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Fire weather watch in effect Tuesday, Wednesday

SHERIDAN — High winds, record high temperatures and low relative humidities combined Saturday to create an environment perfect for wildfires and forecasters at the National Weather Service out of Billings, Montana, are warning that Tuesday and Wednesday may bring more of the same.

Nearly every fire department throughout Sheridan County responded to at least one fire Saturday, as the skies around Sheridan filled with smoke from fires in Montana and surrounding areas as well.

Temperatures in Sheridan on Saturday reached 80 degrees, topping the 1986 record of 76 degrees. Wind gusts also reached as high as 59 mph and relative humidities dropped as low as 12 percent.

The NWS has issued a fire weather watch that will go into effect at noon Tuesday and run through 9 p.m. Wednesday. Temperatures are forecasted to reach 78 degrees Tuesday before a cold front moves through the area Wednesday.

The fire weather watch means that critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur, including low humidities, unseasonably warm temperatures, strong gusty winds and wind shifts with the cold front.

Officials caution individuals from undertaking any prescribed — or controlled — burning on those days.

Despite similar cautions late last week, some individuals chose to burn anyway, resulting in a busy day for Sheridan area firefighters.

A fire off of Red Grade Road in the Blacktooth subdivision put up a column of smoke visible from the Big Horn area Saturday. Crews from the Big Horn Volunteer Fire Department made their way up to the fire on a SnowCat and road crews were attempting to clear the snow-covered road for fire trucks to make their way up the mountain.

County Fire Warden Bill Biastoch said Monday morning that crews from the Story Volunteer Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service, Sheridan Area Search and Rescue, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and county Road and Bridge all helped on that fire.

Biastoch added that some of the cabins in the area did receive minor heat damage.

According to radio traffic on Saturday, the fire came within just a few yards of the cabins. Radio traffic also indicated that fire may have been started by a slash pile, but Biastoch would neither confirm nor deny that. He said the fire is still under investigation, but he and the fire crews were pretty sure of how it started.

Crews will continue to monitor that fire this week.

Crews from the U.S. Forest Service also responded to a fire near the hairpin turn on U.S. 14 on Saturday. USFS officials said Monday morning that the fire was about one-quarter acre in size and human caused. The Dayton Volunteer Fire Department arrived on scene to that fire first, then USFS crews mopped up. Crews will continue to check on that fire today and an investigation is currently underway.

Another fire at 86 North Park Road kept crews from the Goose Valley Fire Department, Big Horn and Sheridan Fire-Rescue busy most of the afternoon. The crews responded to what fire officials called a controlled burn that got out of control around noon, but the fire spread into an outbuilding on the property. Crews were called back to that fire twice as debris continued to smolder.

Crews from the Clearmont Fire District also responded to fire near the Campbell County border.

The high winds did more than kick up wildfires though; they also caused the roof of a building at 1698 Commercial Ave. to blow off, landing on several cars.

No injuries were reported in connection with any of the fires or the damaged roof.

According to reports out of Montana, early Saturday afternoon, a wildfire started about 4 miles west of the community of Red Lodge and was driven by strong winds into the Custer National Forest where the ski area is located, forcing evacuation of the slopes.

About 650 skiers were evacuated as a precaution.

The fire has burned just over 1 square mile. There was no containment as of Sunday afternoon, but weather conditions were much improved with less wind and cooler temperatures, helping firefighters, officials said. The Bighorn National Forest sent an engine crew to the Red Lodge fire.

North of the Red Lodge fire, another wildfire burned about 4.6 square miles of mixed timber and prairie in a rural area about 30 miles west of Billings.

In addition, one woman died and three others were injured in a five-vehicle pileup in the westbound lanes of Interstate 90 near Laurel during a weekend dust storm.

The Montana Highway Patrol says a 67-year-old woman from Park City was killed in the crash shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday. The victim’s name hasn’t been released.

The Montana Highway Patrol says strong winds kicked up a dust storm that reduced visibility to zero. Officers were still trying to put together the sequence of events that led to the crash.

Fires fill Sheridan area skies with smoke

SHERIDAN — While high wind and high fire danger warnings cautioned area residents against any burning Saturday, at least two private attempts to burn fields and brush piles in the Sheridan area got out of control and kept firefighters busy throughout the day.

Crews from Sheridan Fire-Rescue, the U.S. Forest Service and nearly all of the volunteer districts in the county responded to fires on Saturday.

Fires included one off of Red Grade Road that put up a column of smoke visible from the Big Horn area. Crews from the Big Horn Volunteer Fire Department made their way up to the fire on a SnowCat and road crews were attempting to clear the snow-covered road for fire trucks to make their way up the mountain. According to radio traffic, the fire has come within 25 yards of cabins in the area and high winds were making the battle against the blaze difficult.


Radio traffic indicated that fire may have been started by a slash pile, but the official cause has not yet been released.

As of approximately 4 p.m., crews from the U.S. Forest Service were also planning to make their way up to that fire and were responding to a fire near the hairpin turn on U.S. 14.

Another fire on North Park Road south of the airport kept crews from the Goose Valley Fire Department, Big Horn and Sheridan Fire-Rescue busy most of the afternoon. The crews responded to what fire officials called a prescribed fire that got out of control around noon, but the fire spread into an outbuilding on the property.

By 4 p.m., GVFD firefighters were still keeping an eye on and trying to extinguish several hay bales that had caught fire. The SFR crews and Big Horn crews had been released.

Reports of fires in and near Campbell County and eastern Sheridan County were also being relayed through some Sheridan County fire repeaters.

According to reports out of Montana, Interstate 90 is closed between Laurel and Park City due to zero visibility from smoke. Reports estimate 15 to 20 crashes in that area and indicate it is bumper to bumper traffic from Billings to Laurel.

According to the National Weather Service out of Billings, a high wind warning will continue through midnight tonight. Wind gusts from 50-70 mph were expected but expected to decrease after 9 p.m.

A Red Flag Warning is also in place through 9 p.m for elevations below 7,000 feet. A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

 

Stay tuned to thesheridanpress.com throughout the evening for updates.

More than your typical Easter egg: Sheridan resident creates traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs

SHERIDAN — Traditionally, Ukrainian women prepared themselves for Pysanky decorating by purifying their spiritual state of mind for the entire day prior — living peacefully, avoiding gossip, being patient with family and preparing a fine dinner.

Today, if you want to partake in the art of Easter egg dyeing, you probably just boil some eggs and dip them in store-bought colors with your kids. But some local artists, like Betty Wendtland, prefer to maintain some of the Christian traditions behind the ancient art of egg decorating.

Pysanky are Ukrainian Easter eggs decorated by writing designs on dried eggshells with beeswax and layering dye on the exposed areas, working from light to dark.

Historically, the Pysanky were decorated during Lent, as a sacred event done at night, as no one was allowed to watch the women work on the eggs. They believed this process transferred the goodness of the household to the designs and pushed away the evil.

As many as 60 eggs would be finished per household by Holy Thursday and everyone in the community then received an egg for Easter. The Pysanky were also given to priests, placed on family graves and placed in animal feeding troughs and under beehives to ensure there were many young born and much honey in the combs.

On Easter Sunday, the eggs were placed in baskets outside the church at midnight mass before being brought into the service by alter boys in a joyous procession to be blessed by the priest with holy water. The eggs were exchanged Easter morning with the brightly colored ones going to the young, and the darker designs reserved for older members of the community.

The Ukrainians believed that as long as Pysanky are decorated, goodness would prevail over evil in the world.

Wendtland is doing her part to spread goodness in the world by following tradition, preparing Pysanky from Ash Wednesday through Easter and delivering them as gifts to her priest, family and members of her congregation as gifts.

She learned the art 20 years ago from a friend while living in Dubois and has been mastering the craft annually since.

“I just enjoy making art and I particularly enjoy making Christ-centered art,” Wendtland said. “I like doing these things from a visual standpoint — I guess because I am an artist I notice color and lines and things — but when it can be connected to my faith, so much the better.”

Unlike modern egg dyeing, this process is not an easy, or quick, one.

Wendtland said depending on the intricacy of the design, the size of the egg and how many colors are involved, one egg can take from four to 20 hours to complete.

First, an eggshell must be prepared.

The original way of doing this was to just let the egg dry out, but if the egg has any flaws in the shell it could be exposed to bacteria and spoil.

Wendtland has dried eggs before, after receiving a large batch of goose eggs to decorate from a friend.

“I put them in the back of the refrigerator and kept turning them and after several months they became so dry that when you turned the egg you could hear the yolk rolling around in there,” she said. “Now I blow them out.”

To blow the innards of the egg out without cracking the shell, a small tool is used to insert a hole in the bottom and blow air inside, forcing the contents out the hole. The inside is then washed and dried through the same process.

Next, a design must be created and drawn on the egg in pencil and then the dyeing process can begin.

A tool created for writing in wax called a kistka is used to cover the portions of the egg that should remain shell colored, and then the first color of dye is applied. More wax is added to the portions of the egg that should remain the first dye color, and the egg is dyed in the second color, and so on.

In the end, the egg looks like a messy, lumpy wad of black wax, but then the egg is placed next to a candle and the wax begins to drip off. A cloth is used to wipe away the wax as it melts and a multicolored masterpiece is revealed.

“That’s the best part of the process because you start with this kind of ugly thing and as you hold it up against the flame and as it drips this beautiful design appears,” Wendtland said.

A varnish is added to the finished product to protect the color from fading, but you must be careful with these pieces of art as nothing really protects them from breaking.

“There’s nothing there really, there’s just that thin shell,” she added.

Now Wendtland is sharing her craft with others through public demonstrations for local children and senior citizens.

For the past seven years, she has led lessons on the art for the sixth-grade class at Holy Name Catholic School.

“I started doing it over there because my grandson was in the sixth grade over there and the children seemed to enjoy it so much,” Wendtland said.

One lucky student even gets to take home a Wendtland original Pysanky through a drawing give-away at the end of the demonstration.

But there is a lot more to the learning than can be taught in a demonstration, Wendtland added.

“There are several tools you need if you’re going to do this; I usually order online because there aren’t places close by where you can get the supplies,” she said. “I’ve got a video that I purchased at the Ukrainian Gift Shop online that teaches it, but you really would need someone to show you too.”

Sheridan man faces 47 to life for alleged attorney’s office arson

SHERIDAN — When Judge John Fenn sentenced Joel Scott Elliott, 37, to a split sentence earlier this month, he commented that Elliott was not typical of defendants he saw in his courtroom. Elliot had a reputation for working hard, a degree in engineering from Black Hills State College and no significant criminal history. Fenn reminded the defendant that he was young and there was no reason he couldn’t come away from his recent legal problems young enough to start over.

But Fenn didn’t know about the arson.

Arson

Last June, Elliott allegedly broke into the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office and set the building on fire.

In less than two years, Elliott went from a man with no significant criminal history, to misdemeanor probation, to felon. Now, he is facing federal charges.

On March 19, Elliott was indicted on five federal charges — arson of a building receiving federal funds; using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; using fire or an explosive to commit a felony; possession of an unregistered firearm; and false declaration before a grand jury.

According to documents filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, law enforcement officials used a confidential informant fitted with a covert audio device to record a conversation with Elliott regarding the arson.

The informant — incarcerated at the Sheridan County Detention Center with Elliott — spoke with Elliott about the fire. During the conversation, Elliott allegedly made several admissions regarding the crime, including details that had not been made public about the device used to start the fire.

Court documents state that power was turned off to the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office at approximately 1:35 a.m. on June 4, 2014. Subsequently, an individual entered the building through the north window, poured gasoline in the basement, first floor and second floor. The individual also left behind an incendiary device to ignite the gasoline vapors.

The documents further state that at approximately 4:25 a.m., the incendiary device, which included a timing device, initiated and ignited the gasoline vapor in the building.

In his conversation with the confidential informant, Elliott said his fingerprints wouldn’t be on the timing device because he wore rubber gloves. He also admitted that he set the fire to “buy time” on the pending case he was charged with by the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office at the time.

Prior charges

Before July 2012, only the woman Elliott had been in a relationship with for several years understood his other side. In her victim’s impact statement, she described a turbulent relationship. When the relationship ended, he refused to let it go, stalking her and the man she dated by texting and calling repeatedly,despite being warned to stop. On July 30, 2012, the victim attempted to get a protection order against Elliott but was unsuccessful.

Then Circuit Court Judge John Sampson did warn Elliott to stay away from the victim, and Elliott agreed that he would. But, according to court records, he continued to harass the victim.

Elliott was eventually arrested and charged with misdemeanor stalking and larceny for stealing a phone. He received probation March 11, 2013. Only two months later, he was arrested when he forged a check from Mike’s Dozer and Backhoe Service and tried to deposit it into his bank account.

He was arrested for felony forgery, but the arrest also meant Elliott had violated his probation for the previous stalking charge.

A year later, and while on bond for the forgery, Elliott again began harassing his ex-girlfriend. Elliott was arrested July 13, 2014, on new stalking charges — a felony this time because the arrest came less than five years after his previous stalking conviction.

Despite the efforts of nearly two dozen people who wrote letters to the court on Elliott’s behalf, asking that he only be sentenced to the eight months he’d already served, Elliott was sentenced March 12 to five to 10 years each for one count of felony stalking and one count of felony burglary. The prison terms will run concurrent to one another, meaning Elliott will likely only serve five to 10 years in prison.

Federal charges

Among the federal charges, Elliott faces one count of providing false statements to the grand jury. That charge was filed because the defendant allegedly told the grand jury that another man incarcerated at the Sheridan County Detention Center had admitted to the arson at the attorney’s office.

In total for the five charges, Elliott faces 47 years to life in prison, up to $1.25 million in fines, up to five years of supervised release following his prison term and up to $500 in special assessments.

Elliott is scheduled to make his initial appearance and be arraigned in federal court on April 3 at 2:30 p.m. in Casper.

Finding good heroes at Tongue River Hero Fair

RANCHESTER — If you ask a 13-year-old to name a personal hero, would they be more likely to choose Kim Kardashian or Clara Barton? Or maybe the choice is between Tom Brady and Stephan Hawking? If they had successfully completed the Hero Fair project at Tongue River Middle School, the answers would likely be the latter choices.

Every seventh- and eighth-grade student that currently enrolled in one of Robert Griffin’s history classes was tasked with finding someone truly heroic to learn about, and be inspired by.

“So often they (the students) look to be inspired by people who are not of the correct nature to inspire them,” Griffin said. “And here, you’ll see Jesus, you have Chris Kyle, you have a better variety of people who will help our youth understand that heroism is not fame, it’s the sacrifice for others’ good. And that’s the essence of the assignment, learning how to give of yourself to help other people.”

There are three requirements to the assignment: students must prepare and deliver a speech that is more than four minutes long without any aid; they must prepare a tri-fold board containing a timeline of their hero’s life and facts and quotes about them; and finally they must prepare a biography. The biography must be at least 1,000 words long and utilize at least three resources. All of the assignment parameters were set by the students themselves.

They take about three weeks to prepare this final project and complete the program by presenting their speech, while dressed as their hero, to their classmates, teachers and parents during the Hero Fair.

Students can choose anyone they want as a hero but have to make a case for the selection’s heroism to have the project approved.

Griffin said, this year, two students chose family members, some students stretched charity angles to choose more everyday folks, but most students truly immersed themselves in the project to find someone they can admire for years to come.

Reagan Mullaney chose Liz Murray as her hero.

Murray, the inspiration for the movie “Homeless to Harvard” and author of “Breaking Night: The Astonishing True Story of Courage, Survival and Overcoming All the Odds,” was the daughter of poor drug addicts. Murray lived alone on the streets at the age of 15 after her mother died of AIDS and her father left. She went on to receive a full scholarship to attend Harvard and later founded the Manifest Living organization — a company based in New York that aims to empower anyone who has the desire to change their life.

“I lived about a year in the streets, sleeping on park benches and studying on the subway,” Mullaney said, speaking as Murray in her presentation. “One day a thought occurred to me. My mother was always saying to me, ‘I’ll fix my life someday,’ and it became clear to me when I saw her die without fulfilling her dreams, my time is now or maybe never.”

Mullaney said she learned of Murray while researching inspiring people online.

“It wasn’t like all the other stories to me because she had to overcome so much, being homeless and then going to one of the most prestigious schools in all the world,” Mullaney said. “She is a woman I truly aspire to be like. I want to become someone that helps people, possibly a psychologist.”

Kenzie McPhie chose Malalai Joya, Afghani former parliamentarian, founder of a forbidden girls school and a woman who stood for the rights of women and all the people of Afghanistan to be educated and free from terrorism. McPhie added an accent to her presentation, trying to embody the spirit of Joya.

