Sunday, September 20, 2009
940 - Out here in Wyoming, we hear `noises at night`
Nancy wakes me at 4 in the morning last Sunday. “ I think I hear a burglar,” she says. “Are you sure you locked the downstairs door?”
“Well, honey,” I answer, all bleary-eyed. “I doubt you would be hearing that thumping if I had left it unlocked.”
This answer does not satisfy.
My next comment is worse.
“Besides, since you have the blinds open and the TV on, I would doubt any self-respecting burglar would consider this a good place to knock over. Good night, honey.””
“But aren’t you going to check on it?”
This experience rekindles memories of, oh, so many times when my wife has had me check on nighttime noises caused by raccoons, ducks and geese, bats, squirrels and even woodpeckers.
Perhaps the most interesting and telling memory is of a time when we owned cats and lived three miles outside of Lander 30 years ago.
There were lots of neighbor cats in our subdivision and it was obvious that some of these thieves were coming over to the Sniffins at night and eating our cat food.
Not sure why this was such a big deal but my daughters and my wife wanted me to protect our precious felines and chase away those thieving rascals.
In this case, our house had a little nook between the main house and the family room section (which once was an attached garage).
The cat food dish was just outside our bedroom window and the window was open. It was a warm summer night and again, an upset wife rouses me from my slumber.
“Sssshhh. Can’t you hear it? I think I can hear those neighbor cats getting into our cat dishes again,” my wife says to her slumbering husband.
“Waagh,” was about all I can recall saying.
“You need to get up and, once and for all, chase those cats away from our cats’ food dishes.”
“Why don’t you do it?”
“No. You are the man of the house. It is your job.”
“But I don’t care if they eat the cat food. Let me go back to sleep.”
At this point, any husband out there knows this is a losing argument.
Finally, I get up and stagger to my feet. I am somewhat unhappier with my spouse than with the cats but at this point, am going to take it out of those thieving neighbor felines.
I am dressed in just under shorts. No shoes or shirt.
I slowly and quietly open the door. As I stalk those rapidly fattening neighborhood feral cats, I have a flashlight that I am ready to click on and a shoe to throw at them.
My recollection is that it is my wife’s shoe.
It is a pitch-black night. I am slowly exiting the door and as I round the corner, turn on my light and get set to throw the shoe and . . .
“Oh my God, it’s a skunk!”
I drop the shoe as the skunk raises its tail.
A new world record for the 30-foot sprint is set there that night as I zoom back into the house. “Close the windows!” I yell, but apparently it is somewhat too late.
The odor of skunk wafts over the home and especially into our bedroom.
Nancy did get the window shut pretty much in time but that odor permeates everything, as we all know.
The result of that story is that for almost 30 years, Nancy claims she is allegedly hesitant to ask me to check on Wyoming noises in the night.
And yeah, I did get up and go check on that thumping sound and could not find out anything. My feeble attempt at solving the mystery did not gain me any points in the good husband department, although I think any time I get up at night to check on a thumping noise should merit at least a kiss.
The next morning, we figured out what was causing the noise.
Under our deck were two huge four-point or better Mule Deer bucks. They were spending their nights there and those antlers must hit the bottom of the deck when they get up and moved around.
The deck is just outside our bedroom door.
Not as exciting as a burglar, but then again, I would not want to run into either of these fellows in the middle of the night if their only way out of their confined space was through me!
Saturday, September 19, 2009
939 - Beginnings and endings out here in Wyoming
Events, which can bring forth the full gamut of emotions, are weddings and funerals.
Over two days this past week, we attended one of each.
Sunday’s wedding was full of optimism. It was held in a mountain meadow and the clouds parted as the bride walked down the path into sunshine.
On Monday, we attended the funeral of a good friend’s wife. Jane Chapman was 71 and she and Garve had been married 45 years.
As I sat there in the pew at the United Methodist Church during her service, I could not help but reflect on the irony of attending these two events in a period of 24 hours.
I have always contended that most of us start our adult lives when we get married. And then, it’s away we go on that fast conveyor belt that sweeps you along through a life full of happy and sad, up and down, rich and poor, sick and well, memorable and forgettable.
The looks in the eyes of that bride and groom (Gayle Comesrunningbuck and Jason Kinney) showed true love. They had each picked their life partner and were on their way.
“It was the end of their beginning.”
