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1506 - The Marlboro Man and me

At one time, this Wyoming man’s face was the most photographed image in the world.

         Darrell Winfield, 85, the original Marlboro Man, died Jan. 12.  And now I can publish a column that I originally wrote in 2000.

         I interviewed him at his ranch and then later called him to go over the facts.  He firmly told me, “No, you cannot publish that. You cannot write anything about me.  It is all owned by Marlboro,” he said.

         So this column has sat there in my files for 15 years waiting for this day.  Here goes:

         That face.  It is possible that this man`s face is the most photographed face in the modern world.  His face shines down from billboards and reflects from ads in magazines and newspapers worldwide.  It could be easily argued that the sun never sets on his image.

         Ands this man lives here in Fremont County, Wyoming.

         He is a quiet, laid back guy.  A horse trainer and horse trader.  And he`s one of us.  Just a local Fremont County guy who thinks this is the greatest place to live in the world.

         For 22 years, Marlboro has used his image to portray the man`s man world portrayed by this cigarette.  He is Darrell Winfield and he lives on a nicely kept 40-acre spread six miles north of Riverton.

         And he smokes Marlboros.

         I hadn`t talked to Darrell for about 10 years.  The idea to go see him came up when our Irish reporter visitor, Kevin Magee, was wondering about what stories he could do here that he might be able to use back in Belfast.  When he lit up a Marlboro, I mentioned that the "Marlboro man” lived here.

         "Nah, " he replied,  "You`re kidding.” He continued to protest and said there really was no such person.

         "Sure there is.  And he lives here in Fremont County," I told him.

         So the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we drove over to visit.  Darrell`s wife Lennie greeted us at the door.  A pleasant, warm woman, she ushered us into the house and offered us coffee.  Darrell was sitting back in an easy chair chewing the fat with his buddy Wilie LeClair. 

         For someone who has had more than 100,000 photos taken of him, the most prominent shot of him on the wall in the den was a series of photos showing Winfield getting thrown from a horse during one sequence. 

         When he laughs, he squints his eyes and that crinkled look comes to his face that has looked down on a billion people from Taiwan to Paris to Cairo. 

         I mentioned that during a Wyoming tourism promotional trip to Taiwan in 1989 I had seen thousands of billboards around Taipei with his face on them. 

         Then one of the photographers who often shoots the photos of Winfield walked into the room, Jack Ward of Philadelphia.

         Ward said they would often have 300 36-shot rolls at the end of a shooting.  I suggested they measure the photos they took of Winfield in feet rather than shots.  Ward said it would be more appropriate to measure it in miles.  He says there are enough shots of the Riverton cowboy to stretch around the world.  And indeed, they do stretch around the world in the way Marlboro has promoted the image.

         What kind of man is behind this image?

         In the setting we saw him, Winfield is the ultimate family man. He and his wife Lennie have six kids and 11 grandkids.  He was planning annual trip the day after Thanksgiving to Rock Springs for a horse sale.  He always takes the boy grandkids on this trip as a weekend for the boys.  They love it, he says.  They go to the Outlaw Inn in Rock Springs and the kids can swim and they go out to eat at night.  He said his two young granddaughters have been clamoring to go along so finally Lennie will go, too, to watch the girls.

         On the subject of his wife, Winfield, the old horse trainer, says he has been training her for 40 years.  "Ain’t got her trained, yet, though," he laughed.  Lennie looked over and smiled at that remark and offered us more coffee.

         With the sun slipping behind the hill, we decided to go outside and snap some shots.  Ward came along and helped take some pictures.  Darrell struck a classic pose and Kevin and I took turns being in photos with the original Marlboro Man.



1505 - Is WYO economy opposite of USA economy?

When old-timers talk about economic trends out here on our isolated island of Wyoming, a big one always looms its head.

         Is Wyoming’s economy the opposite of the rest of the country’s?

         It may be coincidental but it seems the last three boom-bust cycles in Wyoming and the USA were like two ends of a teeter-totter. The Cowboy State’s economy seems to be counter-intuitive to the economy of the rest of America.

         In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the USA was booming.  Wyoming was hurting.  The late Gov. Stan Hathaway said when he took office in 1966 he discovered the state had just $80 in its general fund.

         Then Wyoming’s economy took off in the mid-1970s and peaked in 1981.  Then it tanked in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. During one of Gov. Mike Sullivan’s terms, he recalls how the state would have been flat broke except that some wealthy Jackson gal had died and $20 million in inheritance taxes came to the state.

