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1731 - Are you packin`?

The first time it happened was when I was in the bar area of the Lander Community Center during a Whiteheart charity fund-raiser to benefit disabled veterans.  I was in the process of ordering a glass of IPA beer and some white wine for Nancy.

         “Are you packing?”

         I did not think the question was meant for me.  I kept minding my own business.

         “Are you packing,” the voice to my left continued. 

         I looked over and here was a nice-looking female. She was the one asking the question.

         When my look back at her was obviously a confused one, she asked me a third time: “Are you packing?”  She pointed to the holster attached to my belt on my right side.

         I turned and showed her it was just my cell phone.

         “Oh,” she said, “I thought you were packing a gun, wearing a holster like that.”

         “No, it’s just my cell phone,” I answered.

         Now I pal around with a lot of guys who really are armed most of the time. Some carry guns in their boots, some in hidden holsters and sometimes, right on their belts.

         I have not gotten into the habit of packing a firearm even though my wife thinks we own too many guns. Not sure it would be safe for me or the folks around me.

         But that gal’s question about my cell phone holster got me thinking.

         Does wearing a cell phone on my belt make me an old fogey? Am I out of fashion?

         Most of the other old goats at the Fox News All-Stars coffee group wear cell phone holsters just like me.

         So I started looking around and noticed that just about anybody under the age of 60, well, is not packing a cell phone in a holster.  They either keep them in their pockets or stuck somewhere. That holster that I have fondly used for 25 years seems decidedly out of fashion flavor.

         Thus, the reason the gal asked if I was packing was that no doubt nobody in her immediate circle used a cell phone holster. And probably never had.

         Has the cell phone holster gone the way of the pocket protector?

         Now to young folks who have no idea what I am talking about, when I was in school back in the 1950s and 1960s, every teacher and most professional adults wore a plastic pocket that fit inside a shirt pocket and that was where you kept your pens, pencils, paper clips and whatever. It was handy.

         About the end of last century (from 1985 to 1990) the pocket protector went out of fashion for good.  You never see them any more. Even I know they broadcast a certain fashion statement that is not a compliment.

         During my research of cell phones, I noticed that every little girl (aged 8 or higher) or older gals, too, packs her cell phone in the back pocket of her jeans.  The phone sticks halfway out and apparently was jammed into something called an Otterbox ™. The name Otterbox means it was strong, as iron and the phone would never break even when you sat on it, which happens a lot.

         There are an inordinate number of women of all ages who pack their phones and car keys around and stack them somewhere in their immediate vicinity when they are drinking coffee, having a drink or practicing yoga.

         For some reason, lately, I have been hearing a lot about gals dropping their phones into the toilet. Seems that if you soak your wet phone in dry rice, sometimes you can save them. Who would have guessed?

         Seems to me that I need to get back on the fashion track. Not sure how I will replace my cell phone holster – it is too small for one of my handguns.

         I can’t imagine putting my phone into an Otterbox and sticking into my back pocket. Sounds crazy and not very comfortable.

         I know one young gal in her 30s who sticks her phone in her bra – no kidding. 

         A few years ago I passed an age milestone, which caused me to write the following in a column back then: “Am I finally at that age when I can wear my pants with the belt up around my chest?”

         Perhaps the more meaningful question was: “Does this mean I can finally wear black socks and formal shoes with my walking shorts?”

         Just trying to keep up with appropriate fashion trends.

1730 - John Davis, Worland, lawyer and writer

How many people can leave one successful career in mid-life and start another successful career?

         John W. Davis of Worland is this type of person. And, by any measure, he has pulled it off.

         Most recently, he has garnered renown and respect as a writer of books about Wyoming historical events and people.

         His best-known books are about the notorious gunman Tom Horn and the infamous Johnson County War. He has been traveling around Wyoming this year doing talks about the Tom Horn book.

         But before that he was an attorney.

         He founded the successful firm Davis, Donnell, Worrall & Bancroft, P. C. in Worland, which did impressive legal work all over Wyoming for decades.

         Davis always had a good aptitude for writing. Back in the 1980s, when he saw that Northwest College in Powell was offering a creative writing extension program in Worland, he jumped at the chance to enter it. The rest is history – really, it is all about history, since most of Davis’s works have all been about Wyoming history.

         “I do remember one significant event, just before I entered law school.  Back then, the Law School Aptitude Test had a section testing writing ability; I was told that I had the highest score of any applicant to the University of Wyoming College of Law in 1964,” he recalls. “ I didn’t really focus on that too much, however, because I was intent on becoming a lawyer.”

         Davis continues:

         “I remembered that writing aptitude test and wondered whether my brain had become so channeled that the only thing I could write anymore were legal briefs.  If I didn’t try to expand myself as a writer soon, maybe I never could.  So, I signed up for the creative writing course.

       “It was a great success that changed my life.  We wrote fiction, and a piece I wrote was published,” he recalls. 

         Most of his writing focuses on history and the legal aspects of history. While most writers would groan and moan over the time they spend poring over legal documents and obscure briefs; to Davis, this is both fun and routine.

