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1850 - The USA`s most powerful voters live here

This column is being written on Thanksgiving Day evening and I find myself in a thankful but pensive mood.

As we count our blessings ranging from as small as a wonderful family to as big as world peace, the whole concept of perspective can nag at a person.

For example, Wyoming, it could be argued, is fortunate to be such a unique place, both because of a tiny population and our vast resources.

From a political perspective, our voters are, by far, the most powerful in the country.  When it comes to electoral votes, each vote cast by Wyoming represents about 190,000 people. In California, it takes about 700,000 to create an electoral vote. These are the votes that actually elect a president in national elections.

I always love the New York Times map produced a few years ago showing the states when it came to Electoral College influence. The map shows Wyoming is by far the biggest state with California one of the smallest.

On a more current political level, the state now has as much influence in Congress as perhaps any time in its history. Our senior U. S. Senator Mike Enzi is a venerable and respected leader who gets more bills passed than just about anyone else in the country.  A humble, modest man, he is one of the most powerful people in the United States.

Our junior U. S. Senator John Barrasso just got reelected. He was recently voted to the number three position in the Senate when it comes to power among the majority Republican senators.  He is mighty important and we are very proud of him and his work.

Wyoming’s lone U. S. Representative Liz Cheney was just voted by her peers to the number three GOP position in the House. An amazing achievement considering she is in just her third year there. Prior to going to D. C. she was already voted one of the 20 most influential Republican women in national poll. 

With all this clout you might expect some pork to come rolling toward Wyoming?

Perhaps the billions of dollars planned for F. W. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne is a small example of how this influence in being used.

Well, enough of the serious stuff.  On the subject of pork, the following story happened over in Wheatland.  Ray Hunkins, Chuck Brown, or Linda Fabian should be able to confirm it:

       A guy moved to the country outside of Wheatland and decided to be a small-time farmer.  He went to the Torrington auction and bought twelve hogs.  He loaded them in his pickup and hauled them home.

         Once home, he called his neighbor, an experienced hog farmer, and invited the guy to check his purchase.

         The experienced farmer said they were good hogs, but there was just one big problem.  They were all twelve female.   “But that is not a big deal,” the guy said.  “Just load them up in your pickup and bring them over to my yard.  I have several boars. We`ll get them bred.  You really need to get your females bred this time of year.” 

         “Sure,” the new farmer said.

         The next morning, he loaded up the hogs in the back of his truck and hauled them to the experienced farmer`s lot.  He unloaded them and waited all day.  Then he brought them home.  Before leaving, he asked the experienced farmer: “How will I know if they were successfully bred?”

         “If they were bred successfully, tomorrow morning, your hogs should be happily grazing,” the experienced farmer replied.

         Well, the next morning, the new farmer got up early and looked out the window.  The hogs were not grazing.  So took them to the experienced farmer`s lot again.

         Again, the next morning, the hogs were not grazing.

         He hauled them over the next day, too, in his pickup.  Still no luck. This went on for a week.

         Finally, one day after hauling the hogs over to his neighbor`s place, he woke the next morning and turned to his wife.  He said, “I can`t bear the disappointment. Would you look out the window and see if those hogs are grazing?” 

         “Yes, dear,” she replied.

         After a few moments, he hollered at his wife: “Well? Are they grazing? Tell me what they are doing.”

         His wife paused and then said, “I don`t know how to tell you this.  They definitely are not grazing. But eleven of them are sitting in the back of the pickup and the twelfth one is in the drivers seat honking the horn.”



1849 - Winter, Jim Hicks honored, Joe Brandl issues

Today’s topics are winter weather, a good honor for one man and a bad one for another plus a discussion of a new way to spend time in lodging. 

       In Buffalo, Jim Hicks quotes a local columnist named Sagebrush Sven with the following:

       “One very cold morning Nancy Schiffer of Kaycee had agreed to drive to Buffalo for an early breakfast event.  She was on the program and is the kind of person who never fails to do her part.

“A suicidal antelope had crashed into the front of her car, so Nancy’s only transportation was a four-wheel drive ranch pickup she does not usually drive.

“She got it started in the 16-degree weather and was pushing buttons to get the defrosters and heater going when the sun roof suddenly opened. ‘I don’t know why they would put a sunroof in a pickup!’ says Nancy.  ‘Nobody ever uses it.’

“Try as she might, the roof would not close.  Nancy drove to Buffalo with the roof open. 

“Who says Wyoming ranch gals can’t handle a little adversity.”

       Hicks, the long-time former publisher of the Buffalo Bulletin, was honored during a big soiree at the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Big Horns recently in Buffalo. More than 300 people showed up at 6:30 a.m. to celebrate all he has done for that part of Wyoming and for helping the clubs.

