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1540 - Governor deals with insults, skunks, greenies

Gov. Matt Mead likes to stop by our coffee group, the Fox News All-Stars, when he gets to Lander.

During the annual One Shot Antelope Hunt festivities, he showed up on a Friday morning.

He used to brag that he knew how to play our coffee game but after losing a few times, he now sits quietly and takes his punishment.

This time, though, he was greeted a little differently then from some earlier visits.

Retired insurance agent Ben Freedman walked into the room fairly late in a our gathering and said loudly: “Welcome back, a**hole!” 

Mead perked up and we all did.  What the heck?

Actually, Freedman had not seen the governor sitting there and was referring to his long-time buddy Tony McRae, who had gotten there a little earlier.  Tony had just gotten out of the hospital and that expression was Freedman’s term of endearment to welcome him back to the group.

After a moment of tension and a funny look on the governor’s face, the place exploded in laughter.

To which, Mead said he had been greeted in a lot of different ways during this time as governor but rarely like that!

While he sitting with us, the governor told us about a recent adventure he endured at his home in Cheyenne.

He likes to sneak out the back door of the governor’s mansion early most mornings and jump into his car and go to a fitness center for a quiet workout.

The mansion grounds have lots of rabbits and one morning recently he heard a stirring in a bush as he walked out the back door.  He lifted up the bush and got blasted full in the face by the stinking wrath of a startled skunk.

Not sure what to do, he got into his personal car but realized he really, really stunk.

Then he went inside where First Lady Carol Mead chased him outside. “Where can I go?” he recalls asking her.

“Anywhere but here,” he recalls her saying.

He quickly got out of his clothes.  With 409 and bleach (they could not find any tomato juice) and long showers, ultimately he got clean enough to make it to an important 7:30 a.m. meeting.

He said he was very self-conscious about whether he smelled. He said it was impossible to get that taste out of his mouth.

His car has been scrubbed down repeatedly and is finally able to be used.

His clothes were washed six times before being thrown away.

Game and Fish ultimately came and rounded up the offending skunk and took it away

Mead speculated as to who is the poor junior person in the Game and Fish who gets stuck with trapping and then having to relocate skunks?  

Although I doubt he would ever refer to another governor as skunk, Mead has an intense but friendly rivalry with his “greenie” counterpart to the south.

The governor got in his licks against Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper during their annual competition at this year’s One Shot Antelope Hunt in Lander.

The hunt celebrated its 75th anniversary this year and it has been co-hosted during all this time by the governors of the two states.

With nine teams of three hunters each competing this year, the Colorado team walked into the Friday night banquet and saw the scoreboard showing kills by every other hunter but the Colorado team sitting there with just three zeros.  This prank was also the brainchild of the afore-mentioned Freedman, who was serving as head greeter at the hunt while his pal McRae was in the hospital.

Hickenlooper, when he got to the stage, reminded Mead how he had created a special traveling trophy that would circulate between Wyoming and Colorado depending on which team did the best each year.

Mead promptly reminded Hickenlooper that the trophy has “never left Wyoming.  We are taking good care of it and intend to keep it again after this year’s hunt.”

Well said.

Early on a beautiful Saturday morning the 27 hunters headed to the field.  Guiding Hickenlooper was Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker, who said he found a gigantic Pronghorn buck for the Coloradoan to kill.  Oops. He missed.

Later on Saturday night, the scoreboard showed 15 hunters had scored kills out of the 27.

And Colorado?  Their scorecard still showed three zeros. None of their hunters, including Hickenlooper, managed to kill their antelope with just one shot.

The trophy is still sitting in Mead’s office.


1539 - Our new hiatory Coffee Table book is out

It was always my intention to cause Wyoming’s 180 million year history to come alive in my newest coffee table book about the state.  Called Wyoming at 125, Our Place in the West, we have attempted to show what Wyoming looked like over its long history.

In every nook and cranny, in every city and town, on every mountain and deep in every valley – well, Wyoming is full of great historical stories.

         Genesis of this new coffee table book was from the state of Wyoming when a couple of state agencies asked me to do a coffee table book to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Wyoming’s statehood.

         We started with a blank sheet of paper on Dec. 15 and submitted the final book to the printer six months later on June 15. Whew!  Finished books are now on hand and are being distributed to quality bookstores around the state.  They are also available on our web site at

         As readers of my two earlier coffee table books know, I love to show off Wyoming with the best photography and most colorful photography possible.

         But if you want to publish outstanding color images, how do you do that with 100-year old, fuzzy, black and white photos?

         The great pioneer photographers, J. E. Stimson, Charles Belden, William Henry Jackson, Frank Meyers and others were every bit as talented as today’s photographers, but were limited by antiquated equipment and horrible facilities. 

         In truth, their cameras, which were huge, took great photos.  It was almost impossible to get high quality black and white prints with 19th century technology. And color was a half a century off into the future.

         Was I going to be stuck with publishing over 50 black and white photos?  Not so fast.

         In December I watched a program on the History Channel that featured photos of Abe Lincoln and the Civil War “in color.”    I tracked down the lab in Michigan, which had colorized those famous Mathew Brady images, and the problems with my Wyoming photos were solved.

