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1748 - Just a routine fall Saturday in Wyoming

Nancy and I had been looking forward to attending a University of Wyoming football game this fall and the recent Cowboys-Fresno State game looked ideal.

         Several days ahead of time, the forecast was good. I was not paying much attention to weather or roads.

         Plus we were taking our three local grandsons to the game, Wolf, Hayden and Finis Johnson, sons of our daughter Shelli Johnson and her husband Jerry.

         Shelli and Jerry were in California celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary by attending a hilarious performance by the comic Brian Regan.

         After a fun week of taking care of the boys, we went to bed Friday night planning to get up early and head to Laramie.

         At 5:30 a.m. Nancy woke me up. She is prone to migraine headaches but this one was different, she said.  Her pain was excruciating. Was she having a stroke?  When it comes to health, I generally over-react.

         I gave her one of her ordinary migraine Sumatriptan pills but it seemed to have little effect.  We quickly got dressed and I gave the boys the bad news. We probably were not going to the football game as I was taking “mom mom,” as they know her, to the emergency room.

         When I went back to the bedroom to fetch her, Nancy was making the bed. “Well, you know, I want the house to look nice,” she told me through half-closed eyes.

         It was a beautiful morning as we headed up to the hospital.

As I pulled in to the parking lot, she was feeling better. “Let’s not go in. Maybe that pill really did the trick,” she said.

         So, we sat there for 20 minutes trying to decide what to do? Since it was early Saturday we could not go to the local clinic and, we were sort of stalled in a twilight zone between “do we or don’t we” walk through that door?

         Finally, she said she was fine and let’s go home.  We drove around town a little while just seeing if she really was better.  She now seemed completely healed. She said we should go to the game.  What a difference 90 minutes plus a powerful pill can make.

         We went home and I rousted the boys.  Time was short now and we needed to hurry if we were going to get to Laramie.  I thought our trip might take about three and half hours since we would have to stop at Bob Luck’s newly remodeled McDonalds for some breakfast on the way.

         After that stop, we headed out on highway 287 going southwest toward Laramie.  We should make it right at game time.

         In fact, the roads were spectacular.  I eased the car past the 70 mph mark hoping none of our friendly Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were up this early.

         We got to Jeffrey City and the roads were dry.  Beaver Rim behind us had been spotty and I noticed the outside temperature was 21 degrees.  Those small patches of ice on the road could be slippery.

         Then the highway between Jeffrey City and Muddy Gap turned to pure ice.  The wind was howling out of the south and it was pushing my car around. My speed quickly dropped to 30 mph.  There were no other vehicles on the road, which seemed odd. Were we the only ones going to the game?  Lots of folks should be on this road.

         I pulled over at the Split Rock rest area. I walked out on the roadway and the wind almost blew me over. The surface was ice-packed.

         My cell phone would not get any service so I could not determine the conditions of the roads ahead. We were now one-third of the way to Laramie.

         My heart said go. 

My gut said no.

         With a cloud of disappointment dominating the inside of the car, we turned around and headed home. Soon, we were on dry roads and I was kicking myself for being a pansy. It was hard to face the boys. I had let them down because I was a chicken.

         After we got home, I checked the state’s roads on the WYDOT site and found out those icy roads west of Muddy Gap extended all the way to Rawlins and Interstate 80 was closed between the Carbon County line and Laramie.  It was almost impossible to get to the football game from any direction.

         I had made the right decision.

         Just another typical fall day in Wyoming.

1747 - More on if I had my life to live over

Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention . . . – line from My Way, a wonderful song recorded famously by both Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley


         When a person is asked what they would do differently if they had his or her life to live over, you often hear about regrets. You hear mainly about things they did not do.

         My column a month ago addressed that thought from my personal perspective and it provoked some interesting responses, which I would like to share with you today.

         • For a journalist, it is easy to compile a long lists about errors you made, stories you missed, editorial stands you wished you had not taken and stories you wished you should have written.

         As a writer who started reporting for newspapers in 1963 (54 years ago!) the following hits home with me.

         One of Wyoming’s most respected editors is Jim Hicks of Buffalo and he wrote me the following:

“In the area of my work as a journalist and editor I did have one major issue I`d give a lot to have another chance at.

“During the Vietnam war the son of a local family was killed. He had red hair and a big smile. I really liked this kid`s dad a lot!  He asked me to go the lunch after that happened.  

“His dad was Bill Skiles, an authentic Wyoming cowboy who worked as a brand inspector.  He personified everything about western culture and cowboy way of life.  

“Bill said bluntly that he wanted the USA out of there ASAP so no other family would lose their son to such a waste.

“At the time I was buying the ‘domino theory’ and still believed the all powerful USA could do no wrong or ever lose any kind of war.

“I sympathized with Bill Skiles, but failed to see the important local story he had brought to my feet.  I wrote nothing about the loss he and his wife, Dorothy, were feeling.  To this day my failure haunts me.  

         In Cheyenne, former Legislator Pete Illoway writes: “I would have liked to have been a better student. I coasted a lot and should have put my nose to the grindstone just a little bit more.

