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1427 - Wyoming GOP primary politics in 2014 interesting

This is the time of year when our Wyoming political world truly becomes the crazy season.

         Between parades, celebrations and backyard meet-and-greets, the folks competing for political office find themselves on the dead run.

         It is already July and the primary is toward the end of August. Most candidates have been working on this since last fall so it is truly crunch time.

         So, with that introduction, let’s take a look at a couple of interesting races here in the Cowboy State.

         Most observers would assume the incumbent Gov. Matt Mead should be a shoo-in for reelection.  Rarely has a Wyoming governor lost reelection to a second term. 

         In my memory, Governors Stan Hathaway, Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Jim Geringer and Dave Freudenthal all were able to win easy reelection to second terms. 

         Some folks believe that two of Mead’s primary contestants might have a chance.

         First, is Supt. of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, arguably the most controversial politician in Wyoming in the last 30 years.

         She is a relentless campaigner and has built up a loyal following who support her.

         This could have been a very interesting Mead-Hill race except for the addition of another aggressive candidate who also has a strong statewide following, Dr. Taylor Haynes of Cheyenne.

         Haynes appears to be the most Libertarian of the three, which always plays well in the Cowboy State.

         Mead looks like the front-runner and the fact that he has two folks going head-to-head against him could be enough to put him back in office.  Mead has made some missteps but overall has done the job the folks who elected him four years ago expected of him.

         The winner meets Democrat Pete Gosar of Laramie in the general. Pete is a good campaigner and the election could be interesting.

         I attended a forum where four of the Secretary of State candidates spoke and it sure looked more like a race for governor.  Not sure what folks were expecting out of candidates, but the questions sure seemed to fit a governor’s race rather than a race for the state’s SOS office.

         From my vantage point, it appears that Ed Murray of Cheyenne is spending the most money. It is working to get him name recognition to the top of the group. He is a long-time businessman, attorney, and land developer. His secret weapons are his four daughters and wife who are tirelessly working for him.

         He originally hired the two Bills to run his campaign, Bill Novotny of Buffalo and Bill Cubin of Casper. Both are very experienced. Novotny was involved in two of the most expensive campaigns in Wyoming history:  Mark Gordon’s loss in 2008 to Cynthia Lummis and Gov. Mead’s victory in 2010. 

         Former State Rep. Pete Illoway, Cheyenne, arguably is the best qualified.  Besides being an elected legislator, he has been a lobbyist at different times. He knows his way around state government. He has hired Dave and AnneMarie Picard, Cheyenne, to run his campaign.

         Another former State Rep. is Ed Buchanan of Torrington (former Speaker of the House) who offers the same experience as Illoway. But again he may be falling short of Murray when it comes to spending money and getting his name out. Buchanan has Lorraine Quarberg of Thermopolis, another former state legislator, helping him. Buchanan may have gotten off the most interesting comment of the race when he claimed he was not going to “hire any political hacks.”

         Clark Stith of Rock Springs is an attorney who has done wonders for the Republican Party in Sweetwater County.  His tough chore is convincing people in other counties that his expertise makes him the best for the job.  He has Amy Womack helping his campaign. Amy was running Liz Cheney’s campaign against Sen. Mike Enzi before Liz bowed out in late December.

         The winner will face Jennifer Young, a member of the Constitution Party, in the general election.

         Running for election in Wyoming in the Republican primary is an often confounding experience.  You have to be able to cover vast amounts of ground.  You need a statewide network.  And most of all, you somehow have to differentiate yourself from the competitors by coming up with some kind of reason why you are the better candidate.

         Good luck to all of you and thanks for spending all this time (and money) working to be elected to what can be relatively thankless jobs that are very important to all of us in the Cowboy State.


1426 - Longest American highway crosses Wyoming


         During a recent road trip through nine states, I stumbled on to an interesting factoid: the longest highway in America bisects Wyoming. 

It is Historic US 20, which is 3,365 miles in length. We drove on that road a lot during our trip and it was well worth it.

         In Wyoming, the highway enters the state east of Lusk on a truly crappy stretch of highway and continues to Orin Junction where it joins I-25 and then heads north to Douglas and Glenrock. It continues to Casper and then heads west to Shoshoni. My late father always complained that long stretch from Casper to Shoshoni, was “96 miles of nuthin.’”

