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1652 - A look back at Wyoming`s 2016

When I look back on 2016, it seems to me that Wyoming people need to face a true reality check.

         It is time for people to realize that the current “bust” might be what we should be considering the  “new normal” here in the Cowboy State.

         Instead of considering our economic conditions booms or busts, we need to identify these kinds of times, which are predictable, and consider them the norm. This is what 2016 was like and how 2017 will continue to be.

         To business owners and managers, 2017 will be a time when they all need to work hard, work smart and maintain strict discipline when it comes to expenses.  Since a huge part of Wyoming’s economy is government-based, agency leaders need to run local, state and federal government entities in a businesslike manner, too.

         My theory is that we need to make sure our “yearnings do not exceed our earnings.” To many people that is not as important a consideration as in the past. But based on today’s economic realities, it should be just the opposite.

         In some places living within your means is not considered a normal way of operating. We see countries and even businesses adopting what has been called the European model, where everyone gets an income, whether they are productive or not. And even if an individual does not have a job, he or she is able to get enough income from the government to live a decent life.

         To many old-timers, this is a foreign concept. The concept of receiving an income without working does not compute when we look back on our own experience.

         During my 55 years in the workforce, I was always told to work hard (and I learned how important it was to work smart) and if one was honest and put out a quality product, things would turn out okay.

         Today, in many places and ways, this playbook has been discarded.

         That is partially the result of eight years of President Barack Obama and administrations before him. And it certainly was the 2017 outlook, had Hillary Clinton been elected president.  Now, with Donald Trump in charge and a Republican-controlled Congress, is there a chance that some of this will be rolled back?  And if so, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

         But I digress. This column is all about looking back at 2016.

         Biggest news in 2016, even out here on the frontier, was the election of Trump.  Republican-dominated Wyoming, typically, supported the president-elect by the highest percentage in the country.  Welcome to Donald Trump Country.

         When your state is almost a colony, it is hard to predict the effect of the Trump presidency.  We primarily produce raw materials that are sent to other states. Once there, big companies employ huge workforces to process our materials into finished products or to create electrical power for consumers.  We probably are not as bad as the Republic of Congo but still we look a lot like a colony to me.

         All the governors that I have known have preached the gospel of diversification and gradually a great many new jobs have been created over the past decades. But we are still a commodity-based economy. Some day we will figure out how to add value to our raw materials here and create lasting jobs.

         Until then, we will continue to plug along as a colony and thus suffer booms and busts.

         Sorry about digressing even more.

         The Wyoming Cowboy football team (and its amazing success) was also a favorite news story of 2016.  We sure had fun watching them and look forward to a long period of success in the future.

         Another big story in 2016 was the re-construction of the most famous building in the state – the state capitol.  Lots of critics are harping about it but it was way past time to deal with it.

         Another big construction story occurred in the far west when the LDS Church built is first temple in Wyoming at Star Valley.

         Other top stories included the election of Liz Cheney as U. S. Representative.

My favorite good news story has been the boom in tourism, which was partially fueled by low gasoline prices across the country.

And I predict the real future economic success of our state will be based on how we convert a few of those 10 million visitors into permanent residents who contribute to the state’s future in a positive way.


1651 - The perfect Wyoming Christmas Gift

Ken Smith of Laramie has a great idea for an ideal Christmas gift – he thought someone should go around the state and “bundle up” all the different craft beers and market them as a package.

         Not sure how that could be done, but sounded good to me.

Ken is a University of Wyoming professor and has shared a cold one with me now and then. Actually I was the guy who recruited him to Wyoming back in the 1980s to be publisher of the Green River Star. Today, he heads the journalism department at UW.

         I was asking various friends from around Wyoming what they would recommend as ideal Christmas gifts with a Cowboy State feel to them.  Here are some others:

         Pat Henderson of Sheridan favored his local city when he suggested Legerski sausage, which he says, “tastes incredible.” And also some liqueur products from Koltiska distillery. Of course, he thinks King Ropes sells everything wonderful, too.

         Cathy Cline of Riverton is pretty happy with the new occasional $79 one-way flights to Denver.  She also buys any craft items from the Wind River Reservation.

         Former Thermop publisher Pat Schmidt says for the person who had everything should buy one of those $1,000 buffalo robe coats from Merlin’s Hideout in Thermopolis.  They were worn extensively in the movie The Revenant.

         Gov. Matt Mead offered up his ideas for Christmas giving as follows: “There are any number of ideal Wyoming-oriented Christmas gifts. A few that come to mind are: (1) gifts purchased from any of Wyoming’s great museums or galleries, for example, the Wyoming State Museum Store; (2) gifts of prepaid getaways – a night, a weekend, a special meal – in any of Wyoming’s great towns; (3) gifts of products that are made in Wyoming; (4) gifts that show school spirit from UW, our community colleges, and our grade and high schools; and (5) gifts purchased from Wyoming small businesses. Happy giving and happy holidays!”

         Bill Lee of Lander is taking buffalo jerky and raspberry delight to Cairo, Egypt, where his son, Emmy-winning TV journalist Ian Lee, lives.

         Michael Pearlman likes those Surf Wyoming caps, which offer homage to the state flag plus Robert Decker posters of Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.

         Bryon Glathar, managing editor of the Uinta County Herald in Evanston likes bison, including steaks from Bridger Valley Buffalo in Lyman.

         Amy Surdam of Cheyenne likes the idea of buying someone their own individual branding iron for use on their barbecued steaks, available at Wyoming Home for about $12.

         Sarah Hale of SVI media in Star Valley suggests tickets to UW games are a treat along with a sleigh trip through the elk refuge in Jackson.

