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1945 - Stacy M and Baby M . . . sanctiity of life

We live in unusual times when what defines life is under constant attack.  This got me thinking about two instances in my past that involved the dignity of life concerning two seemingly useless human lives.

         There have been many people over the years who typified what this phrase means but two who stand out are a teenage boy named Stacy M and a tiny girl named Baby M.

         They came into my life at two different times, almost 20 years apart, but both helped show that the real test of a civilization is how it treats the least of its citizens.

         In the 1980s, we met a young man named Stacy Martell.  He was a neighbor to my parents in the Capital Hill section of Lander.

         Our son Michael, who was about seven at the time, became great friends with Stacy.  

Stacy was a shrunken little shell of a boy stuffed somewhat crookedly into a wheelchair. He suffered from Muscular Dystrophy and was probably someone that a lesser civilization would have shuttered away. But in Lander, his classmates made him a hero. They had him give a speech at their commencement in 1989. The band played The Wind Beneath My Wings following his talk.

His talk that day was inspirational; so were his writings:

        “There are times when I want desperately to be like everyone else. I’ve thought about marriage. There’s a void when I think this won’t happen, that I’ll never be able to have a family of my own.

     “But I know a person can’t dwell on improbables. You have to take what you’ve got and go with it. I used to worry about what people thought of my body. But now I know it is a person’s inner self that is important, not your outer self. I’ve looked at my inner self: It’s healthy, strong, vibrant, and active. When I think of myself this way, I’m satisfied. I’m at peace with myself.”

    Stacy wrote the following about life and death:

    “I’ve lived, I’ve done my best, what happens, happens. I’ve seen an unspoken question in some people’s eyes. It’s ‘Do you wish sometimes you had never been born?’

     “Absolutely not! It hasn’t always been easy but I’ve met the challenges and I’m here to say that life is worth living.”

     A few years later, Stacy died. His life was a struggle and ended way too soon.

         Many years later, we encountered Baby M, also known as Baby Miracle.  She was probably an example of what became known in Wyoming as “meth babies.” These were children born with profound disabilities as a result of their mother’s drug use while not realizing she was pregnant.

         Our advertising agency had just earned the contract to do the anti-drug campaigns for the state’s Substance Abuse Division and we were introduced to the story of Baby M.

         My wife Nancy, my brother Ron (a videographer), and I visited Baby M and her foster mother at a modest home in Douglas one fall day almost exactly 14 years ago.

         We worked all day to create a video documentary, which we planned to use to promote the negative impacts of drug use.

         Baby M was a beautiful baby girl, who looked about six months old although she was a year old when we met her. She was blind, could barely hear, and had a difficult time breathing.  It was assumed she was profoundly developmentally disabled.

         Did I say she was beautiful?

         It was heartbreaking to think of the lost potential you were holding in your arms.  Because of the high-risk behavior on the part of the biological parents, this child appeared to not have a chance.

         But this was a human being.  And she was loved by her foster mother (the real hero of this story), loved by her foster siblings, and loved by everyone who came into contact with her.

         At the time, a friend of the family wrote the following about the baby girl:

         “Some people would define a miracle as something amazing, unexplainable, with bright lights or fluttering angels’ wings. Or simply, a glimpse of God.

“A special needs baby, Miracle, was born Sept. 29, 2002. Doctors gave her little chance of survival, but because of her will to live they considered her a miracle, hence the name. At five weeks old, Miracle was placed in the arms and the heart of her foster mom, who loved her so much that she later adopted her.

“Miracle’s family knew that she was not like other little girls and never would be, but she touched so many lives. Her innocence taught lessons in humility and her gentle little spirit gave people a reason to believe.”

I wrote a note to myself, at the time, that: “You could not look at this beautiful child without catching a glimpse of God.”


      And on a spring day in Douglas in 2008, Baby M passed away. She was six years old.

1944 - News from around Wyoming

Lots of things to write about around Wyoming. For example:

 

Football Night Lights in Wyoming - You gotta love small towns.  In Sheridan in the wee hours of the morning you had fire trucks, police cars, and what seemed like 100 carloads of football fans parading through town after the Broncs won the state 4A football championship in Laramie Nov. 16, 35-26, over Gillette Thunder Basin.

This happens all across America this time of year. But surely no state is quite as unique as Wyoming where all these fans are braving severe weather, icy roads, and vast distances while celebrating such a great event.

Big parades occurred in four other Wyoming towns. Other state champions included Star Valley beating Powell, 49-13 in 3A, Mountain View defeating Buffalo 24-14 in 2A; and Big Horn beating Cokeville 55-7 to win 1A 11-man; and Little Snake River beating Hanna-Elk Mountain, 71-38 in 1A 6-man.

