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$50K Worth Of Copper Stolen From Sheridan College

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

About $50,000 worth of copper construction materials was stolen on Sunday from the Sheridan College campus, a Sheridan Police spokesman told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

On Sunday afternoon, Sheridan police investigated a reported theft and determined a 26 foot double-axel enclosed trailer belonging to Powder River Heating and Cooling had been stolen, along with the materials inside.

The suspect forced their way onto the job site by cutting the locks on a gate, according to department spokesman Captain Tom Ringley.

“This would be industrial-level stuff, which is what we usually see when we do have copper thefts in Sheridan, which is not that often,” Ringley said. “This is the first one we’ve seen in several years.”

Police currently have no description of the thief or thieves.

The trailer was recovered Monday morning at another location on campus, but the construction materials inside were gone. The estimated value of the copper materials is at least $50,000.

Ringley said that copper thieves will usually take their stolen goods to scrap metal dealers or recyclers, hoping to score big money for their wares. As of Monday, the price of copper was $4.36 per pound.

The Sheridan Police Department has been in touch with neighboring cities and metal recyclers, asking them to be on the lookout for large amounts of copper construction materials coming through.

Copper thefts are common, but according to the FBI, copper thieves threaten the nation’s infrastructure.

The FBI said that copper thefts disrupt the flow of electricity, telecommunications, transportation, water supply, heating, security and emergency services and present a risk to both public safety and national security.

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Wyoming Game And Fish Kills 1,200 Pheasants At Sheridan Bird Farm To Prevent Avian Flu Spread

in News/wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently killed 1,200 pheasants at its Sheridan bird farm in an attempt to prevent the spread of avian flu, a disease deadly to both wild and domestic birds.

Wyoming has become part of a national outbreak of avian flu, with several strains of birds being infected, Game and Fish Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

The flu has been affecting larger birds such as pheasants, turkeys and hawks, but not not smaller songbirds people normally see in their yards, she added.

“We found three wild turkeys dead near the Sheridan bird farm that were really concerning to us, because they could have exposed the entire (farm) population,” she said. “We raise tens of thousands of pheasants for stocking for hunting every year, so we felt like we needed to reduce the risk to the overall bird farm.”

The 1,200 pheasants that were killed were in close proximity to where the dead turkeys were found, so the decision was made to depopulate a portion of the bird farm. Many of the birds that were euthanized had already laid eggs, which have been harvested by the department in hopes they will hatch.

The Game and Fish Department produces more than 30,000 pheasants at bird farms in Downar and Sheridan for use in stocking for the annual hunting season. There have been no birds killed at the other Game and Fish Department bird facility in Downar.

“We’re pretty diligent about protecting birds against diseases all times of the year with biosecurity,” DiRienzo said. “This was pretty close and could have a significant effect, so we had to swiftly reduce that risk.”

Wyoming Wildlife Advocates executive director Kristin Combs told Cowboy State Daily on Monday that she questioned whether stocking pheasants for hunting season was wise.

“Any time you have an unnatural concentration of animals in one place, disease concerns abound,” she said. “Somehow pheasants are one of those species that has been determined to have only ‘sporting’ value. Non-native pheasants are raised in farms only to be released to be killed. Many that aren’t killed by hunters, die from exposure as they aren’t adapted to Wyoming’s harsh winters.”

She added that game and other wild animal farms are similar to feedgrounds, in that they are ripe for disease transmission.

“If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that zoonotic diseases can have vast implications beyond what we can currently foresee. When we know better, we should strive to do better. Not only for the pheasants, but also for humans,” Combs said.

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Funds Raised In One Day For Headstone For Sheridan Undersheriff Killed In 1921

in News/Good news

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A fundraising drive to buy a headstone for a Sheridan County undersheriff killed in the line of duty almost 100 years ago managed to meet its goal within 24 hours.

Organizers of the drive to purchase the headstone for Undersheriff William McPherren told Cowboy State Daily that within one day of publication of news stories about the campaign, enough money had been raised to purchase the marker.

Museum at the Bighorns raised $850 by the end of the day Friday to purchase a headstone for McPherren, who was killed in the line of duty in 1921, museum Executive Director Mikayla Larrow told Cowboy State Daily over the weekend.

According to a post on the museum’s website, museum Collections Manager Jessica Salzman was recently preparing a cemetery tour for Sheridan law enforcement officers when she discovered McPherren did not have a headstone.