       Governors Mead, Freudenthal, and Sullivan showed up along with Sen. John Barrasso.

       As a publisher, Hicks had always supported the clubs and when financing was threatened, he stepped up in his role as a County Commissioner to fight for continued funding.

While Hicks had long supported the efforts of Boys & Girls Club, he gained a new appreciation for the work of the club in October 2009.

Hicks recalls: “At that time, the local club was still starting out. They were doing a fundraising and Gov. Freudenthal was the keynote speaker. I was so impressed that he would take the time to support the Buffalo club. He obviously thought it was important, and that motivated me to come and learn more.

       “Freudenthal was talking about one young man in particular who had every reason to be in trouble,” Hicks said. “But now here he was going to college. That night, it became clear to me that this was a program making a difference in the community, and it was catching some kids that might go through the cracks otherwise. From then on, the Boys & Girls Club was added to the list of organizations that I support.”

Youth organizations are a big deal in Wyoming. Great things are happening all over the state with them.

In Dubois, though, the Boy Scouts of America have taken away their association with one of the most famous scoutmasters in Wyoming.

Silver Beaver honoree Joe Brandl is a pioneer and a tremendous outdoorsman. He made all of Wyoming proud last year when he competed on the Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid and was superb, surviving all 21 days and keeping his partner alive and safe.

Brandl’s prowess in the outdoors is unsurpassed.

But he apparently has his own ideas of how Scouts should learn to behave in the outdoors and thus got crossways with authorities. 

He plans to continue to work with youth but doing it without being under his long-time banner of the Boy Scouts.

Meanwhile, switching subjects to tourism, the international travel outfit AirBnB announced that Wyoming generated $1.1 million in lodging tax revenues from the 1,600 host sites in the Cowboy State in the last year.

For a while AirBnb did not collect lodging taxes, which gave it an advantage over conventional hotels and motels. There were 56,000 visits to Wyoming AirBnB sites last year, which was a 130 percent increase over the previous year.

When I was on the Lander Planning Commission, we occasionally would get some kind of request for a homeowner to become an AirBnb site.

Neighbors would get upset over noise and unusual traffic when a house zoned in the best residential area in town suddenly became a bustling locale, much like a bed and breakfast, humming and buzzing all day and all night long.

There are more than 50 places in the Lander area, alone, that are on the AirBnB web site seeking visitors. These are ordinary homeowners and citizens competing against traditional lodging properties to rent space to travelers.

It was an eye-opener and typical of the some of new trends popping up across America.

1848 - A big look at the 2018 general election

Like most Wyomingites, I wish our general elections were more exciting than our primary elections.

         To figure out how we can make it more interesting we just need to look west – way west to California.

         I know, I know, most Wyoming folks think that is the land of crazies and nuts but when it comes to general elections they have a really good idea.

         The two California candidates who get the most votes in the primary move on to the general. This does not mean the two members of different parties.  If the two highest vote getters are from the same party, then they move on to the general for a run-off.

         This year our Wyoming primary was a horse race. Our general election was a blowout.

         The two top GOP voter getters, Mark Gordon and Foster Friess, would have put on one heck of a general election campaign had Wyoming been using a system like that in California.

Other states use a similar system although Louisiana has a system where if a candidate gets more than 50 percent of all the votes in the primary, there is no need for a general election.

         Not sure in Wyoming if such a change requires an amendment to the constitution but it sure would make our general election races more interesting and it would make the process more democratic. 

         Yes, the two top voter getters advancing is a great idea.

         It would seem to me that Republicans in Wyoming would favor this idea.  General election voters avoided Democrat Mary Throne in droves this year, even though she was one of the best candidates we have seen in years.  She lost soundly.

         Final tally showed 205,255 votes in the general election. Of this total, Mark Gordon got 136,399 or 66.5 percent.

         Throne got just 55,961 votes or 27.2 percent.

         It was never even close. The New York Times called the election for Gordon about noon on Election Day before a single vote was counted.

         Compare that result to a possible Gordon-Friess race.  Wow, what an exciting contest that would have been.

         Wyoming is supposed to be a conservative state and it seems to be getting even more conservative.  If so, you would think these conservatives could get the momentum for such a new approach.

         In the GOP primary, Gordon was the only moderate plus he had thousands of Democrats and Independents crossing over on Election Day to give him the win.

         Look at the conservative candidates who lost in that primary race – Friess, Harriet Hageman, Sam Galeotos, Taylor Haynes and Bill Dahlin. Add all their votes up and they soundly trounced any one else.

         Parker Jackson is an astute political watcher from Lyman with sterling conservative credentials.  He calls our GOP primary the “traditional Wyoming conservative firing squad.  The candidates all stand in a circle facing each other and shoot each other.”

