

“As long as we get to the [Super Bowl] parade, maybe I’ll jump off the top rope on the bus,” Allen said while Eli and Peyton were laughing at a video of a Bills’ fan who set himself on fire and then jumped on a plastic table, thus destroying it.

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Busloads of Anti-Vaccine Mandate Citizens Attend Special Session in Cheyenne

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Hundreds of Wyoming citizens showed up at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to attend the first day of the Legislature’s special session on President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

At least three buses filled with constituents from eastern Wyoming counties arrived in Cheyenne early Tuesday and the passengers quickly filled the galleries in both the House and Senate.

When capacity limits were reached, others were taken to overflow rooms on the main floor, which quickly reached near-capacity crowds as well.



The organizer of the event, Kristy Tyrney, said she put the gathering together after her health freedom advocacy group received many phone calls from individuals who were worried about losing their jobs because of the federal mandate.

“We were flooded with messages on a daily and weekly basis,” Tyrney told Cowboy State Daily. “Families all across the state afraid of losing their jobs and their livelihoods.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned that there hasn’t been enough research and want to wait for that before they consent to something,” she continued. “And we think that that choice should be respected.”



James Barth, a Laramie County resident who is also running for sheriff in next year’s election, said the main message of Tuesday’s rally was to let legislators know the importance of preserving constitutional freedoms.

“If somebody wishes to go get the vaccine, fine, we’ll get the vaccine, but it should never be forced under the Wyoming constitution and the United States Constitution,” Barth said.

If elected Laramie County Sheriff, Barth said he would “be there to support citizens’ freedoms and liberties.”



Critics of the special session have said it is a waste of time as federal vaccine rules have yet to be presented and because federal law supersedes state law, any attempt to block the administration’s mandate would be futile.

No matter, said the attendees. What’s important, they said, is to send a message that Wyoming won’t stand for it and ultimately victory could be achieved either through the legislative or judicial process.

“We gotta play the long game,” said Chris Robarge, who provided the audio/visual equipment for the rally.  “There’s going to be fights in the courts so hopefully what we can do is slow the process down until we can get some national legislation to address it.”

Cheyenne resident Jeanette Leishman agreed that the debate over federal mandates will end up in court but there was another important reason to attend the rally — to keep an eye on their legislators.

“We’re watching how you’re voting because we will make sure that you are removed and someone else is voted in in your place if you choose to be tyrannical about medical choices for Wyoming,” she said.



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Cheney Infuriates Marjorie Taylor Greene With Jewish Space Lasers Comment

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney has proven many times that she’s quick with a quick comeback.

As evidence, just review an exchange today with rightwing firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia).

The drama came during a vote to hold Steve Bannon, a strategist for former President Donald Trump, in contempt for failing to cooperate with the committee investigating with the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.

Greene, who is no stranger to heated conversations, walked up to Cheney and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) and asked them, “Why don’t you guys investigate something that matters for the people.”

According to media reports, Cheney dismissed her by asking: “Like Jewish space lasers?”

“I never said that Liz,” Greene yelled.

Cheney was referencing Greene’s 2018 Facebook post where she theorized that California fires may have been started by space lasers to benefit a banking firm with a Jewish name.

Cheney then called Greene a joke to which Greene said Cheney was a joke.

“You’re done. You’re a joke, Liz. Your party rejected you. Why don’t you go investigate something that matters to the American people?” Greene said.

Describing the exchange to reporters, Rep. Raskin said Greene “seemed to have some kind of ancient beef with the former chair of the House Republican Conference Liz Cheney over the Jewish space lasers thing or something like that. And she denied that she’d ever said that and then blamed it on the mainstream media.”

The House of Representatives voted by a 229-202 margin to hold Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.  Nine Republicans voted with all 220 Democrats to pass the resolution.

The resolution will now go to the Department of Justice, which will decide whether Bannon should be prosecuted.

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Hageman Called Cheney a “Courageous Constitutional Conservative” in 2016

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The problem with running for office in the digital age is it is hard to run from your past.

Videos are now commonplace and what you said a few years ago may come back to haunt you, even if you may disagree with that viewpoint now.

That’s the situation Wyoming congressional candidate Harriet Hageman finds herself in.

CNN found a video from 2016 during Liz Cheney’s inaugural congressional campaign in which Hageman lavished praise on the woman she will presumably challenge next year for the GOP nomination to Wyoming’s lone U.S. House seat.

The contents of the video won’t be a surprise to observers of Wyoming politics. Cheney was the frontrunner throughout the 2016 primary and had many, many conservative supporters, including Hageman.

“I know that Liz Cheney is a proven, courageous, constitutional conservative, someone who has the education, the background and experience to fight effectively for Wyoming on a national stage,” Hageman said in the video.

In contrast, when announcing her House candidacy in September, Hageman said Cheney has betrayed the voters of Wyoming because of her vote for Trump’s impeachment.

“Like many Wyomingites, I supported Liz Cheney when she ran for Congress,” Hageman said in September. “But then she betrayed Wyoming, she betrayed this country, and she betrayed me.”

Hageman was also on the record as opposing the Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, calling him “racist and xenophobic.” Like her stance on Cheney, however, her opinion of Trump changed, she said, adding she was fooled into opposing the president in 2016.

“The fact is, I heard and believed the lies the Democrats and Liz Cheney’s friends in the media were telling at the time, but that is ancient history as I quickly realized their allegations against President Trump were untrue. They lied about him before he was elected and continue to lie about him to this day,” Hageman said.

Hageman now calls him the “greatest president” of her lifetime.

“I am proud to have been able to re-nominate him in 2020,” she said. “And I’m proud to strongly support him today. Our country would be in a better place with him still in office.”

The Cheney team was quick to send the CNN story and video out to the media on Friday morning.

Yet to be seen is how the other candidates in the race plan to use it.

Anthony Bouchard, a state senator from Cheyenne, is now targeting both Cheney and Hageman on his very active Facebook page and is using social media to play up the former friendship of Hageman and Cheney and lump them together as the same person.

“Wyoming needs an America First Champion to replace Liz.. Not a Cheney 2.0… Send me to Congress, I’ll fight the Socialists!” a post on his Facebook page said.

Denton Knapp, a war veteran from Gillette, also called out what he sees as the similarities between the two.

“Cheney and Hageman are not the only two Republican choices.  They both fought against former President Trump in 2016. I supported his candidacy in 2016, and 2020,” Knapp wrote.

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Rep. Hans Hunt Steps Down From Legislature To Join Lummis’ Staff in DC

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, on Thursday announced he is resigning from the Wyoming Legislature to join U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ staff in Washington, DC.

Hunt, who has served for six terms in the House representing Weston, Niobrara, and Goshen counties, will serve as Lummis’ agriculture and trade policy advisor.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the voters of House District 2 for the past 10 years,” Hunt said. “Thank you for putting your trust in me to represent you in Cheyenne for six terms. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for all the support they’ve given since day one.”

Hunt was greeted by a bipartisan display of good wishes on Facebook from many members of the Legislature including State Sens. R.J. Kost, R-Powell and Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, and Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Shelley Duncan, R-Lingle, and Jared Olson, R-Cheyenne.

Many former legislators thanked Hunt for his service as well, including former Sen. Tony Ross, and former Reps. Mary Throne, Lori Garrison, Tom Lubnau, and Tom Jones.

Looking back at his 11 years in the House, Hunt told Cowboy State Daily he was proud of serving as Chair of the House Ag Committee and the Select Water Committee.

In terms of legislative accomplishments, he said House Bill 187 was his favorite. The legislation clarifies residency requirements for most elected county officials.

“I’ve passed other legislation over the years of course, but I personally feel that one had the most impact and did the most good in working to solve a problem,” he said.

Hunt’s addition to Lummis’ staff gives it even more legislative firepower, with three former members of the Legislature working alongside the senator.

Hunt will join former Sen. Leland Christensen and former Rep. Tyler Lindholm — although both of them work here in Wyoming.

Lummis herself was a member of the Legislature. At age 24, she became the youngest woman to be elected to the body. She served in both the House and the Senate before joining Gov. Jim Geringer’s office as general counsel.

Note: There’s only one member still serving in the Legislature who was a freshman with Lummis. That’s State Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, who has the most seniority of the entire body.

Both he and Lummis were elected when Jimmy Carter was the president, Ed Herschler was Wyoming’s governor, Warren Morton was the incoming Speaker of the House, and Neal Stafford was the incoming President of the Senate.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in their first year of office. The Atari 2600 was considered state-of-the-art and Löwenbräu was enjoying its peak of success.

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Jimmy Orr: We Love Your Wyoming Sunrises

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By Jimmy Orr, editor

Anyone who is from Wyoming or has lived here for awhile has heard the state described as a small town with long roads.

We use that saying a lot.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Mark Gordon said it when he answered a question about the 20th anniversary of the tragic accident that killed eight Wyoming athletes on Highway 287.

His point was the accident affected all of us in every part of the state.  We could all feel that pain together.

We can all feed good together too though.

And one of the things that makes being the editor of Cowboy State Daily so enjoyable is hearing from citizens all across the cowboy state.

We do when we publish the Wyoming sunrise of the day. 

Not a day has gone by when we haven’t had a new one. 

Just this past week, we’ve had photos of sunrises sent to us from Jay Em, LaBarge, and Vedauwoo.  That covers a lot of ground in southern Wyoming (although Jay Em is more central but who’s counting). We haven’t published the LaBarge one yet but look at these beauties from Jay Em and Vedauwoo.

When the email comes in with the town in the subject line, it’s fun to open up. Because you picture the town before you see the photo. So you’re looking forward to see their perspective.

It’s also fun to see a location that you can’t put a finger on.  

Savery, Wyoming. I immediately think of Baggs and Dixon. I know where it is. I’ve been there. 

But I didn’t have a picture in my head. 

Savery, Wyoming

But now I do and it’s spectacular. Look at the greens and the different shades of yellow. The grass in the foreground. The cows in the pasture and the mountains in the background. 

Don’t know what happened to the bottom part of the sun but that imperfection makes the photo better somehow.

It’s one of our favorites.

Powell, Wyoming

This one from Powell is pretty striking too. The gradient oranges. The deep greens. And the synchronized horses.  Thanks to Shawnee Moon for this one.

I had to Google “Auburn, Wyoming” before I recalled where this town is located and I was bothered by that because I think I’m infallible on knowing every town and location in the state. How could I forget Auburn?

It’s not incorporated and I’m not sure I have traveled on Highway 238 before. Highway 89, of course. Ton of times.

Auburn, Wyoming

But it was great to get a photo from Auburn and now I’ve got to make the trip.

We’ve received photos from every county. That was an easy achievement. Johnson County and Park County may have the most active photographers.

We have not received photos from every community. We have yet to receive a photo from Lost Cabin, Lysite, Sussex, Manville, Hartville, Beulah, Arvada, Spotted Horse, Bill, Van Tassel, and Point of Rocks. For that matter, we are still waiting for photos from Bairoil and Lamont too. And then there’s gotta be a great sunrise photo from Jeffrey City out there.

Those are a few off the top of my head. 

Here’s the deal: you keep sending them and we’ll keep publishing them.

As a matter of fact, we’re going to ask Dave Bell, who is one of the most talented photographers in the country and Pinedale is lucky enough to call him a citizen, to give some tips on how to take the best sunrise photo with a phone.

We’re glad you enjoy the feature and we sure like doing it.

And while I’m at it, I will make my continued appeal to all photographers: Shoot horizontally, not vertically. Thanks

Come on Bairoil, let’s get it together. Send a photo!

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Cheney Applauds Gen. Milley For Loyalty To Constitution; Blasts GOP Colleagues For Condemning Him

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Rep Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, made it clear on Wednesday that she strongly supports Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and had harsh words for many of her Republican colleagues who questioned his loyalty to the nation.

Cheney, speaking at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, used a portion of her time — as did many of her colleagues — to discuss Milley’s communications with Chinese military officials near the end of the term of former President Donald Trump.

While some Republicans on the committee like frequent critic Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, told Milley he should resign, Cheney praised the general for “standing in the breach” while others, she said, didn’t follow the Constitution.

“In the aftermath of that attack, many of the members of our constitutional system failed to do their duty,” Cheney said. “Many of them punted. Many of them today are still attempting to obstruct the investigation into that attack, attempting to whitewash what happened.”

According to reports published in the book “Peril” by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley acted on his own to contact the Chinese to assure leaders that Trump would not launch an attack on China as his presidency neared its end. The book also said Milley held secret meetings on Jan. 8 to take steps to prevent Trump from launching military action.

As she has frequently done, Cheney emphasized how serious she believes the riots on Jan. 6 were, stating that it was the “first time in history that a peaceful transfer of power didn’t happen.”

To many of her colleagues in Washington, not to mention her challengers in Wyoming, the events of Jan. 6 are not that serious.

While some critics demanded Milley step down during hearings Wednesday for what they perceivd as actions against a sitting president, Cheney applauded his loyalty to the country.

“General Milley, you found yourself in your constitutionally prescribed role, standing in the breach,” she said.

“And for any member of this committee, for any American to question your loyalty to our nation, to question your understanding of our Constitution, your loyalty to our Constitution, your recognition and understanding of the civilian chain of command is despicable,” she said.

Milley has ignored calls for his resignation over the discussions with the Chinese, saying that he believed he was carrying out the will of the president because he “knew with certainty that President Trump was not going to attack the Chinese out of the blue.”

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Lummis Slams Yellen For IRS Proposal Mandating Every Transaction Over $600 Be Reported

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ grilling of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen over a controversial Internal Revenue Service measure on Tuesday is getting some big time exposure.

Great Britain’s Daily Mail is leading its newspaper with the exchange along with the headline “Biden’s Bank Stasi”.

Secret police references aside, at issue is a controversial measure which would vastly expand the powers of the IRS mandating that every financial transaction — personal and business — be reported to the tax agency.

A fierce critic of the proposal, Lummis laid into Yellen, telling her she was “horrified” that the secretary supported it.

“I am astounded by what you’re supporting and proposing. I think it’s invasive. I think privacy for individuals is being ignored. And I think that treating the American people like they are subjects of the government is unconscionable,” Lummis said.

Privacy concerns, costs to the private sector and new regulatory burdens that financial institutions would have to bear were Lummis’ main points of contention, with privacy issues being paramount.

The Wyoming Bankers Association agrees. It is just one of many organizations in the state and across the country which are objecting to the proposal. 

“This proposal would turn every American’s local bank, credit union and payment provider into an IRS agent, monitoring and reporting on deposits and withdrawals made in private accounts — at a threshold of as little as $600,” the organization told Cowboy State Daily last week.

Lummis took it a step further stating that financial institutions would have to “hire contractors to rat on their customers”.

Lummis referred to her agricultural roots during the questioning asking Yellen if she “distrusted the American people so much that you need to know when you bought a cow?”

Yellen ignored Lummis’ question about the cow — and most of the rest of her testimony — suggesting that she disagreed with how the senator interpreted the proposal.

Yellen said the purpose was to catch individuals who aren’t paying their taxes, prointing to a projected $7 trillion loss in tax revenues “which are not being paid to the government.”

Interrupting the secretary, Lummis said, “Well, $600 threshold is not usually where you’re going to find the massive amount of tax revenue you think Americans are cheating you out of.”

Yellen agreed but said the provision was needed anyway just to make sure.

If it’s enacted, don’t expect Wyoming people to participate, Lummis said. They’ll pull their money out of traditional financial institutions.

