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Northeast Wyo Towns Rally For 9-Year-Old After Tumor Nearly Blinds Him

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By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

Quintin Spalding was born to rope. 

The 9-year-old Moorcroft boy wrangles anything he can get his rope on — from cattle, sheep and goats and sometimes his mother. 

Today, less than six months after having a tumor removed from between his brain stem and cerebellum that resulted in the loss of three-quarters of his eyesight, his vision might be grossly impaired, but his spirit isn’t.

Last weekend, the community of Hulett came together to help raise funds for Quintin’s medical bills and show their support for the budding buckaroo by hosting the annual “Ride a Horse, Feed a Cowboy” fundraiser in his honor. 

Not only were organizers able to raise more than $20,000 to help the Spalding family, but they also put on some great rodeo action and barbecue dinner for the community.

Supporting local families in need was the impetus to create the annual fundraiser according to founder Chanda Snook, who started the event over a decade ago.

“There’s always someone who needs help,” Snook said, noting that the event began as a community dinner and fundraiser but which, under the influence of her son Taylor, eventually morphed to include a rodeo featuring Taylor and his friends.

It’s very much a family and community event, Snook said, noting that she gets a lot of volunteer support and donations from the community and her family, including Taylor, her oldest son Austin and husband Clint, who handles all the math.

This year, along with raising funds for Quintin, organizers also helped out PRCA bareback riding champion Jeffery Zdziarski of Weston County, who turns up every year to ride in the RHFC but who fractured his pelvis in a rodeo this summer.

In an unfortunate twist, Snook said, the group is now also raising money for three of their bronc riders who were in a serious accident Sunday morning on their way home from the celebration. 

Riley Simmons fell asleep behind the wheel of the trio’s car and it collided with a bus on Wyoming Highway 59. Simmons suffered a broken femur, broken hip and internal injuries. JW Meiers, who was also in the car, suffered a fractured vertebrae and broken ribs as well as an injury to his left ankle, resulting in a cut artery and tendons. Fellow passenger Kolt Ferguson was treated and released. 

Simmons was undergoing a second surgery Wednesday and was expected to remain in ICU all week, while Meiers was released yesterday. Donations are being accepted on the group’s Facebook page. 

Despite the mishaps, the event was a success, Snook said, and it continues to grow every year. 

“It’s a good feeling to be able to help other people,” Snook said. “This event is my passion. We do it all as a family and community and have so many volunteers who we couldn’t do it without.”

[Story continues after photos]

Road To Recovery

For his part, Quintin loved the rodeo – particularly the bull riding and saddle broncs – and was flattered that the event was held in his honor, according to mom Whitney.

“He’s very quiet and if you want anything out of him, you have to pry him open,” she said with a laugh. “We told him it was for him and he said ‘Well, that’s pretty cool.’ “

The little guy has been through a lot. In early March, Quintin had been out hauling hay with his dad Cody when Quintin lost all cognitive function and seemed to “zonk out.” 

In a panic, his dad rushed him to the emergency room at the hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota, where Whitney met them. 

Within 30 minutes of arriving, Quintin seemed to be just fine and had no recall of what happened. His parents, however, noted a distinct shift in his vision with one eye seeming to have lost focus.

This led to follow-up appointments with both a pediatrician and ophthalmologist in Spearfish, South Dakota, who suggested the 9-year-old get an MRI. 

Whitney was able to line it up that same day, and on their way back to Moorcroft, they got a call from the boy’s pediatrician telling them to immediately get Quintin to the emergency room in Spearfish. From there, he was life-flighted to Denver.

After a fingernail-biting 7-hour surgery to remove the mass from in Quintin’s brain, he was doing well with just a slight impairment in his vision. A nerve had apparently been damaged as a result of the tumor and its removal, which left Quintin with limited depth perception, blurred vision and color blindness. 

Subsequent chemotherapy left him largely unable to see, at which point his parents stopped that particular treatment, though he’s still taking three other chemo medications, and also went to see a naturopath for additional treatment that seems to be helping the impaired optic nerve, Whitney said. 

With less than a quarter of his eyesight still intact, Quintin told his parents that he thinks his vision might be better than the doctors think. He can now see bullet holes in a target 20 feet away. This is his brain adjusting to his new limitations, his mother noted, but for Quintin it means great progress in his recovery.

More importantly, none of this seems to have affected his roping skills.

“He’s not as effective as before,” Whitney said, “but he’s still a lot better than I am and that’s saying something.”

During his time in the hospital and in between his many doctor appointments, he still carried his rope, Whitney said. He’d rope his mom and gently drag her to the door before putting it back in his back pocket.

Apart from thanking God for their blessings, Whitney and Cody say they feel blessed to be part of the community who have come out in droves to help them get through this.

“When your child gets a diagnosis like Quintin’s, you find yourself having to let go of all control, placing trust in God’s faithfulness,” she said. “His faithfulness was shown in part by our community, they’ve been more supportive than I’d ever imagined.”