         Since this is my traditional post-election column, I always try to thank all the candidates for running.  It is something they will never forget.  Although it hurts to lose, those defeated candidates will look back on their campaigns as some of the most exciting times of their lives.

         There are no losers here.  Just winners all around.

         I know it is disappointing to the non-victors, as they have spent a lot of money, devoted a tremendous amount of time, worked really hard, spent time away from jobs and family, and sincerely tried to present a winning view in their campaigns.

         I have been there, so I know how frustrating this can be.

         Back in 2002 fellow Republicans Ray Hunkins of Wheatland, Steve Watt of Rock Springs, and John Self of Sheridan joined me along with Democrats Ken Casner of Elk Mountain, Toby Simpson of Greybull, and Paul Hickey of Cheyenne in retiring to the sidelines after the primary and watching Eli Bebout and Dave Freudenthal have all the fun in the general. This year a whole new crowd of candidates joined us.

         Back to the 2018 elections:

         For our national races, U. S. Sen. John Barrasso and U. S. Rep. Liz Cheney breezed to easy wins. Republicans won all around with Kristi Racines winning State Auditor and Ed Buchanan winning Secretary of State.  Jillian Balow was unopposed for State Supt. of Public Instruction.

         But with the U. S. House turning Democratic it is easy to predict a new period of total gridlock in Congress.  I am afraid not much is going to get done in the next two years.

1847 - Wyoming is home to richest man in the world

We have all seen this Wyoming guy.

         He doesn’t look rich.

         But if you examine his life and measure his level of happiness, there is a compelling argument he could very well be the richest man in the world.

         This is a man who loves the outdoors.  He loves to hunt and fish. He loves to explore.  He just happens to have a few gadgets around (his wife calls them “toys”), which are not necessarily new, but he keeps them in good repair.  He loves tinkering on them.

         This rich man lives in Worland or Cheyenne or Laramie or Rock Springs or Evanston or Riverton or any other Wyoming city or town.  He gets up early each morning to greet the day with a big smile because he is in total control of his universe.

         The day starts off with coffee with his buddies.  They meet every  morning,  rain or shine, and spend an hour telling tall tales to each other and occasional off-color jokes.

         Let’s call this guy Joe.  With all due respect to the University, we might even call him Cowboy Joe because he is a big fan of UW and is rarely seen without some kind of brown or gold apparel that reads WYOMING or COWBOYS.

         Joe does odd jobs and controls his schedule.  His wife has a good steady job with good benefits and good retirement. They are pretty frugal and have saved up a little money. They enjoy Wyoming’s outdoor experiences together.

         It is well-known that Joe married “up,” which means he found himself a very good wife. People say his wife should not put up with all of Joe’s hobbies, but she accepts them with a smile, because she likes them, too.  They are active in their church and people count on them to help out during times of need. They are always there for others at such times.

         These folks like Joe are among the richest people in history.

         Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett or some Arab sheik may think his life is better than Joe’s, but do not try to convince Joe about this.  He would not trade his place on the planet with any of them.

         He and his wife encouraged their kids to study hard and qualify for scholarships because extra money was hard to find. The kids qualified and they also worked during their years at UW. They graduated almost debt-free. They taught their kids to be thrifty and to appreciate the resl finer things in life, such as the joys available in Wyoming’s great outdoors.

         Joe and his wife are the best grandparents in the world. They take them fishing, hunting, and camping. They have lots of time to spend with them and are  never in a hurry.  They listen to the kids’ problems because often the kids’parents are too busy trying to make a living.

         At some point, one of Joe’s kids will lecture the old man about how if he had worked an extra job or invested in the stock market, he probably would have ended up rich. And when he is 70 he would have time to do all the fishing and hunting he might want to do. 

         Joe looks at him and shrugs.  You can almost tell that he is thinking “It’s time to go  fishing.”

         The Cowboy Joe described here is a stereotype of a lot of people I know in Wyoming. I wish that I could have been more like him.  In business, my wife Nancy and I have tried to get it all done but I missed out on a lot because of pressures associated with running a number of companies. Sure would have liked to spend more time hunting, fishing, and camping.

         Perhaps the closest I ever came to the perfect life was when I aspired to be a newspaper publisher at a young age.  I made it at age 24 here in Lander, which was sort of incredible.

         A friend back in those days invited Nancy and me to dinner where a third man showed up and gave us a pitch about how we could make all this money with some kind of multi-level marketing sales scheme. I think it was Amway.

         “Just think, Bill,” the man exclaimed. “If you make all this extra money, you can be whatever you ever wanted to be!”

         My answer to him was: “Sorry, but I am what I always wanted to be.”

         Now that is what Joe would have said had he been asked that question.