“I wanted to inspire people because I knew that even when I was gone I wanted other people to be able to follow in my footsteps and help my country,” McPhie said as Joya in her presentation. “Not all of us in Afghanistan are terrorists. There are good people and innocent people just like in America.”

McPhie said she had always been interested in what was really happening in Afghanistan. After hearing people say America was fighting them and they were bad people, she questioned how everyone in an entire country could be bad.

“She was fighting for women’s rights and education in her country to try and help them because she knows what’s happening is not right and it shouldn’t be that way, and so I found that inspiring,” McPhie said. “Even as a woman who was looked down upon in her country, and was young, she is still doing what she can for her country. It inspired me because even though I might not be a very special person, or someone that people look to as a leader or someone that is very strong in the things I do, I can still make a difference in the lives we live today.”

Find more photos of the Tongue River Hero Fair online at thesheridanpress.com. 

Teachers vote ‘no confidence’ in superintendent

BIG HORN — Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees Chairperson Carol Garber said it’s time to “get back to business” after another school board meeting heavy on public comment included repeated emotional pleas that Big Horn Middle School/High School Principal George Mirich remain in place next school year and district superintendent Marty Kobza not.

During the January meeting of the board, Kobza’s contract to remain at the helm was renewed for an additional two years. Two weeks ago, members of the West Sheridan County Education Association held a vote of no confidence in his ability to effectively do just that.

The WSCEA is a teachers union of which approximately 52 percent of SCSD1 educators are members.

Association President Shannon Moline presented a letter to the board and read it aloud Tuesday night outlining the reasons for and results of the vote.

“We have a severe problem with staff morale, trust in our leaders and the way that money is being handled,” Moline read. “We have some expectations of our leaders and that includes you as the board of trustees, the business manager and all of our administrators. Strong leaders are transparent. They openly share information in a way that is clear, understandable and readily accessible.”

Moline stated that all employees of the district including bus drivers, cooks, custodians, secretaries, maintenance workers, paraprofessionals and teachers, but excluding school or district administrators, were invited to cast a secret ballot answering whether Kobza was capable or not.

She said that more than 65 percent of all eligible voters voted; however, she did not know how many total people were invited to vote or the final number of votes cast. Moline stated that members of her association who helped orchestrate the voting knew those numbers, but when asked they would not share them with administrators or the media.

Moline’s letter asserted that by a ratio of two to one, the staff has no confidence in the superintendent but again did not have specific numbers of votes cast.

When asked for the reason behind the vote, Moline said, “I wanted the people of this district’s voice to be heard.”

Following the conclusion of the meeting, several members of the pool of eligible staff voiced concerns that they were not invited to vote, including the superintendent’s secretary Brandi Miller and district clerk Cara Reichert.

Kobza was recently nominated for the state superintendent of the year. In his nomination by the Northeast Superintendents of Wyoming, Kobza was credited with developing a collaborative strategic plan; successfully writing grants for technology expansion, early childhood education programs and food and nutrition funding; opening doors to a new locally sourced, scratch-cooked school lunch program; securing a positive vote for a proper inflation adjustment for Wyoming’s schools during the 2015 legislative session and keeping increasing student success at the heart of everything he does.

But conflicts within the district have contributed to an uneasy feeling with some of the staff.

One recent conflict has surrounded the school board’s decision, based on the superintendent’s recommendation, not to renew Mirich’s contract for next year.

During the February meeting of the board, Mirich’s name was not included on the list of administrators to be renewed, and the absence did not go unnoticed. More than 120 attendees sat through the meeting and many spoke or stood in Mirich’s defense.

The meeting Tuesday night was again highly attended and two people, including a student, spoke on Mirich’s behalf.

Senior Jackson Woody presented a list of more than 80 student signatures stating their support of Mirich.

“I think the students who work here eight hours a day would know how he works best and I think they are just very sad with the decision you all have made with his renewal,” Woody said. “People say he is not a very likable person, but his job isn’t to be likable. He has set the bar exceedingly high at this school and I don’t see why you would want to get rid of him.”

Following the presentations from the association and the public, Garber said it’s time to refocus.

“As you’re aware the board did approve a two-year contract with superintendent Kobza in January because he has been a professional, student-focused leader, and we have full faith in his ability to continue to do the right things for our district even though some are unpopular,” Garber said. “I do appreciate your input, we all do. We need to get back to business at putting students center stage.”

The district has a grievance policy in place for staff who have concerns regarding their peers or leaders. Grievances against the superintendent are directed immediately to the board of trustees. No grievance against Kobza has ever been filed, Garber said.

When asked why the union would take drastic steps to voice their concerns with the superintendent without taking formal grievance steps, the board said they hope to learn that answer soon.

“They are fully aware there is a chain of command that needs to be followed,” Garber said. “There is a process that is used that is in place.”

In other business, a public hearing soliciting comments for or against the district’s four-day school week schedule was held as required by state statute. The district has held this alternative schedule consistently since 1984 and must hold public hearings each odd numbered year.

No public comments were given.

The second hearing on the matter will be held during April’s meeting of the board in Ranchester.

The cost of growth: Nonprofit dollars pile up for local construction projects

SHERIDAN — It’s easy to get excited about everything happening in Sheridan when you talk to Whitney Benefits President Tom Kinnison about upcoming and current projects around town.

He talks quickly, and with enthusiasm, as he starts to list the projects — Sheridan College is expanding annually; the ice rink is getting a new roof over its head; the Sheridan Senior Center is looking to expand its services.

“In five years, (Sheridan) is going to be fantastic,” Kinnison said. “ … we have some really great things going on.”

Recently, Sheridan has been improving itself on the shoulders of its nonprofit organizations. The numbers are staggering — in the past 12 months, just shy of $70 million has been slated for building projects for nonprofit organizations in the Sheridan area. Even more remarkable is that more than $57 million of that funding has or is expected to arrive from private and foundation dollars. Six local projects are searching for at least $1 million.

One of the largest nonprofit building projects taking place is the new building at The Brinton Museum. The building itself was budgeted to cost $15.8 million, but the capital campaign efforts put the total cost of the project near $21 million. Forrest E. Mars Jr. contributed upward of $10 million to that project, which began in June 2013 and is expected to be completed this summer.

Sheridan YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis said it’s not too uncommon for fundraising efforts to come in waves; momentum from one project often translates into other projects. Soon the city develops a culture of philanthropy, which McGinnis says is taking place in Sheridan right now.

But at the core of every project there has to be a perceived need from the community and at least some of the incoming projects are battling the consequences of aging infrastructure.

“Some of this stuff hasn’t been looked at for around 35 years,” Kinnison said.

Sheridan High School’s Leading the Legacy locker room project, a $5 million construction project which is seeking around $1 million from private funds, is responding to 30-year-old facilities that were not constructed to meet gender equity or disabilities standards. Likewise, YMCA’s nearly $12.5 million indoor aquatics project is seeking an alternative to the aging Kendrick Pool.

Other community needs highlighted in upcoming projects include adapting to evolving demographics. The $20 million Whitney Center for the Arts building on Sheridan College’s campus that is currently under construction began in response to the rise in enrollment at Sheridan College. The Sheridan Senior Center’s potential expansion efforts are intended to support the aging population.

While Sheridan has numerous willing foundations and donors, there is only so much money available. This could impact funding for many nonprofit projects searching for money. Kinnison said in times like these where there are numerous projects to potentially give to, organizations like Whitney Benefits has to maintained focus on their mission of improving local education.

“We have a lot of foundations in the community,” Kinnison said. “… We [at Whitney Benefits] have to be so extremely cautious of being an entitlement.”

But competition can breed success. With more nonprofits looking for funding, building projects are forced to increase their level of readiness which, in turn, can create a more successful end product.

“We kind of welcome other projects,” McGinnis said. “From the foundations’ perspective, they have a better choice of how their dollars will be spent.”

When the dust settles from all of the projects, which also include the rehabilitation of the Antelope Butte Ski Area and many others, nonprofit leaders said the economic results will be evident. Such projects can stimulate economic development and bring outside money into the county.

But both Kinnison and McGinnis agree that perhaps more important than any economic benefit is an increased standard of living in the Sheridan area.

“It tells me there are some really good resources and opportunities within this community that is going to make it better than what it is,” Kinnison said.

“The end result is a quality of life in Sheridan that invites a greater engagement to volunteer and a sense of pride for all of those projects,” McGinnis said.

VISTA serves Tongue River communities

RANCHESTER — Ending poverty is considered, by some, an unrealistic, unreachable objective.

For Karen Walters, it’s part of her job description. The Ranchester resident is three weeks into her tenure as an AmeriCorps VISTA — Volunteers in Service to America — a program that began during the Johnson administration as the domestic arm of the Peace Corps.

“The whole idea behind it was to fight the war on poverty,” she said.

With a focus on the Tongue River valley, Walters is working to accomplish just that — and she could use your help.

Her path toward becoming a VISTA began when the Sheridan Senior Center applied for a grant through AmeriCorps, the money from which would enable the center to accomplish outreach without paying a new staff member, according to Senior Center Volunteer Coordinator Nancy McKenzie.

VISTAs are paid a stipend at the poverty level, $946 per month in Sheridan County, as well as a few other benefits. Undaunted by low pay, Walters proved the perfect candidate for the position for a number of reasons.

“It seemed like a good fit for me,” she said. “I haven’t really been in the workforce, but I volunteer a lot in the community. I do several things.

“But the stipend will be fine for me,” she added. “It will give me an opportunity to expand my job skills. I could work from my house and travel around. I like the idea of not being tied to an office.”

“Several things” is an understatement. The wife and mother of three serves on the Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees, is a member of the Ranchester Volunteer Fire Department, helps out at the Community Cupboard and is active with the Girl Scouts.

“Karen is such a natural fit,” McKenzie said, adding VISTAs often move to towns from far-flung places around the United States. “The big thing is we would still be in the training phase [with someone from out of town], but she has just hit the ground running because she’s already so connected and vested in this community and really believes in the community.”

A VISTA volunteer’s day-to-day duties vary, but the mission is clear: find out what services people in Tongue River need, and then connect them with volunteers to make the necessary services a reality.

“Karen is out here in Tongue River to capacity build for the Senior Center so we can expand our services out here,” McKenzie explained. “The idea is she is not out here doing direct service. Her job is to recruit volunteers, to get job descriptions and build the program. So when Karen’s year of service is over, the program can continue.”

McKenzie and Walters explained how the Senior Center offers numerous programs and partners with the Tongue River Valley Community Center to provide others.

Senior Center staff members deliver meals to homes. The Tongue River Valley Community Center serves lunch at noon, Monday through Friday. The center offers transportation. Certified nursing assistants visit homes for medical needs. And that’s just the beginning.

For each program offered, volunteers would make welcome additions. And there are plenty of options, even in addition to the aforementioned choices. Walters lists playing cards and billiards, helping older folks get groceries or pick up prescriptions or even handyman help, and that’s just off the top of her head.

However you’d like to volunteer, “we can put your skills to work,” she said.

With that in mind, Walters is traveling around Ranchester and Dayton, not only helping serve meals or playing cards, but also raising awareness for services available and keeping an open ear for those looking to help. As it turns out, the job provides a lot of extra benefits that can’t be measured on a pay stub.

“I’ve lived in Tongue River for six years,” Walters said. “I really feel connected to the people here. I liked the idea of finding out what services people want and finding the volunteers to fill those needs and connecting them.

“I love it,” she added. “I really do.”

If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about the services offered by the Sheridan Senior Center or Tongue River Valley Community Center, you can reach Walters at 655-9419.

Looking to volunteer? Here’s how to help

The Sheridan Senior Center is looking for eligible individuals to fill the following paid positions. Call or visit the Senior Center at 672-2240 for more information or to learn about additional programs.

Summer Associates will participate in direct service volunteer activities.

• Term of service: Minimum of eight weeks, maximum of 10 weeks

• Dates: Begin no earlier than May 1, and end no later than Aug. 31, 2015

• Minimum age: 18

• Service schedule: Full time; includes evenings and weekends

• Pay: $946 per month, mileage reimbursement

• Training provided

• General focus: strengthening communities and ending poverty

Senior Companions work with the elderly.

• Age requirements: Those 55 and older are eligible

• Hours: Between 15 and 40 hours per week

• Experience: None required, just need time, compassion and a desire to help

• Pay: tax-free hourly stipend to help cover costs of income-eligible volunteers

• Training provided

• General focus: preserving dignity and independence, including supplying transportation, assisting homebound veterans, delivering groceries and preparing meals, simple chores and connecting clients to additional resources

‘Babes with Bullets’ teach firearms

SHERIDAN — When Leah Engler first stepped to the line with her .22-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, she froze. It was a classic deer-in-the-headlights moment — her hands shaking, her mind blank.

Two and a half days later, Engler was weeping — with tears of victory.

She had just finished Babes with Bullets, a traveling firearms academy where women, and women only, learn how to safely and confidently handle handguns, rifles and shotguns from a team of professional female instructors.

“By the time camp ended she was weeping in my arms,” Babes with Bullets co-founder and Director Deb Ferns said. “She said, ‘You can’t know how much I needed this. My confidence was so shaken, but now I’m confident I can do this.’”

Two years ago, Engler was a recently divorced single mother of two who had never shot a gun in her life. She has since taken six Babes with Bullets camps and become a National Rifle Association instructor in handguns, rifles and shotguns, teaching nearly 500 people in her Alabama community about guns — and self-confidence.

Engler is not a rare result.

“We have a few hundred stories like that,” Ferns said.

••••

Sheridan resident Marsha McCoy is a Babes with Bullets graduate who found the camp so inspiring that she coaxed Ferns into starting one in the Sheridan region.

Last August marked the first Babes with Bullets camps at The Lodge at Diamond Cross in Birney, Montana, less than two hours northeast of Sheridan.

This year, the camps are returning.

A Wyoming woman who liked guns and was comfortable with hunting and shooting clay pigeons, McCoy said handguns were different for her.

“I just wanted to be familiar with a handgun, and to be comfortable with it because, you know, they’re kind of scary,” McCoy said. “They kind of sit there, and they could go off and hurt you. Now I feel totally comfortable with it.”

In 2013, McCoy went to a camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. When she finished she knew she had to bring Babes with Bullets closer to home.

She convinced Ferns it would be worth it and asked The Lodge at Diamond Cross to be the host. Owners Dick and Laurie Hosford didn’t hesitate to say yes and have gone so far as to build three gun berms into a hillside for the camp.

While McCoy may seem like a mild-mannered insurance agent, the moment she stands up and demonstrates the proper stance and hold for a handgun, she exudes confidence — and makes all those leather-clad, tough-gal movie stars look inept.

“It makes you more self-confident that, yeah, I can take care of myself if I have to,” McCoy said. “But, you must have respect for it, also, and realize the power behind it — ‘power’ in quotes, not so much the gun but the actual action of doing it.”

••••

“I’ve never been a Marine. Yelling at me to learn something doesn’t work for me,” Ferns said.

Likewise, most women don’t learn well with yelling or when feeling intimidated. That is why Babes with Bullets instructors are not only top shooters but also patient, calm, fun and knowledgeable, Ferns said.

The all-girl atmosphere is key to Babes with Bullets.

There is no yelling, no kids, no dogs and no men — unless they are moving equipment and wearing T-shirts that say “Babes with Bullets Range Minion” like Marsha’s husband Gary did at last year’s camp in Birney.

“They just make it fun,” McCoy said. “As one of the gals said, ‘It’s a pajama party with guns. How much better can it get?’”

Ferns described the camp as one-third pajama party, one-third firearms training and one-third adventure camp.

The more than 4,000 women across the nation who have attended Babes with Bullets have ranged in age from 20 to 70 and worked in a variety of fields from mother to traveling nurse and professional musician to insurance agent.

“Easily 80 percent of women who come are trying to become comfortable with the fact that they’ve inherited a handgun from a parent or divorce or the fact that they have handguns in their life at some level,” Ferns said. “About 10 percent of ladies have told us they want to get involved with shooting sports and another 10 percent are at camp because someone dragged them.”

It is often the ones who were dragged there or the ones who held the gun like it was a smelly sock who become the most avid alumni, dragging daughters, mothers and friends to the next camp to become a babe with bullets.

Ferns had never touched a gun until she was 45 years old. When she and her husband dropped their youngest daughter off at college, they looked at each other and asked, “What do we do now?”

Ferns wanted to do ballroom dancing; her husband suggested she take up shooting. She did, and a few years later world handgun champion Lisa Munson invited Ferns to learn from some of the best female shooters in the world.

“When we got done with the three-day camp, I turned around to the women who had helped me and said, ‘I don’t get it; there are millions of women spread across the U.S. who do not know you women exist, who don’t know this is something they could have fun with and a new life skill. Why are you not out there teaching other women?’” Ferns said. “They turned to me as a group and said, ‘If you want to build that train, we’ll come teach it.’”