I always liked that phrase, which was originally coined by Winston Churchill during World War II. He was so elated that the USA had joined the war, which had beaten his country to a pulp, that he said the following to his countrymen:
“I wish I could say we are at the end, but we are not. But neither are we at the beginning. But I can honestly say that we are at the end of the beginning.”
To me, our lives are just the beginning until we get married. Sure was, in my case, anyway.
So on Sunday, we headed up to Sinks Canyon for a ceremony under the Aspens. We were over-dressed both for the mountain setting (a 1.5 mile hike) and the warming weather.
A nice crowd gathered and despite yellowjacket bees getting into the bride’s veil, the event was a success, was over quickly and we headed home.
The ceremony was on the Nature Trail and it could not have been more beautiful with brilliant blue skies and those puffy white Wyoming clouds. Although some rain was predicted, the afternoon was a typical crisp fall day.
Monday morning of the funeral, the temperature dipped to 28 degrees. It had rained a half-inch the night before and snow covered the Wind River Mountains.
Darn, I hate it when a funeral occurs on a dreary day.
My articulate friend Ben Freedman said: “All my friend’s funerals are dreary days to me.”
By afternoon, though, the sky was blue and Jane was seen off to eternity on the kind of fall day she loved, having lived in Wyoming for almost 40 years.
Pastor Tom Peacock called Jane’s time on this planet “a life well lived.”
Her life included 40 years as a registered nurse and raising two daughters only to see one die at a young age. She served on the Lander City Council and enjoyed traveling the world. Besides her family, she was overly attached to a dog named Puff.
Pastor Peacock read a wonderful item called “A Parable for Mothers” by Temple Bailey. Here is a much-abbreviated version:
The young mother set her foot on the path of Life. “Is the way long?” she asked. And her guide said: "Yes, and the way is hard. And you will be old before you reach the end. But the end will be better than the beginning."
But the young mother was happy and she would not believe that anything could be better. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them and bathed with them in the streams. The sun shone on them and life was good and the young mother cried: "Nothing will ever be lovelier than this.”
The years went on and the mother grew old and she was small and bent. Her children were strong and tall and walked with courage. And when the way was hard, they helped their mother. And when the way was rough they lifted her for she was as light as a feather. At last they came to a hill, and beyond they could see golden gates flung wide. The mother said: "I have reached the end of my journey. Now I know that the end is better than the beginning for my children can walk alone and their children after them."
Sunday, September 13, 2009
938 - Fall weather and football made for wonderful weekend
Once in awhile, you can string two days together here in Wyoming that are memorable. And it is especially wonderful if it happens on a weekend.
Last weekend was one of those for me.
Saturday, Sept. 12, of course, was the big UW game and I was there on the sideline with my brother Ron and nephew Jem as we watched our Cowboys hold down mighty Texas for half a game, anyway.
Laramie was nuts. After the game, we toured downtown looking for a place to eat but were told at Tommy Jack’s that it was an hour and half wait. It was the same at Lovejoy’s.
We settled on Mexican food. The tranquility was amazing. Folks with Texas shirts were sitting next to booths of Cowboy fans and everyone was having a great time. Most Texans raved about our hospitality and it was sure evident.
Earlier, my weekend started off that morning at the Fly–In at the Lander airport. Lander has more privately-owned planes based there than any Wyoming airport.
The unique and odd and experimental planes were impressive. The crowd enjoyed watching vintage and ultra-modern planes fly around. There was even the hot air balloon.
My grandsons enjoyed the Kiwanis pancakes and two-year old Finis was especially impressed by all the noisy activity.
But back to the game.
Ran into Secretary of State Max Maxfield, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, NPR’s Bob Beck and former employee Milton Ontiveroz plus saw people from all over Wyoming.
National TV announcers for the game expressed amazement that on game day, the Laramie stadium “becomes Wyoming’s third largest city.”
Texas folks loved our cool weather and said they were appreciative of the spirit at our small school. The week before, they played before 101,000 people in Austin in near-100 degree temps.
Our perfect weather the following Sunday morning set the stage for me to do some exploring. Two places that I have been trying to get to for years are Sybille Canyon between Laramie and Wheatland and Bill, Wyoming.
I was slowly driving my Jeep down the canyon highway when I saw a red Caddy right behind me. No place to pass so we traveled in tandem for quite a few miles. Finally, I pulled over and the carload of gold tee shirted UW fans went on by.