 

Is Wyoming booming right now? -  Debbie Disney Pummel is one of the smartest hotel/motel people in Wyoming.  She helps guide Timberline Hospitality, which owns nine very nice motels in the state.

She will always remember the date of 9/9/19 at her 9 motels because every one of them was 100 percent full!  She oversees motels in Casper, Gillette, Buffalo, Lander, Rawlins, Laramie, and Rock Springs.

And this was not during the height of the tourism season, so it shows that a huge workforce is on the move in Wyoming right now.

 

Two Giant lawmakers did what?  - Two youthful and huge men who serve Wyoming as State Representatives accepted the taunts and challenges of their colleagues during the end of the last session in March. So they fought it out.

Cyrus Western (R-Sheridan) and Tyler Lindholm (R-Newcastle) got down on the floor and leg wrestled.  Western, who stands 6-5, says he defeated the lanky 6-7 Lindholm in this classic battle.

Not sure if such an event would match the decorum of the new State Capitol building, but it certainly fit the old K-Mart building where the men and women of the Legislature have labored over the past few years.

 

Bring our veterans home - Rep. Lindholm, a five-year veteran of the Navy, has an organization called BringOurTroopsHome.US, which he uses to promote getting our American troops out of foreign wars.

He hosted a meeting of like-minded legislators from around the country last week in Washington, D. C.

Press accounts report: Lindholm said, "We have a simple message for Rep. Liz Cheney and the rest of Congress. Support the President’s efforts to withdraw American troops from war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere, and bring our troops home. Then, before American troops are sent into combat overseas in the future, return to the Constitutional standard of requiring a formal declaration of war by Congress, as stipulated in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution."

 

Predator attack in Powell – What was it?  A bear?  A mountain lion?  A wolf?

The Powell Tribune reports: Keela Hopkin and her family arrived home near Cowley Oct. 18 around 8 p.m. As they walked up to their house, they noticed their dogs were circling around them and barking. Hopkin sensed something wrong. 

She went inside the home and noticed blood all over the floor. She found her 40-pound Australian shepherd, Waco, bleeding profusely. The dog had numerous lacerations on his neck and flanks, swelling bruises and a nickel-sized hole in his chest wall. 

The Tribune story continued: “He was really beat up,” Hopkin recalled. They dressed Waco’s wounds as best they could and then took him to the Red Barn Veterinary Services in Powell. The dog had numerous rib fractures, a broken sternum that was dislocated into his chest cavity, and his lungs had collapsed. The vet said his injuries were so extensive that he’d need to go to the animal hospital in Billings. 

Hopkin has tried to get answers from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department over what attacked Waco, and she believes the response has been inadequate. Not only was Waco attacked, but also a Boer goat went missing and her other dogs have been carrying home remains of game animals that appear to have been torn apart by large predators. 

“I have children, livestock, horses and dogs on my property. And I am very concerned with the lack of action by Game and Fish to remedy a large predator that has been attacking animals,” she said in the Powell newspaper report.

 

Untimely death – We pass along our condolences to Chuck and Kate Brown of Wheatland for the unexpected passing of their lovely daughter Brenda, 57, as a result of cardiac arrest.  So sorry.

 

1942 - The Best Part of America

CARDIFF, Wales The rain was falling in sheets. The wind was howling. And although the temperature was 40 degrees, I could see my breath. My raincoat was soaked through. My umbrella was blown inside out.

I was standing on a street corner in Cardiff, Wales, waiting for a bus in November 1986. And I was thinking about the Best Part of America.

The mountains in my mind were looking pretty good about then. The low humidity and the bright sunshine of the Cowboy State were only distant memories — but in between shivers, it kept me going.

         My visit to the University of Wales was about over. It was almost time to go home. And I couldn`t wait. The Cardiff faculty had invited me to join their mid-career journalism Masters program. That program involved journalists from all over the world. They were newspaper editors, television newscasters, magazine editors and government media people. They came from as far away as the China, Malaysia, Korea, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Qatar, New Zealand, the United States and other countries, too.

Most of the people in the course would be there for two years, full-time. My program would be on a part-time basis over three years. While there, my duties included serving as a guest lecturer to masters Journalism candidates.

         I found these people wanted to know about America. They liked America and they liked Americans.

         And I found myself telling them about my part of America. They were fascinated by cowboys and Indians. And mountains. And long distances. The Oregon Trail and the Pony Express. And Yellowstone National Park and Jackson Hole. 

         They were astonished that Wyoming was the first place in the world to legally give women the right to vote and the same rights as men, way back in 1869.