The first Babes with Bullets camp was held later that year, 11 years ago. The name Babes with Bullets was dreamt up by a group of gals in their pajamas late at night — and it stuck.

There will be two Babes with Bullets camps at the Lodge at Diamond Cross in Birney, Montana, this summer.

On Aug. 19-21, the Diamond Event will feature training in handguns, rifles and shotguns in the morning and extra pampering in the afternoons including horseback rides, massages and a wine bar. Campers also get a Thompson Center bolt-action rifle to take home.

On Aug. 23-25, there will be a handgun camp at The Lodge at Diamond Cross. This camp will feature less pampering and more rustic lodging but the same patient education and pajama-party fun.

• Website: www.babeswithbullets.com

• Email: deb@babeswithbullets.com

• Local contact: Marsha McCoy, 672-2323

Sheridan man indicted in County Attorney Office arson

SHERIDAN — Officials announced Friday morning the indictment of Sheridan resident Joel Elliott in connection with the June 4, 2014, arson at the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office.

After months of investigation, on March 19 Elliott was indicted by a federal grand jury on five counts: arson of building receiving federal funds; using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence; using fire or an explosion to commit a felony; possession of an unregistered firearm; and false declaration before grand jury.

“The alleged conduct in this case indicates a blatant disregard for the safety of our community,” Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Luke Franey said. “ATF and our partners are committed to pursuing and bringing to justice those who commit acts of arson and illegally use explosives and firearms.”

An indictment is a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This incident was investigated by the ATF Cheyenne Field Office, FBI Cheyenne Field Office, Sheridan Police Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue.

The case is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Wyoming.

Elliott is currently being held at the Sheridan County Detention Center on separate charges.

Rattlesnake vaccine could save your dog’s life

SHERIDAN — Picture this: You are out for a hike with your favorite four-legged fur baby on a warm sunny day. You’re off the beaten path, so Fido is off his leash. From a short distance, you hear him make a quick “yelp!” and maybe a subsequent whimper. What would you assume was wrong with him?

Maybe he stepped on a thorn? Or maybe something frightened him? Either way, it didn’t seem to be that big of a deal and you both resume walking. Until suddenly Fido is becoming agitated, panting and drooling more than usual and something just doesn’t seem right.

By the time you realize Fido has been bitten by a rattlesnake and get yourselves back on the beaten path to seek medical attention, it could be too late.

“It’s not as common to see the puncture wound as you would think; they get bit in weird places and the parents don’t know what happened,” said Hanna Mudder, practice manager at Mountain View Veterinary Hospital. “We’ve seen bites in the paws, behind the rib cage, everywhere. But most times they get bit in the face because their noses are down to the ground sniffing around — we’ve even seen some get bit in the tongue — and after they get bit and they start to swell in the face things like breathing start closing off.”

Mudder added that most times when you are in areas with rattlesnakes, you’re not in town, so it takes even more time to get to the vet to get the anti-venom.

But there is something you can do to protect Fido before the bite: get him a rattlesnake vaccine. The vaccine buys the owners time to get to a vet.

“The vaccine does not give them a gold ticket,” Mudder said, adding that they will likely still need an antivenom treatment after a bite. “It’s supposed to decrease the potency of the venom in their system, buy them time to get to a clinic and possibly decrease the need for future treatment.”

Once you get to a vet, it is recommended that Fido be given an antivenom. Sometimes the dogs don’t need the antivenom and they do well and walk away, and sometimes dogs get the antivenom and are still not OK.

“Most rattlesnake bites do survive,” Mudder said. “The dogs seem to do better than we think they will do, which is good.”

At MVVH, if your dog has never received the vaccination before, they will do so in a full vet visit and return for a 30-day booster shot after that. Once they begin to return annually after that, the vaccine can be delivered in the lobby with no need for a full exam slot.

March is the recommended month for the shot, as they last for approximately six months, which takes you through peak rattlesnake season.

“This year, since we got heat earlier and it’s been a warmer spring, we may see the rattlesnakes a lot sooner,” Mudder said. “In our region, they’re out there. They even saw them in the Bighorn Mountain Trail Run, so they’re obviously becoming more prevalent.”

Mudder added that there are risks with any vaccine and they typically do not see as large of a reaction area in dogs with other vaccinations as they do with the rattlesnake vaccine, in which a large lump around the injection area often forms.

“The body is going, ‘Whoa, what is it? This is a different type of antibody,’” Mudder said. “That lump will last anywhere from 10 to 21 days and then the body will just absorb it. The body is basically building a mild antibody to the venom.”

In the 10 years Mudder has been in her profession, she has only seen local reactions to the vaccine and no deaths or other major complications.

“From March and April we probably vaccinate anywhere from 45 to 60 dogs at our location alone, and over the whole course of the rattlesnake season we do anywhere from 90 to 130 dogs,” Mudder said. “One of the biggest reasons for the idea of the vaccine is to hopefully, in a perfect world, decrease the chances of needing the antivenom. The astonishing fact is antivenom is about $500 to $700 a vial and, for example, a 90-pound lab could take anywhere from two to 2.5 vial. He’s looking at $1,600 just for the antivenom and that is not including his fluids, hospitalization or anything else. And we barely mark that drug up because it’s already so expensive and the clients wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

Rattlesnake vaccinations can be purchased at most local veterinary offices, several of which are offering specials in March in honor of the awareness month.

Children in poverty: need accurate assessments

SHERIDAN — According to the most recent rates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of children living in poverty is low in Wyoming, but that measure is based on a system of estimating current need that was created half a century ago and several groups are saying the numbers are misleading.

“The official poverty measure does not provide the accurate information policymakers need to measure the success of anti-poverty programs, nationally and at the state level,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and Chief Executive Officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Relying on this tool alone prevents policymakers from gauging the effectiveness of government programs aimed at reducing child poverty,” he added. “Given that child poverty costs our society an estimated $500 billion a year in lost productivity and earnings as well as health- and crime-related costs, the Supplemental Poverty Measure is an important tool that should be used to assess state-level progress in fighting poverty.”

The SPM, created by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2011, factors in the impact of a number of social programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Earned Income Tax Credit, and takes into account rising costs and other changes that affect a family’s budget. The SPM also helps illustrate the variations in the cost of living and the impact of federal programs from one state to the next.

The AECF is a private philanthropy based in Baltimore that makes grants that help federal agencies, states and counties create more innovative, cost-effective responses to the issues that negatively affect children, including poverty, unnecessary disconnection from family and limited access to opportunity.

Throughout the country, local foundations work with AECF to gather the most accurate recent data by county and by state. Wyoming is represented by the Wyoming Community Foundation.

According to the most recent data provided from the WCF, 14 percent of children under the age of 18 in Sheridan are living in poverty.

Similar to the official poverty measure, the SPM shows that poverty rates among Latinos (29 percent) and American Indians (26 percent) were approximately three times higher than that of white children (10 percent).

“Continued investment in the development of the SPM can ensure our resources are directed in ways that give our children the best opportunity to succeed,” said Laura Speer, AECF’s associate director of policy reform and advocacy. “It’s critical that we look beyond just the federal poverty rate to evaluate the success of important social programs.”

Locally, groups working toward ending childhood poverty in Sheridan County remind residents that regardless of the method used to calculate poverty rates, there is still a large need in Sheridan County.

“In Sheridan, it is kind of like an undercurrent,” said Missi Hubert, executive director of The Food Group. “There is so much pride in the community and one of the aspects of that pride is the thinking, ‘Not in our town; we’re doing good here’ — and to an extent that’s true based on the donation checks I receive — but poverty is definitely present.”

The Food Group works anonymously with families to send home backpacks full of food on Fridays so kids do not have to go hungry over the weekend. Hubert said they are currently serving 370 kids every week and she believes they are only reaching a small percentage of all children in need.

According to the AECF, researchers have found that, on average, families need an income of roughly twice the official poverty threshold, currently about $24,000 per year for a family of four, to cover the entire cost of basic expenses for housing, food, transportation, health care and child care.

In Sheridan, recent Study Circles on Poverty hosted by the Center for a Vital Community at Sheridan College identified local issues affecting poverty and found that several of those basic expenses were not being covered, including transportation and child care.

“What poverty looks like here is single mothers trying to make it on two or three jobs paying minimum wage and possibly trying to go to school,” CVC Executive Director Amy Albrecht said. “And I am not throwing single mothers under the bus, they are doing an incredible job with what they have, but you can imagine if we had child care available, if you could afford child care, if you didn’t have to rely on dodgy people that you can’t necessarily rely on, what they could do?”

Albrecht said one initiative the group would like to see championed is bringing weekend, night and even overnight child care to Sheridan.

“How can you get a mine job or something that would pay better if you don’t have child care after 6 o’clock? You can’t even get a second shift job,” Albrecht said. “If I’m working at the hospital and they want to promote me but that means I have to move to third shift, what would it look like if the hospital provided child care? What would it look like if the college provided child care? Would we have so many more students and completions because they wouldn’t be stringing out their college career for three and four years simply because they have to work it around their kids?”

According to the WCF, Sheridan County only has child care slots available for 24.1 kids out of every 100 under the age of 13, and almost exclusively during normal business hours.

Opening up jobs in the tech industries, such as welding, Albrecht added, could go a long way to helping end the cycle of poverty as they come with higher wages and more standard operating hours, but first, interested parties need to attain a certificate.

“All of those tech industries, they could make a great living, but they just need to get it done, come in and get their certificate,” Albrecht said. “People who have two and three kids and can’t afford to put them in child care to go to work and school end up saying ‘what’s the point,’ so there’s no getting ahead.”

Additionally, the need for public transportation identified by the poverty studies is something felt by The Food Group.

“We make the food available in the summer and send home information on how to come get it throughout the summer, and it has not been successful for us that people come and get those things,” Hubert said. “It seems to me transportation is a huge issue in our community and if they cannot first make it to the resources, we cannot help them.”

Housing shortage keeps local rent high

SHERIDAN — When Anthony Fleak moved to Sheridan for his first engineering job out of college in August 2014, he ran into a road block — finding an affordable place to live.

Early on, he began searching for somewhere to live, finding one-bedroom houses and apartments listed between $700-$800 per month without utilities payments included. After spending the past five and a half years going to school and living in Laramie (one of the cheapest places for rent in the state), Fleak was shocked by Sheridan’s rental prices.

He spent the first months of employment commuting back and forth from his parent’s house in Gillette. The 200-mile drive five times a week was cheaper than paying rent in Sheridan. But when the weather turned in winter, he was forced to find a place to live in Sheridan.

Trying to balance student loans, vehicle payments and other expenses, Fleak settled with finding a place to rest his head after long days at work.

Not knowing anyone in town with which to split rent, Fleak went with the cheapest option available to him — living in a hotel. A month’s rent there costs him $650 per month with all utilities included. He has been living there since November 2014.

Fleak’s story is not uncommon in Sheridan. Purchasing an affordable home to buy next to the stunning vistas of the Bighorns can be difficult enough, but finding a place to rent is whole other task.

It’s a simple case of supply and demand. A combination of the fallout from the recent oil bust in the Bakken bringing people back into the area, the increasing number of Sheridan College students along with some increased hiring by major organizations means more residents are seeking out rental homes.

The problem: the supply is simply not there.

On top of her desk in her downtown office, ERA Caroll Realty property manager Mary Kay Van Heale has a stack of rental applications 3 inches high with people like Fleak who are struggling to find affordable housing.

Van Heale is one of only a handful of property mangers in the Sheridan area. An 11-year veteran of the real estate industry in Sheridan, she’s been through the booms and the busts of the housing market.

Van Heale said the problem with the Sheridan rental housing market is lack of inventory. There are only seven listings on ERA’s website, and several of those are planning to be placed or are currently on the market. In the last three years, 60 of the 300 properties Van Heale has managed have been placed on the market to be sold.

“A lot of our calls are people who are currently renting places,” Van Heale said. “They say ‘well, I’ve been in this place for five years, and the owner is putting it on the market,’ or ‘the owner just sold it and we have to be out in 30 days.’ So it’s not just our (properties) that are selling.”

Lynette Cattaneo, a real estate agent with Century 21 BHJ Realty, said the demand for real estate has increased even recently. She said this past winter was one of the business’ most successful in a long while.

Calculating real estate listings in Sheridan advertised online by several real estate agencies, as of March 16 the average price for a three-bedroom house in Sheridan and the surrounding communities slightly exceeds $263,000. The cheapest three-bedroom home was listed at $119,900 and the most luxurious three-bedroom house costs $650,000.

The listing prices for three-bedroom houses is higher than Gillette, which has grown more than 6 percent in the last two years courtesy of the recent energy boom. There, the mean price for a three-bedroom house currently listed is around $237,000. Southern Wyoming towns have much lower-priced housing still; in the Rock Springs/Green River area the cost for a three-bedroom house sits around $210,000, while current listings in Laramie average around $175,000.

Van Heale said the high demand for real estate coupled with high home values is a key part of the problem when it comes to the rental housing market. An owner of a family-sized house can often make more money selling the home than renting even to long-term clients. For the first time since the real estate boom of the mid-2000s, there have been bidding wars for Sheridan real estate, she said, and sellers are reaping the benefits.

While one- or two-bedroom rental properties are more common, there is a long line of suitors waiting for family-sized houses. Out of 200 properties she currently manages, Van Heale said she has only five three- or four-bedroom houses available for rent.

The average rental price for a three-bedroom house in Sheridan for the month of March so far is $1,382 per month. Compare that with Cheyenne which had an average listing of $1,139.77 or Laramie where one could rent a three-bedroom house or apartment this month for an average of $980.

However, the average for Sheridan is likely skewed considering there were only seven three-bedroom houses available via classifieds and online listings as of March 16. There was no listing advertised for four-bedroom houses or apartments at that time.

On a bright note, one- or two-bedroom housing in Sheridan is on par with the rest of the state. One-bedroom housing was listed at an average of $653 per month while two-bedrooms averaged near $926. This was slightly lower than Casper, which had their averages for one- and two-bedroom apartments listed at $710 and $1,021, respectively.

“Sheridan’s rents are high,” Van Heale said. “But we try to keep them at least reasonable, though.”

That’s not to say rental listings are unaffordable or unavailable to those who meet income requirements. There are several income-based housing developments in the Sheridan area which offer affordable housing options to families. But a person like Fleak, who has an income too high to qualify for subsidized housing but still bogged down by student loans and bills of a recent college graduate, is left with limited options.

“Everything I ran into that I could afford was income-based (housing),” Fleak said.

For now, Fleak is planning on staying in the hotel room. He doesn’t mind it too much — he wants to remain in Sheridan, and staying in the hotel room will help him save money to purchase a house here someday.

“There seems to be some options available, but (Sheridan rent prices) just blew my mind,” Fleak said. “I went from that broke-style of living you have to in college where every penny counts … and I still have that mentality a little bit.”

Luck of the Irish at Jaycees fun run

Caila Booth ties her shoes prior to the Sheridan Jaycees’ Run ‘Til You’re Green fun run Saturday morning at Kendrick Park. The annual event is a fundraiser for Jaycees projects that work to better the Sheridan community and a kickoff to the summer race season.

Serving the underserved: Sheridan Health Center celebrates 10 years

SHERIDAN — Strong or weak, man or woman, rich or poor, big or small — anybody can get sick. Illness never discriminates.

For millions of Americans, disease or injury means struggling to pay for health care in a system as confusing as it is expensive.

The Sheridan Health Center, however, represents a beacon for those unsure how to navigate paying for an ailment or even everyday care. The free clinic provides medical treatment for local uninsured, low-income residents.

This month, SHC celebrates its 10-year anniversary. After a decade, the clinic offers more services and hours than ever before, but representatives insist none of the growth and accomplishments would be possible without the generosity and support of the community.

Seeing a need

Kathie Schonenbach, a registered nurse at the Sheridan County Public Health, was one of the founders of what was originally called the Free Clinic of Sheridan. Through her job, she saw a number of patients who needed help paying for services.

So, more than three years before SHC ever opened its doors, a group of individuals started meeting monthly to discuss the possibility of beginning an alternative option. They toured other Wyoming free clinics to figure out how a similar practice could begin in Sheridan.

Before moving any further, though, the group had to get an idea of the need within the community, another founder, Dr. Sy Thickman, said. Representatives handed out surveys in the community and at the hospital health fair.

“We estimated that it would be essentially one-fifth of the population. We figured about 5,000 people were either without insurance or without money enough to get care,” Thickman said. “That was a gross estimate, but sufficient to warrant some further entities going into a free clinic.”

It wasn’t that low-income individuals had no options previously. Emergency rooms often provide what’s referred to as “charity care” for those without the means to pay, but this became a burden for the hospitals, Schonenbach said.