Sybille is beautiful. Weather maps show that area to be one of the windiest places in the windiest state but not on this day. Not a wisp of breeze.
Went by the wildlife habitat study area dedicated to the late UW researchers Tom Thorne and Beth Williams.
Near Wheatland, I drove the back roads and was surprised at the lakes and reservoirs. Once headed north on I-25 ran into some stiff winds – no surprise there.
Laramie Peak is the landmark for Eastern Wyoming. It was in my line of sight everywhere on this day from the time I left Laramie until I finally headed towards Casper and on to home.
The landscape is turning Wyoming brown but there are still lots of bright green patches. On this day, the blue sky was brilliant. What a sight!
To me, paradise is driving to some interesting place and listening to the Cowboys or Broncos or Rockies playing a game on the radio. Today it was the Broncos (they won!) and it made the miles fly by.
Next stop would be Bill, my namesake. We were there once exactly 39 years ago but that is a topic for another column.
Today, Bill, Wyoming, is a rail hub for Union Pacific and BNSF coal trains. Not much activity at The Bill Store, which was closed.
The Oaktree Inn and Penny’s Diner seemed like a nice place to have lunch. Some dedicated Cowboy fans were in the next booth. Could it be the same folks? Nah?
I looked out the window and there was a red Caddy in the parking lot.
“Did you folks come up from Laramie today?” I asked the driver, who turned out to be Tom Davis, a Gillette rancher.
When he said yes. I apologized for holding them up in Sybille Canyon.
“Were you driving that Jeep Commander?” he asked.
“Yeah, but I was being a tourist.”
We both laughed and chatted about the game. He and his wife Renee had been at the game and came home on the same route I had taken.
Wyoming is a very big state, geographically.
But it can be a small world on a personal level.
Sunday, September 06, 2009
937 - `Older Wyoming` means workers staying on the job
Americans say they are planning to do a lot of their retirement shopping this year at warehouse stores like Sam’s Club. Because, folks, nothing says, “Happy Days are Here Again” like 90 rolls of toilet paper. – Conan O’Brien
Trends involving old folks seem to be colliding here in Wyoming.
A few years ago there was a hue and cry about how we were becoming the “oldest” state in the union when it came to the average age of our citizens.
We were due to pass Florida for this dubious honor.
A second trend that is impacting the country during these difficult economic times has also come into play here in the Cowboy State. That trend says the fastest growing job increase sector in the USA is reportedly those folks over the age of 55.
So, not only are our citizens growing older, but also we are holding onto our jobs with a vengeance.
It has been amazing to watch our friends change their options during these pivotal times. There are a great many folks we know in their 60s who have either postponed retirement, taken part-time work and gone back to work after being retired for awhile.
Just about the only ones who have dodged that work bullet are those with medical problems or folks who are really wealthy.
The first five months of this year saw 75,000 full-time jobs disappear in the Rocky Mountain Region. Very few of those losses showed up in Wyoming statistics because so many of those folks who lost Wyoming jobs really did not live here.
One of the odd little secrets of our 2lst Century boom was that a great many of the folks who did work in our oil and gas industries were transient.
They came here and did important work but when the work slowed down or disappeared, they disappeared, too, back where they really call home.
Wyoming did lose over a thousand jobs. And there was a ripple effect, which occurs when less money is circulating which causes other businesses to cut back on their workforces, too.
Investment Icon Warren Buffet called the past 12 months “a time of fear and pessimism.” He said there have been times of fear before and times of pessimism before, but not both at the same time
Thus, that ripple effect arrived here in Wyoming, too. Even though our state economy was one of the most sturdy in the country, people quit spending their money and braced for the worst.
Thus, we can now see two huge trends resulting, which involve older workers because of the national economic malaise.
This has been both a boon and a bane for business.
Often these older folks are their best workers. And yet business owners need to cut staff and expenses during tough economic times.
In a large number of cases, these older folks have negotiated consultant packages with their former employers. In other cases, they have joined with other workers as a “shared employee,” which benefits both the employer and the employees.
And perhaps the biggest reason for going back to work or holding on to that job is the need for quality health insurance.
Another of the main reasons Wyoming has this aging population is that these are smart people who know how good living in Wyoming can be. For example, they are very aware of how our low taxes, clean environment, less stressful lifestyle and relatively mild climate make for a pretty darned good place to live to a ripe old age.