         Thus in both of his most recent best-selling books, his ability to dive into the legal documents helped him paint pictures for the readers that are legally accurate. Much of the quotes were what people said under oath and which were duly recorded in the various court annals.

         One of the recent highlights of his career was when the University of Wyoming College of Law staged a mock trial based on his book Wyoming Range War, which was about the Johnson County War.

The mock trial related to a legal case that didn’t happen, but according to the dean of the University of Wyoming College of Law, should have.  The case was State v. Barber, wherein Governor Barber, the acting governor of Wyoming at the time of the 1892 invasion and who supported the big cattlemen in every way he could, was charged with being an accessory before the fact to murder.  The murders were those of two men killed by the invading cattle barons and their gunmen. 

A star-studded cast participated:  Former Senator Al Simpson played Barber and former Governor Mike Sullivan played Barber’s attorney.  Kate Fox, a sitting member of the Wyoming Supreme Court, represented the state and State Treasurer Mark Gordon played one of the witnesses.  “There was a great turnout; the courtroom had an overflow audience and a couple of adjacent large rooms were opened into which the video of the trial was piped,” Davis recalls.

His latest book is The Trial of Tom Horn.  “I took it on for a couple of reasons.  One is that it was the only big trial relating to the early day Wyoming problems with law and order that I hadn’t written about and as a lawyer that’s what I have wanted to focus on, how trials shaped the fight for law and order in early Wyoming.  For something like thirty years the biggest problem in Wyoming was to suppress vigilantism in the state so that lawfully constituted authorities, not a bunch of thugs, would be the ultimate authority in the state,” he says.  “The other is that, like the Johnson County War, disputes have continued as to the truth behind Tom Horn and his trial.  A lot of modern folks have asserted that Tom Horn was railroaded by big ranchers and I wanted to get to the bottom of that question.”

He has done a huge service to the people of Wyoming by telling these stories. The books have gotten fabulous reviews and are available in fine stores around the state. Davis is an example of how people of a certain age can re-invent themselves after one successful career and ride off into the Wyoming sunset basking in the glow of a new success.


1728 - Wyoming is great place to go walking

Is there a better place in the world for a morning walk than a nice path in Wyoming?

         Especially quite early in the morning. This time of year, you can actually start walking about 5:30 a.m. but you might need a layered approach with a sweatshirt over your tee shirt.

         Most Wyoming cities and towns have wonderful walking paths.  Cheyenne has done an amazing job. Greybull has a superb walking path. Sheridan. Lander, Casper and Worland are into providing spaces for walkers. Evanston has transformed itself into a walker’s paradise.

         I know a lot of folks in these cities and towns who are dedicated walkers. There are also some dedicated hikers (and there is a difference!).

         This column is for people like my wife Nancy and myself. We are a little older than average and, in my case, overweight. My exercise of choice these days is to walk 12,000 steps a day.

         Some tips for wanna-be walkers would be to first notice if you have a smartphone in your possession.  Among the most amazing technological developments in recent history are modern sensors that really do sense the most miniscule things and do it very accurately. Fit Bit started doing this about seven years ago.

         Built into most smart phones is technology that will tell how you many steps you have taken each day.

         For example, I only started keeping track of my steps since last fall.  My little device even has a breakdown of what time of day I walked.

         But I did not realize that it was keeping track from Day One, when I bought my smartphone. Sad to say I was pretty sedentary back in early 2016 except for Feb. 19, 2016, when I walked 20,689 steps.  Not sure what the heck was going on but it sure was a busy time.

         But I digress.

         Here are just a few tips for walkers:

         • Invest is good shoes and good socks. Nothing takes the fun out of a good walk faster than blisters and sore legs and feet.

         • Walking on hard cement is hard on the feet, ankles, knees and entire body.  Many walking paths are cement, which can be a little discouraging.  I sometimes walk on the grass along them.  My preference is blacktop, which seems to “give” a little under my feet. This is why, as a motorist, you might get frustrated driving up on some walkers and they are walking down the side of the street instead of on the cement sidewalk.  Saving their legs, you see?

         • Be sure to walk in an area that has public restrooms.  Amazing how regular your bowels can become with those brisk walks. Be prepared if nature calls.

         • Find an area that has some elevation gain.  Do not just walk on the flat but push yourself by finding some small hills. Walk briskly up them.  Ultimately, you will find you are climbing to the top without huffing and puffing so much. By the way, I am not advocating stressing your heart too much, but it is vitally important to get your old ticker beating somewhat beyond normal for you to improve your health.

         Now, that is enough for walking. Let’s talk about hiking. My local hero is Walter Olson, who is slightly younger than I am, but who has put me and all his peers to shame over the last year.

         He has the dedication of a West Point grad, which he is. So after a health scare, he decided to start “hiking.”  If you check his Facebook page, he has done just about every hike there is in the Greater Lander Area, which means lots of high altitude jaunts.

         He has lost 60 pounds and is in great shape. The only living thing willing to go with him on his treks is his dog Mac.

Lander will soon host the International Climbing Festival, which will be filled with lean, strong people of all ages. I tend to shy away from that crowd as my penguin-shaped body leaves me feeling very much out of place.