“We as a group thought it would just benefit our community as a whole to help people get back on their feet and be a better part of our community, a better part of their family. It was just a win-win for our entire community,” she said, adding that numerous volunteers helped keep momentum going. “It was huge. The more we gathered information, the larger we saw the need and the importance of starting to develop this.”

After establishing 501(c)3 nonprofit status and finding a location — Sheridan Memorial Hospital originally charged $1 per year for use of a building across the street — the doors opened in March 2005.

Up and running

Many community members spoke with skepticism more than a decade ago, questioning how a free clinic could survive. As it turns out, the answer was right in the mirror.

“It’s funded through the generosity of our community, through the local foundations, and then private donations as well as from our patients,” SHC Executive Director Cathi Kindt explained. “There is a suggested $10 donation for service or whatever people can contribute. That’s what supports the clinic.”

Sheridan County and SMH remain very supportive with in-kind donations like affordable rent and reduced-price pharmaceuticals, respectively, she added.

Another point of emphasis came in duplication of services, which SHC founders wanted to avoid at all costs.

“We were very sensitive about interfering or invading a private practitioner’s service,” Thickman said. “We were quite definite about the financial need for care and indeed would have that evaluated on a six-month basis to make certain that that individual who was being served required it because of their financial circumstances.”

Clinic personnel examine pay stubs to ensure patient eligibility. Clients must not have current medical insurance; cannot be qualified for Medicaid, Medicare, Veteran Affairs medical care or Indian Health Services; they must live in Sheridan County and be between the ages of 19 and 64.

SHC does not see individuals who take opiate medication or interfere with services already offered in Sheridan County, like psychiatric care or reproductive health.

Invaluable service

The qualifications might sound specific, but SHC actually serves a wide array of clients and proves invaluable to their everyday health and well-being. The founders wanted to offer medical care to those who might have skipped seeing a doctor altogether or waited until an ailment required an emergency room visit. This goal has not changed.

“This is an opportunity for people to get health care without the onus of a financial burden,” Thickman said.

“People think we just take care of people who aren’t working,” Kindt said. “We take care of the working poor. We take care of the people … who have dealt with medical bankruptcy. We take care of people who have not had access to medical care, so they’re just trying to get healthy enough to where they can start working again.”

“There are a number of people who have required this care, that, because of this care, can work and be healthy enough and get out of this care provision,” Thickman added.

SHC nurse practitioner Brenda Fischer, FNP-C, has seen numerous success stories. Whether keeping someone out of the hospital or treating an individual with chronic issues, success is relative but equally rewarding for those at SHC — not to mention patients.

And growth has accompanied success.

The clinic originally maintained four hours per week. In the years since, it has expanded to two full days (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) each week, available by appointment. SHC now operates in the Public Health building at 31 E. Whitney St., a central location near various other services.

SHC also offers various classes each year addressing a wide array of health issues.

“We’ve developed little clinics. We have professionals who will come in and address a different facet of that condition,” Fischer said, adding medical providers will often work with clients one on one or set up stations. “[Patients] leave here with a better understanding. If they understand, they follow treatments better and they also know how to treat problems better.”

These workshops and the new location both contribute toward another goal: incorporating all aspects of issues the underserved deal with.

“One thing is that Sheridan Health Center is involved with initiatives working with low-income people, so we can help be that voice, not only medical but also to understand some of the other challenges,” Kindt explained.

The next 10 years

In many ways, it’s impossible to avoid politics when discussing health care. While SHC has helped countless individuals, representatives don’t have a clear idea of what the next decade looks like.

“In the best of all worlds, this would not be necessary,” Thickman said of the clinic. “There would be a social right for health — that health care is a given. But in our current system, health care is not a given. And that’s why this is necessary.”

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, has created a lot of confusion on what the future holds for the clinic, since, at its core, the ACA strives for everyone to have health insurance. In theory, those who cannot afford health insurance would get subsidies, and those who opt not to purchase health insurance could be fined.

Those without a job could be excluded from fines despite not having insurance, though.

“There is also the exclusion factor because they’re exempt from that penalty if the cost of insurance is greater than like 8 percent of their income,” Kindt said.

None of those associated with SHC, unsurprisingly, can predict the future politically. What Kindt will confidently say is that the clinic will continue serving patients as long as it can.

“There are just so many questions, not only in our state but also nationally about, excuse the pun, but ensuring that all are insured,” she said. “I guess in the mean time we just keep doing what we’re doing and we know there are people to serve. We’re here for the duration. As long as we’re needed, we’ll be here.”

And if the clinic is there, continuing to operate at a high level and helping an underserved demographic, all of those involved with SHC say it is due to the volunteers and the community support it has received the past decade.

“I just think we need to thank our community for being here for us. If it wasn’t for the community, we wouldn’t be here,” Kindt said. “This is a community-supported and driven project. Thank you for being here the last 10 years.”

The Sheridan Health Center will host a Business After Hours to celebrate its anniversary on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at 31 E. Whitney St.

Snowpack average despite warm temps

SHERIDAN — Warm temperatures and abundant sunshine continue to dent snowpack in the Bighorn Mountains, but winter precipitation leaves Sheridan County in an enviable position compared to the rest of Wyoming.

“Our snowpack numbers across the whole entire state are below average, in the 90- to 95-percent range,” Science and Operations Officer Brett McDonald said Thursday. “As of today, the drainage area which particularly impacts Sheridan is right at 103 percent of normal.”

McDonald works with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tracks snowpack and snow-water equivalents throughout the state of Wyoming.

From Monday to Friday, Tongue River basin snowpack dropped 1 percentage point to 103 percent of normal, according to data collected by the Water Resources Data System.

Powder River basin snowpack dipped to 116 percent of normal, a decrease of 4 percentage points since Monday.

While sunshine, warm temperatures and breezy conditions certainly reduce overall snowpack, previous snowfall helped maintain about-normal moisture levels in the Bighorn Mountains despite the third-warmest Wyoming winter in recorded history, according to the National Weather Service in Riverton.

“Part of that I think can be attributed to the fact that when it has snowed, especially in the core part of winter, it has been wetter snow… which has more moisture content to it than the normal snow we get in the winter months,” McDonald said.

Snowpack does not measure the depth of snow, but rather the water content within its depths. Wet snow helps improve these numbers. Even with early winter snowfall, however, the statistics of the past week demonstrate how a warm spell can change snowpack.

“You can start melting down the snow that’s up there in the mountains and start bringing it down right now,” McDonald said. “At this point in the game, in mid-March, it’s not too concerning. If you started getting an extreme heat event in April and especially early May, you would get worried about bringing the snowpack down too fast.”

The fear comes from winters like 2010 and 2012, when abundant winter snowpack combined with cool, wet springs. Then, summer hit suddenly, causing flooding in many parts of Wyoming.

Ideally, McDonald said, you have an abundant snowpack through winter that has time to melt gradually, preventing flooding while also ensuring good moisture for spring green-up and the summer growing season.

Snow melting now, while not ideal, leaves time to rebound through spring precipitation.

Snowpack numbers throughout the rest of the state remain below average, particularly in the southern and southeast regions. Some of the basins are struggling with figures of less than 80 percent of average. Parts of northwest and north-central Wyoming boast snowpacks of near 100 percent of average or higher.

Snowpack and snow-water equivalents remain in the early stages, as snow is common in Wyoming’s mountain ranges through May and sometimes later.

*****

Fire manager monitoring conditions

SHERIDAN — County fire managers watch snowpack and snow-equivalent figures, but these figures don’t necessarily predict the fire season, according to County Fire Warden Bill Biastoch.

“It’s far too early. It’s hard to tell what a fire season is going to be until the end of the fire season,” he said.

Fire conditions hinge on more than just precipitation — wind, humidity, sunshine, green of vegetation. It all plays a pivotal role.

“There’s a lot to it, and you have to look at all the components,” Biastoch said.

In fact, he added, while the mountains sit in good condition at this juncture, the plains are currently at high risk for grass fires.

“We have a lot of snowpack in the mountains, but we do have a problem down here on the plains when it’s warm, dry and windy,” he explained.

Recent warm temperatures and sunshine have melted snow cover and dried out fine fuels — dead grasses, plants, etc. — creating the potential for fire. Add gusty winds to stoke the flames, and Biastoch said rural fire districts have already attended to a couple grass fires in 2015.

Still, when people think of the fire season, they tend to think of thousands of acres burning in mountain forests or on the plains.

A good snowpack doesn’t necessarily reduce the possibility of such an event, Biastoch said. Instead, seasonal variations play a more critical role.

As an example, the fire warden said a wet spring and summer could follow a dry, mild winter, decreasing the chance of a large fire.

“Or you could have a real wet winter or above-average snowpack and then have a real dry summer, and you could be back in the fire season again,” he said. “But if you’re getting more and more drought each year, then you’re getting a real problem that builds up.”

The last couple years, Biastoch added, have been wetter compared to the drought years of 1996 through the mid- to late-2000s, helping prevent busy fire seasons.

Of course, that’s no sure thing, and Biastoch and others will monitor weather forecasts, satellite imagery and other tools throughout the season.

Fort Mac plays tonight, Friday

Cade Neeson, left, shrinks as Kameron Sutherland barks at him during Fort Mackenzie High School’s “Hard Candy” play rehearsal Wednesday at Fort Mackenzie High School. The alternative school’s stage performance shows Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. at Fort Mackenzie High School. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

Education summit explores missing ‘C’ in college, career readiness

SHERIDAN — The passion for education and investment in the future of Sheridan County through the advancement of area children could be felt at every table Tuesday night at the Whitney Benefits Education Summit at Sheridan College.

“Promises, Pathways, Perspectives: College Readiness Options for Our High School Students” was the theme of the event that was attended by area superintendents, school and foundation board members, elected officials and other key education stakeholders.

Panels of school faculty and local students spoke about college opportunities at the high school level including Advanced Placement, concurrent enrollment and dual enrollment courses, tackling the benefits and challenges of their options.

Before that, Mick Wiest, the 2014 Wyoming Teacher of the Year and Professional Learning Community Coordinator for Sheridan County School District 2, delivered a keynote address titled, “The Missing “C” in College and Career Readiness Standards.”

Wiest said that the missing C is “Citizenship” and urged those in attendance not to forget the important lesson of believing in things when preparing their students for the future.

“I’m going to suggest to you that kids who graduate from our junior high schools, from our high schools, from our community colleges and from our university need to know what they believe, they need to know why they believe it, they need to understand that the constitution is still relevant in our lives today and they have to come out believing that they can make a difference in civic affairs,” Wiest said.

“We’ve been bombarding our students with information that tells them how much more money they are going to make in a lifetime if they will just get credentials, an A.A. or a B.A. or a master’s degree and beyond — and all of that is true, the statistics are there — but I think if we are successful, what we will end up doing is producing kids with improved earnings potentials, and yet those individuals will be making a good living but not living a good life,” Wiest added.

He suggested that being ready for college and a career is very important, but being ready for citizenship is crucial if our democracy is going to endure. He quoted Robert Hutchins as having said, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference and undernourishment.”

“People sometimes have asked me, ‘If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing about students, what would it be?’ and I would say to them that the one thing I would do is make kids curious again,” Wiest said. “I would instill in them a desire to learn for its own sake rather than to meet some far off financial goal.

“When an apathetic student asks, ‘Why should I care about a timeline of World War I when all I want to do is be a mechanic or a cosmetologist?’ we can’t really answer by saying, ‘So you can graduate from high school, go on to college and get a good career,’ but I think we can begin by saying, ‘Because I care too much about our country, and you, and your place in it, to let you leave this school unprepared to be a productive, satisfied member of this democracy.’”

Wiest asked the audience how, as educators, they are going to produce educated and also involved citizens when so many of their students are disengaged with their education. He suggested that the answer is two-fold.

“From kindergarten through and beyond graduation, please, we must show and teach our children, youth and young adults how to practice the habit of seeing issues from multiple perspectives, to engage in respectful and open-minded listening and to exchange informed opinions, clearly and courteously,” he said.

He added that he believed a strong relationship between student and teacher is the key component to producing virtuous young participants in our democracy. “All of us, in the education profession, need to learn to understand, and respect, and care for the well-being of every single one of our students, because they are not someone else’s kids, they are our kids,” he said.

Sheridan air service to end March 31

SHERIDAN — Great Lakes Airlines cited “reasons beyond our control” in a letter announcing it would terminate air service at Sheridan County Airport on March 31.

Airport Manager John Stopka received the notice of termination on Monday.

Stopka said the termination of air service by Great Lakes Aviation, Ltd., which operates as Great Lakes Airlines, was both expected and unexpected. He said officials with Great Lakes Airlines had indicated in past conversations that they didn’t want to “go dark” and leave Sheridan County Airport without service.

However, small air service providers like Great Lakes Airlines have been struggling to provide reliable service under pilot shortages and equipment shortages caused by new federal regulations requiring more hours for pilot training.

Beginning in August 2013, pilots were required to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flying time before obtaining a basic commercial pilot certificate. Previously, 250 hours of training were required for a basic certificate, meaning that pilots with 400-500 hours of training time could work for Great Lakes Airlines and build up their flight hours before moving on to a bigger airline.

Stopka previously said there aren’t many available pilots with the required amount of flight hours who want to work for small airlines.

“It’s always been kind of assumed it would happen like this,” Stopka said. “Ever since they switched to a nine-seater plane, they’ve been losing money. You can’t fly one flight a day and make any money.”

Stopka said he and members of the Critical Air Service Taskforce, headed by Bruce Garber and Jay Stender, spoke with Great Lakes Aviation co-founder and President Doug Voss and Chief Executive Officer Charles Howell approximately two weeks ago.

In that conversation, Voss and Howell said Great Lakes Airlines would have to cease service at Sheridan County Airport if nothing changed at the federal level regarding requirements for pilot training hours within the next couple weeks.

A few efforts to address the problem have been pursued in Washington, D.C., but have not panned out or done enough to alleviate the problem.

One such effort, the Small Airport Regulation Relief Act of 2014, was introduced in U.S. Congress in July 2014 — and again in September by U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming — but was not enacted. The act would have allowed small airports to use enplanement numbers from 2012, before the new rules took effect and enplanements dropped, to receive federal funding for fiscal years 2015-2017 to avoid airport closures.

“The handwriting was on the wall,” County Commissioner Steve Maier said.

Stopka informed commissioners of the notice of termination at a regular airport meeting Tuesday.

“With nothing moving, nothing changing, they had to make the decision to terminate service at the end of the month,” Stopka said.

Technically, the lease agreement that allows Great Lakes Airlines to use Sheridan County Airport for service required a 90-day notice of termination. However, Stopka said it would be poor business to try to make the airline stay when it is losing money and simply cannot afford to maintain service any longer.

“Great Lakes had a long history of serving Sheridan, Wyoming, going back to 1998,” Howell wrote in the letter. “It is with much regret that we must issue this termination of service notice.”

Stopka said he did not know how long the Sheridan County Airport would be without a commercial provider. He also did not know how Great Lakes Airlines would handle customers who had booked flights past April 1. He suggested anyone who was affected by the service cancellation should call Great Lakes for help.

Maier said members of CAST have planned a trip to Saint George, Utah, on March 26 to talk with SkyWest Airlines about the possibility of servicing Sheridan and Johnson counties through the Sheridan County Airport.

The airport recently received a $500,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that can be used to help recruit and support another air service provider.

Maier also noted that a few commissioners and members of CAST spoke with Johnson County Commissioner Jim Hicks Monday to confirm Johnson County’s commitment to help with funds for revenue guarantees for a new airline.

Maier said one main issue for a new provider is pulling an aircraft and pilots out of service in order to move them to Sheridan.

“To take one out of service and move it to Sheridan is a fairly good leap,” Maier said. “We’re trying to convince them it’s a leap they ought to take. CAST continues to work hard and have dialogue. It will continue to do so until we have service.”

Magical world of ‘Mary Poppins’

Sarah Campbell as Mary Poppins, left, sings with Brynn Bateman, as Jane Banks, and Michael Banks, played by Landon Alsup, during the “Mary Poppins” dress rehearsal Monday evening in the Sue Henry Auditorium at Sheridan High School. The musical production shows Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

Citizenship through naturalization

SHERIDAN — One came for a better life. One came to escape war. One came for love.

Born in three different nations and living in three different Wyoming towns, they became fellow citizens of the United States Friday in a naturalization ceremony at the 4th Judicial District Court in Sheridan.

Miguel Guerrero came to America with his parents from Mexico in 2001. He lives in Powell now and said his parents migrated to California to give their children a better life. His parents are still living in California, and Guerrero said they are also working toward citizenship.

Sheridan resident Pastor Portillo was born in El Salvador. In 1989, at 21 years old, he left El Salvador to escape the civil war that was tearing his country apart.