         Meanwhile in 1985 to 1995, the USA was doing very well, while we struggled to get back on our feet.

         Since 2003, our statewide economy has pretty much been soaring.  Again, at the same time the national economy has been slipping, especially with the gigantic recession of 2008-09.

         Today, our national economy is the envy of the world. Europe, Japan and Russia are in terrible shape and China is even stumbling. But the USA is doing very well, despite $18 trillion in national debt being foisted on our grandchildren and great-grand children.  But that is another story.

         Here in Wyoming, many folks are nervous. We are coming off an unprecedented 12-year boom, which has left us with the lowest unemployment rate in the country and billions of dollars in the bank.

         But the outlook is not so rosy.

         Thus, the theory – as the USA economy goes up, does Wyoming’s economy go down?

         If this is true, a very simplistic answer could be found with Wyoming’s focus on commodities as its economic drivers.  With coal, oil, natural gas and ag products as the key components of our economy, well, when prices are high for these items our economy soars here, too.   

         When commodity prices are high across the country, perhaps it is a catalyst the causes plants to close, jobs to be lost and politicians to start using “it’s the economy, stupid” as their manta for getting elected.

Obviously, all things are more complicated than this. And fortunately, our number-two industry, tourism, is soaring and continues to boom.

         With billions in the permanent mineral trust fund and over $2 billion in a rainy day fund, Wyoming is in an ideal position to ride out a short economic bump.  But if the bust goes long term, then what?

         Gov. Matt Mead has been warning the legislators, “Wyoming was built by builders, not by hoarders.”  He thinks the rainy day fund might need to be tapped, especially with oil down to $46 a barrel from $110 a barrel just a few months ago.  Wyoming’s severance tax income drops $35 million per year for every $5 drop in the price of oil by the barrel.

         Some years ago, I quoted former Wyoming Business Council CEO Tucker Fagan: “Give credit to leadership and the legislature for investing the mineral tax receipts in people (Hathaway Scholarship Program, Community Colleges and Department of Workforce Services) and infrastructure. When we did not have business parks, available water, sewer, power, broadband, etc., we just were not in the game.”

         Another of the ramifications of the Wyoming bust of the 1980s was a situation known as the state’s “lost generation.”  Because so many middle class jobs vanished, a generation of workers disappeared.

         Where did these people go?  Would they come back now?

         The impending dilemma of too many retirement-age workers in education and state government is also a reflection of this situation. 

         President Barack Obama bragged about high stock market prices, low employment, millions of new jobs and a bright future in his State of the Union address a week ago Tuesday.  Much of what he said sounded good across the country.

         Except here in Wyoming, perhaps.

         Does our economy go down when the rest of the country goes up?  This is going to be a very interesting year for Wyoming when it comes to our state’s financial condition.

         It also make some interesting watching as our Legislature meets for just a few more weeks and tries to do what is necessary.

1504 - A close up look at future of WYO newspapers

My, how things have changed in my wonderful newspaper business over the past 45 years!

         A week ago at this time, I was mingling with young, earnest reporters and gray-haired publishers. Plus even a few of the retired silver-haired mossback curmudgeons (like myself) who could still manage to drive across the state in the dead of winter to show up.

         Cheyenne hosted the annual Wyoming Press Association convention and, as near as I could tell, it was a big success.

         What struck me the most is not so much about what has changed in the 45 years that I have been attending this event, but what has stayed the same.

         Back in 1970, I was a 24-year old publisher eager to prove that we knew how to practice solid journalism in our little town of Lander. 

Back then I was one of the youngest people there. This year, I may have been the oldest.

The big dogs back in 1970 were Russ Stout of Rawlins, Hugh Knoefel of Worland, Bernie Horton of Cheyenne, Bob and Roy Peck of Riverton, Dave Bonner of Powell, Ron Lytle and Pat Schmidt of Lovell, Phil McAuley at the Casper Star Tribune, Milton Chilcott of Sheridan, Fred McCabe of Jackson, Jim Hicks of Buffalo, Bruce Kennedy of Greybull, Russ Allbaugh of Laramie, Chuck Richardson of Rock Springs, Mel Baldwin of Evanston, Adrian Reynolds of Green River, Gerry Bardo of Lusk, Dick Perue of Saratoga, Jack Nisselius of Gillette and Joe McGowan of the AP.

         The press association was run by Nancy Shelton out of her home in Laramie.     