“Wyoming’s people, literally we’ll find alternatives to traditional banks, just to thwart IRS access to their personal information, not because they’re trying to hide anything, but because they’re not willing to share everything,” she said.

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Oops, Woman Forgets to Lock Car Door; Bear Remembers How to Open Car Door

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s no doubt about it. When a bear breaks into a car, we love it. We’ll write about it every time. Even if it’s not in Wyoming.

Usually the car gets destroyed which we admittedly find enjoyable. 

After all, the human is at fault. Lock your door, there’s not a problem. Keep it unlocked, buyer beware.

Then there was the case of the bear who opened up a car door and drank the case of beer in the back seat. No destruction but just as enjoyable.

But the video we found today gets a 10 out of 10.

Not only because the resolution is so clear but there’s great audio to go along with it.

And the dumb human doesn’t get hurt. But she puts on a wonderful show for more than 5 million people (so far) to see.

We have no idea where this happened. 

All we know is the woman is walking back out to her Lexus carrying what appears to be a box of apples. 

When she peers inside the open door and sees the bear she attempts to close it. But the bear ain’t having any of that and pushes back. The bear wins.

There’s nothing for the woman to do now but throw the box of apples down on the driveway and scream hysterically while she runs for the house.

The bear is freaked-out too. He jumps out of car and starts down the runway but gets over it. Quickly.

He sits down and starts scratching himself before sauntering back over to the car and then to investigate the box.

Sadly, the video ends there. We don’t know what happened next.

But we did find a extended dance remix of the video (below) where it shows the bear actually entering the vehicle and how easy it is for them to open unlocked doors.

Somewhere a Game and Fish department issued the same standard warning to lock your doors. But there are plenty of dopes — still — who don’t listen.

Until next time…

Four Animals Hit on Sublette County Roads in Less Than An Hour; Cow Survives

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

After four animals were hit by vehicles in the span of less than an hour, the Sublette County Sheriff’s office put out a reminder to the public that wildlife this time of year is more likely to be on and around Wyoming’s roads.

“We are at that time of year when animals are migrating, its darker longer and harder to see them. So slow down and give animals a ‘brake’,” the office said in a statement.

Between 5:40am – 6:30am on Tuesday, four animals were struck including two deer, one moose, and a cow. Of those, only the cow survived. No people were injured in the accidents.

“The cow is OK,” Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily. “It walked off. The moose was pretty messed up so they had to put it down. The cow was in good shape, however, with no injuries.”

The spate of vehicle vs. animal accidents in such a short time frame is unusual, Bingham said. But this time of year, motorists should expect to see wildlife on the road, especially between dusk and dawn.

The best way to avoid problems, he said, is to slow down and to stay vigilant.

“Pay particular attention to the barrow ditches on both sides of the road because they can come out of nowhere,” he said.

Although Sublette County does have elevated wildlife crossings and higher fences on some roads to keep wildlife off of busy highways, these could lead motorists to have a false sense of security.

“People think because of the bridges and bigger game fences that the roads will be clear,” Bingham said. “They think animals can’t possibly be on the road, but they still get through.”

Saying that, Bingham did say that the wildlife crossings have made roads safer for both motorists and animals.

“Deer used to get slaughtered through some of these areas,” he said. “So they’ve helped but they still get through.”

Upon approaching wildlife on a highway, sometimes the best strategy is just to apply the brakes and plow into them, he said.

“Swerving into oncoming traffic is a horrible idea because the last thing you want is a head-on,” he said. “And you don’t want to swerve into a ditch either. And you don’t want to lock your breaks with someone right behind you.”

“Sometimes it’s just better to take the hit if you can’t stop and react fast enough rather than to try to swerve,” he said.

Bingham said there have been 128 collisions with wildlife so far this year in Sublette County. Of those accidents, 73% have involved deer. Moose and antelope account for 20% of the accidents.

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Cheney Mocks Trump Days After Arizona Election Hand Count

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If there is any doubt the 2022 Wyoming congressional election is going to be filled with fireworks, that should be cleared up by a Sunday morning reminder.

On Friday, former President Trump sent out a photo meme which merged the features of President George W. Bush and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

The intent? Perhaps the Trump team thinks President Bush’s upcoming fundraiser for Cheney in Dallas is a negative.

Regardless, Cheney — never one to back down — fired back on Sunday morning with her own message.

“I like Republican presidents who win re-election,” she said, including a photo of President Bush in her tweet.

Days earlier she retweeted a recap of the months-long hand count of Arizona presidential election hand which showed that Trump did not win the contest in that state.

“The tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do, and the results reflect the will of the voters. That should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise,” said Maricopa County Board Chairman Jack Sellers on Friday.

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Dave Bell: Autumn in Grand Teton National Park

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The beauty of Wyoming was on full display as we entered the first weekend of Autumn.

Who better to be our tour guide than Pinedale master photographer Dave Bell?

“Shot this last night (Thursday) at an undisclosed location in Grand Teton National Park,” Bell told Cowboy State Daily.  “Sunset last night was at about 7:15pm.  This was taken at 8:11pm—nearly a full hour after sunset.  I shot with a Lumix S1r, 70-200mm lens at 70mm, 50-second exposure.”

“The color just hung around.  Meanwhile, three bull elk were literally going crazy in the foreground—ripping, bugling and tearing stuff up.  The rut is in full swing!  Quite an evening—just didn’t want to leave,” he said.

We don’t want you to leave, Dave. We want more.

Thankfully, he shared eight more spectacular photos on his Facebook page. Check out the collage below and click on it to see all of them.

Or if you want to buy any of these, check out his website.

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George W. Bush To Hold Fundraiser for Cheney; 2022 Election Is Showdown For Opposing Wings Of Wyoming GOP

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you get the feeling that Wyoming’s congressional race will be the center of the political universe in 2022, you’re probably on to something.

It looks like it might become a showdown for the opposing wings of Wyoming’s Republican Party, in fact.

Is the ideology of the GOP more in line with former President Donald Trump or does the party line-up with former President George W. Bush?

Whatever the answer is, both former presidents have chosen sides in Wyoming. 

Trump is going with Wyoming attorney Harriet Hageman and Bush, as it was revealed today, is lining up with incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Bush’s first campaign event for the 2022 midterm elections will be to support Cheney at a fundraiser in his home state of Texas.

None of this should come as any surprise to anyone who knows about the connection of the Bush and Cheney families and the acrimony between Bush and Trump.

No one knows how active Bush will be on Cheney’s behalf in the coming year — whether he will continue his work in her support until the August primary or whether the fundraiser will be merely a one-off.

If it’s the latter, it’s still significant and the news was welcomed by former Natrona County GOP Chair Dr. Joe McGinley.

“It is great to see former President Bush lead by example and support a long time conservative such as Representative Cheney,” McGinley told Cowboy State Daily. “The Republican Party is an organization based on conservative values and principles, not hate, anger, vendettas, misleading statements and conspiracy theories.”

McGinley’s views have made him a target of the current state Republican Party leadership.

In a harshly worded letter sent last April, the Wyoming Republican Party called McGinley a “loser,” “dishonest” and prone to “public tantrums.” Hageman signed that letter alongside current state Republican Party Chair Frank Eathorne.

But McGinley does not stand alone. Former Wyoming legislator and former state GOP Chair Diemer True, arguably the most influential Republican in party politics for decades, isn’t a fan of the current direction of the Republican Party.

“The anger that is currently being exhibited within the structure of Wyoming Republican Party is not who the Wyoming Republican Party really is,” True told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“It is a very small group of zealots and it is hard to exaggerate the damage they are doing to civil discourse and the opportunity to truly investigate different ideas which is what representative Democracy supposed to be,” he said.

In that vein, True called the obscene and violent email sent by a Park County GOP official to state Sen. Tara Nethercott “disgusting” and representative of the current state of affairs within the State Party.

“The way Republican politics should work in Wyoming is people have every right to express an opinion and they can express it with great eagerness and passion and then we shake hands and go have lunch together. But that’s not the way it is now,” he said.

“That email is sort of representative of what the [current Wyoming] Republican leadership is doing,” True said.

True said the 2022 election shouldn’t be about Trump and Bush, but should be about Wyoming people and Wyoming politics.

Bush’s fundraising event is scheduled for Oct. 18 and will be co-hosted by many of the Bush administration’s alumni including Karl Rove, former Bush White House Counsel Harriett Miers and former White House counselor Karen Hughes. Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is listed as a co-sponsor as well.

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Jimmy Orr: Bear Obliterates Truck. I Mean REALLY Obliterates Truck

in Jimmy Orr/Column
Jimmy Orr on bear destruction
Jimmy Orr writes: If there was a bear Hall of Fame, this one should get inducted.
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Locking the car doors may seem like a simple task to many of us, but to others it’s an insurmountable burden. A Sisyphean job so onerous that it can’t be done.

That’s why there are so many reminders from the police that hitting that daunting button after exiting a vehicle is a good strategy.

Wildlife officials issue that same call endlessly.

But some dopes individuals don’t get it.

Vehicles are stolen, goods inside vehicles are stolen and bears sometimes turn into Tasmanian Devils and destroy cars.

Happened again on Monday.

A bear opened up a door of a truck in South Park, Colorado, and absolutely obliterated the truck’s interior.

If there was a Hall of Fame for destruction caused by bears, this is a sure-fire nominee.

Now, the animal looked quite content with its surroundings in the first photo shared by Colorado Park & Wildlife (below).

Sure, the rear view mirror was dangling from the ceiling. But outside of that, it looked like he was in the driver’s seat just hanging out. Perhaps smoking a doobie (it is Colorado) and listening to Classic Vinyl on Sirius-XM.

Maybe “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills, & Nash is just fading and that’s when he realizes he can’t get out. Or there’s no beer in the vehicle. Making it much less desirable than the truck in Larkspur, Colorado, that was broken into in June by a bear that drank the beer inside it before stumbling away.

Regardless, bears seem to break in just fine. Exiting? That’s a struggle.

So what to do?

Rip the crap out of the car.

And it did.

In the second photo, the truck isn’t even recognizable.

It looks like a living room on the TV show Hoarders.

Door panel ruined. Cushions ripped to shreds. Things dangling which aren’t meant to dangle. Absolute annihilation.

Holy cow! We want video.

But there is good news. The bear was released and happily bounded away (photo below).

And the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department was left to issue that same old warning:

  1. Remove anything with a scent from your vehicle.
  2. Make sure to always keep your car doors locked.

See you next time.

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Sam Adams Releases 25.4%-Alcohol Beer; Illegal in 15 States But Legal in Wyoming

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Good news for Wyoming beer drinkers.

The lack of regulation on the amount of alcohol in beer sold in Wyoming means that the new Samuel Adams “Utopias” beer is legal in the Cowboy state.

Not so in 15 other states where the 25.4% alcohol level is too high for it to be sold.

Last week, Samuel Adams’ announced the latest incarnation of its “Utopias” beer will be released on Oct. 11. The special brews are released every two years and this batch, the brewery said, is made with thousands of pounds of cherries and the highly-coveted “Balaton” fruit — which is another type of cherry — and foodies love it.

The reason it’s making news, however, is due to its alcohol content. At 25.4%, it’s six times what the average beer holds.

Does that make it really that much more intoxicating?

“Oh, sweet Jesus, yes,” said Mike Moser, executive director of the Wyoming State Liquor Association.

Moser explained that drinking a bottle of Utopias would be similar to drinking 17 or 18 ounces of straight tequila.  

He said if a bottle was consumed in one hour, the blood alcohol content level in a 150-pound male could top 0.3%, about four times the legal limit.

“If you drank one of those containers in an hour, you could quite possibly be dead. You’ll either be hospitalized or wish you were,” he said.

Either way it would be expensive. Samuel Adams is selling the beer for $240 for a 28-ounce container.

Beer snobs say the beer is so costly because of the “long, painstaking process of brewing and aging thick yeast-based beverages like Utopias.”

Moser said the beer is so costly because people will pay for it.

“People love these weird beers the same way that they’ll spend $100 on Bourbon that they’ve never tried before,” he said.  “People don’t necessarily drink more today but they are spending more when they do.”

It’s not unusual, Moser said, for the cost of wine to be more than the cost of a meal when going out to eat.

Regardless, he cautioned that Utopias should be considered sipping beer, not a chugging beer.

The states which don’t allow the beer include:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia.

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Body Found At Grand Teton National Park; Body “Consistent” With Description of Gabby Petito

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A body matching the description of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has been found in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, law enforcement authorities announced Sunday.

“Earlier today, human remains were discovered consistent with the description of Gabby Petito,” FBI Agent Charles Jones said during a news conference. “Full forensic identification has not been completed to confirm 100% that we found Gabby, but her family has been notified of the discovery.”

“The cause of death has not been determined at this time,” he added.

Jones, a supervisory special agent for the FBI, held back tears as he expressed condolences to the family of Petito before making the announcement at the press conference in Grand Teton National park.

“On behalf of the FBI personnel and our partners, I would like to extend sincere and heartfelt condolences to Gabby’s family,” he said.  

In the meantime, authorities in Florida continued searching Sunday for Petito’s fiancé Brian Laundrie who still has not been identified as a suspect, only a person of interest.  

Laundrie disappeared earlier in the week.

A campground on the eastern edge of Bridger-Teton National Forest was closed over the weekend as officers searched for Petito, a New York woman whose family reported her missing on Sept. 11.

Petito and Laundrie had been traveling together in a van converted so they could live in it. Laundrie returned to his home in Florida on Sept. 1 without Petito.

Laundrie has not cooperated with authorities in their investigation into Petito’s whereabouts and he was reported missing by his family last week.

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Gabby Petito Investigation: Brian Laundrie Still Not Cooperating; Sister Defends Him

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The fiancé of a missing New York woman believed to have disappeared while at Grand Teton National Park is still refusing to talk to law enforcement officials.

However, Cassie Laundrie, the sister of Brian Laundrie, defended her brother’s character during an appearance a national news show on Friday morning.

Cassie Laundrie, the sibling of Brian Laundrie who is a person-of-interest in the ongoing investigation of missing person Gabby Petito, defended her brother’s character on Good Morning America without commenting directly on her disappearance.

“He’s a wonderful uncle,” Ms. Laundrie said during her appearance on Good Morning America. “He’s always been there when I need him. He’s been there every time Gabby has needed him.”

“Obviously, me and my family want Gabby to be found safe,” she said. “She’s like a sister and my children love her, and all I want is for her to come home safe and found, and this to be just a big misunderstanding.”

Brian Laundrie has been named a person of interest in the ongoing investigation into Petito’s disappearance. The two were traveling together in the Rocky Mountain West when Petito disappeared.

An hour after Cassie Laundrie’s television appearance, Gabby’s father Joe Petito said her comments didn’t make any sense to him.

“If that’s that family’s version of love, to just ignore and not care that someone’s gone,” Mr. Petito said, “and people are looking for them and entire countries looking for them, I mean, that explains how we got to where we are today. Because I mean, look at their version of what they call love.”

The day prior, Petito’s parents read a letter addressed to Laundrie’s parents begging for their cooperation during a media appearance.

“We believe you know the location where Brian left Gabby,” the letter reads. “We beg you to tell us. As a parent, how could you let us go through this pain and not help us? As a parent, how could you put Gabby’s younger brothers and sisters through this.”