“I am not sure after college what might have intrigued me. I look back and maybe being an attorney or looked at engineering. I know that as I look back and know what I know now that would have or should have been where my emphasis should have been but had little guidance since none of my relatives went that way.”

In Sheridan, foundation director Patrick Henderson writes: “If I had my life over:  I would tell those that I love how much I loved them every chance that I had.   I especially regret that there are close friends and family that are now gone, and that I missed this golden moment. 

“I truly regret that I missed this opportunity and wish that I could have this moment back in which to tell them.  Part of it was life inexperience as a young person where you just assume that you will see people again.  Part of it was that it seemed clunky and overly mushy to express that.  I was so wrong.  I take every opportunity now.

         “Another thing that I would like a ‘do over’ in is forgiveness.  I am more forgiving now than I was as a younger man.  I have made many mistakes where I was given a mulligan when I didn’t deserve it.  Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”    

In Worland, attorney and author John Davis offered these thoughts: “Now, if I had my life to live over, I’d go to East Lansing, Michigan (Michigan State University) in September, 1964 to do graduate work in mathematics instead of going to New Hampton, New Hampshire. 

“The trip to New Hampton put me on a pathway to living my life as a lawyer.  Not that I regret being a lawyer, but I’ve now done that, and I’d like to see how my life would have turned out had I decided to live it as a mathematician.”

Lander’s Judy Legerski shared this thought: “This is probably trite, but knowing what I know now and where I am now, I would have made a much more serious attempt to remain physically stronger – there are still difficult trails I want to follow.”


1746 - Business is improving in Wyoming

“What a difference a year makes!” was the rallying cry made by Gov. Matt Mead as he greeted 650 people at the Wyoming Business Alliance Governor’s Business Forum in Cheyenne Nov. 8.

         Mead was optimistic as he talked about the current Wyoming economy. “We are righting the ship,” he said.

         This meeting is a unique gathering of state business leaders that has been going on for decades.  Some of the best ideas in state history have come out of this group, including the Hathaway Scholarship program, Leadership Wyoming and the Wyoming Business Council.

         Mead said the economy is headed the right way. For a state like Wyoming that relies on energy development so much for its job and tax revenue, he used the example there “was just one oil rig” drilling in the state at this time a year ago.  Today, he said there have been large investments by energy companies and the future is bright.

         “We have weathered the storm. We have shown our perseverance,” he proclaimed.

         He talked about his ENDOW program, which will chart a future economic development course for the state that includes innovation with a focus on technological advances. “The world is changing. Are we going to change? Are we going to follow or are we going to lead?”

         He told the big crowd that the younger generation is different from most of us, meaning the bulk of the crowd, most of whose male members had gray hair.

         “Wyoming has what the younger generation wants.  They want a quality of life, not just a job,” Mead continued.

         “Lately, I have been talking to people about hyperloops, avatars, flying cars and other concepts we had not heard about until recently,” he said.

         Mead said it has been proved that you do not need a large population to be successful.  “It is quality, not quantity,” he said. “Our future is ours to build,” he said.

         He touted Wyoming’s strong work ethic, small population and can-do attitude as attributes, which will attract young workers to the state. “We control our destiny. There is value in people evolving.”

         He touted the state’s investment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) as paving the way for the state striding forcefully and confidently into the future.  He credited former Gov. Dave Freudenthal and the legislature for their work with the NCAR computer and the School of Energy at the University of Wyoming.

         Freudenthal then led a panel discussion about the state’s fiscal future. The former governor had some keen observations and a few tart opinions about Wyoming’s future. 

         Although he said as governor he always bragged about our state’s low tax structure, he then noted, “If low taxes are what creates diversity, then Alaska and Wyoming should be the most diverse economies in the country.”

         Both states rely on energy and neither is very diverse.

         He said in 1969, the state established a severance tax. Mineral taxes today pay 70 percent of the property taxes. In 1974 voters approved creation of the permanent mineral trust fund, which made “us all trust fund babies,” the former governor said.  Then Wyoming pushed tourism big-time and now, out of state visitors pay 60 percent of the state’s sales taxes. 

         He said think of the guy who has a big house in Houston who pays $45,000 a year in property taxes in Texas and a big house in Jackson, where he pays just a fraction of that amount, implying that perhaps Wyoming could handle some increases in some taxes.

         Although Freudenthal did not dispute Gov. Mead’s assertion that times are much better in Wyoming this year than last year, he said folks waiting around for another energy boom might be disappointed. “We may be waiting for a long time,” he concluded.

         Freudenthal said Cowboy State citizens need to “cowboy up” and get a good handle on our financial situation. He complained that the state never really has had an accurate balance sheet. “I think (former Senate President) Phil Nicholas of Laramie was the only person in Wyoming who knew how much money we really had on hand.”

         As governor, Freudenthal says he would hide coffee cans here and there (hard-to-find accounts) where he could stash some money so the Legislature could not spend it.  

But the biggest deal is budget planning is difficult without an accurate balance sheet.

         Also at the conference were plenty of potential governor candidates milling around, pressing the flesh, including Secretary of State Ed Murray, State Treasurer Mark Gordon, former State Rep. Mary Throne, State Sen. Leland Christensen, Liberty Group head Jon Downing and attorney Matt Micheli.