         I was so young and so new to Wyoming, it was impossible to try to figure out who owned what and where exactly their towns were.

         Then there was a group of good old boys who worked for various state government outfits who invited me to join them for drinks.

         So, in the bar at Little America the kid from Iowa got a lesson on how Wyoming folks drank at their annual press convention.  Thanks to Ray Savage, Randy Wagner, Gene Bryan, Clyde Douglass and others, I spent the next 12 hours holed up in my room suffering from the worst hangover of my life.

         I barely emerged in time for the big awards banquet Saturday night when that same foursome inquired: “Bill, where have you been?” 

Never again, I vowed.

         So now, four and a half decades later, many things have also remained the same as they were back in those old days. The reporters are just as inquisitive and the goal of trying to sell more advertising is just as important as it was way back when.

The need of having a strong Internet presence is a huge topic today along with the corresponding question of how in the heck can we make any money giving our product away on the net? Most progressive outfits sell advertising on their web sites and have figured out ways to sell subscriptions over the Internet.

Another big change is dealing with the constant (but incorrect) assumption that newspapers are dinosaurs.  

Despite obstacles and hurdles, Wyoming‘s newspapers are strong, profitable and serving their communities well. Just about everyone that I talked with felt business was just fine, thank-you.

         President of the WPA this year has been Anne McGowan of the Lander Journal. Former Associated Press writer Jim Angell is the executive who runs the WPA from its office in Cheyenne.

         A staple at the annual convention is the appearance by the governor.  At this venue, I have asked questions of Stan Hathaway, Ed Herschler, Mike Sullivan, Jim Geringer, Dave Freudenthal and now, Matt Mead. Well, sometimes it still does feel the same.

         Outside of the Internet issues, the biggest change in the press meeting is now that it seems like two-thirds of the participants are women.  Four decades ago, I doubt if it were 20 percent. 

         There used to be clouds of cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke everywhere in those bad old good old days.  Not any more, thankfully.

         I have never missed a press convention and always felt that it provided both a chance to learn new skills but most importantly, renew old acquaintances and make new ones.

         Like so many statewide organizations, the WPA serves a group of like-minded and energetic people. These are folks who literally work hundreds of miles away from each other, but end up providing that similarly important product to their communities – the hometown community newspaper.



1503 - Those pesky Wyoming winds and Kennewick mystery


         We all know that Wyoming is the windiest state in the union but gusts recorded back on Jan. 5 raised some eyebrows.

         They were so severe, U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi even posted some of them on his Facebook page.

         If you are unlucky enough to live in Clark near Cody, you endured winds of 113 mph. What is surprising is that Clark only has an elevation of 4,659 feet.

         Muddy Gap, which straddles Carbon, Natrona and Fremont Counties, saw winds of 88 mph.  Hiland between Shoshoni and Casper recorded 82 mph.  Casper’s Wyoming Blvd hit 75 mph.

         The ski resort in Jackson had 65 mph at its summit. Big Piney had 49 mph and Kemmerer had 43 mph. Lots of other places had high winds but, whew, these were some serious winds.

         Jared Kail of Lander complained about high winds north of Cheyenne where one of those Thule boxes on the top of his Ford Explorer went flying off into the borrow pit, tearing loose some of the luggage rack with it.


         Mystery solved - Out in Washington State, a Wyoming native was involved in solving a major mystery concerning some of the earliest inhabitants of North America.

         Doug Owsley is a University of Wyoming grad, who is an expert on ancient peoples. He is a curator at the National Museum of Natural History and works for the Smithsonian Institution.

         A skull was found in 1996 in Kennewick, WA, which had scientists baffled. A hipbone found with it had a spear point embedded in it and when carbon dated, the skeleton proved to be over 9,000 years old.

         But what baffled scientists was that the skull did not look like a Native American.  Who could it be, then?

         After two decades, a study involving 48 authors and 17 researchers was released. It contained 680 pages and was the most complete analysis of a Paleo-American skeleton every done.

Prior to that, though, a huge battle ensued involving Indian tribes and the Army Corps of Engineers on one side and the scientists on the other. A law passed in 1990 gave jurisdiction over ancient Indian skeletons to tribes.  The Corps was doing work in the area and also claimed the rights to the remains.

         Owsley argued that there was no proof this was a Native American skeleton. It lacked the physical features characteristic of American Indians.

         So the University of Wyoming grad lured his colleagues into the fight. They hired an attorney and sued the U. S. government.