Discouraged by his poor English, Portillo held off working toward citizenship. Twenty-six years later, though still struggling with English, Portillo overcame the barrier to complete the requirements for citizenship.

Alexyane Palmer was born in France, but she met an American who was working in Paris, fell in love with him and married him. She followed him to Wyoming in 2007, and the family has lived in Buffalo since 2010.

The courtroom was packed with spectators as the three candidates for citizenship sat at the table usually reserved for defendants and their counsel.

Judge John Fenn told those present what an honor it was to preside over a naturalization ceremony. Normally at the bench to preside over cases involving less happy situations, Fenn smiled down on the candidates as he congratulated them for the goal they were accomplishing.

Children from Martin Luther Grammar School filled the jury box and sang the national anthem and the Wyoming state song.

Fenn told those present that the ceremonies reminded him of how his great-grandparents came to America to make a better life for those who would come after them.

“Those of us who are born here often lose sight of how lucky we are to live here,” Fenn said.

The candidates took their oath renouncing their former countries and those in attendance applauded.

The new citizens were welcomed by civic organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, The Eagles Auxiliary, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Several organizations presented the new citizens with gifts that included American flags presented by the VFW.

Fenn signed an order of citizenship for Guerrero, Portillo and Palmer, and the Martin Luther Grammar School children sang “America the Beautiful” before the ceremony was dismissed and attendees enjoyed a reception in the lobby.

Sheridan County hosts at least one naturalization ceremony every year.

Teen confronts dating violence

SHERIDAN — When 15-year-old Kiley Carroll became involved in her first romantic relationship, she never imagined it would end in possessive behavior and her partner making a suicide attempt.

And later when she began working on an FCCLA project about dating violence, she did not expect it to lead her to a personal realization that though physical abuse was absent from her relationship, she was still a victim of dating violence.

Now, she is working to help her peers understand that whether you’re a teenager or not, any form of violent behavior is not acceptable in a relationship.

The relationship

Carroll was introduced by a friend to a local boy from another school of the same age who liked basketball as much as she does. He was in the middle of a bad breakup and they quickly bonded when Carroll offered a listening ear.

A nine-month relationship ensued that, at first, was a lot of fun, Carroll said.

But issues started to creep up that unbeknownst to Carroll, were early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

“I’m a very busy person and if I didn’t have time throughout the week to spend with him he would get jealous,” Carroll said. “Not even to spend time with my friends but just to be with my family, he would get really hurt that I would choose them over him.”

At first, she said, it didn’t seem like that bad of a problem to her. But then her boyfriend started keeping things from her like his drinking, and he started doing things that made her uncomfortable like showing up to the movie theater when he knew she would be there with her parents.

“I felt uncomfortable, but I was confused,” Carroll said. “I had never been in a relationship, so I thought maybe it was normal.”

The longer the relationship went on, the more serious the issues became. From taking her phone and blocking incoming calls from Carroll’s friends of the opposite sex to threatening to commit suicide if she didn’t come see him, he became emotionally unstable and controlling.

Toward the end of the relationship, he also tried to pressure her to have sex.

“As a teenager, sex is one of the main topics. You see people being pressured in to it all the time,” Carroll said. “Not even just a guy pressuring a girl but couples feeling pressured after dating for so long that they think they need to because it’s time.”

Carroll saw one of her best friends become sexually active at a time when she was not ready for it after her upper-classman boyfriend told her if they did not sleep together he would leave her.

“I just saw that happen to her and thought, it’s not worth it,” Carroll said. “Losing you is not as great as me losing myself.”

So Carroll decided to break up with her boyfriend, but it turned out to be harder than simply saying, “I’m through.”

“When I was finally said and done with the relationship, he started to beg me to stay and it was like a six-week process after that,” she said. “I broke up with him once and he threatened to kill himself and I was so worried he would actually do it that we got back together.”

That cycle continued and, after Carroll began seeing someone else, evolved into threats being made against her new boyfriend.

“We finally realized that he wasn’t going to affect us if we didn’t let him, and then that is when he tried to kill himself,” Carroll said. “Less than a week after he and I finally broke up, I got a call that he was life flighted to Billings because he had a stroke after he took an entire bottle of anti-depressants. He collapsed at school after overdosing.”

The project

Carroll needed a project idea for her Family, Career, Community, Leaders of America assignment. She did not want to do her project on teen dating violence, but with a trip to Washington, D.C., on the line for the winning project and no other ideas to pursue, she took her sister’s advice and started researching violent relationships.

Initial bells had rung in her head after a discussion in health class briefly touched on five common symptoms of an abusive relationship. Four of the five things mentioned had happened to Carroll in her relationship, which at the time had been over for a month.

“That was probably the first time I had ever heard signs of a violent relationship that didn’t fall under physical abuse, and the only one I didn’t check off the list was physical abuse,” she said.

But it was not until November when Carroll sat down with Rhonda Weber at the Advocacy and Resource Center of Sheridan to get information for her project that the lights really went on in Carroll’s head.

“We probably sat down with her for about five minutes and I just briefly told her what happened, and she named off 10 or 15 warning signs of an unhealthy relationship and every single one of them had occurred to me,” Carroll said. “I had never fully been aware of how serious, how unhealthy it was until then. My first meeting with Rhonda was the first time that I took a step back and some of that guilt and regret from the relationship just kind of went away and I realized that this was really serious, this wasn’t a normal breakup.”

Weber said the basic warning signs of an unhealthy relationship are behaviors that present themselves in a pattern or series of events and are used to assert power and control over an individual.

“The most common one at this age is monitoring or controlling an individual through their cell phone, extreme jealousy and trying to isolate their partner from friends, family and especially people of the opposite sex,” Weber said. “Another sign involves pressure, pressure to be someone they want you to be, do things they want you to do, pressure that makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Weber said all young relationships can be confusing, so conversations need to be had to help teens identify acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

“I don’t think they know, even when it’s happening, the difference between a young relationship and an unhealthy relationship,” Weber said. “So we really do need to start from the beginning and start erasing these typical myths associated with violence and having a conversation.”

Carroll said, in her relationship and those of her peers, she’s sees a lot of confusion between love and sympathy, and between love of a person and romantic feelings.

“There are a lot of people in my life that I really do love but not to the extent of being romantically in love, but I didn’t know how to tell the difference until I felt it with my current boyfriend,” Carroll said. “I think that line is very hard to determine, especially in your first relationship. … Teens are going to date, I think it’s safe to say, and it’s scary that something that is inevitable, we just don’t know the facts.

“From the age of 5 we were drilled to not trust strangers, don’t take the candy,” Carroll said. “Then when you get older it’s do not drink, do not smoke. Everybody knows abuse is hitting and when a girl comes to school with a black eye, because that’s what you’re told, that’s all you know.”

Now that she knows all that is really involved in abusive relationships she is talking to everyone she can about the facts.

Recently, Carroll spoke to her entire student body about her experience and asked them to learn what a healthy relationship looks like, so they will know a bad one when they see it.

“Had I known, like I know to buckle up when I get in a car, had I known like I know to not eat pink chicken, then maybe I wouldn’t have had to go through this,” Carroll said to her peers.

“If we go in and ask teens to talk about unhealthy relationships, they might dismiss us quickly because they don’t think it’s going to happen to them,” Weber said. “So let’s instead talk about healthy relationships, what you want out of a really good friend and good partner, so when the unhealthy ones start to occur they realize, what a minute this doesn’t fit with what I want in a relationship.

“I’m excited they took this on, they did it really well, and I’m so thankful they picked the topic,” Weber added. “It’s not an easy topic to talk about and teach other kids about, so I’m just so thankful for them for doing that.”

Grad rates mixed bag for local schools

SHERIDAN — In the midst of a concentrated effort on behalf of Sheridan County School District 2 to increase its graduation rates for the current school year and beyond, last year’s rates released by the Wyoming Department of Education show a slight year-over-year increase already. Meanwhile, Sheridan County School District 1 saw a sizeable decrease in its 2013-2014 graduation rates.

Sheridan High School, the largest high school in the district, saw an increase in graduation rates of 2 percent.

The increased percentage of graduates from Fort Mackenzie High School, though they saw a larger change, could be attributed to their significantly smaller student body in which one or two graduates can have a large impact on the overall rates.

The members of the Graduation Counts Committee at SCSD2 are hoping to have a more widespread affect on the rates moving forward.

Formed in the latter half of 2014, the GCC is comprised of district employees and community volunteers working on four concentrated areas of improvement — early childhood education, attendance, community engagement and multiple pathways to graduation — in conjunction with newly created professional positions and the support of an already established similar program in Bozeman, Montana.

Members of the attendance subcommittee are in the process of conducting a review of the district attendance policies, collecting and analyzing attendance data and beginning to construct a survey for secondary students to help the group understand what motivates students to go to school.

Members of the community engagement subcommittee have hired Flood Marketing to create a branding package and logo for the group.

“They want to get students involved in the process and Flood Marketing will be up at the high school next week meeting with marketing classes and business classes and will be forming a student advisory panel,” committee chairman Mitch Craft said. “They are also thinking about changing the name of the efforts to something more catchy.”

The multiple pathways to graduation group has identified multiple avenues for students to get a diploma including credit recovery, blended learning, project-based learning and parent engagement components. The members of the group will now do research on those concepts being used to affect them throughout the country.

Curt Mayer was hired as the graduation coach at Sheridan High School in October 2014 and has been working to identify students at risk of not completing school and turn them around.

Now Craft, who is also principal at Sheridan Junior High School, reports that the group is closing in on putting parent liaisons in place.

The liaisons will be employed by a local nonprofit to serve as a neutral third-party connector between parents and schools. Child Advocacy Services of the Bighorns has informally agreed to be that employer.

The system is modeled after the Thrive program in Bozeman and currently SCSD2 attorneys are working with Thrive attorneys to construct an agreement in which the GCC will become an affiliate of Thrive.

This agreement would include an annual affiliate fee for consultation and support services to build the local program.

“It’s really important that we maintain a similar structure to theirs here in our community,” Craft said. “Once that goes through, the big thing we need to deal with is funding. We will be seeking private funding as well as grant funding, but everything right now is tied up in that affiliate agreement. We hope to have this up and running by the fall.”

By increasing graduation rates, Sheridan County districts can hope to increase their overall standing in the state.

Though SCSD2 can now boast the best rate in the county for last year after finishing behind SCSD1 in the 2012-2013 school year, their ranking in the state overall is far from the best.

Six individual schools met 100 percent graduation rates last year, and Teton 1 topped the list of district rates at 95.74 percent. Uinta 4 took second in the state after increasing their rate 16.73 percent in just one year. Teton 1 is similar in size to SCSD2 and Uinta 4 is similar in size to SCSD1.

None of the Sheridan County districts placed in the top of the state in terms of districtwide graduation rates, with SCSD2 ranked highest at 24 of 48 total districts.

 

Graduation percentages by school     2012-13     2013-14

Big Horn High School                                      96.55            92.31

Tongue River High School                              78.38            68.75

Ft. Mackenzie High School                             62.5               69.23

Sheridan High School                                      82.38          84.55

Arvada-Clearmont High School                     70                 75

Districtwide totals   

SCSD1 (Big Horn/Tongue River)                 86.36           81.69

SCSD2 (Sheridan)                                           81.07            83.69

SCSD3 (Arvada-Clearmont)                          70                 75

Lost and found: Dog makes trek from Ohio

SHERIDAN — When a dog named Sarge walked into a post office in Lakemore, Ohio, the workers just had a feeling he was trying to mail himself home.

The 2-year-old Mountain Shepherd was too large to stick a stamp on and mail, so they did the next best thing: they called Laura Lawson with Summit County Lost & Found Pets, a group of volunteers who helps lost pets reunite with their owners and who find adoptive homes when the owners can’t be found.

Lawson embarked on a tenacious journey to get Sarge home — all the way to Sheridan.

His owner, Jennie Shackleford, got to hold him tight Wednesday evening after Lawson’s husband, Ron, pulled his semi-truck into the Walmart parking lot on the way to a delivery in Las Vegas.

 

Postage please

Lawson was out on another dog rescue with her rescue team member Linda Silvey when she got the call from the Lakemore post office.

She asked the other two-member team out looking for an older dog who had been spotted on a roadway in Kenmore to continue that search. Then she and Silvey turned around.

“The Lakemore post office called me, said they had a dog that had walked into the post office like he was mailing himself home,” Lawson said. “It was Sarge.”

Lawson and Silvey took Sarge to the veterinarian to check for a microchip like they always do. Sarge had one, but it was different than the chips usually seen in the area.

With a little research, it was discovered that the chip was a 24PetWatch chip. Lawson got on the phone and originally had no success getting information about the owner.

She called back.

“I told them, ‘Just tell me who to call and what to do so I can get this dog home,’” Lawson said.

24PetWatch sent an email to Shackleford.

“I had no idea that he was missing, actually,” Shackleford said.

 

Foster dog

Shackleford had recently entered into divorce proceedings with her husband. She had decided to move back home to Sheridan with her daughter while her husband moved to Ohio.

Shackleford wanted to take Sarge home with her; her husband said no, so she loaded her other dog Stanley, a yorkie, into her car and headed to Wyoming, leaving Sarge behind on Dec. 12, 2014.

Unbeknownst to Shackleford, her husband gave Sarge away to an owner in a town an hour and a half away from Lakemore.

That person gave Sarge away, too. So did the next owner. Sarge ended up on Craigslist, found another home, and then was given away again.

When Sarge ran away from his fifth foster home, that owner didn’t go looking for him.

He was a lost cause, it seemed.

Then he walked into the Lakemore post office and met the Lawson family.

 

Special delivery

“Laura Lawson is an incredible woman,” Shackleford said Wednesday just minutes before she was to be reunited with Sarge. “What a gift she has to have the ability to take a dog like that in and to be able to do everything she’s done.”

Shackleford pauses, fighting back tears.

“It just reinstates my faith in humanity.”

Lawson eventually got in touch with Shackleford and filled her in on Sarge’s journey. Lawson then tried every route she could think of to get Sarge home. She called a variety of pet transfer services but none were able to make a trip to Wyoming.

That’s when Ron Lawson asked his boss with Heniff Transportation Systems, LLC, if he had any loads heading west that Lawson could take to get Sarge home.

Two weeks went by with no loads heading that direction. Then, Lawson’s boss called.

“He said, ‘Hey, I have a load going to Las Vegas. That will get you that way,’” Lawson said.

Lawson left for his delivery at 4 p.m. Monday. He had to wait for his kids to get out of school so they could say goodbye to Sarge, the family’s beloved three-week houseguest.

He put a board across the passenger’s seat with a long cushion and a few favorite toys. Sarge was able to look out the window as Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota passed by.

The 1,500-mile journey took 22 hours without stops. Sarge would bark when he needed a bathroom break.

“He could probably find his way back to my house based on the bathroom breaks,” Lawson said. “He was a really good passenger. He curled up on my feet last night when I was sleeping. That was kind of cool that he wanted a little bit of attention.”

 

One home, two families

Lawson pulled into the Walmart parking lot at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Shackleford and her parents Laura and Richard Strout pulled up minutes later.

Sarge was looking out the window when they arrived, his tail wagging.

Lawson opened the door on his semitruck. Shackleford opened the back door on her dad’s gray truck and jumped out. She shouted. Sarge barked, his tail wagging in delight. Tears fell. Furry hugs and kisses ensued.

“This means a lot. He’s an awesome dog,” Laura Strout said.

Sarge will join Stanley the yorkie, two Jack Russell Terriers and a poodle at the Strout house — his new home.

However, Sarge will always have two families. At the reunion, the Strouts invited Lawson and his family for a Wyoming visit anytime.

“I’m going to try to bring my daughter across to see the Redwoods in August. If we do, we’re stopping by,” Lawson said. “He was a quick addition to the family.”

“And you all have become a quick addition to ours,” Shackleford said.

Then she leaned down and picked Sarge up in her arms and placed him in her truck.

“It’s all just like divine intervention, the way it all came together,” Shackleford said. “You couldn’t have asked for better people to come across, huh, Sarge?”

Sarge wagged his tail and barked. Lawson handed Richard Strout the toys Sarge had played with on the journey then got in his truck. He had to get to Las Vegas by noon.

 

Social Media follows Sarge’s journey

Summit County Lost & Found Pets operates completely online via Facebook and Instagram.

During the effort to get Sarge the Mountain Shepherd home from Ohio to Sheridan, hundreds of the group’s Facebook followers tuned in, posting encouraging comments like, “Wonder how many ppl are sitting here staring at their monitors waiting, lol” and “Yeeesssssss!!!!! I will be thinking of sarge tonight when I thank god for getting thru another day and thank him for getting that baby home” and “So happy for Sarge and his family. He will always be a member of SCLFP family.”

