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1454 - Crazy oil prices and new tech top 2014 stories

Both statewide and worldwide, the biggest news story of 2014 has involved oil – both in how prices have dipped and how production has grown.

         Here in Wyoming, the state was experiencing a boom similar to the late 1970s and early 2000s as oil development has been going crazy.

         Back in June, bankers in Casper told me it was “the biggest boom” ever.  A few months later, oilfield folks told me that people were being laid off and rigs were being idled because of the sudden declining prices. The prices plummeted from $110 per barrel to $60 per barrel in months. And they are headed farther down.

         Could 2015 see a bust in Wyoming?  If so, that is the subject of a future column. Today, we are looking back.

         Oil prices have had a big effect around the world, too.

         On the international stage, we are watching Russia implode because of low oil prices.  This could provide the most dangerous scenario in the world as a desperate Vladimir Putin tries to hold his country together.

         Back in November, Putin’s biggest rival Gary Kasparov spoke in Cheyenne at the Wyoming Business Alliance forum. He painted a scary picture of the world with a Putin-led Russia. If Putin is toppled, it could be New York City resident Kasparov who could be the new leader of the world’s largest country, geographically.

         Then again, with just 140 million residents. U. S. Sen. John McCain refers to Russia “as a gas station pretending to be a country.”

         Former Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau of Gillette had this to say about energy:

The big story is not the wild swing in prices of oil (which is the effect) but instead, the development of new technologies that make previously unproductive fields productive, again.   In essence, the new technology opens up global energy availability.   

“Russia no longer has an absolute stranglehold on Eastern Europe.   The Arab states, if unpleasant, become largely irrelevant to the Western Hemisphere.    There will still be some geopolitical issues with energy-hungry Asia but the USA is now in a position that if we don`t like someone, we are not obligated to do business with them.   The entire geopolitical atmosphere changes.    

“The increased production and export of commodities also starts to bring dollars back to the USA economy that we have been sending overseas for a generation.    All of the other political wrangling is window dressing.   The new technology in energy production changes the world.”

In Wyoming, weather is always in the news and 2014 was no exception.

The year was almost ideal when it came to weather.  Spring was typically cold and wet.  Summer was fantastic and wet. The fall was the nicest in memory up to Nov. 11.  Then Casper had the coldest temperature in North America at -27. I know because I was stranded there.

Winter, so far, has been mild.  Wyoming temps in the 50s in December – amazing.

And then there was political news . . .

The first of the year saw Liz Cheney bow out of a race against incumbent U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi.

The August primary was exciting in the secretary of state race with Ed Murray pulling off the win.  He replaced the venerable Max Maxfield who has served the people of Wyoming for decades and done it well. We wish him well in retirement.

The general election featured what most folks thought would be an exciting race between Jillian Balow and Mike Ceballos but Balow won by 25,000 votes.

         Balow is bringing much-needed professionalism to the office and should have quite a honeymoon during her first year in the office.

As this goes to press, the career is ending for perhaps the greatest Wyoming Pro footballer in Bret Keisel from Greybull. He is being forced into retirement from injury but has two Super Bowl rings and other honors with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

My choice for the biggest story of 2014 is the growing economic diversity of Wyoming. I have been from one end of the state to the other and the growth of non-energy industries has been striking.

The Wyoming Business Council and all the local economic development groups in the state deserve a big tip of the hat for creating all these new jobs.  Well done!

Meanwhile the state is lacking skilled workers. The new Job Corps center in Riverton will help but more still needs to be done to bring workers up to speed.


1453 - Really last, last, last minute Christmas gifts

Sometimes, just sending folks a piece of Wyoming can suffice, even if it is a small one.

In Riverton, Sandy Barton likes to give fresh sagebrush wreaths.

In this vein, up in Buffalo, Jim Hicks tells this story: “At the start of WWII my folks had moved to California (dad was working at a US Army Air Corps Pacific Supply facility). Nobody in our family had any money. 