But the downside here is that in a time when good jobs are scarce for the unemployed, well, it gets really dicey when there are just no jobs to be had.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my “20 most important things to know in business” in a column in the Wyoming Business Report.
To me, number-one is “timing is everything.”
To those folks who still have a job, their best timing might be to negotiate the best strategy they can now while they still have some leverage.
To those folks wanting to get back in to the game, now is the time to contact all their friends in their previous fields to see if there are full-time, part-time or consultant gigs available to them?
As one of my gray-haired friends told me recently: “I always thought I had enough money saved up to retire. Now I am not so sure. In fact, I am not sure if I will ever be that confident again.”
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
936 - Wyoming senators shared spotlight with Ted Kennedy
Perhaps it may seem like old news, but our state’s citizens should have been proud of two Wyoming Republican leaders who were featured prominently a week ago during the wake and funeral for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Both Senior Sen. Mike Enzi and former U S. Sen. Al Simpson of Cody had long inter-actions with the late Sen. Kennedy whose life was celebrated last weekend.
Sen. Enzi has had a wonderful bipartisan relationship with the late senator and both worked together on health bills that have helped a lot of people. He and Sen. Kennedy co-sponsored a slew of important laws in recent years.
“Quiet Mike,” as he is referred to, has spent his Senate career shunning the limelight as he worked both in the background and the foreground.
Today, he is getting more publicity than he would like, as he has been identified as a member of “the Gang of Six.“ This is a group of three Democrats and three Republicans, who have been working all summer on a compromise health care bill that can get through Congress and not break the bank. That last item is a big deal to our Wyoming senator, since he is the only accountant in the Senate.
Former Sen. Simpson also worked closely with Teddy during his 18 years in the Senate.
They had a daily radio show where they would do a “punch and counter-punch” approach, offering the liberal and conservative points-of-view. Big Al always laughed about it when people assumed he and the Massachusetts icon were mortal enemies.
“Just the opposite. When the arguing was done, we’d have a cup of coffee (or a drink) together, depending on what time of day it was,” he once said.
A roast was held for Sen. Simpson in Riverton in 1990 with Teddy the guest roaster. Pressing matters in Washington prevented him from showing up. So he was somehow beamed in to the St. Margaret’s gym by satellite. My notes indicate he started off by telling this joke:
“I was speaking before a group. I didn`t know who they were when a heckler stood up and called me a horse`s ass. I was flabbergasted, but before I could respond, the crowd rose up and grabbed the guy and threw him out.
“Was it a Democratic crowd? No, it was a horse crowd.”
Sen. Kennedy also said this about attorneys like Sen. Simpson:
“When a lawyer dies, the newspaper doesn`t put the notice in the obituary section, but in the section titled ‘civic improvements.’ “
When it was Simpson’s turn, he said:
“Ted Kennedy, like many politicians, is a Niagara of words and a Sahara of thought.”
In his rebuttal, as he described how different his background was from Sen. Kennedy’s, Sen. Simpson described growing up in Cody: “I came from a town so small, I didn’t know until I graduated from high school that its name wasn`t RESUME SPEED.”
On three occasions when Ted Kennedy visited Wyoming, I also took the opportunity to meet him and cover his activities.
In the early 1970s, the state Democrats held a big rally in Casper and their keynote speaker was Ted Kennedy. I inched my way up real close and took an award-winning photo of him gesturing and yelling with floodlights in the background.
Some 25 years ago, while skiing with my family at Jackson Hole, then U. S. Rep. Teno Roncalio hollered at us to come up to a deck where he was with some other folks.
The National Handicapped Ski Championships were being held that weekend. Teno introduced us to Ted Kennedy and his son Teddy, who had recently had his leg amputated because of bone cancer. We had a nice chat, took a few photos and left.
Perhaps the best speech given about Ted Kennedy during last week’s events was by his son Teddy Jr. during the funeral. During that talk, which brought tears to the eyes of many people there, he recalled how devastated he was when his leg was amputated.
“My dad took me sledding. But there was a big hill and I just could not climb up it. He told me that, together, we are going to get up that hill, if it takes us all day!” The elder Kennedy was described by his son as someone who just would never give up. And he expected everyone around him to always try as hard as possible.
“We made it up that hill,” young Teddy concluded.