Although Petito and Laundrie were vacationing together, Laundrie returned home to Florida on Sept. 1 without his fiancé and said nothing publicly about it. Ten days later, Petito’s family reported her missing.

Since then, their van has been located and impounded and police in Utah reported they were called to investigate a fight between the two, but did not press charges against either.

Laundrie’s refusal to speak to law enforcement has infuriated the daughter’s parents and has hindered progress on the case, according to New York investigators.

A leading defense attorney said Laundrie’s refusal to cooperate isn’t a good sign for Petito.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an arrest,” Lara Yeretsia told FOX News on Friday. 

“It doesn’t look very good, doesn’t look very kosher to me at this point,” she said. “Doesn’t look like he’s completely innocent, but he doesn’t have to help law enforcement.”

Yeretsia said she understood why Laundrie is being advised not to talk.

“Basically, he got a lawyer before law enforcement got him…and the lawyer is not going to make it easier for law enforcement to build a case against him,” she said. “He’s telling them, go do your job. You can have no access to this guy.” 

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Gordon Optimistic Grizzlies Will Be Removed From Endangered Species Act

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming will try once again to gain the authority to manage the grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and Gov. Mark Gordon said Thursday he is confident the federal government will side with the state.

Referring several times to the catchphrase “Follow the science” used frequently by the Biden administration, Gordon announced during a news conference the state is filing a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to win the right to manage the bears inside its borders.

“I am optimistic,” he said. “If this administration, which continues to talk about the science and how we need to follow the science, Wyoming has the very best science so I’ll take them at their word.”

During his news conference, Gordon said the state will submit a petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking for Yellowstone grizzlies to be removed from the endangered species list, clearing the way for state management of the animals. The Fish and Wildlife Service has 90 days to issue a recommendation on the petition and then will have a full year to make a decision on the request.

Grizzly bears were removed briefly from the endangered species list in 2017, but a federal judge ordered them to be returned to the list, returning management of the animals to the federal government.

Agreement

There is agreement between the state and federal government on some of the requirements to remove the bears from the list.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does consider Yellowstone’s grizzlies “biologically recovered,” with the bear’s population meeting recovery goals in 2003.

Today, estimates set the number of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at more than 1,000 — which is nearly 10 times what it was when the bear was first listed under the Endangered Species Act.

And this doesn’t count the number of bears outside of the area, which is believed to be significant. 

The push for delisting has been ongoing for years.

In 2015, President Obama’s Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said he was in favor of it.

Two years later, delisting did occur under the Trump administration, but only briefly. The courts intervened, relisted the animal, and management authority went back to the federal government.

Changes

Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik said the State of Wyoming has addressed the concerns expressed by the court in its 2017 ruling, giving him confidence the State will be victorious.

“We were very, very close to the finish line [in 2017],” Nesvik said. “I think if we make these changes, I’m optimistic that once they evaluate the petition based on science and its merits, that we will prevail.”

Those changes, according to a release from the governor’s office, include:

  • Amending grizzly bear management policies that will adjust the annual management and mortality targets.
  • Using the updated population model now adopted by grizzly bear experts.
  • Ensuring the bear’s long-term genetic health and and providing for translocation of bears into the population, as needed to maintain genetic diversity.

Geography

The third point, however, does not mean other parts of Wyoming could see a reintroduction of the grizzly. 

Nesvik said only the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large enough to sustain the population.

“Frankly, there’s really not a lot of other places where grizzly bears could do well and be successful because of other uses,” he said pointing to the Big Horn mountains as an example.

Because of the agricultural and recreational interests, there’s not enough space there, he said, that would keep the grizzly “out of trouble.”

“Grizzly bears need large tracts of unroaded areas, without a lot of other use in order to be successful. If they get close to those other kind of human uses, they find themselves in trouble,” he said.

That trouble can lead to death, Nesvik said stating that the department has had to kill up to 35 grizzlies per year.

Management

Through sound management practices, including hunting, the grizzly population can be managed at a sustainable level and fewer negative interactions with humans would likely occur, he said.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich praised the governor on Thursday.

“I applaud the governor for his actions today,” Ulrich said. “The grizzly has successfully rebounded to the point where they are encroaching on areas that just can’t handle it. I wouldn’t be surprised if grizzlies will be roaming the streets of Pinedale soon if we don’t manage them correctly.”

Others weren’t as supportive. Award-winning wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen told the Casper Star Tribune if delisting occurs, a legal battle would probably result.

“We’ll fight it again, just like we have the last two or three times,” he said. “It’s just frustrating that we keep going through this,” he said.

Federal Support

The governor has a lot of support in Washington. Members of the congressional delegations from Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho are in favor of the move — even on the Democratic side.

Back in April, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, told Montana Public Radio, “The grizzly populations in Yellowstone and the Northern Continental Divide are recovered, and the folks at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks have shown they are more than capable of managing the Yellowstone grizzlies.”

Wyoming’s delegation — U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis and U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, are also unanimous in their support of removing the grizzly from the endangered species at.

Cheney introduced legislation called the “Grizzly Bear State Management Act of 2021,” which would empower states to manage their grizzly populations based on science. Barrasso and Lummis have offered the same legislation in the Senate.

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Wyoming Dept Of Health Reports Rare Human Case of Pneumonic Plague

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Department of Health on Wednesday announced the detection of a rare but serious case of pneumonic plague in a northern Fremont County resident.

The department was tight-lipped about other details except that the individual who contracted the ailment had contact with sick cats.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, said while the risk for humans to contract plague is very low in Wyoming, the disease has been documented throughout the state in domestic and wild animals.

“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” Harrist said. “While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”

An outbreak of pneumonic plague was reported earlier this month in Madagascar. Seven individuals are reported dead and another 22 are hospitalized.

The last large outbreak of pneumonic plague in the country occurred in 2017 and infected more than 2,400 people and killed more than 200.

Plague is a bacterial infection that can be deadly to humans and other mammals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics. This disease can be transmitted to humans from sick animals or by fleas coming from infected animals.

Pneumonic plague is the most serious form and is the only form that can be spread from person to person. Pneumonic plague can develop from inhaling infectious droplets or may develop from untreated bubonic or septicemic plague.

Plague can also be transmitted from person to person through close contact with someone who has pneumonic plague. Individuals with a known exposure to plague require post-exposure treatment with antibiotics to help prevent illness. 

This human plague case is the seventh thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978. Other recorded Wyoming cases include a 1978 out-of-state case acquired in Washakie County, a 1982 Laramie County case, a 1992 Sheridan County case that resulted in death, a 2000 Washakie County case, a 2004 out-of-state case acquired in Goshen County, and a 2008 out-of-state case acquired in Teton County.

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Cheyenne Starts Work on New 80-Acre “Hitching Post Plaza”

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

They said it wouldn’t happen. But, it’s happening.

Cheyenne’s Hitching Post Inn, once the second-seat of government in Wyoming behind only the state Capitol and currently a burned out shell following a decade of neglect, is coming back.

The City of Cheyenne was joined by Banner Capital Bank and Swagger Construction at a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a joint collaboration that will result in a new 80-acre development called the “Hitching Post Plaza”.

The development, which includes a hotel, restaurants, retail outlets, and even a residential area, is already underway with demolition and environmental remediation happening now. 

Work on the demolition of the blighted existing property began last week when Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins, Banner Bank CEO and President Richard Petersen and Swagger Construction President Robert Chamberlin broke some of the bricks marking what remains of the old Hitching Post.

Cheyenne City Council President Jeff White, who represents Ward One — home to the remaining shell of the landmark — was emotional when discussing the weight of Wednesday’s announcement.

“We didn’t just lose a building when the Hitching Post burned, we lost a part of our identity,” White said. “To see this literally rise from the ashes, I’m really happy about it.”

“We all have a story about the Hitching Post when we were kids,” Ward One council member Scott Roybal said. “It’s just exciting to see we are going forward with this.”

The property was first developed in 1927 and shortly thereafter became the place to be during Wyoming’s legislative sessions and Cheyenne Frontier Days.

It fell into disrepair after the longtime owners sold the property in 2006 and then became the target of several fires — at least one of those the result of arson. The city finally condemned the area in early 2021.

“There have been many redevelopment efforts but nothing resulted from any of them,” White said.

How It All Happened

White said what made the difference this time was that all the city council members and new Mayor Patrick Collins identified rehabilitation of the area as one of the city’s top priorities.

Sharing that desire to clean up the property was Swagger Construction’s Chamberlin.

Chamberlin had an idea how to redevelop the site and took it to Banner Bank President Petersen.  

After sharing the plan with his banking colleague Richard Braithwaite, Braithwaite told Petersen how Banner could do it.

“He took one look at it and said ‘This thing screams for TIF (Tax Increment Financing),’” he said, referring to a public financing method that cities use for redevelopment, infrastructure, and other community-improvement projects.

“We went up and talked to the mayor and the response and the support from the city council was amazing,” Petersen said.

The council approved an ordinance creating a TIF District and the wheels were set in motion.

“I’m thoroughly convinced that without this public/private partnership, problems of this magnitude would not be solved,” White said.  “It’s a great day for Cheyenne and the only day that’s going to beat it is when we are back together in the spring putting shovels in the ground.”

Council member Pete Laybourn said the details of financing the project were “daunting.”

“This was extremely complex,” he said. “I compliment everyone involved. It took a long time and a lot of effort and we’ve come a long way.”

The Hitching Post Plaza

Chamberlin said it was important to him to honor the site by keeping the name “Hitching Post” because so many people in the community felt close to the original hotel.

“Everyone I talk to has some sort of connection to the Hitching Post,” he said, noting that many people told him they went to prom there.

White raised his hand as did Councilman Brian Cook. Later, Dr. Michelle Aldridge, a Ward Three councilperson said she also attended prom at the Hitching Post — and is still married to her prom date.

To that end, Chamberlin said he was going to save the existing Hitching Post sign.

“The goal is to renovate the sign and get it back to its glory days,” he said. “So that is still the staple of going into the development.

“That’s great news,” White said.

Timeline

Chamberlin said there are multiple phases to the redevelopment. Right now, work is being done on asbestos abatement and demolition. If weather holds up, he said, that could be done in two months.

“The biggest goal now is to knock those buildings down and getting them disposed of before we get too deep into the fall,” he said.  “Then we’re going to go vertical in the spring.”

Petersen pointed out that a hotel is already being built in the TIF boundaries where the old Atlas Motel once stood.

He said there has been a lot of interest in the site already.  

“I don’t think there’s going to be a shortage of demand,” he said.

As for the long-term benefit to the area, Petersen said the economic impact would be in the neighborhood of $40 – $50 million. 

Councilman Cook said there are many examples of a blighted property being turned around, followed by an immediate positive impact in the surrounding area. He pointed to the investment made by “Warehouse 21” — an advertising and marketing company in the West Edge — and the subsequent uptick in the area.

Roybal agreed, saying the redevelopment will open the western edge of town — an area hit hard in recent years — for economic growth.

“It’s really exciting,” Roybal said. “This is going to clean up this end of Lincolnway and bring in other businesses.”

Momentum

Laybourn said Wednesday’s announcement is another victory for Ward One constituents.

The “father of the Greenway,” as he has been called for championing the 40 mile pathway that connects neighborhoods throughout the community, said this project, along with the West Edge revitalization plan, the Reed Avenue corridor project and the Crow Creek restoration plan is proof that good government is possible.

“This is huge for Cheyenne and huge for Ward One and I couldn’t be more pleased,” Laybourn said.  

Roybal was already looking ahead.

“This one’s in the books,” Roybal said. “So now we just have to find someone to buy ‘the hole’ and the Hynds building.”

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Sand Creek Fire Expands to 907 Acres; 30 Percent Contained

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The wildfire known as the “Sand Creek Fire” burning west of Lander has grown to 907 acres and is now 30 percent contained, fire officials said Wednesday.

Laura Lozier, the public information officer for Lander’s field office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, told Cowboy State Daily that a “Red Flag Warning” will stay in effect for Wednesday and Thursday which means that conditions in the area — such as high temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds — could contribute to increased fire danger.

“Really if we can make it through the next two days of critical weather, things will be much more favorable for less fire activity,” Lozier said.

She said there were 175 firefighters battling the blaze, including four crews working with hand-powered fire suppression equipment, two smoke-jumping crews, 11 fire engines and three helicopters.

The fire, about midway between Lander and Fort Washakie, is in mountainous terrain and does pose some danger to structures owned by private individuals and the U.S. Forest Service.

“We do have structure protection crews in place,” Lozier said. “They aren’t threatened currently but they are in place if we need to activate those resources.”

The fire is being managed under a “full suppression strategy” which ensures that all actions reflect a commitment to incident personnel safety and public safety, she said.

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Driskill: 90% Chance of Special Session To Combat Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

in News/Coronavirus
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming Senate Majority Floor Leader Ogden Driskill, R-Devils Tower, said there is a 90% likelihood that the Legislature will hold a special session to address President Joe Biden’s sweeping national vaccine mandate.

Driskill told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that he envisioned a two- to three-day session where legislators would focus on strategies to fight the president’s mandate which would, in effect, force thousands of Wyoming workers to receive a COVID vaccine or be fired.

“The Legislature has listened closely to the people of Wyoming,” Driskill said.  “We agree with the people that this is egregious overreach by the Biden administration.  It is worthy of whatever the expense is to fight for Wyoming citizens’ rights.”

Driskill said he was with Gov. Mark Gordon when word of the mandate first surfaced last week and it was like a “shot in the gut” when he heard it.

“It was crushing,” he said. “It is massive overreach for the feds to dictate to private business what their employees have to do.”

Biden last week announced that federal employees, health care workers and employees of companies with more than 100 workers would be required to either get the vaccine or be tested for coronavirus weekly. The rules would be enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which could levy fines against companies that fail to comply with the order.

Driskill said legislative leadership began talking immediately about ways to address the mandate.

“Obviously we are going to sue,” Driskill said. “There is no doubt the governor’s going to join in and sue. But suing takes time and we are working up against hard deadlines here.”

Driskill and Senate President Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) said all legal and legislative options must be pursued.

“The president’s mandates touched a nerve of opposition across this state,” Dockstader said. “It’s important the Legislature respond to that concern and thoroughly be prepared with methodically prepared legislation.”

Creative Strategies

Driskill said this is where the Legislature could get creative.

Because state law cannot supersede federal law, Driskill said, more outside-the-box strategies could be employed.

One example would be to follow Colorado’s lead and just ignore the feds, he said.

“Colorado ignored federal laws with pot,” he said alluding to Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana despite federal laws.  “We can obviously take a look at that and say we are not going to do it.”

Another interesting strategy, Driskill said, was to use federal COVID funds to pay for federal fines imposed on businesses that don’t follow the mandate.

“It’s obviously COVID-related,” he said.  “We can use those funds to pay the fines for business.”

Driskill said the state could order state OSHA employees to “stand down” and enforce only the rules the state wants enforced.

The state could help employees who are fired for not following the mandate, he said, by paying for unemployment benefits and assisting with finding other jobs.

Because the federal mandate does allow employees to take weekly COVID tests instead of a vaccination, Driskill said the state could reimburse businesses or employees for the costs of rapid tests.

Driskill also said the state could help to “widen the window” for exemptions to the federal law.

“There’s always been a history that you can’t be challenged if you are using a religious exemption,” he said.  “You can’t challenge it.”

“We need to make sure the feds aren’t onerous in denying those exemptions,” he said.