Smithsonian Magazine did a story about the effort and most of the following came from that report:

 “I operate on a philosophy,” Owsley said, “that if they don’t like it, I’m sorry, I’m going to do what I believe in.” He had wrestled in high school and, even though he often lost, he earned the nickname Scrapper because he never quit.

“The Justice Department squeezed us really, really hard,” the Sheridan native recalled. But the team refused to withdraw, and the director of the National Museum of Natural History at the time, strongly supported them.

Owsley and his group were eventually forced to litigate not just against the Corps, but also the Department of the Army, the Department of the Interior and a number of individual government officials. As scientists on modest salaries, they could not afford the astronomical legal bills. The lawyers agreed to work for free, with the faint hope that they might, someday, recover their fees. In order to do that they would have to win the case and prove the government had acted in “bad faith”—a nearly impossible hurdle. The lawsuit dragged on for years.

“We never expected them to fight so hard,” Owsley says. He once counted 93 government attorneys directly involved in the case or cc’ed on documents.

         Ultimately, the scientists won the lawsuit. The court ruled in 2002 that the bones were not related to any living tribe: thus the federal law giving tribes rights to ancient American bodies did not apply. The judge ordered the Corps to make the specimen available to the plaintiffs. The government appealed to the Court of Appeals, which in 2004 again ruled resoundingly in favor of the scientists.

         Owlsley has had lots of important battles in his life but this one, to prove who this mysterious early American was, certainly was the most costly and most interesting.

         Oh yes, the findings indicated the Kennewick man to be either an ancient Japanese tribe called the Ainu or Polynesian.


1502 - So, just what is inside the Ames Monument?

Wyoming is full of unusual and mysterious places. The Medicine Wheel between Lovell and Sheridan is one such place.  The birthing rock north of Rock Springs is another.  And one of the oddest of all is the Ames Monument, known as the  “pyramid of the plains” located between Cheyenne and Laramie.

         That monument will be a primary focus of the Laramie event in June to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Wyoming.

         It is a unique structure that can barely be seen from Interstate 80 at the top of the Sherman Hill summit between Laramie and Cheyenne.  It marks the highest point of the Union Pacific Railroad, which crossed the USA over two decades before Wyoming became a state.

         The pyramid is a unique edifice and seems like it is located in an almost sacred place, there on a high ridge blowing in the wind.

The monument is a tribute to two brothers, Oliver and Oakes Ames, who were instrumental in getting the railroad built.

         Oakes’ great-great-great granddaughter Anna Lee Ames-Frohlich has been corresponding with me about this unique place.

         She along with some state officials are hoping to get the monument listed as a National Monument during the 125th celebration. That application is being made in May in Washington, D. C. by Sarah Allaback and Ethan Carr.

         The 60-foot high pyramid has quite a history. It was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, the pre-eminent architect of the 19th century.  It has bas-relief medallions showing the faces of the two Ames brothers. They were created by the famous sculptor Augustin Saint-Gaudens.

         Like a lot of pyramids, it is not totally solid but has passageways inside. Until the 1980s, it was not uncommon for local young people to crawl inside and create mischief. The openings were sealed around that time.

         Dave Simpson of Cheyenne recalls going inside in 1974 when he was working for the Laramie Boomerang. “The passages were narrow and I could not see the ceiling. It was kind of wet and the bats made me nervous.”  He said the 1973 UW yearbook showed a pitch black photo listed as “the interior of the Ames Monument.”

It was later sealed by a blast that was thought to have permanently prevented further entry.

         In 2010, a group including Ames-Frohlich unsealed it and ventured inside. The following is from a report of that adventure by the late writer Lawrence Ostresh:

          “Over the years the monument has been allowed to deteriorate.  Saint-Gaudens’ wonderful bas-reliefs had their noses shot off, lichen has been eating the granite, mortar has crumbled from the joints and hundreds of tons of soil have eroded from its base, threatening the integrity of the entire megalith. 

“Wyoming State Parks planning coordinator Todd Thibodeau began corrective action, hiring Harold F. Johnson Masonry of Cheyenne to strip the lichen, re-mortar the joints, and re-contour the ground surrounding the base.