         From Shoshoni the highway heads north next to Boysen Reservoir and through glorious Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis. It continues to Worland, Basin and Greybull before turning west to Cody and Wapiti Valley where it enters Yellowstone as the east gate. Along the way Historic US 20 picks up and joins U. S. highways 14 and 18 at times, before exiting the state.  

         An effort that started in Ohio is underway to provide more recognition to Historic US 20, both as a tourism corridor and also a tourist destination in its own right.

         I have some experience with foreign visitors, especially the Brits and the Germans. They love to visit out-of-the way towns like Lusk, Shoshoni, Thermopolis, Worland, Basin and Greybull.  Europeans average five weeks of paid vacation each year so they can afford to take leisurely trips along the back roads of America.

         They are going to love visiting Historic US 20. Folks in Wyoming along US 20 who want to get involved in this national promotional effort should contact Bryan Farr, who wrote a book a few years ago about the famous highway.  More information is at

         Our trip saw us travel by car through all these states as we headed to a wedding in Kansas and ended up in Northeast Iowa at my 50th high school reunion

         Roads were generally good in all states although the wife of my best high school friend Everett Rowland, who is a county supervisor in Fayette County, Iowa, claimed that Iowa has the worst roads in the country and the third worst bridges.

         That state’s “governor for life,” Terry Branstad was all over the TV bragging about Iowa being considered the “second best managed state” in the country.  Who is first?  Wyoming, of course.

         Branstand is running again as the state’s official tightwad and if elected he will have served 24 years in that post. Amazing.

         When you are in the Midwest this time of year the big news is the weather.

         Torrential rainfalls that occasionally topped five inches in a single storm provided flooding and hazardous driving conditions all over my home area of Northeast Iowa.

         Our planned visit to my favorite childhood state park, Backbone, will have to occur at another time since it was closed because of high water.

         Earlier, while in western Iowa at my wife Nancy’s hometown of Harlan, we were concerned about tornadoes heading our way that had ripped through Pilger, NE.  If you catch the images, it was extraordinary.  Dual monsters, a mile apart, tore up parallel courses through that part of the Cornhusker state.

         Although Wyoming is officially the windiest state in the union, Iowa has turned into a constant hurricane according to folks who live there.  They all believe some kind of climate change is occurring. It was easy to believe that one day when I tried to play golf in 50 mph winds with my brother in law Roger Thomsen.

         My sister Marybeth and her husband Steve hosted us in Dundee, Iowa, where I was able to spend time with four of my 10 siblings. 

         I had earlier joked with friends that I was “going to visit some old folks” at my class reunion, which was held later that week at a riverboat casino in Marquette, Iowa. Actually most of them looked pretty good.

         Over half the room was filled with folks who had been together over 45 years.  The majority had gotten married at the ages of 18 and 19.  Nancy and I were 19 and 20 when we got married. I always told my kids that “it was true love, so why wait?” But according to many of my classmates, it was also because of something called the draft and the Vietnam War, which made us want to grow up pretty darned fast.



1425 - Lost manuscript brings Wyoming history alive

True recollections of Wyoming history involving such things as wolf roundups and recollections of historical figures like Gen. George Armstrong Custer and Sacajawea come alive in a uniquely historical book, whose story of how it came into being is almost as interesting as the stories it tells.

         Wind River Adventures by Edward J. Farlow is an amazing book that details the early history of Wyoming. It features some of the more amazing characters in our state’s history. And the stories Farlow writes are exciting and full of detail.

         This story would never have come to pass except for the good work of an historian who discovered it.

         Does this sound familiar?

         That is the identical story of the Best Picture of the Year just awarded by the Academy awards, 12 Years A Slave.  That movie came from a book written as a manuscript that was never published until a historian found it many decades later.

         Farlow’s book was finally published over 50 years after he wrote it in the mid-1940s when he was over 80 years old.

It took the good work of some museum folks in Fremont County.  Sharon Kahin of Dubois heard about the manuscript at a history conference in Billings. She worked with Lander’s foremost historian Tom Bell to locate it in the files of the Pioneer Museum.  How Ms. Kahin ultimately put this all together is almost as interesting as the book itself.