If The Vaccine Works

Driskill said he’s not opposed to vaccinations.  He’s vaccinated himself.

He thinks vaccinated people shouldn’t be threatened by the unvaccinated “if the vaccine works.”

“I get that you can get the shot and get COVID,” he said. “But overwhelmingly, it’s pretty minor and you aren’t likely to die from it.”  

“So we shouldn’t force things on people when if you’ve got a vaccination, you really shouldn’t be threatened,” he said.

As for the session itself, Driskill said it would likely be conducted via video conferencing instead of in-person as the cost savings would be significant.

The governor’s office did not tip its hand on whether or when the governor might call a session although some have speculated he would make an announcement this week.

His spokesman, Michael Pearlman, said the governor has been “in initial discussions with legislative leadership regarding the potential for a special session.”

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Lummis Honors Slain Wyoming Marine Rylee McCollum on Senate Floor

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Stating that Wyoming’s “heart is heavy with grief today,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to pay tribute to Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, a U.S. Marine from Jackson who was one of 13 service members killed in Afghanistan last month.

McCollum’s wife Gigi gave birth to their daughter early Tuesday morning and Lummis said although Rylee will never know Levi Rylee Rose McCollum, she will be in good hands.

“She will be surrounded by love from mother Gigi, proud grandfather, Jim McCollum, Rylee’s sisters, and many other relatives who will share with Levi what a wonderful and heroic father she had,” Lummis said.

The senator said she spent some time with McCollum’s family over the weekend and had the honor of expressing Wyoming’s “deep appreciation of Rylee’s sacrifice to them” pointing to the thousands of people who lined Jackson’s streets to welcome him home.

“Wyoming’s very special way of honoring its beloved Rylee was on full display last Friday, people waving American flags lined the streets of Jackson to give Rylee a hero’s welcome as his remains were returned home,” she said.

“The people of Wyoming are heartbroken but infinitely proud of his bravery and sacrifice,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Rylee’s father Jim wrote a poem welcoming his granddaughter into the world and posted it on his Facebook account.

Levi Rylee rose
I love you little girl
You blessed us with light and love
When you came into the world
Hold on to your mama
She’s needing you right now
You’re precious
You are beautiful
You brought the world together somehow
Your daddy
He’s watching over you
He loves you both so much
You’ll feel him with you always
A random feather
A subtle touch
I can’t wait to hold you
I’m excited to watch you grow
I love you little Levi Rylee Rose
I wanted you to know

Me
Grandpa
Wykid

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Jimmy Orr: “A Plane Just Hit the Pentagon!” – A Wyomingite’s Memories From the White House on 9/11

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

There was nothing spectacular about the Denver Broncos – New York Giants game on September 10.

Just a Monday Night Football game. The Broncos were trying to stay relevant following the departure of John Elway a few years beforehand. We had steaks and martinis and watched it from my friend Rob Wallace’s house in Northern Virginia.

I remember it because of the next day. The events on September 11, 2001 make everything traceable.  What I was doing the night before, the weekend before, the day of, the next day. It’s not just the memory. I can still feel the dread. I can still smell my smoke-filled apartment. Some images are as clear as if they happened last week.

Working in the White House on September 11 doesn’t change the tragedy of the event but makes it surreal.

Not a replay

Going to Starbucks on 17th street following the communications meeting was a daily ritual. Colleagues Mercy Viana (Schlapp) and Wendy Nipper (Homeyer) and I walked back to our offices talking about the day ahead as we always had.

The image on the TV screen stopped us. The Today Show host said she heard the plane lodged in the World Trade Center was a Cessna. They were speculating it was a fluke.

Because of that when Mercy’s phone rang, she picked it up. We had no idea of the enormity facing us or the country. I stood next to the TV, more perplexed than anything.

With absolute terror, I watched as another plane careened into the second World Trade Center building.

“No, no, no, no, no, no” I said to the screen as the images appeared to happen in slow motion.

I remember gasping and not believing what I had just seen. I feel it now. I can feel that same dread. I walked over to my boss’ office and told him what I saw.

“You saw a replay,” he said, cupping his phone.

“I saw a second plane,” I insisted.

“You saw a replay,” he said, waving me off.

Moments later he came into my office and apologized. “Gather the team, we need to have an emergency meeting.”

Emergency

We grouped together at the table in his office. We all worked in the Old Executive Office Building — the giant, grey battleship of a structure on the White House Grounds right next to the West Wing.

I had forgotten my pager (remember it was 2001). I got up mid-meeting to grab it and picked up the ringing phone on my desk.

“Dude, a plane just hit the Pentagon,” said my friend Rob Jennings, a fellow Wyoming friend who worked as a fundraiser in DC.

“Are you sure,” I asked him.

“I just saw it. I’m looking at the burning Pentagon now.”

Rushing back to my boss’ office to let him know, the sirens went off. Moments later, the Secret Service began banging on every office door and yelling for us to evacuate.

“A plane is headed for the White House,” screamed one secret service agent.

The sight and sound of dozens of shaken White House staffers running – literally running — toward the north entrance of the White House is crystal.

As is the memory of being among more than 100 staffers standing in Lafayette Park stunned and wondering what we should do next. I wanted to call my family. I couldn’t. My flip phone fell off while running for the gate.

“A bomb just went off at the State Department,” someone said.

That rumor kept circulating throughout the rest of the day.

Scramble for answers

We all went to the Chrysler Building blocks away to regroup. The most senior of the White House staffers were picked off by the secret service and taken to the Situation Room or other locations.

As a White House spokesman and the Digital Director, my only goal was to get the White House website online again.

It was bad enough from a communications perspective that we couldn’t get the president’s statements up on the website. But it paled in comparison to the enormity of the message we sent the country and the world that the White House site was down. Or missing. Or removed.

Optics are important. And the site going back online (thanks to my friend George Lewis) was every bit as important and comforting as the president flying back to DC after stops at Air Force bases in Louisiana and Nebraska.

The next few hours were a blur – not nearly as vivid as the preceding time. We were told to research anything associated with the morning’s events – the date, the time, the locations, etc. Anything that might give us a clue as to why this happened.

When I arrived home that evening, I was struck by how much smoke there was in my apartment. I lived less than a mile away from the Pentagon but my windows and doors were closed. There was no escaping the day.

Haunting images

Like many of my colleagues I didn’t sleep that night and the next few days, weeks, and months were hard as they were for all Americans. But nothing like it was for the families of the victims.

The two images that haunt me the most were not from that day. Instead, the first happened that weekend when we spotted my friend Rob Wallace’s 3-year-old daughter building towers out of wooden blocks and then knocking them down with her toy plane. It was very hard not to cry.

It was impossible not to cry when family members of those lost in Flight 93 came to the White House for a memorial service two weeks later. As all the White House staffers lined up to shake their hands and express our condolences, I still remember that little boy in his little suit who jumped up to me to get a hug. I was told his father was on that plane. I never felt less worthy.

These memories have not faded. As painful as they are, it’s important that they don’t.

Jimmy Orr, a native of Cheyenne, was a White House spokesman and Director of Digital Strategy for President George W. Bush from 2001 – 2005.

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New Sheriff’s Deputy For Sublette County Sworn-In; Jails Sister Immediately

in News/Crime
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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office added a new deputy to its staff on Tuesday.

Honorable Judge Curt Haws held a ceremony to officially welcome a Pinedale 4-year-old named Noel to the crime-fighting unit.

Sgt. Travis Bingham told Cowboy State Daily that a number of citizens had seen Noel driving his mini Police Power Wheel around town and soon thereafter the department decided to deputize him.

“We appreciate these opportunities to connect with youth in positive way around our community. It’s refreshing to see kids interested in law enforcement as they are our future leaders and one day will be protecting this same community,” Bingham said.

One of Noel’s first acts as a deputy was to jail his sister.

Noel was photographed handcuffing her and walking his sister to a cell.

Noel appears to be a friendly law enforcement officer as his sister was allowed to have a lollipop during her processing.

Also present for the swearing-in ceremony, but offering no comment, was a stuffed animal.

Sublette County Sheriff KC Lehr pinned an honorary badge on Noel’s uniform with multiple SCSO personnel present. During the ceremony the Honorable Judge Haws stated “It’s wonderful to be part of something positive”.

“We thank Noel for stopping by and taking interest in law enforcement, we wish him well in the future as he will undoubtedly continue to patrol the streets of Sublette County,” Bingham said.

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Fallen Wyoming Marine’s Father Explains Why He Wouldn’t Meet With Biden

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Appearing on Fox and Friends Tuesday morning, the father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum explained to host Brian Kilmeade why he avoided a meeting with President Joe Biden over the weekend.

McCollum’s father, Jim, and his daughters were in Dover, Delaware, to receive the body of his slain son, one of the 13 servicemen killed in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan last week.

When President Biden walked into the room where the ceremony was being held, Mr. McCollum walked out.

“I had no desire to meet with the president,” McCollum said.  “Everything he’s done [with the withdrawal from Afghanistan], every step along the way has been absolutely backwards.”

“A high school kid could make better decisions than they’ve made in this,” he said.

Originally it was reported that only the late Marine’s wife had stayed in the room to meet with Biden but McCollum’s sister, Cheyenne McCollum, also stuck around briefly.

“I chose to stay with my brother’s wife,” Cheyenne said. “She wanted the chance to look him in the eye and see if it was going to be a sincere conversation or apology. And I was able to stand about 15 seconds of his fake, scripted apology and I had to walk out.”

She said Biden wouldn’t at look her or at McCollum’s wife in the eye. Instead, she said, he looked down and showed no sympathy.

“It was more about his son,” Mr. McCollum said. “My son wasn’t mentioned. It was his son and about him.”

Mr. McCollum’s ex-wife, who lives in Montrose, Colorado, was much more caustic in her remarks about President Biden, telling interviewers that he was a “dementia-ridden piece of crap.”

Between sobs, she told talk show host Andrew Wilkow that her son “died in vain.”

“This was as unnecessary debacle which could have been handled properly,” she said.

The McCollum family was welcomed back to Jackson, Wyoming, on Monday afternoon by hundreds of well-wishers who lined Broadway Avenue in Jackson to watch the emotional motorcade.

“Welcome home to a hero’s family,” U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis said on Twitter. “My heart hurts for your family. My prayers join the chorus. I don’t have the right words so just thank you from me, Wyoming, and from an eternally grateful nation.”

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Bison Attacks Another Woman in South Dakota; Pants Stay On This Time.

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12899

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s August and it’s South Dakota. That means someone is going to get thrown by a bison.

Reminiscent of the spectacular bison de-pantsing of 2020, another woman in South Dakota got in the crosshairs of a bison — and lost.

This time, it’s not as dramatic. It could be but no video has surfaced.

Just a fuzzy picture and an eyewitness.

Kind of like a Saquatch sighting.

Angela Ohmer, from Rapid City, South Dakota, took a photo of downed person, a departing bison, and a man looking like he’s there to help.

Ohmer explained on her Facebook page that this occurred during a wedding in South Dakota on Saturday.

“Only in South Dakota can you go to a wedding and witness a bison tossing a woman that got too close!!!! Not even kidding!  This is not a petting zoo, homey!” Ohmer said.

Perhaps the bison was simply celebrating the event and was tossing the woman like the bride tosses her bouquet.

Ohmer went on to clarify that unlike the situation of a year ago where the dimwitted tourist did try to pet a bison, this couple was just walking past the bison “and it turned on them.”

Sheila Schielke-Ross concurred: “She was simply walking to her cabin from the wedding. It randomly turned direction and attacked her with no warning. Luckily, a ranger was there and was able to immediately intervene. She did nothing to provoke the animal, other than walk.”

Kobee Stalder, visitor services program manager for the Custer State Park, said the woman did not suffer any significant injuries.

“Other than some bumps and bruises, she was OK,” he told the Rapid City Journal. “We’re very fortunate in that aspect that no more severe injuries were sustained during that incident.”

Nathan Foote, who appears to be acting as the official scorekeeper of South Dakota, noted that bison are leading women by a 2-0 margin.

Another commenter posted a photo of Custer State Park’s new ambulance featuring a bison on it. 

And actually, that’s not a joke. That is on the side of the service’s ambulance.

In the meantime, commenters on the Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots Facebook page, did not seem to be too concerned.

“Thank God! I was afraid the tourist season would end without the annual bison toss the tourist game. The bison love it,” said Marie Morgan.

As for the woman who took the photo, she left a happy person.

“Best. Wedding. Ever. 😆,” Ohmer said.

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Jimmy Orr: Slavery and Sodomy, The Perils of Spell-Check

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

Spellcheck. Yeah, it’s a nice thing to have but it’s not infallible.

In fact, the “proofreader” nearly cost me my job at the White House.

Some journalists (including me) feel they’re better than spellcheck. They look down on it. They hold on to that title of seventh grade spelling champ with honor.

And then when instances come up where spellcheck has failed them, they point to those as evidence of the limitations of the automated fixer.

Anyone who has mistyped the word “public” and received no admonition can attest to this.

THE EVIDENCE

On Tuesday, we published the most popular daily sunrise photo since we began the feature last spring (using Facebook analytics as our judge).

Easy to see why.  J. Sheehan’s pastoral photograph of the sun lifting above the Little Snake River Valley dotted by cattle on the green fields is gorgeous.

The faint blue melding into intense yellows and oranges over the lush greens is beautiful.

What could ruin this beauty?

Spellcheck.

It recommend — no it changed — the location.

What was once Savery, Wyoming, turned into Slavery, Wyoming.

That kinda takes the romance out of the picture.  It destroys what was great.

Spellcheck be damned.

THE WHITE HOUSE

That version never made it on to our page because I’ve been burned before.  And as The Who sang and as President George W. Bush later mangled, “[ I ] Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

By the way, the president’s version was: “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.”  Awesome.

Back when I was working for the White House, spellcheck nearly got me canned.

In charge of all digital communications, it was up to me to update the White House website.

On March 19, 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq.

I placed the president’s video, remarks, and a photo of the televised speech on the website.

I wrote the caption for the photo on the homepage.  

I mentioned the leader of Iraq:  Saddam Hussein.

Microsoft’s “Word” had an issue with the name “Saddam” and said: “Do you mean Sodomy?”

Not paying attention and just clicking on “yes” — which is what happens when you don’t proofread spellcheck — the caption on one of the most significant days of George W. Bush’s presidency, was — to say the least — incorrect.

THE MEDIA

It was discovered by a producer at Good Morning America.

The White House operator called me at 5:15 a.m. Eastern and connected me to the kindly producer who just gave me a heads-up about the misspelling.

I was able to change it and no one noticed.  The producer, instead of playing “gotcha journalism,” was just being decent.

Today, it would be international news. There would be a big siren on Drudge screaming that the White House intentionally did this.

I fessed up to my boss. She was great, as she still is today.

But I did get a warning. This was a Defcon 5 mistake. Absolutely it was.

From then on, I never just clicked on “ok” when spellcheck recommends a change.

You could say that sodomy changed my life.

(Not gonna lie, that last sentence made me laugh out loud).


Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

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Jimmy Orr: The COVID Vaccine and The Price of Tomatoes in Texas

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By Jimmy Orr, Editor

You know you’ve touched a button when someone writes: “This must be a slow news day! Why is this news?”

That happened on Monday when we wrote an article on information from the Kaiser Family Foundation that showed a correlation between a county’s vaccine rate and a county’s support of either President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump.

Wyoming is following a national trend. That is, the stronger the county voted for former President Trump, the lower the vaccination rate.