         My new book has 52 of the most iconic historical photos ever taken in Wyoming.  Instead of being old, fuzzy and black and white, they now show up in our book as sharp and colorful.  They look like they were taken this week.

         So far, the people who have previewed the book are amazed.

         The book is jammed full of iconic Wyoming historical photos ranging from portraits of Chief Washakie and Buffalo Bill Cody to a photo of Amelia Earhart in Cheyenne celebrating her recent flight across the Atlantic.

         The worst passenger plane crash in American history up that point occurred in Wyoming in 1955. We have a photo of it that is sharpened and colorized.

         Some 99 men were killed in a mine in Kemmerer in 1924. We have a photo of bodies stacked on the floor of a dance hall with women going around lifting up the sheets to locate their dead husbands.

         In 1923, two Union Pacific trains collided head-on in downtown Rawlins.  Spectacular photo of that event.

         In 1936, the owner of the Pitchfork ranch in Meeteetse shipped antelope fawns on the Hindenburg from Lakehurst, NJ to Nazi Germany so Hitler’s minions could create a home for exotic animals.

         In 1921, an unknown photographer snapped a photo of three people visiting the Medicine Wheel. Oddly, there is a big rock wall around it? Where did it come from?  What happened to it?  Who tore it down?

         We have an 1868 photo of the railroad first arriving in Laramie. There is a photo of a wagon being ferried across the Big Horn River in the 1890s.

         Our cover photo is a shot of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show taken by Stimson.

         The book also features photos and artwork from National Geographic.  We have ten amazing stories by Tom Rea and the folks.  Phil Roberts and Mary Hopkins were my two main historical consultants on the book. Phil also had three major stories plus we put an excerpt at the end of each chapter featuring items from the Roberts brothers’ Wyoming Almanac series.

         Pat Schmidt, Gene Bryan, Ray Hunkins, Al Simpson, Rodger McDaniel and Randy Wagner also contributed wonderful stories to the book.

         The book was produced with encouragement and assistance from the Arts, Parks and Cultural Resources Agency (Milward Simpson, director) plus lots of enthusiasm from the Humanities Council staff and Gov. Matt Mead.

         Historic photos came from the state archives in Cheyenne, the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Western History Center at Casper College, Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody and the Lander Pioneer Museum.

         Amazing photos also came from Steve and Dana Cranfill of Cody and the National Guard Museum in Cheyenne.  Modern photos came from Richard Collier, Dan Hayward, Randy Wagner, Dewey Vanderhoff, Scott Copeland, Daryl Hunter, Shawn Rivett, Lona Patton and myself.

         I hope folks enjoy reading the new book as much as I enjoyed producing it. I think it is our best book yet.  We plan to bundle it with the other two coffee table books into a gift set called “The Wyoming Trilogy.”  Should be a fun Christmas gift this winter. 

1538 - Today`s workers solidly on 24/7 schedule

When I told my kids that I was going to write a column about their 24/7 workweeks, they looked at me like I was a Neanderthal.  Most of them have been available by text, email, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, cell or other means 24/7 from their bosses or colleagues for as long as they can remember.

         So why write about it now?

         Maybe it was because both Nancy and I recently attended our 50-year high school reunions and found most every one of these 68-year old people retired or is headed that way.

         I might be working harder now than just about any of them with my book projects, but that is a topic for another column.

         Most of those classmates had jobs that required 40 hours a week and few of them were accessible to their bosses during off hours as much as today’s workers.

In my case, it seemed like I have always worked 24/7. But it was a lot different back in the 20th century.

         As a 24-year old newspaper publisher in Lander in the 1970s with three young kids, I was already working this 24/7 system, albeit without a laptop or a cell phone.

         Because I was in the news business, we often packed up the brood and off we would go on assignment.  We tried to make a family adventure out of whatever event our newspaper was trying to cover.

         My wife Nancy, who has mercifully put up with me for 49 years, usually enjoyed these trips.  She saw so little of me (well, at least enough to ultimately produce four kids!), she really appreciated the chance to spend some time with an adult.

I still feel guilty about not spending enough time with our kids, especially the three oldest during their formative years.

         They have all consoled me by claiming they really enjoyed all these oddball trips and jaunts.       

So, how has all this evolved to today?

         In my case, I still operate a couple of businesses and serve on a number of boards and am involved in several church, civic and charity projects.

         The people who deal with me know that I am pretty much available any time.

         I have also learned that email and text messaging seem to work best in today’s “connected” world. 

         Technology is constantly evolving. As my friend’s 16-year old daughter said to her dad: “Email is so 2010!”  Today, the cell phone is the tool for everything and texting is the rage, even for execs.

         One summer we went to Flaming Gorge Reservoir in July with 14 members of our brood.  Our son-in-law from Dallas set up his laptop on the roof of a floating motel room called a boatel and worked on a $400 million project for his French cell phone company employer.     

         We snapped a photo of him sitting there, with the lake and the boats in the background.  He had a big towel over his head and laptop so he could get the work done out there in the sun.      