“I recall one of the relatives from Gillette sent along a Christmas greeting and the gift inside was a small sprig of Wyoming sagebrush.  It was a wonderful gift from home as I recall.  It stayed in a small vase on the table so we could sniff it from time to time until the smell of Wyoming finally faded away.

       I guess the moral is that sometimes the best gifts from Wyoming can be those little items which bring part of the state back to the people who have had to move away to make a living.”

         Former Wyomingite Sharon Roadifer Farquhar says we should offer our friends “a Wyoming dinner menu with stuffed mushrooms from the Winds, watercress salad from Sand Creek, Wyoming winter wheat biscuits with Crabapple jam, Shirley Basin antelope haunch with Wyoming Whiskey glaze, Shoshoni Raspberry farm sauce over Wyoming dairy ice cream, followed by Meeteetse chocolates.” Sounds yummy.

         Another former Wyomingite with a wistfulness for the Cowboy State is Publisher Mark Raymond from Carson City, NV who writes: Let`s see Wyoming oriented gifts. Hmm. Blue skies, mountains, sagebrush, can`t forget the Popo Agie and the Pinnacles. Jackson, the Tetons, elk, mule deer, trout, Red Canyon, the Sinks, Muddy Gap, South Pass, the old-timers living and dead who are about the most interesting people anywhere, antelope, Chinook winds and sunshine and finally, the smell of lilacs in the spring.”

         He also reminds he has a sister Jill Hendrix in Upton who sells western art on her website. She sells lots of Wyoming-oriented stuff and is easily accessible on the Internet.

         Former Wyomingite Whitney Fisher thinks a Jackalope is the perfect gift from the Cowboy State, especially for someone who has moved away.

         “Put the critter in a box with some jerky, post cards from all over the state and bunch of other trinkets and you have your gift giving problems solved.” Ron Lytle agrees.

Barbara Parsons recommends binoculars or a trail camera so better enjoy our Wyoming wildlife.

Filmmaker Alan O’Hashi suggests a coffee table made by Jeff Tish and then adds, perhaps it could be used “to hold a Bill Sniffin coffee table book?” Thanks for the plug, Al.

Kimberly Anne King suggests a lighted tumbleweed centerpiece, Geode bookends, silver belt buckles and Wyoming jade jewelry. Taa Daa, you are done.

Over in Pinedale photographer Dave Bell suggests a cowboy wreath made of safe, barbed wire, old boots and a beat up cowboy hat. I would suggest people buy copies of his prints. Amazing images.

Other great Wyoming photographers who would love to sell you their photos this time of year include Scott Copeland of Lander, Randy Wagner of Cheyenne, Fred Pflughoft of Pinedale, Daryl Hunter and Mark Gocke of Jackson, Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody, Dan Hayward of Laramie and lots of other folks including Beartooth Photography of Casper.

In Riverton, Cody Beers suggests Wyoming honey and raspberry jams. “Also a full belly and lots of hugs,” he concludes.

Following on that theme, Bob Coe at Pahaska Teepee west of Cody suggests a load of firewood, plowing driveways and a load of groceries for the needy.

This is also a time for me to plug all those groups who are raising money this time of year for the needy. My wife Nancy has spearheaded the annual Christmas Food Basket drive here for decades. Over 300 teeming baskets of food are delivered by the Elks Club.  Folks running the program are Deanna Trumble, Kevin Green, and Dick and Julie Lefevre.

Check out your town for local food banks, Salvation Army efforts and food pantries. Also toy and coat drives for the needy.

In Sheridan, Brooke Barney suggests a King Ropes hat.

         Monica Taylor-Lee of Cheyenne likes pottery from using Wyoming license plates by Maura Jacobsen. Jonathan Downing touts Baer’s all natural home made jellies in Carpenter.

         Other authors I like include Cat Urbigkit, Mary Billiter, Barb Townsend, Steven Horn, Gayle Irwin and there is a great book out of Casper illustrated by Zac Pullen and written by C. G. Meloy called Life & Spectrum. Read it.


1452 - Jerky and books make great Chritmas gifts

Retiring Secretary of State Max Maxfield thinks copies of the new Wyoming commemorative coin would make a great Christmas gift.