She obtained a grant from the Wyoming Council of the Humanities, which funded the project as part of the Centennial initiative and worked with the publisher, High Plains Press (Nancy Curtis) of Glendo.  The foursome of Kahin, Bell, Riverton historian Loren Jost (who helped round up photos) and Curtis plus state staff teamed up to create this remarkable book.

We first promoted the book in 1998 through our local newspaper in Lander but I just recently reacquainted myself with it, and was just blown away by how “current” history comes alive in this manuscript.  These stories were written by someone who was actually there at the scene in our state’s early days.

         Here are some of the tales included in this book:


         • In August of 1917 Farlow describes a wolf roundup that involved 600 people. He put the event together as he recalls by “enlisting the services of Indians, cowboys, ranchers, sheep men, herders, camp movers and the young folks of the towns of Lander, Riverton and Shoshoni. Many of the riders were girls.”

         The Farlow Wolf Roundup ended up not finding a single wolf but they did round up 100 coyotes, one bear, 500 head of cattle and 2,000 wild horses. “

         Purpose of the roundup was that Wyoming was home to some three million sheep and predators were killing 60,000 each year.


         • In 1922, Farlow became involved in producing one of the most famous movies of that era.   He joined up with the legendary filmmaker Tim McCoy to make a movie called The Covered Wagon.

         McCoy called him on the phone and said, “I need 500 Indians for a movie.” And he needed them in a hurry.

         The movie, much of which was filmed in Wyoming, ended up costing an astronomical $1 million but was a huge success at the box office.  Its total take of $3.5 million made it one of the top 10 grossing movies for the decade.


         • Farlow spent some time locating Indians who had fought against Gen. George Armstrong Custer in the battle of Little Big Horn.

         He quoted an elderly Indian named Plenty Bear who described how 1,000 warriors advanced to the Custer’s force. Plenty Bear told Farlow that the soldiers would have gotten away but when they got to the higher ground, they stopped and tried to fight against the superior Indian force.

         The fight did not last long. Just 30 minutes.  The dead soldiers were mutilated and stripped of everything by the women and children of the camp, not by the Indian braves.


         • Legendary Indian scout Sacajawea is buried at Fort Washakie if you believe Farlow’s account.

         He claims to have known the son of one of her sons, whose name was Baptiste. There is no doubt in his account that this was the famous bird woman who showed Lewis and Clark the way to “the big water” of the Pacific.

         Farlow spent a lot of time with Baptiste’s son Andrew looking for a mysterious medal which was given to the mother and worn on special occasions by the son.



1424 - My own (personal) Wyoming Painted Morning

Morning people have always impressed me.  For some time now, it has been my desire to reinvent myself as a lark, rather than an owl.  These two birds pretty much represent those two unique kinds of people – the morning person and the night owl.

A few years ago, I discovered how beautiful it could be early in the morning and I now delight in being up at an early hour.  Let me tell you about a recent morning.

Maybe it was a sudden gust of wind or a deer bumping into one of Nancy’s bird feeders, but something woke me up. I climbed out of bed at an early hour and took in the full impact of my surroundings. 

Is there anything on earth better than the cool Wyoming air early in the morning? 

My shadow loomed out far before me as I wandered around the yard.  My other Shadow (our dog) was hot on my heels as we checked things out.  Nancy’s bird feeders were busy with chattering birds and some had been toppled by squirrels or raccoons.

After pouring myself a hot cup of coffee, the dog and I headed off on a walk. We live near Lander City Park close to the Popo Agie River. The dog and I took off to check out the flow.

The river’s channel was full.  Recent rains were providing ample runoff. It was running very high and was making quite a bit noise, even from a distance.  You could hear big rocks clicking together as the force pushed them downstream.

Watching the river is a great pastime.  The ebbs and flows change constantly throughout the year.

We had endured a 50-year flood event in 2010 in Lander when I lost a cabin and a fourth of an acre of ground to the rushing water.

This year we were luckier but other places were not.  Still the water I was looking at in the raging Popo Agie was white with foam.

Drought? What drought? 

We all know that with the sun burning through our clear Wyoming sky and the consistent western winds, well, it will be dry again, soon enough.

But to be able to enjoy the green and the wetness here in Wyoming is worth savoring. I flew in a small plane over Fremont, Park and Sheridan Counties earlier and I couldn’t recall ever seeing those areas as green as they are right now during the month of June.