         Most of them had heard about Yellowstone Park, but through a cartoon character called Yogi Bear, who hung out in Jellystone Park. They did not realize it consisted of 2 million acres and was the first national park in the world.

         As I recalled telling them about Yellowstone, the thought of the heat emanating from the Yellowstone geysers slightly warmed me up as I stood there in the cold Welsh wind and rain.

         But then I thought some more about what I had told them about where I came from.

         I reminded them that America has 50 states and Wyoming is one of them.  Our state is one of the largest in land area with 97,000 square miles but only about 450,000 living there (in 1986) just five people per square mile.

As my geography lesson continued, I told them how Wyoming has 23 counties. And how Fremont County, my county, was larger than Wales! Yet, it only had 39,000 people living there. And how there were 44 places in my county over 13,000 feet in elevation.

         And I told them that Wyoming is a pretty windy place but that the wind doesn`t blow much in my hometown of Lander. And how the sun shines 300 days per year in the Cowboy State. And how bright the sun can shine at a mile above sea level.  And how you can`t count all the stars in the sky at night. 

And the wildlife. And the fishing. And the Red Desert. And the wild horses. And South Pass. The vast coal and uranium mines. And Red Canyon.

         And how just 150 years ago, cavalry and mountain men and Indian tribes were roaming these valleys.

         I told them about our clean air and clean water. And how wide our streets are. And the condition of our roads and highways.

         And hiking and camping and mountain climbing. And hot springs. And petroglyphs. And winter activities like snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing in Jackson and the state Winter Fair.

         And a diverse population. How Americans are friendly and Wyoming people are the most friendly of all. And how Americans always believe they will come out on top. How they never give up. How they believe the best in people and in situations. How optimism is a national disease in this country.

         And I told them about my family and how proud I am of all them. And about how much I missed them.

         As I was standing in the rain that chilly night long ago, I thought about all these things. And I realized I live in the Best Part of America.

And it was good to know that it was time to go home.
1941 - Today`s hunters might not be at the top of th food chain

One of the largest armed forces in the history of the world is taking to the field right now.  We are talking about the 36 million hunters who stalking the mighty deer and elk in the USA.

Here in the Cowboy State, hunting is a fall tradition.  It is viewed as an entitlement. But the biggest difference between now and 50 years ago is that often the human hunter is not at the top of the food chain out there in the wild. More on this later.

The first time I heard the phrase about the “fun ending when you pulled the trigger,” was from my old friend, former game warden Bill Crump, when he recalled all his Wyoming hunting trips. He, of course, was talking about enjoying the fall scenery. Once you pull the trigger and kill your prey, it is time for some serious work.

Not sure what all those thousands of wives and girlfriends get in return, but they seem eager to send their hubbies and boyfriends off armed to the teeth and loaded down with food in rustic old campers. Or super-fancy brand new RVs with flush toilets, plus quad runners, huge pickup trucks, and even portable satellite television receivers.

Oh yeah, and cards.  Lots of playing cards. And quantities of liquid refreshment.

Cigars used to be a big part of the equation but surprisingly a lot of the groups I talked to recently just do not smoke. Not even a celebratory cigar?

There are a lot of very serious hunters in Wyoming.  But even some of them have decided that that hunting trip is still going to happen, the rifle may not even be removed from the scabbard. 

Sometimes these old veterans are just tired.  Maybe their wives finally confided to them that they are tired of cooking elk, deer, antelope and even moose.

Other times these hunters are more interested in taking their sons (or daughters), or grandchildren on the big hunt and really just want to concentrate on those younger folks getting their first kill.

A big reason for that annual hunting trip is that weather in the mountains or foothills of Wyoming can be so darned nice in the fall. They are just wanting to get away from the humdrum of daily life and enjoy the paradise that God has put at our disposal called Wyoming.

Plus another reason the “fun ends” is that when you pull the trigger it often signals the end of the hunting trip. Darn it, we have to leave the mountains and go back to our regular lives.

Now let’s talk about the “real” hunters.  Those men and women who are truly serious about killing their prey and filling their licenses. Most of these folks have a strong ethic where they plan to eat what they kill. They deserve our respect.

In the northwest part of Wyoming, these hunters are discovering that they are no longer at the top of the food chain.

Many folks suspect that grizzly bears are reportedly stalking both human hunters and the game those same hunters recently killed. Several hunters told me that the most uneasy feeling they can recall is when they are gutting their animal and suddenly things get real still.  Sort of like maybe some big critter has smelled your animal and is sizing up the fresh carcass.  And yours, too?

A famous photo circulated around the internet a while back showing a hunter taking a selfie photo of himself with his kill. In the background was a huge mountain lion.  Yikes.