         Wyoming celebrates its 125th anniversary next year and the coin will be a wonderful keepsake. Go to the Internet to find out how to order it.

         Books by CJ Box, Craig Johnson and Alexandra Fuller are some favorite authors. Their books are available all over the state.

         In Worland, Debbie Hammons suggested gifts from Rocky Mountain Framing & Gallery.  “Terry Cook, the owner, is such an artist — she etches glass with the Wyoming bucking bronc.  She does all kinds of glasses — wine, beer, shots and mugs.  She said she just did a glass top table.  Her website is A great Christmas or wedding present for those with their hearts in Wyoming!” says Debbie. 

         In Sheridan Pat Henderson recommends Legerski’s Sausage Co. “It is absolutely the best!  Their product would convince a vegan to go back to meat!  Three generations of making sausage in Sheridan! They sell Holiday Sausage and Cheese Gift Boxes including Polish Sausage, Yakwurst (my favorite), Summer Sausage, Beer Sticks & Demock Colby Jack Cheese.  Check out their Facebook page. Kings Ropes also has great products here in Sheridan,” he recommends.

         When it comes to personal bias, the next two suggestions are offered. Outfitter Jim Allen of Lander says “the gift of a classic Wyoming dude ranch family vacation or wilderness pack trip. The whole family can be accommodated and will cherish those memories forever. No electronic distractions is a big plus, forcing the family to actually engage and talk to each other! Where better to vacation than in Wyoming`s world class wilderness areas?”

         Also, Newcastle publisher Tom Mullen suggests a gift subscription to the local newspaper, which I totally think is a wonderful idea. Kati Hime of Laramie recommends a subscription to her Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine. It is a great read.

         In Casper, Leslie Blythe suggests a local potter who makes wonderful gifts and can tailor them to your needs: “ plus Wyoming Wind Women chimes, beautiful hand crafted gifts by Kathy Patceg in Glenrock, the Box Elder Company.

Steff Kessler in Lander suggests sage wreaths. “Many different folks make them, and they are so fragrant and last for quite some time. I send them to family out of state for a touch of the west.”    

         Bookstore owner Robby Smith in Sheridan suggests Johnson and Box are Wyoming authors “that sell well for us.

Johnson`s newest is Wait for Signs, a short story collection, the newest Walt Longmire novel is Any Other Name.  Box`s newest is Shots Fired, a short story collection, and newest Joe Pickett novel is Stone Cold.  

“I always sell Wyoming Trivia, I Didn`t Know That About Wyoming, Wyoming`s Big Horn Mountains, and our best selling book Where the Rivers Run North by Sam Morton. Anything with local history sells well,” she concludes.

         My friend Garve Chapman likes to give Wyoming Whiskey and Koltiska liquor products.

         Dave Simpson says, “My secret weapon for great gifts is the shop at the Wyoming State Archives/Museum here in Cheyenne. Last year I got a framed map titled Map of the History and Romance of Wyoming,` and my wife loved it. They have a ton of Wyoming-oriented gifts, posters and prints, books and other items there.”

         Jack States in Lander promotes his wife, Diantha, who has an Etsy web site to sell her Wyoming handmade art products. Her site is CanyonAppleArt. Her handbags with original floral paintings transferred to them are illustrated on the site. Also in her inventory are teddy bears made out of faux fur (very realistic appearing), original full and miniature sized oil paintings, greeting cards with original artwork, and pure beeswax candles painted with selected Wyoming wildflowers.

         Nancy Guthrie in Jackson is promoting Wyoming Gourmet Beef of Cody.  “The beef sticks and jerky are amazing.  You should order and try some. Here is the website”

She says Dave Fales is a Wyoming kid who “has done good and then came back home to the Big Horn Basin to establish this most successful business.”

         As for myself I plan to buy some knives from Mike Jones’ and hopefully some Maven binoculars from my friends at, both here in Lander.

         Cannot end this column without mentioning my new coffee table book MY WYOMING 101 Special Places. It is on sale at fine bookstores and on the Internet at

What are your favorite Wyoming-oriented Christmas gifts?