Not true in every county. But as a general rule.

Here in Wyoming, the county which supported Trump the most (88% in Crook County) also had the lowest vaccination rate (19.4%).

Teton County, which supported Trump the least (33%), had the highest vaccination rate, 71%.

This story set some readers off. We didn’t hear the familiar: “This must be a slow news day!” Instead we heard the unique: “Why is this a news story? What does this have to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas?”

It has nothing to do with the price of tomatoes in Texas. But we get what the reader was saying.

Then we had the familiar “clickbait” charge and saying we weren’t helping in the healing of America.

It’s not our job to help heal America. It’s not our job to hurt America either.

It is our job to report on the news. And like it or not, the vaccine has become a partisan issue. And the results are hardly surprising.

“Our surveys consistently find that Democrats are much more likely to report having been vaccinated than Republicans, and Republicans are much more likely to say that they definitely do not want to get vaccinated,” wrote the authors of the study.

No, it’s not surprising. But it is fascinating to understand why.

What is the reason behind the partisan divide on a vaccine and what caused it?

Did we write a story to denigrate former President Trump as one commenter suggested?

If that was the case, then certainly we wouldn’t include this paragraph:

“You can go back to 2008 and look at the elections and see exactly the same results,” he said. “It’s not Trump.”

That’s from University of Wyoming political science professor, Jim King.

He went on to say the outcome would be the same if election results going back years were compared to vaccination rates, with counties showing the most support for Republican candidates having the lowest vaccination rates.

“What you’re seeing is generally the counties where you find people who are less trusting of the national government, they tend to vote a higher percentage Republican,” he said. “What you’re seeing is not anything related directly to the 2020 elections.”

That opinion, to us, was really quite interesting. That’s why you interview people who have studied one field for decades. Their insight is valuable.

My guess is the majority of the upset readers didn’t read the article. They looked at a headline or the Facebook blurb and immediately took offense. They jumped to a conclusion. They assumed we were condemning a group.

They saw a ghost.

The COVID vaccine is a sensitive topic. It’s not just Wyoming. It’s worldwide.

Add that to the increased distrust of the media and it gets volatile.

At Cowboy State Daily we will continue to stay away from agendas or biases or tilting of articles to make them more palatable for a certain group.

If we have an agenda, it’s that we are pro-Wyoming. We’re a group of Wyoming journalists who love the state and have chosen to live here.

You aren’t going to like every topic. You aren’t going to like every story. And you certainly aren’t going to like every column.

But all of that is ok.

We do hope that you like our Wyoming focus. And we hope our love for Wyoming is evident.

By the way, the cost of tomatoes in Texas varies between locations. For example, there is a big difference between Houston and Dallas. The former will cost you $2.24 for two pounds and the latter is much higher — $3.40.

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Jimmy Orr: Cynthia Lummis Bodyslams Montana Rep Who Doesn’t Understand Where Yellowstone Is

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Anyone who’s from Wyoming might occasionally get annoyed when people sometimes associate Yellowstone National Park with Montana.

After all, it’s barely in Montana. Only 3 percent of the park is located in Montana whereas 96% is located in Wyoming and the extra 1 percent (if anyone cares) is located in Idaho.

So when Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale had the audacity to say that Montana was the home of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis rightfully body slammed him.

This all took place on social media where Rosendale apparently was celebrating National Park Week and cut a :45 second video where he committed the foul.

“When you think of national parks, there is a reason you think of Montana. We’re home to the two crown jewels of the National Park system: Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks,” he wrongly said.

The Western Caucus, a group representing western representatives, tweeted the video along with the error-filled language “Rep. Rosendale of Montana represents Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the world, and Glacier National Park, which includes over 1 million acres.”

Lummis, rightfully, reworked that tweet correcting the language.

With a red pen, Lummis corrected the first sentence to read:

“When you think of national parks, there’s a reason you think of Wyoming.”

Then she took to the second sentence where she inserted some language that made the statement correct.

“Rep. Rosendale of Montana represents a tiny part of Yellowstone National Park…” the corrected copy reads.

Rosendale weakly tried to come back by saying:  “They put the show in Montana for a reason.”

Then, Lummis, from the top ropes emasculated Rosendale with one deadly sentence.

“Not our fault the Hollywood is bad at geography,” she said.

Silence. Rosendale couldn’t reply. She annihilated him. 

He should probably resign.

Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines then chimed in saying “I think we should talk.”

Lummis happily obliged tweeting a photo of a Wyoming shirt with a bison and the wording “Yellowstone National Park.”

Game. Set. Match. Wyoming.

Well done, Sen. Lummis. Well done.

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Man Attempts to Elude Highway Patrol On Closed Interstate Following Historic Blizzard In Middle of Nowhere

in News/Criminal's handbook
9510

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If there were a criminal’s handbook there really should be a section on the strategy of trying to elude law enforcement on a closed interstate following an historic blizzard which shut down that highway for nearly four days.

Sadly, for Montana resident Michael Hallier there is no such chapter nor handbook.

Otherwise he may have realized that trying to outrun a Wyoming Highway Patrol officer on a highway that had snow drifts of more than five feet high in perhaps the most desolate stretch of I-80 was not the brightest of moves.

Turns out Hallier was near Wamsutter, Wyoming — which, at times, resembles the moon.

He was spotted trying to drive around the clearly marked closed gate at the onramp.

When the officer saw Hallier’s attempt, he went out to let him know that this was not allowable.

Earlier that day, a Californian tried the same maneuver outside of Laramie in a Mini Cooper. That resulted in costly wrecks and putting all snowplows out of commission for nearly four hours.

In Hallier’s case, once he saw the highway patrolman, he floored it and somehow exceeded 100mph.

Hallier even crossed the interstate onto the opposite lanes of travel. Nothing happened there, of course, because no one (outside of the Californian) was on Interstate 80– because it was closed.

Hallier took an exit and then decided to try his luck on an oilfield road in the desert north of Wamsutter — which always resembles the moon.

To no one’s surprise, Hallier failed in his escape slamming his vehicle into a snowbank.

He was subsequently arrested.

Hallier was charged with fleeing to elude, property damage, reckless driving, reckless endangering, driving on a closed road, and speeding.

Of course, Hallier is considered innocent until proven guilty. The dash cam footage must be spectacular.

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Wyoming Interstates Open; Thousands of Truckers Get Back To Work

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Gentlemen, start your engines.

It’s a dated reference but the sentiment is clear: it’s time to go.

And go they did. Truckers, that is. They had been lined up near Interstate 80 onramps for more than three days as a historic late-winter blizzard in Wyoming shut down much of Wyoming.

Whether it was a photo taken in Cheyenne, Evanston, or all points in between, hundreds, if not thousands, of truckers were given the green flag — appropriate for St. Patrick’s Day — at 9:30 Wednesday morning and off they went.

Only hours earlier, the same thing happened on I-25 after days of waiting.

Having so many truckers packed in together spooked some Cowboy State Daily readers.

“I’ve been through this scene many times over the years. When the roads first open up, sit back and have another cup of coffee or 2. Let the traffic thin out a little before you hit the road,” said Karla Roich on Cowboy State Daily’s Facebook page.

Two commenters wagered on when a massive accident and subsequent shutdown of I-80 would take place due to so many trucks on the road. (They both lost as I-80 stayed open and no wrecks were reported).

Dennis Arends, a truck driver for 42 years, said these drivers should have planned better.

“Better planning would have prevented most of this,” he said. “There was plenty of warnings. It’s always a gamble to cross I-80 Wyoming during winter months due to closers.”

To be fair, meteorologists don’t always get it right.

Wyoming meteorologist Don Day said he was getting texts on Saturday morning and afternoon questioning whether his forecast of heavy snow was going to happen.

By Sunday morning, everybody knew: Day was 100% right. He nailed it.

When asked if he’s ever wanted to start one of his highly-watched podcasts by saying “I told you so,” he quickly said no — and not necessarily because of humility. More because of Karma.

“The weather gods will kick my ass on the next storm,” Day said.

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Jimmy Orr: How We Measure Snow in Wyoming — Beer, Children, Cars

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

In Wyoming, they say you used to measure trips between towns by the “six-pack”.

Of course, those days are long-gone now but beer is still a popular part of the culture. So why wouldn’t we use beer to communicate how we’re dealing with a blizzard?

Beer communicates a lot.  Like how much snow you’ve received.

Ask Wheatland’s Tony Montoya. Nearly four cans of beer so far or 23.6 inches, he said in a Facebook post.

Beer can also communicate your readiness for the elements. Like Paul Delap did in Casper.

“I’m ready for a power outage,” Delap posted with ever-western yellow bottles of Coors. “Mother Nature will provide the means to keep our survival supplies refrigerated.”

His planning garnered much applause by other Wyoming citizens.

“Excellent use of available resources,” Michelle Dahl wrote.

“Love that Wyoming ingenuity,” Maria Salisbury said.

You can also measure snow depth by your children. Like Brittaney Cree Bales did. She said she “almost lost our 8-year-old out there!”

She was commended for the bright green coat her child wore. Excellent choice in case he ventured out too far.

Cars are an excellent way to measure snow depth. Just ask Susan Edgerton. Snowfall at her house looks to be at about an entire Honda.

Then there’s the standard way you can measure snow — by the snowman.

Casper’s C May Heid asks the right question: “When’s the last time the snow was this perfect texture to make a fabulous snowman?”

No kidding. Picture perfect.

Cheyenne City Councilman Jeff White was decidedly more pessimistic. 

“20 inches and now the drifting.  See you in April,” he wrote.

Jeff, we are sorry to tell you. As as 11:30 am, Cheyenne has officially received 26 inches and the storm ain’t done.

See you in May…

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Jimmy Orr: TV Station Reminds Viewers Not To Explore Bear Dens or Feed Bears

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

Sometimes you have to wonder if people really need to be reminded about how to act around wildlife or if reporters are really stupid.

Probably both.

Then again, in North Carolina where people may not be exposed to tourists who try to ride buffalos or pet grizzlies, warnings are probably needed.

Thus, a TV report from WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina where a reporter found it necessary to remind viewers that “if you see a bear or bear den, leave it alone.”

Do we really need this reminder?

Maybe so. The old Gary Larsen “Far Side” comic comes to mind where this exact scenario played out.

In Wyoming, of course, we know the stories.

We saw the video earlier this month of the tourists from Tennessee who blocked the path of the bison herd. Ultimately, one woman was thrown off her snowmobile when two of the animals had enough.

The more egregious of the videos (now taken down) showed the tourists screaming and laughing as they gunned their snowmobiles directly at the herd causing a stampede. Somehow no one was hurt.

To be fair, it’s not always the tourists. 

There was the guy last summer in Choteau, Montana who heard that a grizzly was around his property so he snuck-up to an abandoned barn and peered inside.

Public Service Announcement. Grizzlies do not like to be surprised.

The surprised bear then attempted to rip his head off. And if it wasn’t for his quick-thinking wife who tried to run over the bear in her truck, he may not be alive today.

Occasionally, however — every now and then — reporters who are new to the area can be smarter than all of us.

Case in point: Deion Broxton. He was the reporter who worked in Bozeman last year (now he’s in Iowa) who was doing a report from Yellowstone and saw a bison herd.

He gave the herd some serious side-eye before quickly exiting the scene but gave a great play-by-play as he packed up.

“Oh my God,” he muttered while carefully observing the approaching herd.

“I ain’t messing with you,” he said moments later, while walking off-camera and to his car.

“Oh, no,” he continued while packing his car with his gear. “Oh no, I ain’t messing with you.”

The official social media accounts at Yellowstone National Park praised him and his video was viewed millions of times.

Lesson? We all can’t be Deion Broxton. There are people who need to hear warnings — like in that news report on WRAL.

The last bit of advice from their reporter: “Never approach a bear or try to feed it.”

Ok. We’ll try our best.

And our hope is that we have zero mauling stories to report this year. Fingers crossed.

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Jimmy Orr: Wyoming Police Dog Responsible For Busting Three Drug Traffickers in One Week

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If there were a criminal’s handbook, you would think there would be a section on transporting drugs across Wyoming and why it’s a bad idea.

For starters, drugs are illegal in Wyoming. 

It’s not like Oregon where you can shoot-up heroin laced with Liquid Plumber in a daycare center while setting fire to a small business and win a participation trophy.

Things are different in Wyoming. And the best way not to get arrested for transporting drugs across Wyoming is not to drive across Wyoming transporting drugs.

Try Colorado. It’s not Oregon but you’ve got a better shot there.

In Wyoming, you have to deal with Arie the drug dog.

Just last week alone, Arie a K-9 with the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, was responsible for three different felony drug arrests.

That means a lot of drugs.

On February 9, Arie and his human handler were called out to a traffic stop at mile marker 383 in southeastern Wyoming.

When Arie made it out there, he detected a particular scent. Maybe it was because the motorists were carrying 69 pounds of raw marijuana in their vehicle.

On Valentine’s Day, Arie was sent out again. This time mile marker 8 heading south.

Once again, Arie caught a whiff of a particular scent. Perhaps it was the 64 pounds of marijuana this doofus was hauling.

One day later, Arie was requested again — this time in Cheyenne — and he detected the presence of two ounces of methamphetamine.

The lesson in all of this is: don’t transport drugs across Wyoming.

Arie’s not messing around.

Congratulations to Arie and his humans at the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office.

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Liz Cheney Wins Resounding Affirmative Vote To Stay In Leadership

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For all the talk about the certainty of Liz Cheney being ousted from her leadership position in the House, it wasn’t even close.

In a commanding 145 – 61 vote margin, Wyoming’s sole representative retained her position as the third highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

The vote, only one week after Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz told a Wyoming crowd that Cheney’s defeat was imminent, put to rest any thought that Cheney’s influence would be less significant.

If anything, Cheney’s standing in Congress will likely be more powerful now.

That’s because the congresswoman withstood challengers by not blinking an eye or backtracking at all.

She not only told the Republican conference that she would not apologize for her vote to impeach President Trump but that she “absolutely did not” regret that vote.

Moments after the meeting concluded, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the vote proved the resiliency of the Republican Party.

“This is just an example that the Republican Party is a very big tent, everyone is invited in, and when you look at the last election, we continue to grow and in two years, we’ll be the majority,” he said.

As for Cheney, she made it clear that the vote sent a powerful message not only for her but for the party.

“We had a terrific vote tonight and we laid out what we’re going to do going forward as well as making clear that we’re not going to be divided,” she said. “We’re not going to be in a situation where people can pick off any member of leadership,” Cheney said.

“It was a very resounding acknowledgment that we need to go forward together and we need to go forward in a way that helps us beat back the very negative and dangerous Democrat policies,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gaetz’s predictions that the Republicans had the votes to oust her or that McCarthy would avoid a vote fell flat.

In fact, Cheney was so confident that she would retain her leadership position, she asked for a vote during the meeting.

That, pundits said, showed remarkable confidence.

“She was blunt… She wanted the up-or-down vote. She got it and won big,” New York Times political reporter Jonathan Martin said.

As for her standing in Wyoming, it’s likely that Gaetz got it wrong here as well when he told a crowd last week that: “Liz Cheney is less popular among Republicans in her own state than Muammar Gaddafi was among the Libyans.”

Cheney has been censured by a number of county Republican parties but tonight’s overwhelming show of support could take the steam out of these efforts.

She’s already received high-profile support in Wyoming from former Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, former Republican Party chair Matt Micheli, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, and the Wyoming Mining Association.