“Our payment is their face when they get their babies back,” Summit County Lost & Found Pets operator Laura Lawson said. “There’s no price tag on that. You can’t by that.”

Adventure around every corner

Sunlight highlights a canyon wall after a fresh batch of snowfall Tuesday afternoon at Tongue River Canyon near Dayton.

It’s still winter

Mint Bar owner Monte Buckmaster plows the street along the sidewalk by his business Tuesday morning on Main Street. Sheridan received a fresh batch of snow that began Monday night. Temperatures are not forecasted to reach above freezing until Thursday. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

Exploring the caves of Vietnam

SHERIDAN — Even now, five years later, Mark Jenkins still struggles to describe the magnitude and utter blackness of his journey into the bowels of the Earth.

“I can’t even explain how dark it is. We’re used to thinking of darkness, but you can still kind of get around, right?” he said. “The darkness in a cave is impenetrable. You can put your hand right in front of your face and you can’t see a thing.”

Jenkins isn’t talking about the typical, groveling-on-all-fours, squeezing-through-tight-quarters cave. The National Geographic author traveled to a remote location in Vietnam to explore Hang Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, expansive enough in parts to hold a Boeing 747 or a block of New York City skyscrapers.

Jenkins will talk about his adventure and take attendees across Vietnam, culturally and geographically — its violent history, remarkable recovery and vibrant present — during a presentation at 7 p.m. March 11 at the Sheridan Junior High School Early Auditorium.

This particular tale begins not in Southeast Asia, but rather in England, where a team of British cavers decided to take on the Mount Everest of caves back in 2009. However, after a 200-foot wall of calcite and mud, which explorers dubbed the Great Wall of Vietnam, stopped their progress through Hang Son Doong, the team determined to head back in 2010 and complete the mission to get to the end of the cave.

They placed a call to National Geographic for the return trip, and Jenkins had his assignment. The Laramie native and award-winning author hopped a plane for Hanoi, and then a bus trip took the team even deeper into the countryside. To actually get to Hang Son Doong — located near the Laos-Vietnam border — required a three-day hike through remote jungle.

This part of the world is renowned for expansive caverns. Jenkins is quick to point out the Vietnamese cave is not the longest or deepest cave in the world. Those titles go to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (357 miles long) and Krubera Cave in the Caucuses of Georgia (7,100 feet deep).

“What we’re talking about with Hang Son Doong is the circumference, the passageway,” he explained. “In this cave, we found a section that was at least 2.5 miles long, 300 feet wide and 600 feet tall. You’ve been in Laramie; the dorms are about 100 feet tall. The entrance to this cave is six dorms stacked on top of each other. It’s just one damn big cave.

“Honestly, the caves we did were like being inside a mountain. That’s how big it is. It’s unbelievable,” he added.

The secret behind the size of the caves lies in the geology and weather of the region. Vietnam sits on top of massive limestone plates that have risen up over millions of years due to tectonic forces. Add to that 7 to 10 feet of rain annually, and you’ve got a recipe that’ll cook up huge caves.

“The reason these caves are so big is because there is so much rain. Most caves are formed in limestone, and when the rain falls, it collects carbon dioxide from not only the air, but also from the soil, and becomes carbonic acid and carves its way through the limestone,” Jenkins said.

Like the Colorado River shaping the Grand Canyon, the Rao Thuong River formed Hang Son Doong and continues to rage through its depths.

Aside from crossing a rushing river, scaling and descending steep, slick surfaces and other technical challenges of climbing, the team also lived underground for a week. Keeping feet dry is a must. Having a good headlamp, or five, is another.

“It’s even hard to brush your teeth if you don’t have any light at all. You have to have your headlamp on all the time,” Jenkins said. “Every caver carries four or five backup headlamps. If your headlamp dies and you’re stuck in the cave, you’re going to die. You can’t find your way out, no way. You’ll trip or you’ll fall into a hole or you’ll fall into the river, and you’re dead. Light is fundamental to caving. You’ve got to have it or you can’t do it.”

This made comprehending the immensity of the cave next to impossible while the team actually made its way through it. But, for brief seconds, National Geographic photographer Carsten Peter provided glimpses of Hang Son Doong.

“You do have these laser meters … like a range finder a hunter uses, but to actually see what’s inside the cave, the photographer would have about 10 of the porters spread out,” Jenkins said. “Each of them would have a flash, and he’d have them sync to all go off at once. And that’s when we’d get a view of the cave, but just for a split second, and then it would all go black again.

“It’s amazing, but it’s so brief — just long enough for a picture,” he added.

Aside from those moments, the rest of the trip was largely spent blind. Jenkins said he could hear the rushing river, but not see it. The team would wallow through the mud for hours, but the end destination could only be seen 100 yards of headlamp light at a time. Any animals, which included all-white, eyeless fish and spiders, moved about largely unnoticed.

That is, until the team reached a sort of oasis.

“This cave had something that was extraordinary right in the middle of it,” Jenkins said. “After we’d been in the cave three days, we came around a corner and saw a light. We thought, ‘My God, it’s the end of the tunnel. We’ve made it, we’ve already passed through this cave.’

“Well, it turned out it wasn’t the end, it was a skylight within the cave. There was a collapse, a breakdown … and there was a hole that went 1,000 feet up, all the way to the surface of the Earth.”

Flora and fauna thrived in the underground ecosystem thanks to the rain and sunlight the gap provided.

“Right in the middle of this massive cave, you’ve got a jungle: birds, monkeys, butterflies. Right in the middle of the cave,” he emphasized.

The spectacle proved short-lived. The team picked its way through the jungle and moved on in search of, the cavers hoped, an exit that would lead back to the surface, the sun and a world without headlamps.

So off they went, back into the impenetrable darkness.

 

Want to know if the cavers reached the end of Hang Son Doong?

See Mark Jenkins’ presentation, “Vietnam Underground: The Viet Cong, Spelunkers and the Biggest Cave on Earth” on Wednesday, March 11 at 7 p.m. in the Sheridan Junior High Early Auditorium.

 

Film site for ‘Downton Abbey’ has local ties

SHERIDAN — Tomorrow night, TV watchers across the nation and the United Kingdom will gather to watch the final episode of season five of the hit show on Masterpiece Theater “Downton Abbey.”

Many questions are poised to be answered as the 8 million viewers of the most popular series in PBS history tune in: Will Anna remain in jail for the murder of her rapist? Will Tom Branson really leave England (and the show) to help his cousin in America with his farm implement business? Will it be Dowager Countess or Isobel who receives a romantic marriage proposal? And, will a shooting outing with Anna’s new in-laws go terribly wrong?

For some local residents watching the show, however, the questions on their minds may be, “Will they show the room where we opened our Christmas presents that one year after college?”

Though the Crawleys are a fictitious family and the Earl of Grantham is not a real title, Highclere Castle — where the show is filmed — is a real place with a rich history that includes family ties to Big Horn, Wyoming.

The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679 and the current Lord — George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon — is the son of Big Horn native Jean Wallop.

Jean Margaret Herbert Wallop, the Countess of Carnarvon, was born in 1935 in Big Horn, the daughter of English royalty, though they were far down the line of succession to the throne.

Wallop’s grandfather, Oliver Wallop, was the Earl of Portsmouth and after moving to the United States he also served in the Wyoming Legislature.

Former three-term U.S. Sen. Malcom Wallop, R-Wyoming, was Jean’s brother.

While visiting cousins in Europe in 1956, Jean Wallop met and married Henry Herbert, the 7th Earl of Carnarvon, a longtime friend of the British royal family and the manager of Queen Elizabeth II’s racing stables.

After marriage, the couple moved into Highclere Castle where they remained until Herbert’s death in 2001.

Jean Wallop still lives at the Highclere estate in a smaller castle called The White House, but she visits her hometown of Big Horn often and is even a member of the Big Horn City Historical Society.

Due to his father’s long-time friendship with the queen, Queen Elizabeth II is George Herbert’s godmother.

In the fall of 1984, the Queen visited Wyoming and stayed on the Wallop family ranch in Big Horn — the Canyon Ranch — still owned and operated by the Wallop family today.

To Paul Wallop, who currently runs the Canyon Ranch, the Countess of Carnarvon is Aunt Jeanie and the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, beloved godson to the Queen, is his cousin.

Wallop has visited Highclere on a number of occasions including a summer after graduating high school when he worked on the estate farming.

“I went over and trained with their head game keeper when we were beginning to set up our driven bird hunt operation here,” he said. “We now have a game shoot, much like they do in England, so I went over and studied with them on how they raise their pheasants and such.”

Wallop’s other stays at Highclere have included his honeymoon, family vacations and his most recent trip to see his cousin just last summer.

To him, while the show is interesting and he occasionally watches it, “Downton Abbey” is not what makes Highclere Castle special.

The historical connections of the Herbert family are immense and many of them are reflected in the castle.

The 5th Earl of Carnarvon, Herbert’s great-grandfather, is the man who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb, funding the exploration of Howard Carter in 1922.

He was the first person to ever step foot in the tomb, and is thought to have lost his life due to that fact.

“When they first opened the tomb, he was biten by a mosquito on the neck and he died shortly after of septicemia and there was always a story of the curse of the man who would disturb the tomb,” Wallop said, adding that it was later discovered that his dog, who was in the care of someone else while the Earl was on the expedition, died at the exact same time of the same thing.

Now, the castle is home to an Egyptian museum in the basement, something that Wallop’s cousin and his wife created when they took over the castle.

“The museum has pieces that they collected over time but it shows Egyptology and their connection to Egypt through their discoveries,” Wallop said.

Though the family does have a historical connection to the TV show, Wallop does not endorse the rumors that the characters are based on members of his family.

Julian Fellowes, who writes and produces the show, is a longtime family friend of the Wallops of England, and the Fellowes and the Wallops were actually related a long time ago by marriage.

“I don’t necessarily believe there is a specific connection or they draw from specific people for characters. I think that it’s an amalgamation of all the good stories over time,” Wallop said. “Sometimes the stories overlap — they talk about having an American wife and obviously my uncle did — but if you go back far enough in history a lot of people are related.”

Wallop said the best part of the show, to him, is seeing familiar places and knowing that the income from the show is helping his family keep the castle going.

“It’s a grand building, an amazing place, and with a big place like that they use it now and again for family events and such but most of the time it is being used by people who are paying to use it in order to be able to afford to keep it up,” Wallop said. “You know how expensive it is to keep up your own house, imagine trying to keep a place like that up.”

He added that no one is living in the castle any longer, saying that when you are running TV programs and public tours and all the things that are required to keep a place like that successful, it is not a convenient place to live.

College’s Plus 50 program focuses on lifetime learners

SHERIDAN — It is getting easier for non-traditional students, especially those over age 50, to return to school as Sheridan College is now in its third year of implementing the Plus 50 program.

The program stemmed from a $15,000 grant received from the American Association of Community Colleges. The purpose of the grant was to get colleges to recognize that the needs of the Plus 50 non-traditional student are different than the needs of a student coming right out of high school.

“We’re looking at our enrollment process, our advising process as well as what types of programs we are offering that might be enticing to them,” said Karen St. Clair, director of workforce training and development at SC. “One of the things we hear often from the Plus 50 individuals is that they are interested in coming back to school but they are not comfortable with computers, so they don’t want to come in and be in a class with an 18-year-old who is very comfortable with the computer.”

The college has been offering computer training courses as well as stress management classes to address this issue and how it may be affecting other areas of those students’ lives.

St. Clair said that as many adult students are also full-time employees, balancing work and school can be difficult. The college has been offering more classes after hours and increasing weekend offerings, but the easiest way for the working student to take a variety of classes is still online.

“There are a number of ways for individuals to take classes and a number of them are online, but if they are not comfortable with the computer they don’t want to take an online class,” St. Clair said. “Giving them the skills of the computer opens up options to them. Many of them can’t quit work to come back to school, so they have to work around their work schedules, but if they can do that online at any time of day it is manageable.”

Once offerings were in place to give the Plus 50 students foundational computer skills, the second year focus of the program moved to implementing good practices in the registration and advising processes, including looking at what types of experience a student should be given college credit for.

“A lot of them may have taken classes many years ago, so we’re looking at the concept of credit for prior learning,” St. Clair said. “We don’t want to look at them the same as someone right out of high school; we want to learn about their prior work experience and there are a number of ways they can receive college credit for their work experience.”

The easiest way to receive college credit for knowledge and experience is to test out of a pre-requisite class, so you receive credit for the course without taking it. There are also some nationally recognized tests that earn high scorers credit.

But now, Plus 50 students can also put together a portfolio of all their past work experience and prior education and get credit for that as well.

“Those are all components that advisors are now trying to pull into the conversation,” St. Clair said. “The registration office, advisors and financial aid have been receiving training through a number of different avenues along the way so they can recognize the differences with non-traditional students and such.”

There are various programs available for students of all ages to receive financial aid, which St. Clair said should alleviate another common concern of the Plus 50 student — that they can’t afford to go back to school.

“Once they’ve been admitted into the college and have worked on the financial aid, the advisors can help them identify their best schedule and put it in to an academic plan for completion, but they can also help them balance their life schedule,” St. Clair said. “All of us want the students to be successful. I might think that somebody that hasn’t been in school for a while, maybe should start with one class if you’re not sure how you’ll be able to handle everything. Then you can continue on but you’ll step back into school gradually.”

Now, in the third year of implementation, St. Clair said the focus will be on bringing in new credit programs that can quickly start students on a path to a fulfilling new career.

An addictions practitioner program has recently been added at the college that she said is a great job for someone seeking to do something that gives back to the community.

“It’s an entry level career point, but it gives them a place to start in the social services arena and then continue their education and continue moving up from there,” St. Clair said. “They can finish the certificate in one year if they go full time, so they can get in and get out and make changes to their own lives and the lives of others quickly.”

The college will continue adding programs, primarily in the areas of social services, education, health care and community support, as they continue their work with the Plus 50 program.

Going Green: Several recycling drop-off locations to remain

SHERIDAN — County residents may look at the city’s upcoming recycling program with a bit more envy than eco-friendliness at the moment, but landfill administrators stress those living outside city limits will still see plenty of opportunities to go green as the project commences this summer.

Sheridan County does not plan to offer trash or recycling collection, according to County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger. However, several drop sites will remain open in the city and surrounding towns, and one private hauler has committed to fee-based pickup of recyclables, city Solid Waste Manager Charles Martineau said.

City managers continue planning for the roughly $700,000 program, called Curbcycle, following a resolution Feb. 17. Under the initiative, Sheridan will distribute 96-gallon bins to residents for curbside collection twice a month at a monthly rate of $3 for residential and individual container multi-family customers.

The program allows for co-mingling, meaning materials including tin, aluminum, paper, magazines, newsprint, cardboard, paperboard and plastic can go into bins for pickup and sorting at the landfill.

The city tentatively anticipates beginning Phase 1 of the program June 1, Sheridan Solid Waste and Recycling Coordinator Darla Franklin said. As collection begins on the north side of town, two of the city’s 11 drop site locations will close: the Thorne-Rider Park skate park and Kmart.

Phase 2 — curbside pickup on the south side of the city — should begin Aug. 1, when another three sites are slated for removal: Kendrick Park, the Senior Center and Wash Yer Wooley’s.

The city will retain six drop-off points, which is important not only for county residents who bring recycling to Sheridan, but also for anyone disposing of glass, green waste, e-waste and hazardous waste. Those materials are not eligible for curbside pickup.

Oatts Memorial Park and Marshall Park will remain available for green waste, and Highland Park (1261 Highland Ave.), Washington Park (Coffeen Avenue next to the Holiday Lodge), the recycling center (1148 KROE Lane) and the landfill (83 East Ridge Road during operating hours) will continue to accept recyclables.

The landfill also accepts refuse from recycling trailers around the county. Each of the following locations will remain open (with 2014 recycling totals in parentheses):

  • Forest Service (1,895 pounds)
  • Big Horn (3,431 pounds)
  • The Ranch at Ucross (4,384 pounds)
  • Veterans Affairs Medical Center (42,561 pounds)
  • Clearmont (7,596 pounds)
  • Powder Horn (40,370 pounds)
  • Story (54,097 pounds)
  • Ranchester (41,260 pounds)
  • Dayon (64,853 pounds)

The 260,447 pounds, or 130.22 tons, the outlying towns collected makes up about 7 percent of the landfill’s 2014 total recycling collection — 1,824 tons.

Currently, only 30-40 percent of the landfill’s waste is diverted. Those are materials city staff can reuse or recycle. Of that total, household recyclables make up only 9 percent.

“Because a lot of what people are throwing away could be recycled,” Franklin said, “it’s going up to the landfill because it’s coming in bagged through the trash trucks.”