A relative of mine from Iowa used to tease me about our state color being brown. “It really is brown out there,” he would exclaim, which is the truth, especially compared to Iowa.  But not now in June it is green.

But back to my morning walk. The colors are so vivid at this time of day. These are “Wyoming Painted Mornings” as the golden light of the sun illuminates the Wind River Mountainsides with alpenglow. You could make out the Bears Ears rock formation that towers over Dickinson Park up there in the mountains. You couldn’t help noticing how white the distant mountains still were from the May snowstorms.

We are at the beginning of the summer season, a time some people dread as they see it as a time of heat and wind.  I see it just the opposite.  It is a time of glory to celebrate the beginning of another growing season and a time to reflect on the comings and goings of nature’s wonderful gifts to us.

A rooster crowed over on Hillcrest Drive. A few members of Lander’s town deer herd were stirring, too. A tiny fawn hippity-hopped off in the distance.  Some dogs over by City Park were barking.

My dog and I spotted just the head of a big buck with his new antlers above the waves of blowing grass near the river.  With the river noise and the breeze, he didn’t hear or see us approach. When he did, he jumped up and bounded over a fence and was gone. Was he the latest incarnation of Uncle Buck, the huge patriarch of the Lander deer herd?  It was hard to tell for sure, but that rack looked familiar.

As he headed off through the trees Shadow and I headed back toward the house.

As we did, I looked back at my long shadow stretching out behind me and took in all the glorious colors of the summer morning.  I called this my very own Wyoming Painted Morning.

1423 - Yellowstone lure draws visitors to Wyoming

          If you like tourism like I do, then it is easy to appreciate what Yellowstone National Park means to Wyoming.

         Some three million folks come to the world’s first national park each year.  Almost a third of them are international tourists.

         This reality came to me when a young Asian woman sat next to me recently on a flight from New Orleans to Denver.

         It was hard for me to determine if she was American or one of those international tourists.  It was also hard to figure out how old she was and what she was doing. She appeared to be traveling alone.

         Then an older Asian woman came up the aisle and handed her a baggie full of chips, nuts and fruits. It was her mother.

         I asked her if she was from New Orleans?  “No, I am from Boston, “she replied, explaining that she was a graduate student at Tufts University. Surprisingly, I detected a slight southern drawl in her speech as she continued: “I grew up in Alabama. My undergraduate degree was from Auburn.”

         “So why are you going to Denver?”

         “My parents and I are going to Yellowstone National Park for the first time,” she explained. “We will be there a week.”

         I couldn’t help myself with the next question. “Did you bring a jacket?”

         She laughed and said, yes, she had been warned that the nights are cool.

         I had my iPad in my lap so I showed her some wonderful photos taken in Yellowstone.  She was impressed. She had heard of the park but the trip was her parents’ idea.  They lived in New Orleans so they all decided to fly from there into Denver and then rent a car and head north for a week.

         It was fun to give her some other ideas of where to go besides Yellowstone.  She claimed to not have even heard of the Tetons.  “You are in for a treat,” I said.

         We also talked about the other gates to the park including passing through the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County and all the wonders of the east gates through the Park County entrances.

         I continued showing her photos of Yellowstone and Wyoming.  She was thoroughly impressed. She could not recall seeing much about the park before.

         She was probably dizzy from all the information being showered on her in a short time but, no doubt, she was a smart gal and would now figure out a wonderful trip.

         Wyoming tourism is so fortunate to have a lure like Yellowstone.  Folks who come from all over to visit the great park usually come by car and that means driving through the rest of the state to get there.

         For years, folks at the Wyoming Division of Travel and Tourism worked especially hard to steer Yellowstone visitors to drive the “long way” into the park by way of I-80, I-25 and I-90, thus traveling through a big part of Wyoming either going or coming or both.

         Motels, restaurants, gas stations, gift shops and retailers have all benefitted from all the extra traffic they are getting because of Yellowstone.

         I am partial, too, because Yellowstone is my all-time favorite place.  We have been going there on a regular basis for 44 years. In the early years, we had an almost endless stream of out-of-state relatives visiting us with an eye on going to the park.