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Weld County Will Never Leave Colorado For Wyoming

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Before anyone loses any more sleep over it, the chances of Weld County seceding from Colorado and joining Wyoming are essentially zero.

Actually, the more accurate phrase to describe its chances would come from the 1980s novel and book “Less Than Zero.”

Sure, there’s a Facebook page from disgruntled Weld County Coloradoans who appear to want to join Wyoming but the obstacles are too steep.

At a minimum, Weld County residents have to approve it, the Colorado legislature has to approve it, the Wyoming Legislature has to approve it, and Congress has to approve it. 

It’s never going to happen. It’s never going to get past the second step. Colorado is not going to give up a county. Ever.

That’s why it’s easy for Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon to say he’d love to have Weld County join Wyoming.

“We would love that,” Gordon told KOA Radio in Denver. “From time to time states have said, ‘Gosh, we like what Wyoming is doing,’ and we’d be happy.”

If he were serious, he would be far more measured about it. There wouldn’t be any off-the-cuff conversations about it. It would be kryptonite.

Same with Colorado’s Gov. Polis.  It’s easy for him to take a shot back at Gov. Gordon like elected officials do when respective sports teams battle each other.

“Hands off Weld County, Governor Mark Gordon,” Polis said. “Weld County is a thriving part of Colorado and Weld County residents are proud to be part of our great state. I do hear from so many Cheyenne residents, on the other hand, that they are culturally, economically and socially more connected to Colorado than Wyoming….”

The conversation is all for fun. It’s harmless. It’s friendly banter back and forth between two governors.

In the end, it means nothing because neither Colorado nor Wyoming takes it seriously (outside of a few thousand people on Facebook).

It doesn’t mean those people don’t have legitimate concerns but they’re fighting a battle they cannot win. It would be a Sisyphean Battle — and that’s being optimistic. Colorado would never let them go. And Wyoming would never pursue it.

It’s similar to the ludicrous talk of kicking Teton County out of Wyoming. It’s easy to say. But Wyoming would never let that happen. It would be idiotic to let it happen.

Let’s place this conversation in the location it deserves: fun bar-talk. Nothing more and nothing less.

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Gordon Lifts Restrictive Hours For Wyoming Restaurants and Bars

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

Gov. Mark Gordon’s office on Saturday announced that Wyoming restaurants and bars can return to normal hours effective on on January 9.

The office attributed the change in public health orders to declining hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 virus.

“Thank you to the people of Wyoming who recognized the strain on their hospitals and health care workers and acted accordingly,” Gordon said in a release. 

The governor also thanked business owners who abided by the orders adopted in December when coronavirus cases were spiraling upward in the state.

“These have not been easy times for anyone,” he said. “We are not out of the woods yet, but continued personal safety measures while the vaccine is being distributed will enable our state’s schools and businesses to continue to remain open.”

On December 30, Wyoming hospitals were reporting 113 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, down from a peak of 247 on November 30. However, the state reported 223 COVID-19 deaths in December, the highest number since the pandemic began in March. Wyoming has also begun distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, utilizing a phased approach due to limited initial vaccine availability.

The updated health orders, along with additional information on Wyoming’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, can be found on Wyoming’s COVID-19 website.

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House and directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: Grizzly 399 and Her Four Cubs Romping Through the Snow

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor

For those of you (us) who can’t get enough of Grizzly 399 and her happy family, there’s a new video captured by tourists last week that show the bears traversing through the snow, across the highway, and back to more snow.

As we discussed in our year-end roundup of the most popular stories on Cowboy State Daily, anything to do with Grizzly 399 and her cubs are of huge interest to our readers.

You would think they would be curled up in an enviable many-months-long state of slumber right now, but in the spirit of the recently celebrated holidays, the available food must be a gift that keeps on giving.

If you wince when you see the bears run across the road, you aren’t alone. We just hope that motorists continue to use extreme caution as they travel in the Grand Teton National Park area.

Part of the fun from this video is the play-by-play. The adults are just as thrilled as the children in the car.

It appears that one of the participants is “Facetiming” the events as you hear someone over the phone who sounded strikingly similar to Gomer Pyle say, “Golly, that sucker is big, Kurt. You better move, Kurt!”

Those sentiments were echoed by one of the children who quickly agreed: “Daddy, move!”

The driver did not move (which was a good idea). We might have rolled up the windows but it all turned out ok.

The most excitement came when the onlookers saw the four cubs bounding through the snow.

Gomer reeled off another “Golly” before the whole car gasped and laughed at what they were seeing.

“Is that not awesome, Kyle?” the driver said to Gomer.

“Oh man, that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Gomer said.

We have to agree. It was spectacular. And a great way to bring-in 2021.

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Jimmy Orr: Cowboy State Daily’s Most-Read Stories of the Year

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor Cowboy State Daily

It’s that time in the calendar when news organizations look back at the biggest stories of the year and provide some commentary.

That’s what Cowboy State Daily’s Bill Sniffin and Jim Angell are doing and there are no people better than doing that.

This column is a bit different.  This is just about numbers. The stories that generated the most traffic because — most likely — of social media. 

Something caught someone’s attention and the sharing took-off.

These stories aren’t the most important but they generated the most readership.  It’s likely because of coronavirus-fatigue. People were looking for stories that didn’t remind them of the coronavirus.

That’s not to say people weren’t reading coronavirus-related stories. They were. By category, there was nothing bigger than stories about the pandemic and we did over 900 of them.

The top ten stories, however, it appears gave people a break from the bad news.

Let’s dig in….


10. Fat Grizzly Bear Gets Into Another Altercation While Guarding His Bull Elk

This was the story about the Yellowstone grizzly that downed a bull elk and took a couple weeks to eat it. In the meantime, photographers and videographers by the hundreds — it seemed — gathered to document the bear’s breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A wolf sauntered by (if wolves can saunter) and decided he might have a snack. Fatty the Bear, as we called him, was not in a mood to share and let the wolf know.

As we wrote in the September 30 story, we could empathize:

We’ve all been there. It’s late on Friday. You have a few thousand beers. You order a large Meat-Lover’s special and hork down a couple of slices David Hasselhoff-style before you pass out upside down caught in the steps of a spiral staircase.

It’s a story as old as time.

You wake up the next day craving more of your pizza only to find it gone.

You learn from that experience to guard your food.  [FULL STORY]


9.  Grizzly 399’s Cubs Stop Traffic To Wrestle & Play With Cones; No Tourist Gets Mauled

If the story was about Grizzly 399 and her cubs, chances are it performed very well on Cowboy State Daily. 

We loved writing about the five-some. This family of bears gave us welcome escape during the pandemic.

Even though we wished — often — that tourists would just leave them alone, we also realized that when someone took a photo or video of the bears, we could write about it.

This story was simple. It was just about the four cubs who had fun playing with some traffic cones. 

To make it better, a tourist decide to narrate the fun on his iPhone while sitting in his RV.

As we wrote: “From the video, it sound like Chris Pipes could be a former TV anchor. He described what he saw like someone might do the play-by-play of the Rose Parade.”  [FULL STORY]


8.  Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx Escapes to Wyoming 

No chance of a Pulitzer on this. But who cares? It’s a fun story.

Having been a Mötley Crüe fan since 1983 and knowing about Nikki Sixx’s successful battle with addiction, this was a story — when we heard about it — that we wanted to jump on.

It’s a human interest story.

It’s fun how we heard about it as well.  One of our readers texted us and said she was walking down her street in Teton Village and passed Sixx, his wife, and their daughter. And they were all very friendly.

She was reluctant for us to report about it as she thought it could be TMZ-like, which we understood.

By the same token, however, the couple took to Instagram to announce their departure from Los Angeles to Teton County so we thought they weren’t being shy about it — so why not write it up?

There were great photos of the rocker along with his baby daughter in their airplane and in subsequent Instagram posts, he was really quite complimentary of Wyoming.

Although the story generated a number of “who cares?” comments and “he should stay in California” mean-spirited remarks on our Facebook page, there were also plenty of people who were welcoming as well.

For the record, we do recognize Teton County as part of Wyoming although a vocal number of commenters believe Teton County should be kicked out of the state.


7. Grizzly Attack Victim Videos His Exposed Bones Immediately After Bear Encounter “Just In Case He Didn’t Survive”

Another bear story. People love bear stories. Except this gentleman. He hates bears.

Shannun Rammel was attacked by a grizzly earlier this year. People could say he brought it on himself as he snuck up on the grizzly in an abandoned shed (never a good strategy).

Regardless, you gotta admire his ability to be calm under pressure.

After getting attacked, he asked his wife to film him on her phone so he could tell the story of the attack in case he expired.

“You can see my bones and my tendons,” he said. “He ripped into me pretty good there.”

As we wrote:

His wife told the TV station that when she saw her husband “getting thrown like a rag doll,” she came up with the idea of running over the bear in their truck.

“So when I punched the truck, he stopped and looked at me, dead straight in my eyes,” Jammie Rammel said. “He got off Shannun and turned around and got out of there,” she said.  [FULL STORY]


6.  Snow Possible In Wyoming This Weekend. Because It’s 2020

The weirdness of 2020 continued with two freak summer snowstorms. One that happened in late August and a huge one that occurred right after Labor Day weekend.

This story just previewed the first one and Ellen Fike presented it in full context:

As the 10 biblical plagues continue to curse Wyoming and the rest of the world, a portion of the state will see another favorite friend: snow.

This storm didn’t generate a lot of snow but the next one sure did. [FULL STORY]


5.  Hikers Run From Grizzly While Onlookers Laugh

This was a shocking story because of what could have happened. 

The video is insane. You see a grizzly running down the same path where three hikers and a baby (AND A BABY!) are hiking.

Hikers from a close ridge are filming the action and letting them know to make some noise.

Instead of making noise, the hikers (on the same trail with the grizzly and THE BABY) start to run.

The other hikers yell at them “Don’t run. Don’t run!!!”

Then the hikers start laughing (the ones who are safe filming the whole thing). Thankfully it ended okay.  As we wrote:

To be fair, the bear didn’t show any interest in pursuing those hikers and it was a really nervous situation so it’s not as though he was cheering on the grizzly like he was watching a gladiator fight in Ancient Rome.

“Thank goodness that it all went well afterwards,” he said. “Other than that it was a beautiful day for a hike down to Hidden Lake.”   [FULL STORY]


4.  Surprised Hiker Captures Video of Grizzly Barreling Down on Two Mountain Goats

Guess what?  Another grizzly story.

This one is another close call. A grizzly is running full speed (as far as we can tell) after a couple mountain goats down a mountain trail and comes to a fork in the road.

The bear has a decision to make. Keep running after the mountain goats (who can run quite fast) or take the other trail where he would run into humans (who are really slow).

Thankfully the bear chose to stay on the same path. But it was close.

The video was a bit wobbly but we understood.

We don’t blame the hiker for the wobbly video.

After all, if we were just feet away from a grizzly barreling down the mountainside in full pursuit of two mountain goats, our video might be wobbly too.

No word if the mountain goat survived. The hiker, for some reason, chose not to run after the grizzly to get the footage.  [FULL STORY]


3.  25% of Wyoming Stay-At-Home Workers Boozing During Work Hours

Only one direct coronavirus story scored in the top 10. Out of more than 900 coronavirus stories we did that may seem a bit surprising.

It doesn’t to us. As we already mentioned, by category, traffic to coronavirus-related stories dwarfed everything else.

But there was also coronavirus overload.  People looked to the fun bear stories or the wacky weather stories to escape.

And this one is kind of a hybrid coronavirus and wacky human interest story.

A poll from alcohol.org polled 3,000 American workers and found out that 25% of Wyomingites who worked from home due to the coronavirus were drinking on the job.

In the Rocky Mountain West, we were number one!  As we wrote:

Does 25% seem high to you? Of our neighboring states only one has a lower percentage of boozers (and it’s not Utah).

Only 22% of South Dakotans are taking advantage of not having a boss around.

Hawaiians flat-out don’t care. A full two-thirds of them are opening up the hatch while working on TPS reports.

The lowest state?  Arkansas with only 8% admitting to honking the hooch.  [FULL STORY]


2.  Yellowstone Tourist Trips And Falls When Charging Bison Takes After Her

This wasn’t the biggest Bison versus Human story of the year (that’s coming up) but this was still one heck of a story.

It’s still amazing to us that no one is hurt.  The video, again, is insane and shows a couple idiotic tourists who believe bison are tame, cute puppies who just want to be petted.

They don’t. And this bison was not happy. But because the woman played-dead, the bison left her alone.

We don’t know if that was a good strategy or not. The best strategy is not getting out of your car.

And then there was the moron who “tried” to help.  As we wrote:  

Reports are that the woman was not injured. 

No word on the condition of the man, appropriately dressed in green shorts and sandals, who tried to pick up a tree branch (and failed) in an effort to look like he could actually do something against a 2,000 pound bison.  [FULL STORY]


  1. Woman Violently Attacked By Bison; Pants Ripped Off During Encounter

You knew this had to be number one.  The story that sparked a National Park Service gingerbread cookie in its honor.

The story of a female biker who left her motorcycle to go pet a bison in Custer State Park.

She didn’t lose her life but she lost her pants.

As we wrote:

One of the bison’s horns got caught in the woman’s belt and “swung her around violently.”

“She was apparently saved when her pants came off and she fell to the ground unconscious,” an eyewitness said.  “[A]t that point, the attacking animal ran off along with the rest of the herd.”

Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechalev told the outlet that the woman escaped serious injury in the incident.  [FULL STORY]

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Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: The Danger of Competitive New Year’s Day Resolutions

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

There’s nothing wrong with New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a good idea to have a goal and if starting on January 1 makes sense, then more power to you.

If joining up with another person or people to accomplish a New Year’s goal makes sense, then that’s a good idea too.

If, to make things more interesting, you bet against a friend to see who can accomplish their goal first, then that’s another good motivator.

That’s what my friend Jonathan Downing and I did a quarter of a century ago but it ended up backfiring for us.

In the late spring of 1994, we both joined on to the Rob Wallace for U.S. Congress campaign in the primary and then the Jim Geringer for Governor campaign in the general election. Both of us were in our 20s when we had working metabolisms.

In my experience, campaigns are never good for weight loss. But they are great for weight gain — need it or not.

Both of us entered the campaign with our weights in a similar range: the mid 180s. Not too bad for people who are 6’0.

By the time campaign season was done, we both had ballooned to the mid 220s. Eventually I would see my weight hit the dreaded 250 mark. And I believe Jonathan (although unconfirmed) toppled 1,000 pounds.

The usual things are to blame. Being on the road for hours, fast food, drinks, late nights, fast food. And fast food.

In January 1995, we went to work for Governor Jim Geringer. Our offices were right next to each other.

Alarmed at the 40 – 50 pound weight gain, we decided to have a competitive New Year’s resolution. See who could get back down to 185 the quickest. Or, at least, who was lighter by the end of the session.

Everything started well. 

Then came January 2.

Because we had spent so much time together, we acted like brothers. Teenage brothers.

We continually tried to sabotage each other.

This was no different. 

After having a lunch salad at the Egg and I (the closest restaurant to the Capitol), I would swing by Taco John’s to pick up a couple super burritos and place them on Jonathan’s desk. Every day.

It proved to be an insurmountable hurdle for him.