Sheridan staff hope to increase household recycling totals to 50 percent.

I-90 is open; conditions are slick with snowfall

UPDATE: (9:23 a.m. Feb. 26)

SHERIDAN — As of 8:50 a.m. Thursday, all of I-90 was re-opened. Conditions were listed as slick with snowfall between the Montana state line and Buffalo.

UPDATE: (5:55 p.m. Feb. 25)

SHERIDAN — Wyoming Department of Transportation officials have re-opened I-90 from the Montana state line to Sheridan. A status of “No unnecessary travel” remains in effect. Conditions include snowfall, drifted snow, blowing snow and limited visibility.

I-90 from Sheridan to Buffalo remains closed. Crews continue to work to clear the roadway and make it safe for travel. The road will re-open as soon as conditions allow. There is no estimated timeline for re-opening I-90 from Sheridan to Buffalo at this time.

WYDOT officials urge extreme caution on the roads at this time.

ORIGINAL STORY: (Published at 4:49 p.m. Feb. 25)

SHERIDAN — Wyoming Department of Transportation officials have closed I-90 between the Montana state line and Buffalo due to winter weather.

Between Sheridan and Ranchester, I-90 is open to local traffic only. WYDOT officials ask that if anyone must travel that section of interstate that they slow down and use caution.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, conditions were slick with drifted snow, strong winds, blowing snow and reduced visibility.

The road is not expected to re-open until the wind dies down and visibility is restored.

Sheridan woman on trial for felony forgery

SHERIDAN — Miranda Mraz’s felony forgery trial got underway Monday in 4th Judicial District Court.

The jury is comprised of eight women and five men.

Mraz was arrested in June on charges of felony forgery and theft stemming from accusations that she allegedly altered customer credit card receipts at the Firewater Grill on Main Street between November 2013 and January 2014 to give herself larger tips. Her arrest came only a few days before the Wyoming Supreme Court acquitted her on previous theft charges.

Prosecuting attorney Christopher LaRosa told the jury in his opening statement that the trial was about a woman who stole money from restaurant customers until she was caught.

“This is about a server who wanted more money, so she paid herself more using other people’s money,” LaRosa said.

He advised them to follow the money when looking into the evidence.

“These are her customers, these are her transactions, these are her tips in her pocket at the end of her day to her benefit,” he said.

Defense attorney John Robinson told the jury there was more to the story than the prosecution was telling them. He said there were red flags in the form of managers’ discounts on many cash transactions and suggested that perhaps something more was going on than altered receipts that Mraz had nothing to do with.

“The prosecution is telling you to follow the money,” Robinson said. “But they don’t want you to follow all of it.”

Robinson pointed out that the first complaint against Mraz came in November, but Mraz was not spoken to or reprimanded and the complaint wasn’t taken to anyone in authority. He told the jury that it was not until January, when a customer came to manager Rob Romero with a complaint of a substantial overcharge that Mraz’s transactions were looked into. In fact, Robinson said, Mraz had received two promotions during the time of the alleged forgeries.

LaRosa’s first witness, Willard Smathers, said he had been notified by police that he might have been defrauded by Mraz during one of his visits to the Firewater Grill in November 2013. Because the meal had been a business lunch, Smathers was able to provide police with the customer copy of a credit card slip he had received when he paid for his meal.

When LaRosa asked Smathers to look over a group of exhibits, defense attorney Chris Wages objected because the defense had not seen the exhibits in the way they were being presented. Fenn had the jury removed from the courtroom and spoke with the attorneys in the case.

Wages told the court that he found LaRosa’s behavior concerning exhibits “hinky” and suggested LaRosa was trying to inconvenience the defense and make their case harder to represent. He accused LaRosa of noncompliance to orders given during pretrial conferences and suggested the binder of exhibits be kept out of the trial due to that noncompliance.

LaRosa pointed out nothing in the exhibit package was new evidence, that only the way it was being presented was new.

Fenn expressed frustration over the continued difficulties between the state and the defense concerning exhibits over the course of pre-trial hearings and into the trial.

LaRosa agreed that the state would present a copy of the exhibit package to the defense in the morning and allowed the defense to re-examine the exhibits to be used in Smathers’ examination.

The jury returned to the courtroom, and LaRosa’s direct examination of Smathers continued with Smathers identifying copies of his credit cards statement and copies of his credit card receipts from the meal in question.

After short cross and redirect examinations, court recessed for the day.

The Mraz trial is scheduled to last through the week.

2 snowmobilers found after night in the Bighorns

BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mark Conrad said this afternoon that the father, son pair of snowmobilers who were reported missing Sunday night were found late Monday morning.

Conrad said Corey Gostonczik, 40, and his teenage son, Cole, had left Bear Lodge Resort at approximately 5 p.m. Sunday and Sheridan Area Search and Rescue crews were called out at approximately 11 p.m. Search and rescue teams from Johnson and Big Horn counties contributed to the search.

A total of 10 teams, consisting of anywhere between three and five people, searched for the pair.

At approximately 10:45 a.m. Monday, search teams found an abandoned snowmobile. Crews convened on that area and found the second abandoned sled, then the pair approximately 600 or 700 yards away.

The snowmobilers were near the east-facing side of Garden of the Gods.

Conrad noted that the Gostoncziks were well, but were seeking medical attention in Sheridan for their feet, which had become very wet and cold overnight. The pair are from New Ulm, Minnesota.

ONE MORE NIGHT UNDER THE STARS

“The sunsets in Sheridan are beautiful. There are times when we play, and we stop and just go ‘look at that.’

You just don’t get to see that anywhere else.” — Zane Garstad

SHERIDAN — Bittersweet. That’s the word being tossed around by the Sheridan Hawks hockey team as they head into the final home games of the season this weekend. Not only is it the end of the hockey season — the last in the careers of a number of senior team members — but it’s also the final time the Sheridan Hawks will play outdoors at Sheridan Ice.

Sheridan on Skates is deep into the process of converting the current ice rink to an indoor ice arena. With a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction scheduled for March 4, the reality of the change is finally sinking in with the rink’s users.

Sheridan Hawks head coach and ice rink regular Zane Garstad isn’t upset with the change to an indoor rink. He understands its benefits and knows what positive changes it can bring to the Sheridan community.

But he’s sure going to miss playing hockey outdoors.

“When the weather’s great, it’s such an awesome place to play,” Garstad said. “If you play, like, a 5 o’clock start, you’re there when the sun is going down. The sunsets in Sheridan are beautiful. There are times when we play, and we stop and just go ‘look at that.’ You just don’t get to see that anywhere else.”

For Sheridan High School senior Jess Edens, it’s all about the history of hockey.

“If you want to bring it all back, this is where it started,” Edens said of what makes the outdoor rink special. “It started outside. They didn’t have indoors; it wasn’t fancy. If it snows it snows; if it rains it rains. You play through all the weather.”

Sheridan Hawk Lindsay Sullivan wasn’t sold on the idea right away, though. The only girl on Sheridan’s roster — although she claims to be one of the boys — Sullivan has played most of her hockey in Gillette before playing with Sheridan this year.

“I hated it,” she said of playing outdoors. “I thought it was so cold. I despised coming here for that reason. Now I love the outdoor rink.”

While it took some time getting used to the outdoors, playing for Sheridan reenergized Sullivan on the ice.

“It’s way more serious in Gillette, and here I can just have fun,” she said. “Playing out here brings it back to when I started. It’s really nice to come out here and love the game again, because I kind of forgot how to do that in Gillette.”

It’s not just about the outdoor rink, though. There’s hockey to be played and the Sheridan Hawks are excited.

Sure, part of it is knowing that the book is closing on the outdoor rink in Sheridan. But this weekend marks the final games before next week’s state tournament, and they want to win.

As of now, the Hawks sit in third place with a 10-2-2 record. They’ve beaten or tied every team in the league, so they know they have what it takes to bring home the title. There are still obstacles to climb, though, so it comes down to one game at a time.

Garstad couldn’t emphasize enough the talent on his team. They have the players; but coming together as one cohesive unit was the challenge for Garstad and his team. It took some time.

“To really come together and play as a team and play as a unit has been challenging,” Garstad said. “I’ve really noticed it in the last month. We’ve made some strides. I personally had to change my approach to coaching. They’re teaching me as much or more than I’m teaching them.”

So what’s in store for the weekend?

It’s a balancing act for Garstad. On one end, it’s the final home games of the season, final games on the home ice for the seniors, and the final outdoor game for the high school hockey team. On the other end, it’s a matchup with the Douglas Ice Cats.

“I don’t know if those kids know how big it is,” he said. “I don’t know if I want to tell them. Senior night, outdoors, final game in their high school career, that’s huge. It just makes you nervous, so I’m going to kind of downplay it.

“They’re a part of history,” he added. “How cool is that? I think they’re smart enough to know that, and I think they’re going to be pretty fired up.”

For Edens, it comes down to pride.

“It’s crazy, and I’m happy it’s on the outdoor rink,” Edens said of his hockey career coming to a close. “I’m happy to say I was the last person, my senior season, my last game was played outdoors.”

Just for added effect, the forecast predicts snow for Saturday evening’s game, but Edens doesn’t think that should deter people from coming to watch.

“Lindsay will score a hat trick,” he joked before changing his tone. “If you don’t come you’re going to regret it. Knowing you had the opportunity to, looking back, you’re going to wish you came out and watched that final outdoor high school hockey game.”

“Come out and enjoy it,” Sullivan added. “This is going to be the last of it, and it’s an amazing experience.”

The Hawks take on Douglas at 5 p.m. on Saturday and again Sunday morning at 8 a.m. So throw on those long johns, pull that hat down over your ears, grab a cup of hot cocoa and take in some outdoor hockey for one of the final times in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Stars of Tomorrow to perform tonight

SHERIDAN — Youth will compete in the finals for the local Stars of Tomorrow contest Friday beginning at 7 p.m. at the WYO Theater.

The competition is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club and is open to children in kindergarten through high school. The contest is split into four divisions.

The top three finishers will receive a trophy and certificate. The overall winner will also receive a scholarship toward attending college and the opportunity to compete at the district and national levels.

Auditions for this year’s show were held in January and Friday’s finals will feature those youth chosen from the auditions.

Tickets to the event are $8 for adults, $5 for students and free for children 5 and younger.

Tickets may be purchased at the WYO Theater box office, by calling 672-9084 or at the door.

For additional information see sheridanwykiwanis.com or call Katie Dehn at 683-6170.

The WYO Theater is located at 42 N. Main St.

Fundraising campaign for arts center begins: NWCCD seeks $4 million to cover cost of equipment, technology, furnishings

SHERIDAN — Officials of the Northern Wyoming Community College District officially launched a capital construction campaign Thursday morning seeking to fund the remaining $4 million needed to complete the $20 million Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College.

The center will feature recital and performance space, including a 422-seat concert hall and new teaching spaces for ceramics, woodworking, sculpture, 2-D and 3-D art; formal and student gallery space; office studios for art faculty; band, orchestra and choral recital space; a digital music classroom; a recording studio and 6,000 square feet of expansion space for program growth.

A $16 million gift has already been secured from Whitney Benefits, which will cover the construction costs of the entire center.

The remaining campaign will fund academic equipment, technology and furnishings for the new center.

The space is needed to support a rapidly growing student body — SC President Dr. Paul Young said the district will grow by 500 full-time equivalency students by the end of the decade and 150 of them will be in the arts — but presenters at the launch breakfast Thursday also wanted to drive home the idea that the project is about more than just college growth.

“On top of all the great philosophical reasons to support the arts, it truly makes sense economically,” Young said. “And now we are going to have a facility which is going to be truly magnetic and help to attract not just students from other places but retain the talented people who grow up in this community.”

Young shared a statistic that for every 100 students the college adds, the community sees $1 million a year added to the local economy.

Attracting and retaining young people in the community is an added benefit of expanding the arts, he said.

“We know that people look for arts and to entertainment when they consider where they want to live,” Young said. “If you look at the places where Sheridan shows up as a top community, time and time again one of the places where they show up on top is the contribution that art makes to having a vital community.”

In 2012, the Wyoming Art Council commissioned a study to figure out which areas of the state had the best infrastructure in place to support artistic and creative economies, and Sheridan was the second highest scoring county in the state.

SC art faculty Jason Lanka said he is most looking forward to being able to involve more K-12 students and community members in the college arts after the expansion.

“Our high school programs are always under the gun budget-wise and we want to reach out to those programs and offer them this space and the facilities to be on campus with us, and our old space didn’t allow for that,” Lanka said. “Our previous space didn’t allow for community members to come in and work and store their materials; that is a key component to offering community ed so that they can return and feel welcome in the space.”

Young added that the community use of the space goes beyond classes as the state of the art auditorium can be used for a variety of performances and events. He hopes to be able to host a gubernatorial debate in the hall in 2018.

A few current art students stood with Lanka and said that though they will have graduated before the center opens, they are excited for the opportunities being created for future students.

“The fact that we can have a good gallery to show this work is huge; new artists being able to show their work is incredible,” SC art student Carl Largent said. “I can’t imagine a better place to start your art career here with this faculty and the new facility. If this is just the beginning, I can’t imagine where I can go and where these future art students can go, and I think that’s pretty special.”

There are a variety of opportunities for donors to become involved with naming opportunities ranging from $50,000 to $2 million based on the visibility and prestige of the area in the center being sponsored.

Local artist and regular supporter of the college Neltje also spoke at the event, encouraging donations to what she said is a crucial part of our community.

“There is such a sense of community and such a sense of energy here and the arts are the foundation of that energy,” she said. “What would it be if we didn’t have drama? What would it be if we didn’t have color? What would it be if we didn’t have song? …Those are things to think about.

“And for the banker,” she continued, “I have utmost fear of you, but please say yes.”

City OKs $1.5 million in expenditures

SHERIDAN — City Council approved more than $1.5 million in expenditures at its meeting Tuesday that will lead to citywide curbside recycling, paved roads, striped streets, new vehicles and possibly a new ambulance for Rocky Mountain Ambulance and a new emergency services radio system for the police department if grants are obtained.

The following is the breakdown of what was approved and what it will fund.

Curbside recycling: $698,500 in unbudgeted expenses

The Council approved a resolution that will implement citywide curbside recycling within the next year for a monthly fee of $3 for residential and individual container multi-family customers.

The fee will be added to the city’s garbage collection bills once the program begins. Collection of co-mingled recyclables — except for glass, green waste, e-waste and hazardous waste — will occur twice a month from a bin rolled to the curb by residents.

Public Works Director Nic Bateson, Utilities Manager Dan Roberts and Solid Waste Superintendent Charles Martineau all presented about the program dubbed Curbcycle that will roll out in three phases.

Phase 1 will occur in the next four months. Community drop sites will become co-mingled rather than requiring sorting by residents, 96-gallon bins will be provided to customers on the north end of town and drop sites will be sequentially reduced as curbside pick-up begins.

Phase 2 will occur in the next four to six months. Bins will be provided to customers on the south end of town and community drop sites will be reduced. Four drop sites will remain for county customers and all nine green waste sites will remain in operation.

Phase 3 will occur in the next six to 12 months. This will involve a system for commercially structured multi-family accounts that may use larger alley bins for their recycling.

Councilman Thayer Shafer raised concerns about residents who may be on a fixed income and may struggle with the additional $3 cost. City staff said they understood but urged residents to think of how much money would be saved in the future if landfill space was not filled up.

Bateson also said he hopes to be back within the year to announce that the fee is no longer needed.

Councilman Alex Lee urged staff to look into implementing some sort of hardship program or scholarship program to assist residents who can prove they cannot afford the new fee.

Also included in the resolution was an item that will allow private haulers to pay a sorting and handling fee of $42.79 per ton to bring in recyclables picked up from the county.

One-time capital expenditures approved include: $280,000 for a dual-arm collection truck that will enable alley pickup, $206,500 for needed 96-gallon bins and $35,000 for a Bobcat to use at the new sorting center.

Operating costs for the remainder of the fiscal year approved include: $138,000 to hire two sorters and one collection driver, $26,000 to pay for bin assembly, $2,500 in increased utility costs for the sorting center and $11,000 in fuel, oil and maintenance costs.

Projects and equipment: $557,302 in budgeted expenses

In the consent agenda, City Council approved a variety of expenditures for paving projects, street striping and new vehicles as approved in the city’s fleet replacement plan. These included:

• $190,356 for the 2015 High Tech Road paving project. The bid was awarded to McClellan and McQueen.

• $66,225 for the 2015 street striping project. The bid was awarded to Innovative marketing System.

• $23,512 for a 1/2 ton 4-wheel drive extended cab pickup with short box awarded to Greiner Ford (Dodge) of Casper.

• $26,441 for a 3/4 ton 4-wheel drive crew cab (4-Door) short box to Greiner Ford (Dodge).