A Cody hunter considered himself the luckiest man alive in Wyoming after his close encounter with a grizzly in the fall of 2011.  

Steve Bates, ended up on the losing end of his scrape in the Shoshone National Forest. He was happy to be alive, despite fractured ribs and cuts on his face and scalp.

A grizzly rushed him on a dead run before Bates could react.  After he was knocked over, the bear worked him over, clawed him, and chewed on him, before ambling off.

Once he recovered his senses, Bates grabbed his rifle and aimed it at the bear, then paused.  He wisely let it lope off.  Game and Fish officials said they would not track down the bear because it was reacting normally to its perceived threat.

“Considering what happened, “ Bates, recalled at the time, “I think I came out pretty good.”

One of my favorite bear stories concerns an old grizzly bear known as “Old Number One” – a sow in Yellowstone National Park. She was the first grizzly to ever wear a radio collar in the park.

A long-time agent for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Roy Brown of Lander, told me this story.

When the bear died some years ago, Brown headed up a necropsy procedure on the bear and the team found a surprise. The bear had six .38 caliber bullets in her head.  It must have happened many years before because skin had even grown over the injuries.

Roy says people wondered: “Hmmm, what happened to the guy who emptied his revolver into this bear?”

That poor guy may have found out first-hand where human beings are finding themselves in the food chain these days.

 

1940 - Giant bronze horses created in Wyoming

In a state where the cowboy culture of horses is almost a religion, it was fitting that two of the largest horses in the world were created here.

Artist Arturo Di Modica, one of the world’s greatest living sculptors, has been using the Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander for many of his gigantic works.

The first efforts on this project started 13 years ago. In terms of all the projects undertaken by Eagle Bronze, this one might have set the record for its long time in their shop.

But first a person is impressed by the gigantic size of these horses. They are 26 feet tall. They dwarf the workmen who have been putting the finishing touches to the huge bronze work of art.

It is not certain how the horses will be placed in Di Modica’s native Sicily, but they will sure create a stir when installed.

Monte and Bev Paddleford founded Eagle Bronze in 1985 when Bev wanted to return to her hometown to sculpt and to create a small foundry to cast bronzes made by her late father, artist Bud Boller.

They formed the business with the vision of being a Christian company. In the next decades it exploded into the largest bronze foundry in the country specializing in huge bronze monuments.

Work from the foundry can be found all over the world. Some of the more famous include the huge black panthers at the Carolina Panthers football stadium in Charlotte, N. C.

The largest bronze monument in Texas was created in Lander – it shows a bronze cattle drive through Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas. It features 40 cows and three cowboys.

The Paddlefords worked with a local committee in Lander to use three of those steers plus a cowboy to create what is called The Bronze Roundup – which might be the largest bronze monument in all of Wyoming. It was the millennium project for the Lander community.

For years, Lander has been known as the City of Bronze because of all the bronze monuments that line the town’s Main Street. Most of this effort was spearheaded by the Paddlefords. The first bronze sculpture on Main Street was by Bev’s father, Bud Boller, sponsored by the local Ambassador’s Club in the 1980s.

In recent years, both Casper and Sheridan have placed tremendous numbers of beautiful bronze statues in their cities. But there are not so many smaller towns, which have as many statues that are featured as in Lander. Buffalo and Thermopolis have lots of bronzes, too.

Monte tells their story on their web page: “We decided to move back to our hometown so that we could start a small foundry and for me to pastor a Vineyard Church. I guess the Lord had slightly other plans. Having redesigned the way we build and engineer monuments, we have been told that we are the largest producer of monuments in the world, and can do them quicker than most, keeping the integrity that the artist had originally produced.

“Beverly also started sculpting along the way and is a very gifted and talented artist. Her ability to create softness and life in everything she sculpts is truly a gift from the Lord. Her work has kept our vision of ministry going. I may not be the pastor I thought I was called to be, but I have been able to see the impact Bev’s art has had and been able to use this as a tool to minister to people along the way. God was calling me to ministry, just not how I had seen it!

“Along the way, we added some additional help to our facility. In 1999, our oldest daughter Heather and her husband Matt decided to help run our business. Heather studied accounting in college and is now our Controller. Matt, having studied Structural and Mechanical Engineering in college, is now our Vice President. With the addition of these two, we now have the ability to expand our operations and move in directions we never would have if they were not present.

Monte continues: “We have rebranded Eagle Bronze to move in a direction that has made us more than just a fine art foundry. We have become an art marketing group that can take conception to completion, help our artists find and place projects, and much more.

“Above all, it has always been about the relationships we have made over the years. It is about our everlasting friendships we have built and hope to continue to build.”