“Jonathan horked those burritos down like a human vacuum cleaner. Bits of potato would spit out of his office as he would attack the side dish with the ferocity of a diesel-powered blender,” I wrote while discussing this strategy in the Los Angeles Times.

He was just as devious.

Going to the Hitching Post for a reception was a nightly event. My plan was to have a Diet Coke and forego any snacks.

But then came a secret admirer. A young, attractive woman started sending me Bacardi and Cokes (dozens of them).

Thinking it would be rude to spurn the drinks from the young, attractive woman, I drank them and the food that would inevitably follow.

I never saw the young, attractive woman although she really had a thing for me. The waitress only told me about her.

Turns out there was no young, attractive woman. Jonathan was behind the drinks and paid the waitress to say that. 

We sent pizzas to each other’s houses. Dairy Queen Blizzards would appear out of nowhere. 

I remember opening up my desk drawer to find a still warm chili dog. Jonathan, not checking his chair before sitting down, sat on a plate of nachos.

A day didn’t go by without some type of sabotage.

By the end of the session, we had both gained upwards of 20 pounds. We both lost.

In the years that followed, however, we achieved weight loss goals at separate times.

Back in 2017, I recall see Jonathan in the grocery store. He looked pre-1994 campaign weight. He looked great.

I asked him how he did it.  No carbs, he said.

A week later, I saw him in the same store but carrying out a full cake. I asked him about the no carbs diet. He said the cake was just to celebrate the weight loss.

He continued to celebrate.

Sadly, so have I.

The only moral of the story is if you want to successfully achieve a New Year’s resolution don’t ask Jonathan to help you, you probably want to be really careful in choosing your New Year’s resolution partner.

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Jimmy Orr: In Less Than Two Weeks, Cowboy State Daily Will Be Two Years Old

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By Jimmy Orr, executive editor

In less than two weeks, Cowboy State Daily will be two years old and I am thrilled to have been part of it the entire time.

When founder Annaliese Wiederspahn asked me if I wanted to join her in starting this endeavor, I jumped at it.

One, because journalism is in my blood. From the time Larry Birleffi hired me at KFBC radio in Cheyenne to being on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times as Managing Editor, journalism is my one true passion.

Two, because it was a chance to work with Annaliese. We had known each other for 25 years and following her professional and entrepreneurial path, I knew if she was starting something, it would be great.

We immediately brought in former Wyoming AP Bureau Chief Jim Angell, legendary Wyoming television broadcaster Bob Geha, and the best videographer in the state of Wyoming — Mike McCrimmon.

And between the five of us, we created something really fantastic.  In the legislative arena alone, our experience was unparalleled. 

Our brand new digital news organization, in fact, had more combined journalism experience than any other media outlet in the state.

And for the five of us, it was an opportunity to continue to do something we all loved: journalism. Straight journalism. No bias, no slant, no preference in either direction.

Annaliese, among other things, started the daily email newsletter called “Coffee Break” which was another way for people to receive the news.

I asked my college friend Don Day to join us with his daily weather forecast which soon became the most clicked-on item in the morning newsletter.

When Annaliese left to run her mom’s successful Senate campaign, I decided to do double duty. Not only remain as executive editor but continue what she started with writing and publishing the newsletter. The fun for me is finding the variety of Wyoming stories out there and presenting them in both an informative yet entertaining way.

As fun as it all is, you have to bring in money to exist. So she reached out to Bill Sniffin and asked him to take the helm of publisher and he spends his time trying to raise funds to keep Cowboy State Daily going — as well as writing his columns. He also brought on his friend Dave Simpson, a 40-plus-year journalist who writes a fantastic weekly column.

The news industry today is not easy. Technology has completely upended it.

 The competition is fierce now and it’s everywhere. You are no longer insulated by geography. You have to offer real value to gain and keep an audience. What separates you from everyone else?

When someone clicks on a story, they better get something from it. It’s kind of like the old Wendy’s ad “Where’s the Beef?”

It better be more than two sentences, an embedded tweet, and a hashtag all surrounded by a a collage of hyper-obnoxious ads.

The readers deserve a full story. 

I feel fortunate to have been in the middle of the technology disruption while both at the Christian Science Monitor and at the Los Angeles Times. We did some really innovative things at both locations and, as a result, both are strong publications to this day.

As long as you produce quality content and have a team of real journalists, you stand a chance. Especially if everyone enjoys what they’re doing. 

We do. This weekend we published two really fun stories.

I wrote about my time at the President George W. Bush White House and putting a videocamera on the president’s dog’s head and creating a national media sensation.

And we published Jim Angell’s story about going out and testing and rating 10 holiday drinks all in the same afternoon. I was the videographer that day and, frankly, ran out of time. I didn’t have the time to edit it. So we sat on the footage for a full year and I spent eight hours on Sunday editing the video.  It’s a lot of fun.

We had a couple really good columns this weekend too. Rod Miller reached out to me with his new column on Cyrus Western’s tweet and Matt Micheli sent me his column on Christmas and the Power of Light (which we will publish later today).

We do a lot for such a small staff. Thankfully Ellen Fike joined us this year and she has a variety of talents. Not only is she a great writer but she’s really funny. And she’s been doing a lot of stand-up lately.

She won’t post the video (although it’s funny). But you can read about her standup experience here. Ellen is the engine of Cowboy State Daily.

Difficult policy story? No one can decipher it like Jim Angell. Plus, he has the historical knowledge only rivaled by the Casper Star’s Joan Barron and Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck to put it all in perspective.

When Annaliese and I sat down with Jim in late December, 2018 and he said “yes”, we knew with Jim as our anchor, we could build something really solid.

We really do a lot for a small staff and I’ll tell ya, it really is a labor of love. We all do it because we love it.

We all do it because we like to write. We all do it because that’s what we do.

There’s nothing more satisfying that writing a good story. Even when it’s one of my throw-away “If there were a criminal’s handbook…” stories. I write them because they are fun to write.

Cowboy State Daily has no bureaucracy. We have no hierarchy. Bill can write a column whenever he’d like. So can I. So can Jim Angell. So can Ellen Fike. We thrive because we’re not a top-down organization. 

We all work together. 

Thanks for reading us. Thanks for following us on Facebook. Thanks for reading our daily newsletter (I really do enjoy writing it) and it’s been my mission (thankfully successful) to grow our subscribers. It’s been a really good year.

Here’s to a great 2021!

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Jim Angell Rates 10 Holiday-Themed Drinks (Yes, He Had a Designated-Driver)

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

NOTE: This story was filed in December, 2019 (before the pandemic).

Seasonal adult beverages have been associated with Christmas for as long as the holiday has been celebrated.

From Bob Cratchit’s gin punch in “A Christmas Carol” to the “flaming rum punch” mentioned by Clarence the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” cocktails and mixed drinks have been a fixture in countless holiday celebrations.

So in the spirit of the holiday (pun intended), Cowboy State Daily set out to visit 10 Cheyenne establishments to see what they could offer up in terms of holiday drinks.

Since I have the most experience at taste testing (see my in-depth review of carnival food at Frontier Days), I won the enviable job of trying out special holiday drinks around town.

Some were warm, sweet and inviting, like a grandmother’s hug. Other’s were refreshing and brisk, like a walk on a snowy winter’s night. But they were all delicious.

As you can see in the accompanying video, I gave each drink a score on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. I based my scores on one simple idea: how universally enjoyed the drink would be.

Now, I have to note a couple of things here:

I did not drive. My beautiful Irish bride was kind enough to take the wheel.

I did not finish all the drinks put in front of me. That would have been dangerous. Although I must admit, some were too good to give up on.

So here is a list of the establishments we visited in the order we stopped, along with a brief description of the drink I enjoyed at each stop.

1.Poor Richards

The drink: Poor Richard’s Winter Storm

Ingredients: Kahlua, Grand Marnier, Amaretto, Frangelico, coffee.

Poor Richard’s has been a favorite Cheyenne restaurant of mine since I moved here. The food is wonderful, the service is great and the bar is intimate, quiet and well-stocked. 

The Winter Storm is a coffee-based drink, with the kick coming from coffee, orange, almond and hazelnut liqueurs. It is a great drink for those seeking something warm and somewhat sweet without the overwhelming taste of alcohol.

2. The Albany

The drink: Irish Coffee

Ingredients: Irish whiskey, sugar, coffee, whipped cream, creme de menthe.

The Albany has been operating as a restaurant since 1905, although under some different names in its early years. The history in this building is palpable and it’s a wonderful place to enjoy a meal or a drink.

The Irish coffee is a staple for cold weather and every establishment has its own twist on it. At The Albany, the twist comes when the bartender pours creme de menthe on top of the whipped cream topping the coffee itself. The minty finish is a wonderful addition to the traditional flavor of the coffee and whiskey.

3. The Metropolitan

The drink: Old Fashioned

Ingredients: Rye whiskey, brown sugar, simple syrup, bitters, orange bitters and a brandied cherry.

The “Met” is one of Cheyenne’s newest restaurants and is generating quite a few positive reviews. Its list of specialty cocktails is impressive, as is its collections of top-shelf liquors.

The Old Fashioned isn’t really a holiday drink, but it is a classic, something often associated with the elegance and glamour of the “Rat Pack” years of the 1950s and 1960s. To put it simply, the Metropolitan’s Old Fashioned is the best I have ever tasted. Complex and well balanced, it would appeal to someone who wants just a hint of whiskey flavor backed up with mixers that in themselves are not too strong. So grab one when you’re feeling like belting out “New York, New York.”

4. Rib & Chop House

The drink: Chop House Peanut Butter S’mores

Ingredients: Peanut butter whiskey, hot chocolate, whipped cream.

Rib & Chop has restaurants scattered across Wyoming and by some accounts, it offers up the finest steak in the state. Its bar is always lively and inviting.

I’ve got to be honest:  I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a peanut butter whiskey. And once I learned there was, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to try it. But Rib & Chop’s Peanut Butter S’mores is a delicious dessert drink featuring — believe it or not — the great taste of peanut butter and chocolate. Sort of like dunking a chocolate bar into a tub of peanut butter. This is going to be popular with anyone who likes to end the night with a sweet drink.

5. Little Bear

The drink: Little Bear Nudge

Ingredients: Frangelico, Amaretto, Irish cream, hot coffee, whipped cream and sprinkles.

Talk about historic — the Little Bear has been around in one form or another since an important stagecoach line ran between Cheyenne and Deadwood, South Dakota. The atmosphere is wonderful, like a neighborhood bar and restaurant, and always inviting.

The Little Bear Nudge is another coffee-based drink getting its flavors from the hazelnut and almond flavored liqueurs, along with the Irish cream. The Irish cream adds an interesting taste to the hazelnut and almond and cuts the strong flavor of the (home-ground) coffee to yield a pleasantly balanced drink that is sweet, but not too sweet. The green sprinkles, it was explained, are just there for decoration.

6. Uncle Charlie’s

The drink: Gingerbread martini

Ingredients: Pumpkin-flavored Irish cream, butterscotch-flavored schnapps, half-and-half cream, cinnamon.

Uncle Charlie’s has been a popular gathering place in Cheyenne for years, particularly famous for its happy hour snacks and treats. It’s always fun and there’s always something going on.

On our arrival, bartender Pam created — on the spot — what I consider to be the most Christmassy of all our drinks: the gingerbread martini. She pulled it together while we waited. And the name doesn’t lie — the mixture of the pumpkin and butterscotch flavors yields a gingerbread taste. Served cold in a martini glass, it’s an instant Christmas classic, sweet and creamy. Make sure you ask for it when you visit.

7. Peppermill

The drink: Rachel’s Reindeer Revenge

Ingredients: Vodka, peach schnapps, cinnamon-flavored whiskey, holiday Red Bull (plum flavored)

The Peppermill is a very popular spot on Dell Range, with numerous pool tables, video games and various special events occurring through the week.

The drink created by bartender Rachel was slightly sweet, but not cloying. The carbonation provided by the Red Bull gave it a certain lift and left it very light on the tongue. The peach schnapps reduced the influence of the vodka and whiskey, creating a very easy-to-drink cocktail that was very refreshing.

Plus, we were given the honor of naming it, so there’s that.

8. The Office

The drink: Peppermint Cranberry

Ingredients: Peppermint schnapps, cranberry juice, splash of soda water.

The Office is one of Cheyenne’s newer establishments and has received extremely good reviews for its food and specialty cocktails.

The one made specially for me during my tour, the peppermint cranberry, was the first at The Office, but not the first for our experienced bartender. It was like drinking a candy cane. The bright red color made it visually appealing and the strong peppermint flavor, boosted by the carbonation, made it a very refreshing drink. An excellent choice for an after-dinner drink.

9. Alf’s Pub

The drink: Irish coffee

Ingredients: Irish whiskey, Irish cream, coffee

Alf’s is famous in Cheyenne for hosting a number of charitable events, raising more than $2 million in the last several years for donation to various causes. It’s a friendly bar with a “neighborhood pub” feel.

The Irish coffee at Alf’s was basic and comforting — kind of like an old friend. The Irish cream helped blunt the edges of the coffee and smoothed out the wonderful Irish whiskey. Served in a standard coffee mug, the drink stayed satisfyingly warm throughout.

10. Paramount Ballroom

The drink: The Land of Nod

Ingredients: Brandy, butterscotch liqueur, spiced rum, apple cider, cinnamon, orange, cloves and cranberry, all topped with butter.

The Paramount has gained fame as a Cheyenne home of specialty cocktails. The atmosphere is upscale and bright, making it a perfect place to meet after work or before dinner.

The Land of Nod tops the list for Christmas cheer on the warm drinks list. The various flavors blended beautifully and the butter melted on top of the drink gave it a smooth, warm finish. Although it tends toward the sweet side, the orange peel and cloves help keep it from being too sweet, all while adding a very “Christmassy” nose.

So that was my trip. I’d encourage anyone to stop by any of these establishments if they get a chance at any time of the year — don’t wait for Christmas!

Remember, though, if you’re going to try to replicate my five-hour journey, do it safely. Bring a designated driver. And, if you can, somebody to record the experience. The fear of appearing in an online video doing something, well, undignified should keep you on your best behavior.

Slainte (Gaelic for cheers) and Merry Christmas!

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Jimmy Orr: How ‘Barney Cam’ Made George W. Bush’s Dog a Web Star

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By Jimmy Orr, Executive Editor, Cowboy State Daily

This time of year, I always think back to my days at the White House.

I served as a White House spokesman and digital director for President George W. Bush’s first term (2001- 2004).

The Internet was relatively new and I was in charge of what we did online including a series of Christmas videos we did with President Bush’s dog Barney which caused a media sensation. We called it Barney Cam.

When Barney died in 2013 and I was serving as Managing Editor, Digital, for the Los Angeles Times, the editor asked me if I would write about it as a send-off to the First Dog.

It was easy to write. It’s a great Christmas story. This appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times on February 6, 2013. Hope you enjoy it. (The video is embedded at the bottom of the page).


“Mr. Orr, this is the White House operator.”

As a White House spokesman, I received phone calls like this all the time. But this was the first time the president’s secretary had ordered me to report to the Oval Office immediately. Before 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

It was December 2003. Iraq was all over the news. We were closing in on the capture of Saddam Hussein. But — and the nation should be thankful — this wasn’t my domain.

President George W. Bush had another reason for calling for me now.

Barney Cam.

How it happened

Whenever I’m asked to speak about my tenure in the White House, the conversation always shifts to Barney, the Scottish terrier whom the president regarded as the son he never had.