There is a temporary grave marker at the head of McPherren’s grave, but nothing else to indicate he is there or who he was.

“When I realized he had no stone I felt that we, as the museum, needed to do something to preserve his story,” Salzman said.

Champion Funeral Home donated the cost of installing the headstone and retired law enforcement officers Jim and Angie Navarro covered the remaining cost for McPherren’s headstone, according to the museum.

McPherren was killed during a Prohibition-era moonshine raid outside of the ghost town Monarch on Oct. 7, 1921. According to the museum, Earl McKenna was fingered by other officers as the man who pulled the trigger, but he was ultimately found not guilty of the murder charge.

The proposed headstone, visible on the museum’s website, states McPherren’s full name, date of birth and death, along with the epitaph: “He died in the line of duty.”

“We knew this was a project that we’d need community support on,” Larrow said.

“We’re incredibly thankful for their support and the support of those who called the museum and shared the story in the county and state,” he said.

With all funds raised, the museum is moving forward with the project this week.

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Around 100 People Quarantined After Sheridan Schools Make Masks Voluntary

in News/Coronavirus

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State

Around 100 people have been quarantined due to a coronavirus outbreak in two Sheridan schools where requirements to use face masks were recently lifted.

An email sent out by Sheridan County School District No. 2 to families this week explained that there have been “small concentrations” of positive coronavirus vases at both Highland Park Elementary and Sheridan Junior High Schools. The email was shared by the Sheridan County Democratic Party on its social media.

“With the guidance of local health officials, schools are conducting contact tracing and requiring close contacts of positive cases to quarantine for 7-10 days,” the district said in the email. “At this point, each school has quarantined around 50 individuals.”

The district encouraged staff and students to be aware of the situation and to consider wearing masks to avoid contracting the virus or a possible quarantine.

“We ask that families discuss this matter at home and make informed decisions, knowing the risk of quarantine is very real,” the email said. “Please note that individuals who choose to wear face coverings and/or are fully vaccinated are NOT required to quarantine.”

Sheridan County currently has 14 total active cases.

“As we have shared many times, our primary objectives are to keep students and staff safe, keep schools open, and keep working families at work,” the email said.

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Sheridan Brewery Owner: Police Threatened to Close Establishment Over Face Masks

in News/Coronavirus

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The co-owner of a Sheridan brewery and restaurant said her business has been threatened with closure for failing to require employees to wear face masks.

Tiffany McCormick, teary and visibly angry at times in a Facebook video, said Sheridan’s chief of police and another uniformed officer told her that if her business, Smith Alley Brewing Co., did not comply with Sheridan County-specific regulations issued by the State Department of Health, it would be fined and its license could be revoked.

Sheridan County last week was given approval to let its restaurants and bars open before the statewide orders closing such businesses were to be relaxed. The exemption was granted by the state on the condition that restaurants follow a list of health safeguards, including one requiring staff members to wear face masks.

McCormick said her brewery has followed 20 out of the 21 mandates. She said the only restriction the company is not following is ensuring that all employees wear masks.

She said it is her belief that such an enforcement is prohibited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“I, myself as an employer, cannot ask my employees why they refuse to wear a face-covering. I cannot ask them to do that,” McCormick said.

HIPPA guarantees the privacy of health care records and information. The ADA guarantees equal employment opportunities for the disabled.

McCormick said she has provided her employees with face masks but is not mandating they wear them.

“I have not forced my employees to wear masks,” she said. “If you are a patron that doesn’t want to come in here and support us, that is your choice as an American citizen.”

McCormick said she understood that Police Chief Rich Adriaens was doing his job but added he had the freedom to not enforce the restrictions if he wanted.

“It’s his choice to enforce these mandates,” she said. “It’s the chief of police’s choice to do this.”

McCormick said Adriaens told her if the restaurant didn’t comply with all 21 of the mandates by Friday, the restaurant would be fined and its license would be revoked.

“Potentially, also, they could arrest me,” she said.  “Now I am a mother of four children. I am tax paying citizen. I have never been arrested. You’re telling me my business deserves to be shut down because we’re not following one of these mandates?”

Later in the video she questioned why her employees had to wear masks, but when police dropped by, neither of the officers were wearing a face covering.