         Because of my job requirements, I could usually only budget one day so we would get up at 4 a.m. and start the mighty trek.  We would stop at Jackson Lake Lodge to view the Tetons and then head north.  Next stop usually was Old Faithful and then the Norris Geyser Basin.  Then the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and then end up grabbing a bite to eat at the Lake Hotel and taking in the vast Yellowstone Lake.

         We would then head home, again stopping for a potty break in Dubois and walk back into our front door in Lander at 10 p.m. Whew!

         Seems like we did that trip dozens of times.

         So now, most of our relatives had already gotten that earlier rush-hour tour so future trips involved them spending a few days in the park to really get to know it up-close.

         The park is almost always hospitable although snowstorms can hit in every month and in recent years, the traffic can be fierce, especially to us locals.

         But Yellowstone always satisfies.  It is the crown jewel of America.


1422 - D-Day;s 70th anniversary important to Wyoming vets

       World War II was an extraordinary time in Wyoming with over 10 percent of the state’s population involved in fighting that war. Over 1,000 died.

         The war cry, “Powder River, let’r buck” was heard from Europe to Asia as Wyoming’s finest young men and women risked their lives. This exclamation was first heard in 1898 when Wyoming reportedly exceeded every other state’s quotas for providing soldiers in the Spanish-American War.

         All over our state you can find impressive memorials to these brave citizens who left the comfortable confines of the Cowboy State to go to the ends of the world to defend their country.

         These thoughts are on my mind as we just celebrated Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of D-Day is occurring on June 6.

         So what is happening to all these old veterans? Across the USA, they are dying by the thousands. Not many of them left.   

         At one time, the state had reportedly 56,000 living veterans, just about one out of 10 citizens.  This had to be one of the largest ratios in the country, if not the largest.

         What triggered these notions is that my wife and I just toured the National World War II Museum in New Orleans and it was unique in its design and function in its presentations.

         Not unlike the Buffalo Bill Center in Cody, this museum really requires days (almost weeks) to fully take it all in.

         We spent four hours and it was not even close to enough time.

         Perhaps the most impressive sight was on screen.  It took five years to create what was called a “4D, Imax movie” that depicted  World War II.

         Besides the gigantic movie on the Imax screen, the show provided a multi-sensory experience that took you to the real-life experience of being in war. It included real airplanes, machine guns, and snipers in towers plus snow and smoke.  The sound was loud  (probably to help the World War II vets) and it sure took you to a realistic place.

         The statistics surrounding World War II are beyond belief.  More than 65 million people died, more than in any war in history. In Wyoming, perhaps no city or town made a bigger sacrifice than the tiny hometown of former Gov. Stan Hathaway.  Ten men from little Huntley in Goshen County gave their last full measure in World War II. Amazing.

         The D-Day invasion was the largest amphibian attack in history with over 5,000 vessels.

D-Day which was code-named Operation Overlord, according to a huge display at that New Orleans museum, involved 150,000 men in nine divisions landing on the beaches of Normandy over a 50-mile stretch.

         The freedoms we take for granted today were earned on those beaches.  It was interesting that General Dwight Eisenhower did not have a back-up plan. The attack had to work. 

         Fast-forward to today and we are seeing some terrible things happening to our vets.

         Revelations of veterans having to wait unusually long times for medical appointments is an insult to these brave men and women.

         This is unforgiveable.  Let’s hope the Veterans Administration gets its act together.

All across Wyoming there are statues and memorials to the vets.

The biggest of these is War Memorial Stadium, the football field that hosts the University of Wyoming Cowboys. It was built in 1950 as a tribute to the brave men and women who fought in World War II and earlier wars. That gridiron has long been the highest elevated field in the country at 7,215 feet above sea level.

A couple of weeks ago, our family recalled the 14th anniversary of my father’s passing.

He was a World War II veteran and spent a lot of time in Louisiana.  He was blessed when he broke his wrist in an accident and thus did not get shipped with his original unit, which was virtually slaughtered in Europe.  He was later sent to Tehran, Iran where he coordinated huge truckloads of goods being hauled to Russia over some huge mountain passes.  That effort helped defeat the Italians and Germans.

He ended up going around the world a couple of times and also was active in the American Legion for years after he got home from the war. He saw war up-close and became a lifelong pacifist as a result.

My dad was part of a group of men and women nicknamed “The Greatest Generation.”  So far, 70 years of history hence still shows they deserve that designation