         Lucky for all of us, Wyoming is a wonderful place for walkers and hikers.  Our state parks system is amazing with all the different types of walks and hikes. The National Forests are full of great hikes as are the national parks and national monuments.

         So what is holding you back?  Start slow. Start small. Just be sure to get wear good shoes and socks. And keep your eyes open for restrooms.



1727 - Climbing Michael`s Mountain, 30 year memory

A Sunday afternoon 30 years ago this week found me busy sitting at my desk as editor-publisher of our local newspaper office. While the weather was beautiful outside, there was work to be done inside.

It was impossi­ble to not keep looking out the window. The beautiful Lander weather beckoned to me. My output just kept getting slower. The sun was shining on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Yet here I was, inside my office, pounding on the keys of a computer terminal.

I picked up the telephone and called home. My then five-year-old son, Michael, answered. He was loafing.

“There’s nothin’ to do,” he told me. 

“How about going on a hike?” I asked, on impulse.

“Gee, dad, that would be great!” he answered.

That was it. Enough of this sweatshop. I shut off my computer, turned out the lights, locked the front door, jumped in my car and headed home. We were ready for a Sunday afternoon adventure.

My son met me at the door. He was wearing his favorite hat, jeans and boots. He already had a backpack loaded with food, soda pop and ap­ples. He had my binoculars in his hand.

We lived three miles from Lander just off Squaw Creek Road. There is a large red, rock-covered hill that towers over the homes in our sub­division. It doesn’t have a name, but it looms about 400 feet above the land around. I pointed at the hill and said, “What do you think? Should we climb it?”

So off we went, a father and his son, heading for the boy’s first big adventure

We had to watch for rattlesnakes, which occasionally cross through the Squaw Creek country.

“Dad, tell me about when you bricked that rat­tlesnake on our land,” Michael asked. 

“Well, son, it wasn’t that big a deal. Our dog stirred one up and I squashed it with a cement block.”

“Don’t you think we should take some bricks along just in case we see a rattlesnake?” he asked.

“No, there are plenty of rocks we can use.”

As we worked our way through the sagebrush, our house got smaller behind us and our destination got bigger. Soon, we couldn’t see the summit, just the huge red walls in front of us.

Michael wore his backpack and I carried the binoculars, a camera and a walking stick. We wore caps to protect us from the bright sun. I wore a cowboy hat and Mike had a camouflaged hat with a label that read Mondak Pesticide on it. It was a gift from his grandpa Sniffin. Michael called it his army cap.

Occasionally, we came upon odd-looking rocks. “Are these dinosaur bones, dad?” He bent over and picked one up. “Sure looks like one to me.” Every rock looks like a di­nosaur bone to a five-year-old.

We arrived at the first hurdle. A large wall circled the big hill.  It would take some looking to find a route through it. After considerable exploring, we found a notch and soon we were standing on top of it. The view was splendid. The homes in our subdivision were now quite a bit below us and our view of the Sinks Canyon State Park area was more detailed.

It was time for a soda pop break. As we sat there on that stone ledge I thought about sitting at my desk just an hour earlier, wishing I was in this place.

Our rest was short-lived. “C’mon, dad, let’s go.”

We circled around the hill that by now was known in my mind as Michael’s Mountain. We came to a gradual grade up the south side. We walked through more rock formations until we reached the biggest rock wall. The eroded shapes were uniform as they stretched out of sight around the hill. There didn’t appear to be an easy way through it, except to climb. Not wanting to do that, we hiked around until we reached a gap where fence posts had been laid in to keep cows from passing through.

“Indians must have done that, huh, dad?” my son asked.

“No, probably a rancher did that a long time ago,” I replied.

We were able to climb through. This was the last ledge we would face. The rest of the climb would be a march up the steep, grassy hillside.

“Well, son, the top is in sight. Are you ready for this final push?” He drew a deep breath and looking very serious assured me that, yes, he was ready for this fi­nal, big climb to the summit.

The view got even better. We could see the Central Wyoming College campus in Riverton. The mountains behind the foothills of the Wind River Mountains were poking their snowy peaks into our view.

Ev­erywhere around us was down. Michael took off his backpack and we drank some pop, taking in a marvelous 360-degree view. The sun was still shining and there was very little wind.

There was noise from my neighbors working in their yards and a rancher was running a tractor off to the east. Smoke curled up in the distance as someone was burning out an irrigation ditch. The sky was typical Lander blue and there were few clouds.

“Does it get any better than this?” I asked my son.

He wasn’t listening.

“Are you sure this isn’t a dinosaur bone? He asked.       

“Maybe,” I replied, which was the wrong thing to say. Soon, he had four huge bone-shaped rocks piled next to his backpack to take home.

We took some pictures and munched our lunch. We scanned the horizon with the binoculars. It looked as if some rain clouds were forming over Fossil Mountain deep in Sinks Canyon. After about 30 minutes, the wind started to kick up. It was probably time to go home.

While we were sitting there, I turned to my son and asked him if he was going to remember this hike.

“I sure am, dad. All my life!”

And so will I.  All my life, too.