“If you are serving something why aren’t you wearing a mask?” she said. “He said the police were exempt from wearing a mask.”

McCormick said she spoke to Sheridan County legislators Mark Jennings and Bo Biteman about the situation and they encouraged her to speak out.

She said they speculated that the police might be trying to make an example out of her for an earlier video she posted which “ruffled a lot of feathers.”

Jennings voiced his support for McCormick on his Facebook page.

“Thank you Smith Alley Brewery for reaching out to myself and Senator Biteman. It is our honor to stand with you and other businesses like you. We will do everything we can to continue to support our small businesses,” it read.

The Sheridan Police Department was not available for comment.

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Restaurants, Churches To Open In Sheridan, Washakie Counties

in News/Coronavirus

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Restaurants and bars in Sheridan and Washakie counties are now able to open under variances to the state’s health orders approved by Wyoming officials.

The counties both asked for county-wide exemptions to the public health orders closing restaurants and bars that were put in place in mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

While the statewide orders keeping restaurants, bars and other businesses expected to attract 10 people or more are in place until at least May 15, Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s public health officer, said county officials would be allowed to ask for variances to those rules.

The variances approved for Sheridan County would allow restaurants to offer outdoor dining. However, tables would be limited to six people, all tables would have to be at least six feet away from each other and servers would have to wear face masks.

Sheridan County also won approval for its request for a variance to allow churches to resume their services. While churches were not closed by any of Gordon’s orders, a limit on gatherings of 10 people or more effectively prevented services from being held in churches.

Under the rules for operating churches, household groups attending services must remain at least six feet away from other household groups. Church officials and staff who have close contact with members must wear a cloth face mask.

In Washakie County, state officials granted a request to allow the reopening of restaurants and bars for inside seating if specific safety guidelines are imposed. The guidelines are similar to those in place for Sheridan County, requiring tables to be six feet away from each other, servers to use face masks and requiring disinfecting of the businesses three times a day.

In the cases of both the restaurants and the churches, staff members must be screened regularly to determine whether they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with anyone with a confirmed case of the illness.

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Meet the master: Leatherworker James Jackson wins nations highest honor in his craft

in Community/arts and culture

By Cowboy State Daily

Enjoy this amazing conversation with master leatherworker and National Endowment for the Arts 2019 National Heritage Fellowship awardee James Jackson.

This year Jackson won the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts after being nominated by Josh Chrysler, folklorist for the Wyoming Arts Council.

“Jim being awarded a National Heritage Fellowship is truly a testament to the caliber of his work. The NEA only gives these fellowships to the best of the best, and Jim belongs in that group,” said Chrysler of Jackson’s work. “It’s difficult to understate both how prestigious an award this is, and how strongly Jackson deserves it,  for his excellence in an art form that is in many ways, highly representative of Wyoming and our western, ranching culture.”

Today, James Jackson works and demonstrates his craft from his studio at the Bradford Brinton Museum in Sheridan.

Jackson is deeply rooted in the leather carving tradition, having grown up primarily in Sheridan, which is known worldwide for its distinctive ‘Sheridan Style’ of leather tooling.

“A lot of the way I lay out patterns and so forth is quite a bit different from a lot of people in my trade that are carvers,” Jackson said of his unique style. “This carving has influenced a whole industry in Japan. You can go to Kyoto or Tokyo or any of those towns and you can see women carrying western style purses.” 

Jackson learned the art form from his father, the saddlemaker Edward Jackson, and other Sheridan leather carvers including Don King, Bill Gardner, and Ernie Ernst. Consistent with Sheridan Style, Jackson carves a tight pattern, with a lot of small flowers wrapped in nesting circles of swirling leaves. At the same time, Jackson develops his own patterns, and also experiments with form, combining his painting and leatherwork. 

“People from all around the country will look at my work and say, ‘that’s Sheridan-style carving'”, Jackson said. “That influence that I’ve had comes through me and then it gets out there.”

Jackson, a formally trained artist with an MFA from the University of Wyoming, is the fourth Wyoming artist to win the prestigious NEA award.

Jackson joins friend and mentor Don King, Western saddlemaker, 1991; along with Eva McAdams, Shoshone crafts and beadwork, 1996; and Martin Goicoechea, Basque bertsolari poetry, 2003. 

Jackson, along with eight other recipients from across the nation, was honored in Washington, DC in September.

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