From where my boat sat in its slip, we could look across the way at a boat with the name Home Office on it.  My boat (sold last year) was named Yachta Relax, which described our primary intent with it.

         My Home Office friends used their laptops, cell phones and the Internet to conduct their business interests from the lake.  To quote them: “Our customers and colleagues don’t know we are on a boat or dressed in swimsuits.  And we get a lot done.”

         Our daughter, Shelli Johnson, created, a company that got 40 million Internet hits one year and twice was presented the Webby for being the world’s best tourism web site.  She has three kids but I always got text messages and emails from her at all hours every day.  This is the world of the modern business exec.

         She also says the term 24/7 is old news.  She says her generation is used to this kind of life and it just takes baby boomers a little longer to catch up. And here I am trying to show off how techno-savvy I am. Ouch.

         So, is this 24/7 work plan something we should celebrate? Or complain about?

         My vote is that these modern tools allow us to be in places we want to be (the lake) and with people we want to be with (our families). And still be able to respond to situations and get work done.


1537 - Who are future political leaders of Wyoming?

Jimmy Orr and Jon Downing of Cheyenne; Bill Novotny Buffalo; Jim Willox, Douglas; Rosie Berger Sheridan; Phil Nicholas, Noah Novogrodsky and Baend Buus, Laramie; Bill Cubin, Casper; John Brown and Kevin Roberts, Lander; and Brad Bonner of Powell are just a few of the names of possible future Wyoming political leaders that arrived at my desk when I asked my network of friends this question:

         “Over the next 20 years, who are some of the folks in your area that you think might consider running for statewide political office?”

         After chasing around national presidential candidates last month, it occurred to me that we might have a cast of dozens in Wyoming who are itching to some day throw their hats into the rings and mount statewide campaigns.

         The input was remarkable.

         In that first list, you have some amazing people. Jimmy Orr is a TV producer with an enormous political background from the Bush White House.

         Downing is politically astute and is former head of the Contractors Association and now heads the Mining Association.

         Novotny is a county commissioner in Johnson County and managed statewide campaigns for State Treasurer Mark Gordon and Gov. Matt Mead.

         Willox is a retired county commissioner and longtime statewide Republican official.

         Berger is a respected state representative from Sheridan.

         Phil Nicholas is a respected attorney with a lengthy track record in the legislature and has been force of good for the University.  Novogrodsky and Buus (wow, these names are as odd as “Sniffin”) are UW stalwarts and are highly respected.

         Cubin is a political activist and is the son of former long-time U. S. Rep. Barbara Cubin.

         Brown is a member of the state Republican committee and is the IT Director for the Shoshone Tribe. Roberts is president of Wyoming Catholic College in Lander.

         Brad Bonner is a Cody attorney and a member of the highly-respected Bonner family in Powell that has been publishing newspapers for 50 years.  His father is former State Sen. Dave Bonner.

         While in Cody recently, I asked former U. S. Senator Al Simpson if any member of his clan is planning on running in the next decade or two? His two-word answer was: “None. No!”

         After three or four generations of amazing Simpson family political activism that surprised me.  But I will not hold my breath.

         Some members of the media popped up including Robb Hicks, publisher in Buffalo; Toby Bonner, publisher in Powell; Bob Bonnar, associate publisher in Newcastle; Radio powerhouse Brian Scott of Casper; Evanston publisher Mark Tesoro and PR powerhouse Leslie Blythe of Rocky Mountain Power. Jared Kail or his wife Joanna, who own Wyoming Inc., in Lander, also could be seen a future political candidates.

         Two other names that came up frequently were State Rep. Tim Stubson of Casper and Tyler Lindholm, a Crook County state representative, with lots of potential. Also Hans Hunt of Newcastle and Paul Weaver of Laramie. Mary Throne of Cheyenne was touted as was Natrona County Commissioner Rob Hendry.

         Five people already holding statewide office wanting to move up include Gov. Matt Mead (U. S. Senate); U. S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (either governor of U. S. Senate); Secretary of State Ed Murray and State Treasurer Mark Gordon.  Not sure about State School Supt. Jillian Balow but State Auditor Cynthia Cloud has made it clear she is happy where she is right now.

         Of course who can forget Liz Cheney!  Talk about a powerhouse.  Despite getting bruised and battered in her ill-fated campaign against Senator U. S. Mike Enzi, there is little doubt that she will be back on the political stage.

         Other names mentioned were Ember Oakley of Riverton, plus former legislator Tom Lubnau of Gillette and Matt Micheli, Cheyenne, the current GOP chairman.  City Councilman Cade Maestas of Lander was also mentioned along with Kati Hime, Laramie and Ryan Lance, Cheyenne.

         One good place to look for future statewide candidates are the folks who take the Leadership Wyoming class at the Wyoming Business Alliance.  Great program and a great set-up for folks who want to know more about our vast state.

         Lots more names are coming in and we, of course, left out some important obvious ones. Alas, we have decades of time to catch up.

         Perhaps the biggest scoop to come out of my search on this was some gossip about who might be the next president of University of Wyoming.

         Three names bubbled up: former Gov. Dave Freudenthal,  State Sen. Phil Nicholas and Dr. Carol Frost on the UW faculty.