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Moorcroft Man’s Disappearance Remains Mystery Nearly Two Years Later

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By Jen Kocher, Cowboy State Daily

After three days of scouring the banks of the North Platte River, Matt Miller and his small search party once again returned to Campbell County empty handed this week with no sign of the man they were hoping to find. 

The outing last week was the team’s first search for Chance Englebert in nearly a year in the wake of the pandemic that stalled efforts to find the missing Moorcroft man.

In a case that has spurred numerous podcasts and just as many competing theories of what might have happened, Englebert disappeared on July 6, 2019, after walking away from his in-laws’ house in Gering, Nebraska. Englebert, then 25, had been spending the holiday weekend with his wife Baylee and infant son. 

It’s not clear exactly what happened.

Englebert had spent the day golfing with his father-in-law and other members of his wife’s family. They’d reportedly been drinking when someone made a comment about Englebert’s new job.

He’d just been laid off from a coal mine but had already secured a new job due to start the following Monday.

Whatever was said angered Englebert, who told his wife he wanted to go home to Moorcroft. When she hedged, he walked off, calling Miller to come get him.

Miller, who was in Gillette, called Englebert’s mom in South Dakota, while Englebert said he’d start walking the roughly 35 miles from Gering to Torrington.

He never made it. This last time Chance Englebert was seen was on surveillance footage that showed him walking down the 700 block of O Street in Gering, wearing Wrangler jeans and shirt and a trucker’s cap. 

Calls and texts to his phone went unanswered. The last text message – an incomprehensible jumble of numbers and emojis – was sent from his phone at 9:08 p.m.

That in itself was odd, according to his mother Dawn, who said Englebert never used emojis. Someone else must have been using his phone, she believes.

Despite a massive search involving 17 agencies, drones, divers, cadaver dogs and hundreds of volunteers on foot, horseback and ATVs, Englebert remains missing. 

Both Dawn and Baylee say Englebert would have never walked away from his family, both vehemently agreeing that something must have happened beyond his control. 

Theories that he might have fallen into the North Platte River during a storm on the night he disappeared are hard for his mom to believe.

Her son was an accomplished athlete — an avid swimmer, rancher and bareback rodeo rider who had gone to college on a rodeo scholarship. 

Hundreds of tips have turned up nothing, according to lead Brian Eads, an investigator with the Gering Police Department who was with the Nebraska State Highway Patrol at the time of Englebert’s disappearance.

Eads said tips continue to come in regularly.

Along with police efforts, several amateur and seasoned detectives have weighed in on podcasts, as did a Tarot card reader who said that Englebert is likely no longer alive and is buried in a field, killed by someone who held a grudge, is now paranoid about the situation and one day will snap.

Another detective familiar with the case who asked not to be identified endorsed the theory that the key to solving the mystery is finding that person.

“Somebody’s conscience is bothering them,” he said. “Identify that person and work on them.”

Eads did not comment on whether the department has identified any solid clues or persons of interest, saying the investigation is ongoing.

“We are actively following up on tips and welcome any new ones,” Eads told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Baylee has refused requests for interviews, telling the Rapid City (South Dakota) Journal that interviews in the past have led to death threats against her and her family.

A temporary protection order was issued against a former South Dakota state senator who Baylee accused of stalking her  after she refused to be interviewed for a story on the legislator’s Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Miller and his wife Tanya continue to work with his family and others to find him. Prior to the pandemic, Miller and his wife, both coal miners, drove from their home in Pine Haven, Wyoming, to Nebraska on their days off to search for their missing friend.

Last week’s search along the banks of the North Platte River was the first in almost a year for the group. For three days, they braved snow and heavy winds to comb roughly a dozen properties between Torrington and the Wyoming state line, looking for any trace of Englebert.

They turned up nothing.

Dustin Easton, who drove from his home South Dakota to join the search party, wasn’t discouraged. He’s never met Englebert, he said, but his disappearance haunts him nonetheless.

He grew up in this part of Nebraska, and knows members of both Baylee’s and Chance’s families through ag and rodeo connections. 

Easton wonders how a guy can just go missing? 

He’s troubled by this notion, which has changed the the way he sees the landscape he knows well and once trusted.

“It’s kinda surreal,” he said by phone on his way home Wednesday. “I grew up here and now I can’t think about the river in the same way anymore.”

He will return for the next search in July, he said, acknowledging that the desire to find Englebert has gotten under his skin as he continues to actively follow the case and stay in touch with Miller and family.

Along with the next search, Englebert’s mom Dawn wants to host a memorial walk in her son’s honor in July. Details will be posted on Miller’s Facebook page, Let’s Start with Chance (https://www.facebook.com/groups/474898930097246/).

In the meantime, Miller has no plans to stop searching until he brings his friend home

.“What are we going to do?” Miller said. “We’re not giving up. We’re going to keep looking.”

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