         Tom Satterfield of Cheyenne likes buffalo sausage from the Terry Bison Ranch, just south of the capital city.

         Tom Cox of Lander thinks this is going to be a cold winter and suggests hats, boots and neck scarves. He also is prompting buying western art produced by local Wyoming artists.

         Here in Lander, the folks at Maven make the best binoculars in the country.  And Fremont Knives is also gaining a great reputation for quality. I can vouch for the quality of a CD of Christmas songs from Wyoming Catholic College.

         Historian John Davis of Worland likes the idea of giving gift certificates to local restaurants.  He might be thinking about how slow business can get in the colder months for lots of these places across Wyoming.  It always feels good to eat out.      

         Chuck Brown of Wheatland says we all need to make a list of five friends that you have not spoken to in 2016 and reach out to them over the holidays.  Give them a “Merry Christmas” call, he suggests.  Great idea.

         Linda Fabian suggests a membership in the State Historical Society – great idea.  Also, I would recommend memberships in Wyoming PBS and Wyoming Public Radio.

         Gene Bryan, a Wyomingite transplanted to Tucson, suggests Chris LeDoux wine from the 307 folks in Sheridan.  He also suggests some gals might want to buy themselves an epic woman’s adventure with Shelli Johnson of Lander at

         Favorite authors who need to be on the list are Casper native Ron Franscell, Cheyenne’s CJ Box, Mary Billiter and Steven Horn, Craig Johnson of Ucross, former Wyomingite Joe McGowan of Denver, Rodger McDaniel, Laramie, Cody’s Mark Spragg, John Davis of Worland, Diantha and Jack States of Lander, Sam Western of Sheridan and you could add my six books to the list, I suppose. Also, I would strongly recommend copies of First Lady Carol Mead’s book Wyoming Firsts. Copies are available at the State Museum gift shop. Lots of other Wyoming authors who deserve to have folks buying and reading their books.

1650 - From Saratoga to UW and all around . . .

My new favorite baseball cap says “Wyoming versus BYU,” except that this cap is 20 years old from the 1996 WAC football championship held in Las Vegas. We were at that game and now it is Déjà Vu all over again.

         Wyoming is again playing BYU, this time in a bowl game on Dec. 21 in San Diego. Not sure we can make that one, but as I write this in a Laramie motel room (where the temperature is -20 on Dec. 8), the thought of sunny San Diego sure sounds good.

         Legend has it that cities that host bowl games love Wyoming Cowboy fans because our folks are not afraid to spend money when they attend these functions.  Other schools have opposite reputations, BYU perhaps? 

         The ESPN television sports network was in Laramie for the big game Dec. 3 where UW lost to San Diego State 27-24. They brought three big trucks of equipment and 90 employees.  One of their announcers was describing how cold it was and how folks were dressed up in their Carhartts.  The other announcer turned to his partner and asked, “What is a Carhartt?” Obviously from a warm climate.

         Announcer Brian Griese gave a big plug to the Wyoming Rib and Chophouse in Cheyenne as he exclaimed about the size and quality of their steaks. He was proclaiming Wyoming as the home of great meat – but we already knew that.  Now the whole country knows that.

         I related that story to some happy folks at the annual state Round Up of the Wyoming Stockgrowers while in Casper Dec. 6.  They were pleased.  Jim Magagna and his crew put on a great event. It was fun to see Dennis Sun from the Wyoming Livestock Roundup again. It was cold and snowy but folks in Wyoming are hardy.

         Laura Taliaferro Pearson was there selling her custom caps – her products are nice warm hats for gals with a custom hole cut in the back for their pony tails.  It is a big seller and can be found at fine western stores and at

         Back to the Wyoming Cowboys.  Perhaps the most amazing thing about that football game was the limp flag hanging on the flagpole in the end zone. It was bitter cold but perhaps some vintage wind might have aided the UW cause.

         Not sure the 24,001 fans would have appreciated that wind, though.

          I was in the toasty warm press box sharing space with some other media luminaries including a beaming Frank Gambino of Casper, a die-hard Cubs fan. He made it to the Windy City for the World Series but said the cheapest seats were $2,400 each.

         Bob Beck of Wyoming Public Radio was doing his job along with Dahl Erickson of Star Valley, Lew Freedman of the Cody Enterprise, and Dennis Switzer of the Douglas radio station.

         Earlier I had visited the tailgating parties and am not sure anywhere in the country can quite match up with Wyoming.

         The folks there looked more like a bunch of ice fisherman from northern Minnesota.  Steaming pots of stew, boiling chili plus ribs and pizza were abundant.  Lots of beer was being served although it appeared that hot toddies were the flavor of the day as the temperature hovered near zero.

         As the sun went down, the game started.  The crowd was energetic and most folks were dressed for it, so had a good time. Now if the score had turned out differently.

         December is a busy month for me as I travel all over the state. Had a great time with the Saratoga Lions Club.  Two of their local heroes, Doug Campbell of the Hotel Wolf and Joe Glode of the Shively Hardware, were my hosts. 

That small town has a lot of spunk and their community center is amazing. Saratoga is a lively place with great places to eat and unique features such as the Old Baldy Club and the Brush Creek Ranch Resort.  The latter was in the news last year when actor Tom Hanks was there to help officiate the wedding of NBC’s Brian Williams’s daughter wedding.

         The 30,000-acre Brush Creek Ranch was recently named the #1 resort in America and a top 5 resort in the world by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. Pretty amazing for being located in the hills of Wyoming.

         Saratoga also boasts some of the greatest fishing ever with the North Platte River plus hundreds of elk on the edge of town at the refuge.