         “As Todd was planning his repairs, other events were taking place.  At the Preserve Wyoming conference in Evanston, Mary Hopkins (Director of Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office), Ames-Frohlich, Jerry Hansen, and others discussed how to make the monument into a National Historic Landmark.  It is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

“As a result of that meeting, Anna Lee re-doubled her on-going research into the history and importance of the monument.  In the process, she met Mark Wright, an architectural historian knowledgeable about the monument’s.  It was Mark’s belief that if at all possible we should be allowed to enter the monument.

         “While Todd was initially reluctant to permit access to the interior, a bizarre series of events – including casual conversations on a ferry boat in San Francisco Bay – brought John Newcomb into the picture.  He is an architect and principal with Newcomb-Anderson-McCormick, an SF-based energy engineering and consulting firm.  He was able to convince Todd of the importance of examining the inside of the monument, and the group was allowed in so as to provide a service to the state.  Anna Lee provided the funding to hire Jim Johnson of HFJ Masonry to open it.

         “On Tuesday, October 26, 2010, at 8:30 a.m., Jake Johnson of HFJ Masonry began opening the long-sealed access hole to the Monument.  It was a very cold day and the winds screamed by at over 60 mph.”

         So what did they find inside the monument?

That news will have to wait a little while until it is visited again by folks celebrating Wyoming’s 125th anniversary in June.



1501 - Enzi, Mead, UW should have great 2015`s

For a while it was all around me and then poof, it was gone. I am referring to the year 2014.  How could a year go by that quickly?

         Alas, this means it is time to offer up my 2015 predictions of what is going to happen. 

         Two people and one institution will fare very well in the new year, U. S. Sen. Mike Enzi, Gov. Matt Mead and the University of Wyoming.

         Sen. Enzi will be heading up the powerful Senate Budget Committee, which is one of the most influential jobs in the country.

         After easily winning reelection, he is poised for greatness rarely experienced by a senator from our great state. He will already go down in history as the most effective senator our state has ever produced. But now, well, he is on the threshold of history.

         As chairman of that committee, Enzi will bring common sense to the reality that our Congress needs to face when it comes to reining in crazy spending but also providing programs that truly help our citizens.

         This is a great day for America.  In the past, Enzi has admitted it can be difficult working with President Barack Obama. Now with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, it will be important for the executive branch to work with the legislative branch in a positive manner to benefit the people of America.

         This is really good news for Enzi, Wyoming and America.

         Our other U. S. Senator John Barrasso and our U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis will also get choice assignments under this new GOP-dominated Congressional world.

         Back home at the State Capitol, Gov. Mead also scored a decisive victory and should be able to launch and to finish programs that he feels are important to Wyoming.

         We are fortunate to have a youthful, energetic governor.  At times during his first term, I thought he was tentative, which would be expected. He also dealt with the crazy legislation over the state schools superintendent issue and also tried to compromise with some of the more extreme wings of the Republican Party. Not sure some of those folks can ever be pleased.

         I see him being much more forceful in his second term and that is good news. His actions in solving the Medicaid issue, which is important to thousands of the working poor in the state, will be significant.  He needs to stand up to nay-saying legislators and steer his own path to help the needy people in Wyoming.

         His next four years will be much more significant than just that issue.  He is in a position rarely found by a governor in the country. Wyoming is rich.  It is totally dominated by the governor’s own party. It has a history of being the best-run state in the country. 

         Tune in for Mead’s State of the State speech at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative session.  It could be predicted he might just lay out his vision for Wyoming’s future at that time.  And what a future it could be!   We are very fortunate to have him at the helm of our state government.

         And when it comes to the legislature, we are seeing an amazing coincidence this year.  Both Speaker of the House Kermit Brown and Senate President Phil Nicholas come from the same city – Laramie.  And what resides in Laramie?  Why the University of Wyoming.

         Folks who love UW have built an amazing university there over the past 20 years.  It is hard to imagine another school in the country of this size that has the amenities that UW has.

         And yet, politically and financially, the opportunity is there in 2015 to do even more. These will be exciting times for Cowboy fans and the proposals we will be hearing about will range from the spectacular to the, well, nutty.  The wheels are greased. Let the spending begin!

         So those are some of the high points as I see them for 2015.

Low points involve energy.

Coal continues to be the national scapegoat of our president. And yet, biggest news out of Sheridan County is a new coal mine that will employ hundreds. Amazing.

Another low point will be loss of tax revenue from falling oil prices. We lose $35 million in tax revenue for every $5 drop in the price of oil per barrel. So as we celebrate low prices at the gas pump, just remember the bigger statewide ramifications of these low prices.

         Happy New Year.