After Barney died Friday at age 12, I found myself thinking about how he became an Internet sensation.

In 2002, the White House was still closed to the public after the attacks of Sept. 11. I ran the White House website, and we wanted to use the Internet to better connect with citizens.

Our first attempt to bring people in to the White House — virtually — was a big hit. Millions of viewers went to our site to see President Bush give a personal video tour of the Oval Office.

During a brainstorming session, my deputy, Jane Cook, mentioned that the theme for the White House Christmas was “All Creatures Great and Small” — a tribute to presidential pets.

People liked our videos. People loved Barney. Why not strap a video camera to the first dog’s head, chase him through the White House so viewers can see the Christmas decorations from his vantage point, and stream it over the Internet?

I decided to pitch the idea at the morning communications meeting in the West Wing, where a couple of dozen communication staffers gather to plan the day.

When Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president, asked me what was on my agenda, I swallowed hard and then said, “As you know, Dan, White House tours are still closed due to terrorist concerns. And the theme for this year’s Christmas at the White House is ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’

“So it’s only logical that we have a Barney Cam, Dan, which is where we strap a video camera on Barney’s head and have him run through the White House looking at decorations while Christmas music is playing in the background.”

I smiled.

Dan looked at me as though I’d grown another head.

After about 10 seconds of dead silence, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer chimed in: “That. Is. Awesome.”

His validation was all it took.

“Brilliant!”

“Good thinking.”

“Great idea.”

There was one problem. I had fully expected to be turned down. What I had was an idea, not a plan.

My friend Noelia Rodriguez, who was First Lady Laura Bush’s press secretary, called me 30 minutes later.

“Mrs. Bush loves Barney Cam,” she said. “She’s going to show the video at the children’s hospital instead of reading a Christmas book for the kids.”

“Whoa, Noelia!” I said, beginning to feel panicky. “This is just a theory!”

She told me to turn on CNN — now.

The first lady was there. Live. Talking about the holiday decorations at the White House. Then she mentioned that she would be introducing a cute video starring her dog Barney at the hospital in two weeks.

“Get it together,” Noelia said.

The plan

We scrambled.

We were able to secure a lipstick-size camera to attach to Barney’s collar. But Barney didn’t wear a dog collar. He didn’t need to. Some dogs have microchips. Barney had the Secret Service.

When we put a collar on Barney, he protested by lying down. Then he started howling, loudly.

This would make a pretty lousy holiday video.

A colleague reassured me: “Don’t worry about it. Barney will get used to it. He’ll tire after a while, and then we’ll start shooting.”

Dale Haney — the White House groundskeeper and caretaker of presidential pets since King Timahoe, President Nixon’s Irish setter — stopped by a little later and offered a warning.

“The president loves Barney like a son,” Haney said. “He hears Barney howling like that, he’s gonna think you’re torturing him.”

The last thing I needed was for the leader of the free world to think I was torturing his dog. We removed the collar.

Instead, we just had a couple of people chase Barney around the White House on their knees with a video camera to get the right perspective. That included going out in the snow. Numerous times. I would have done it, of course, but I was the director.

‘I can’t believe we’re airing this’

The video was just Barney running through the White House chasing a big red ornament and stopping in all the major rooms to look up at the decorations. The soundtrack was Christmas music.

Laura Bush unveiled the video at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington. All three major news networks carried the entire 4½-minute video live.

At about the four-minute mark on CNN, the newscaster said, “I can’t believe we’re airing this.” I had to nod in agreement.

We put the video on the White House website, and the traffic was so huge it brought the site down briefly. That week, the video was downloaded 600,000 times. This was in 2002. Pre-YouTube. And pre-mass broadband. If you wanted to watch the video, you had to have patience.

The sequel

In fall 2003, White House colleagues began coming to me, asking what we would do for a Barney Cam encore. We knew we had to do a sequel and had already named it. “Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded.”

One problem. We had no plot. But just as in Hollywood, that was inconsequential.

Eventually my friend Bob DeServi (another White House communications staffer) and I came up with one. The New York Times noted: “The plot of the video is more complex than last year’s video, which had no plot.” It was a cliffhanger, actually. Barney was ordered by Chief of Staff Andrew Card to put up the holiday decorations, but Barney preferred to play with his ball.

This year, everyone wanted a part. After the previous success of Barney Cam, as well as the White House video tours, there was great demand to appear in the video. I remember talking to Bartlett, telling him that, to make the sequel complete, we really needed the president.

“The president has a lot on his plate,” Bartlett said. “Iraq, Saddam Hussein, the economy. I’m not going to ask him.”

Mr. President

Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m., I was awakened by the phone call.

“Whatever I did, I’m sorry,” I said.

Ashley Estes, the president’s secretary, said: “No, it’s fine. The president needs you to come in right away.”

I said, “Why?”

The president wants to film “Barney Cam II.”

I was rushed to the South Lawn upon my arrival at the White House. Barney was in position. The president and his personal assistant, Blake Gottesman, were walking out to the South Lawn.

Blake came up to me and said, “Jimmy, would you like to brief the president?”

I had always thought that if this were to happen, the topic would be a little more glamorous. Maybe like national security. But I’d take this.

“Mr. President, as you know, today we are filming ‘Barney Cam II: Barney Reloaded.’ Mr. President, here’s your motivation.

“Barney has been ordered by the White House chief of staff to put up the holiday decorations, but he’d rather play with his ball. If you could lecture Barney about the importance of hard work, that would be great, sir.”

The president nodded and said, “Yeah, I can do that.”

We put a lavalier microphone on the president and began recording. On his way out, he was getting into his role, saying, “Oh yeah, I can do this.”

The president gave a performance that can only be described as masterful.

Pointing to his office, he said: “Barney, this here’s the Oval Office. This is where I do my job, Barney. And when the chief of staff gives you a job to do, you do the job, Barney.”

He was out there for 20 minutes lecturing Barney. I was having an out-of-body experience.

Blake told me during the filming that the president needed this. “It was a welcome break,” he said.

One week later, the president would announce that Saddam Hussein had been captured.

Show time

The first lady unveiled the video at the children’s hospital. There was tremendous news coverage of this event, with news networks breaking into their regular coverage to air it live. One network even had a banner that read: “Breaking: ‘Barney Cam 2′ released.”

Visitors swarmed the White House website. It was the most-viewed video of President Bush’s entire first term. Emails came in by the thousands. More Barney videos followed.

Now President Obama’s dog, Bo, has his own Christmas videos.

But Barney was the first. He let Americans, and the president, forget their problems, if only for a little while.

———-

Jimmy Orr is a Wyoming native who was on the masthead at the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor as the Managing Editor, Digital. Orr served as a spokesman for the White House, directed digital strategy for President George W. Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Orr co-founded Cowboy State Daily in January, 2019.

Jimmy Orr: National Park Service Re-Enacts Bison De-Pantsing Event With Gingerbread Cookies

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Whoever is running the social media account for the National Park Service is having fun.

For Thanksgiving, they made fun of the Idaho man who tried to cook a chicken over Old Faithful (or whatever thermal feature it was).

A few months ago, they advised not tripping your friend if a bear starts running after you. They say there are better solutions. (We say, don’t knock it until you try it).

And now, just in time for Christmas, they are using a festive gingerbread person to remind people that selfies with wild animals is really a dumb idea.

We all remember the biker from Iowa who jumped off her motorcycle in Custer State Park to pet a bison and ended up losing her pants.

The National Park Service is reenacting that special moment on Facebook with not only a gender-neutral gingerbread person but three charging Gingerbread bison.

No pants are involved in the re-creation. One might assume that this amount of detail is not necessary to get the point across.

We just like the photo but they have some good tips to accompany it (in case you don’t know that taking selfies with wild animals is stupid).

— Wildlife may appear calm and docile but can be unpredictable and easily startled. Really? You wore the hat with the giant pom pom? Remember to use a zoom lens on your camera. If you are close enough to take a selfie, you may lose more than your gumdrop buttons. 

— We get it—national parks have some photogenic scenery, but do not put your life at risk for a picture. Stick to trails and boardwalks. Use caution, watch your step, and keep your eyes on the trail and not on your camera while walking. Oh, snap! That branch came out of nowhere! No it didn’t.

— If a photo opportunity catches your eye while driving, pull over to a safe location to capture the shot. Distracted driving puts you and others at risk. Remember to look both ways for oncoming traffic before crossing the road.

By the way, you know how you hear those disclaimers at the end of shows that “no animals were hurt during the filming of the presentation”?

Just the opposite on this post.

“P.S. Many cookies were harmed in the making of this post. Like really bad. So many crumbs.”

HA!  Nicely done, National Park Service.  Nicely done.

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Jimmy Orr: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock Is A Hypocrite

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It only took about eight hours, but Denver Mayor Michael Hancock issued a very weak conditional non-apology for lecturing citizens to not travel over the Thanksgiving holiday right before he stepped on a plane to Houston.

Instead of saying he was wrong for telling people to avoid travel while he was boarding a plane to Houston, he instead apologized to Denver residents who saw his comments to be hypocritical.

So, really not an apology at all.

In the wishy-washy statement, Hancock admitted he “urged everyone to stay home and avoid unnecessary travel.”

“What I did not share, but should have, is that my wife and my daughter have been in Mississippi, where my daughter recently took a job,” Hancock said. “As the holiday approached, I decided it would be safer for me to travel to see them than to have two family members travel back to Denver.”

Hancock then, astoundingly, played the victim in the next paragraph by saying that he recognized that his decision disappointed “many who believe it would have been better to spend Thanksgiving alone.”

The issue was not whether he was going to spend Thanksgiving alone.

The issue is that he told Denver citizens not to travel.  The issue is he told Denver citizens to host virtual gathering instead of in-person dinners.

Then he chose to travel to attend an in-person dinner.

That’s why there is so much warranted criticism.

He goes on to weakly apologize again — not for his actions — but if people were offended by what he did.

“As a public official, whose conduct is rightly scrutinized for the message it sends to others, I apologize to the residents of Denver who see my decision as conflicting with the guidance to stay at home for all but essential travel,” he said.

Yes. It is absolutely conflicting with your guidance because your travel was not essential travel.

“I made my decision as a husband and father, and for those who are angry and disappointed, I humbly ask you to forgive decisions that are borne of my heart and not my head,” he said.

No. Denver citizens should not forgive these actions.

Try again, mayor. Apologize for being a hypocrite. Apologize for saying one thing and doing another. Apologize for putting yourself above the people you are supposed to lead.

Apologize to all the elected leaders who got in to public service because they honestly care about people. Because with one fell swoop, you hurt all of them.

Lastly, why does Cowboy State Daily care? Outside of being geographically close to Denver, why would we chime in?

Because Wyoming is blessed with so many public servants who actually do care.

Wyoming is blessed with many public servants, in the legislature for example, who make a pittance but they serve because they love their state and they are trying very hard to make it better.

When any elected official knowingly misleads the public and then on top of that won’t acknowledge the deceit, it poisons all of them.

Try again, mayor.

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‘In-N-Out’ Gets Closer to Wyoming But Cowboy State Daily Is Not Impressed

in Jimmy Orr/News/Column/Food
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2020 has been an awful year by any standard. 

The coronavirus, the Charlie Brown Halloween special being removed from broadcast TV, and the Chiefs winning a Super Bowl have made it one of the worst years in recorded history.

If there is a bright light on the horizon, it’s that vaccines for the virus look promising and — for some — the In-N-Out hamburger chain is getting closer to Wyoming.

Three locations in northern Colorado are scheduled to open by the end of the week.

“Our construction work continues to move forward for our locations in Colorado Springs, Aurora and Lone Tree,” Denny Warnick, In-N-Out Burger Vice President of Operations, said to Denver’s 9 News. “We are still on track to open our first three Colorado restaurants by the end of the year, and of course our distribution center will need to be operational by that time to support these locations.”

That doesn’t do much good if you live in Wamsutter, Lysite, or Recluse. But if you’re in Cheyenne or Laramie, you’re only a couple hours away to grab what many believe to be the best burger ever made.

At Cowboy State Daily, while we appreciate In-N-Out, our hearts go to other chains.

Bill Sniffin, a self-described connoisseur of fast food, has two favorites.

“As I travel around the country, we tend to sample various fast food joints.  In Texas, we like the local Whataburger chain. But when it comes to a national chain, the Five Guys Burger joints served up a delicious hamburger with a sack full of French fries.  Good service and tasty food. Our favorite,” Sniffin said.

Sniffin said he is not a fan of In-N-Out Burger.

“Their products remind me of the earliest days of McDonald’s and Henry’s Hamburgers 50 years ago,” he said. “Very simple and not very tasty. I will never understand the long lines I see at various In-N-Out Burger joints across the country.”

Ellen Fike, like Sniffin, gives the nod to Five Guys.

“I’ve only had In-N-Out once and I will admit, it was cold by the time we got back to the hotel,” Fike said.

“While Five Guys does have one of the best burger chains around, the secret to their burgers is to never eat them in the restaurant,” she said. 

“I find that when you order one and take it home (or have it delivered), the burger has time to melt the cheese (which is, in fact, the best cheese out there) and let all of the flavors meld together for a tasting experience like no other! However, their fries could win an award for ‘most disappointing’ or ‘most soggy’” she said.

Jim Angell, who ate every food item at Cheyenne Frontier Days last year, couldn’t narrow his favorite down to just one either. Arctic Circle and A&W are tops on his list.

“Arctic Circle — This chain has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid and there was a franchise I passed by every day on the way home from school,” Angell said.

“Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t always pass. Often I stopped for second lunch. The burgers are always seasoned well, the veggies are fresh and the fry sauce is to die for! And best of all, the fries are large and always perfectly cooked — not underdone, not burnt to a crisp. And generally, somebody is pretty liberal with the salt shaker. Always makes my heart pump a little faster. Really,” he said.

“A&W — Another childhood favorite, Angell said. “Before it closed in my hometown, A&W was THE place for a quick meal. The hamburgers are always fresh and well seasoned and the preparers are always generous with the condiments.” 

“I have a soft spot for the cheese curds as well, a relatively new addition to the classic restaurant’s menu. And let’s not forget the root beer. For many of us, this was our first exposure to the soda equivalent of ambrosia and it was a memory that stuck. Nothing beat someone bringing a jug of A&W root beer home on a hot summer night. Certain outlets even had a winter treat made of warmed up root beer with whipped cream and cinnamon on top. Quite good!” he said.

Jimmy Orr, who was suspended from McDonald’s during his high school days for making a giant phallic symbol out of hamburger meat (roughly 30 patties) to try to make his colleagues laugh, said Fatburger was his all-time favorite.

“Any hamburger chain that is bold enough to use the word ‘fat’ in its name is telling you something,” Orr said.  “They are focused on taste and taste only. They don’t care about anything else.”

“You bite into the hamburger and it oozes all over you,” he said. “The best way to eat a Fatburger is to put a garbage bag over your head. Well, actually, make a hole in the garbage bag and then have it drape over you.”

“The burger is so juicy and so large — and somehow so explosive — that it will ooze all over you by the time you’re done,” he said. “It just oozes.”

As a result of eating too many Fatburgers, Orr and a colleague launched competitive diets and is chronicled in the Two Guys Lose Weight blog at the LA Times.

In one blog post, Orr mentioned his favorite meal at Fatburger to his former trainer and what kind of workout was needed to counteract that 2,620 calorie meal. His trainer advised running a marathon.

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