• $32,408 for a 1 ton 4-wheel drive with flat bed to Hammer Chevrolet.

• $218,360 for a rear load refuse truck to Jack’s Truck & Equipment.

New ambulance, emergency radio equipment: $145,000 in one-cent funds and $150,000 in E911 funds

Also in the consent agenda, City Council approved two resolutions to submit two applications for Mineral Royalties grants to be used to purchase a new ambulance for Rocky Mountain Ambulance and new emergency services radio equipment that is Internet Protocol based.

The new radios will enable the police department to maintain radio service and coverage with WYO Link and will bring obsolete equipment up-to-date with current radio technology standards, according to a memo from Police Chief Rich Adriaens.

The radio system will cost $500,000 total. The hoped for grant amount is $250,000. The rest of the purchase would be covered with $100,000 in Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues and $150,000 in E911 funds.

The ambulance will cost $180,000 total. The hoped for grant amount is $135,000. The rest of the purchase will be covered with Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues of $45,000.

The replacement of the ambulance is part of the city’s fleet replacement plan. However, people have raised concerns about the city buying an ambulance for a private company and about the condition of the old MS99 ambulance that will be sold for $1 to one of the county’s six fire districts.

Wyoming Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, in Cheyenne ICU

SHERIDAN — Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, was taken to a Cheyenne hospital by ambulance Tuesday morning when he reported not feeling well.

Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, confirmed that Patton had a blocked artery and medical staff at the hospital put a stent in today.

Patton remains in the intensive care unit in Cheyenne, and Berger said he is doing well considering the circumstances.

She added that she is unsure of the next step in Patton’s care at this time.

Patton and his wife had traveled to Cheyenne on Monday, but Patton reportedly said he wasn’t feeling well Tuesday morning.

“We just ask that everyone keep John and his family in their thoughts and prayers,” Berger said.

Patton is 84 years old.

Is 1:1 technology working? Administrators discuss effectiveness in classrooms

SHERIDAN — While a ratio of one technology device to one student, or 1:1, has been touted and sought in varying degrees at each of the local districts, concerns over utilization of technology and future implementation has varied widely.

Sheridan High School Principal Brent Leibach said after 35 year in the field of education and a lifetime in schools as the son of a teacher, he’s seen instructional tools come and go. Regardless of the device, he is more concerned with how it is being used.

“I’ve seen from chalk boards to white boards to smart boards to smartphones, but nothing is comparable to what we’ve seen in the last five years in terms of what our students know,” Leibach said. “And my concern now is are we ahead of that, or are we even in a place where there is a balance that our teachers, our parents and our schools are ahead of the kiddos so that we can direct how we’re going to use this technology to support them.”

In Sheridan County School District 1, the technology has primarily become a supporter of the district’s “anywhere, anytime” style of learning. With lesson plans and assignments on an online learning management system the students can keep up with coursework in a variety of ways.

While SCSD1 Technology Director Judy Steingass said she sees the use of technology slowly increasing in the classroom, she believes there are still a few things that need to happen to utilize it to its full potential. The infrastructure to support it needs to be put in place, teacher instruction needs to occur to learn ways to implement it in the classroom and the knowledge that use of tecnology is a balance between instructional time and technology time needs to be understood, she said.

“There is a curriculum piece that needs to be put in place too — what sort of tools are out there and available to support our curriculum — and researching that takes time,” Steingass said.

In SCSD2, that curriculum and utilization research is taking place in the form of professional learning communities and district technology integrators working together to find the best ways to use technology.

SCSD2 Technology Director Coree Kelly said one of the biggest tools the district utilizes is the Google suite, which includes email but also things like collaborative documents and storage space, all for free.

“The collaboration you can do because of shared documents is revolutionary,” Kelly said. “I used to have to spend for the district about $25,000 a year on just managing email and licensing email not including students’ emails, and now with free Google mail we’re able to put that money into a device that can be in the hands of the kids.”

SCSD2 Technology Integration Coordinator Ryan Schasteen said with the devices and the access they provide, the teachers have the ability to assess the students quickly and more frequently, and the students have the ability to produce more writing and original work.

He added that every teacher has the freedom to do what works for them.

“It is definitely not the expectation that if there is a Chromebook in the classroom that it be used 100 percent of the time,” he said. “It’s a shift that we want teachers to make when it’s going to be a good shift for their students. There’s a saying that technology should be like oxygen, it’s invisible and nobody sees it but it is absolutely essential to everything we do. It’s just there and readily available so teachers can focus on what is the best way to integrate this in the overall lesson plan.”

With online tools available for free, administrators are seeking other cost saving tools technology may offer.

One aspect this may affect in the future is the use of textbooks.

“When Chromebooks first came around the social studies department started debating whether online textbooks were the way to go or hard copy textbooks were the way to go, and what the teachers actually found was that with a Chromebook you have access to the entirety of human knowledge and there are resources out there that are amazing that may not be part of a textbook so the discussion became, do we even need textbooks at all?” Schasteen said. “If we have curriculum defined and we know what we want our students to learn, then why can’t we just pull in all the resources of the Internet and create a lesson of our own? That’s what the social studies department is doing a lot.”

But, Leibach noted that the technology is nothing without other factors of good education.

“I think the concept of 1:1 is a great idea, but the key component of instruction over the course of history has been high-quality teachers delivering high-quality instruction to the lowest group of students in the classroom possible,” Leibach added. “What we’ve got to do is make sure we are providing those high-quality instruction with a direction of how we want them to use the devices. Because if all we’re going to do is give students assignments that they can access on Schoology or some other site, is it really that much different from what we’ve been doing?”

He also said with changing technology, the role of teachers is changing.

“We don’t have to give them information anymore; we don’t have to open them up and pour in all the data, they have more access to information than they need,” Leibach said. “I really think that’s the biggest paradigm shift in this profession. Our question now becomes, are we taking that to the next level of using that information to be problem solvers, think independently and learn independently?”

No matter what the future of technology may hold, Leibach said the teacher will always be the key component to education.

“I’ve seen a lot of trends,” he said. “I’ve seen of things come that are going to ‘change the world.’ Yeah, I don’t doubt that is true. But in the end we still have to go back to providing the best instruction, no matter what it looks like.”

Locals shine at Special Olympics

SHERIDAN — After winning a gold medal in the 100-meter race by half a snowshoe, athlete Chloe Laumann had three words of advice for anyone who has thought about entering a race but lacked the courage: “Just do it.”

The 13-year-old competitor from Sheridan — and all the other athletes who recently competed in the 2015 Special Olympics Wyoming Winter Games state competition in Jackson — should know.

They followed those three words of advice during months of practice for area and state games, during every walk to the starting line and during every snowshoe step or glide of a ski it took to get to the finish line.

Facing developmental and physical disabilities could have kept these Olympians from even trying, but it didn’t. They live out the motto to “just do it” every day as they face the challenges and the sense of separation that come with having a disability.

“These kids deserve a chance to get out and compete in sporting events just as well as any other kid does,” Laumann’s mom Danielle Laumann said. “It’s too bad that they have to be separate like that, but that’s the way it goes. That’s life. It’s great that there is something like Special Olympics.”

Three athletes from Sheridan made the trek to the 2015 Special Olympics Wyoming Winter Games state competition in Jackson in early February. They came back shining in gold, silver and bronze medals that prove their ability to face a challenge head on and overcome it one step at a time.

“As long as you cross the finish line, you’re good. It doesn’t matter how you get there,” Danielle Laumann said.

Chloe Laumann crossed the finish line for a bronze medal in the 50-meter snowshoe event and two gold medals in the 25-meter and 100-meter races.

Kolton Maes, 13, slid over the finish line for a silver medal in the 25-meter cross-country skiing competition and two gold medals in the 10-meter and 50-meter events.

Jessica Hartshorn, 21, crossed the finish line for two silver medals in the 25-meter and 100-meter snowshoe races and one gold medal in the 50-meter competition. Hartshorn has competed in Special Olympics for 13 years.

The Sheridan athletes, coached by Tanna Gliddon and Eric and Tammy Maes, practiced three days a week from Christmas break through the state competition. They did time trials and laps in Kendrick Park on their snowshoes and skis, putting in the time and dedication needed to enter their races ready and strong.

Danielle Laumann helped with the preparation and attended the games as a parent and volunteer. She said the experience was bittersweet.

“To have a kid with disabilities and see her in her element with all those other kids, it’s awesome,” Laumann said. “There’s just really no words to describe it just to see them out there doing their thing. But yet on the other hand, it’s a struggle. We have daily struggles. But it’s pretty amazing to see those kids pull together. There’s not a harsh word spoken. They’re just good kids.”

Chloe Laumann said pulling together is the fun part. While she loves her medals and keeps them on a shelf in her room, she loves being outside in the snow with friends from around the state even more.

After two days of competition that included an opening ceremony complete with an Olympic torch, the Olympians finished this year’s games with a Western dinner and dance and a sleigh ride through the elk refuge in Jackson, basking in the glory of being Olympic athletes.

“It’s not a matter of winning. They’re all winners,” Danielle Laumann said. “They’re all just so excited to compete and to be out there doing their thing.”

Vehicle strikes Mill Inn; no injuries reported

SHERIDAN — At approximately 8:35 a.m. on Feb. 14, Sheridan Fire-Rescue, Sheridan Police Department, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Rocky Mountain Ambulance responded to a report of a vehicle striking The Mill Inn.

On arrival a full-size sedan was found to have driven into room 113. There were no injuries to the driver or the occupants of the room.  Damage was limited to the exterior wall and bathroom wall of the room.  Electricity was shut down to the room as a precaution.

The accident is being investigated by the Sheridan Police Department.

Fearnow pleads guilty to pharmacy burglary

SHERIDAN — A local man pleaded guilty to a felony burglary charge Thursday at his arraignment in 4th Judicial District Court.

Kyle Logan Fearnow, 26, explained to Judge William Edelman how he had climbed to the roof of the Hospital Pharmacy on Main Street in May, entered the store through the attic, filled a trash can with pill bottles and then broke a window to leave.

Fearnow was arrested for the burglary in December when DNA connected him to the crime.

Fearnow had been arrested in August on charges of possession of a controlled substance when he called police to his room at the Apple Tree Inn, telling them someone was trying to break into his room.

Police discovered Fearnow had an outstanding municipal warrant and arrested him, but as Fearnow was being booked, authorities found nearly 400 pills in a baggie on his person.

Police searched Fearnow’s hotel room on a warrant and found approximately 6,000 pills, including oxycodone, morphine and other opiates.

More than 13,000 narcotic pills had been stolen from the pharmacy, and Fearnow told the judge in a previous hearing that the pills in his room had come from the pharmacy burglary and that he had taken about 7,000 of those pills between the burglary in May and his arrest in August as he sat in his room “taking pills all day.”

After finding the pills in Fearnow’s room, police took his DNA to see if it could be matched to evidence in the Hospital Pharmacy burglary.

Fearnow’s guilty plea came as part of a plea agreement. The state recommended two to four years in prison to be served consecutively to a five to nine year sentence from an earlier plea agreement for possession of a controlled substance. Fearnow is also facing two concurrent six-month sentences for misdemeanor charges of malicious destruction. The misdemeanor sentences were part of a package plea arrangement.

Fearnow has been incarcerated at the Sheridan County Detention Center since his arrest in August.

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in SCSD2 open meetings case

CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday heard oral arguments in the case regarding whether Sheridan County School District 2 violated open meeting laws by discussing a proposed multi-purpose facility behind closed doors.

The lawsuit filed by The Sheridan Press alleges that at least some discussions involving the up to $45 million building should have occurred in public.

The building could have included an indoor track, additional locker room space, a pool and other extra-curricular facilities.

Emails obtained by The Press during its investigation showed that the district was considering asking the public to support a bond initiative for the project as early as May 2014.

SCSD2 attorney Kendall Hoopes said several times during the arguments Wednesday in Cheyenne that the school district had not tried to keep the project out of the public eye. In fact, he said, the board had invited members of the public to be part of a steering committee that examined the project.

But in a February 2014 interview with board members and SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty, Dougherty said the project, “hasn’t gotten to the point where we want to take it to the community.”

In addition, the project was never discussed in an open meeting of the school district trustees. In the same February 2014 interview, then board President Richard Bridger acknowledged that the board knew about the project and that the district had hired consultants to examine it.

Dougherty also noted in that interview that the board had discussed the project in executive session under the real estate exemption in Wyoming law that states governing bodies may exclude the public from the discussion “to consider the selection or the purchase of real estate when the publicity regarding the consideration would cause a likelihood of an increase in price.”

The Press, and its attorney Bruce Moats, have contended that in order to discuss the purchase of real estate, first the project itself would need to be discussed. That portion of the discussion should have been open to the public, they contend.

Hoopes has said there were other ways for the board to learn about the project, such as through the district’s capital construction committee or through the steering committee.

Last year, at the request of both sides in the case, a district court judge privately reviewed minutes of closed school board meetings over a 16-month period. The lower court ruled the meetings were legal but didn’t explain why. That lack of explanation is a part of The Press’ appeal to the higher court.

Moats suggested Wednesday that the Supreme Court now review the minutes and provide a general explanation of why the meetings were closed under the state public meetings act, without disclosing the specific content of those meetings.

Justices asked several questions of both attorneys including whether the board is specific about items being discussed in executive session.

For example, if a governing body only says it will discuss real estate matters, how is the public supposed to examine if the closed session is being held properly. It was suggested by justices that the body could say it was discussing the purchase of properties for a recreational facility without providing information that would result in the increase in price for those properties.

The board has not moved forward with the multi-purpose facility, but has moved forward with a project that would expand the locker room and training room space at the high school.

The justices took the arguments under advisement and are expected to issue a ruling in the coming months.

Getting ahead: College credit in high school

SHERIDAN — As education in America continually becomes more rigorous at earlier grades, the demand — and opportunity — for college level studies during high school years continues to expand as well.

Three unique but similar options exist for students to earn college credit before receiving their diploma, and depending on the school district of enrollment, the area of study and the student’s interests, one may be a more suitable choice than another.

Advanced placement courses, dual enrollment courses and concurrent enrollment courses each have their own challenges and advantages, but in the end demonstrated success in one of these three types of classes often indicates the potential for future success of the student.

AP courses

AP courses have a long history in the U.S. with a pilot program launching in eleven areas of study in the early 1950s.

Overseen by the College Board — a nonprofit organization based in New York City — AP courses are taught in the high schools with strictly regulated parameters and a comprehensive final exam.

The College Board develops and maintains guidelines for the teaching of the courses and grades the final exams all for the cost of a per student exam fee, which as of the 2015 testing season was $91.

Of each fee, $8 goes back to the school to pay for the administration of the test.

In Sheridan County School District 2, the district contributes $25 toward each exam fee and the students are responsible for the remaining cost.

Sheridan High School currently has 119 kids enrolled in AP courses.

AP exams include a multiple choice component and free response and essay portions. Each student receives one comprehensive score ranging from 1 on the low performing end up to 5.

The benefits of taking, and excelling, at the exam can go beyond receiving a class worth of college credit.

Some colleges use AP test scores to exempt students from introductory coursework, others use them to place students in higher designated courses, and some do both.

“Another thing we found is that successful AP work is a real positive if there is a cutline at an out of state university our students are applying to,” Terry Burgess, SCSD2 Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Human Relations, said. “Most universities will take a look at that AP score so it can help them get in.”

Additionally, many universities will offer more credits for higher scores, such as Montana State University who will issue up to 16 credits for a score of 5 in certain subject areas. (Typically one college course is worth 3 credits.)

Each college’s policy is different, but most require a minimum score of 4 or 3 out of 5 on the final exam to receive any credit.

Critics of the AP structure say that a student could demonstrate knowledge throughout the course but perform poorly on the final exam and receive no credit for it.

Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Marty Kobza stated that at the universities their students are most often going to, they are also seeing AP credits transferring less frequently.

“There is nothing that we see wrong with AP,” Kobza said. “We just feel that for the majority of our students dual and concurrent enrollment seems to be a much better fit.”

Dual and Concurrent Enrollment

High school students taking advantage of dual enrollment are enrolled in an institute of higher learning and receiving their instruction from a college professor. They can either travel to Sheridan College, have a college professor teaching a course in the high school or take online classes offered by universities to earn college credit.

Concurrent enrollment courses, conversely, are taught in the high school by high school teachers but following the same curriculum and assessment as the college course.

Both of these options are offered at no cost to the student, including free textbooks.

Sheridan College Director of Dual Enrollment Programs Cody Ball said students often earn anywhere from a semester’s worth of free courses up to a couple years of college taken care of at no personal cost.

“It is incredible that a student can get high quality college instruction without having to worry about taking on an extra job or picking up money some other way to pay for it,” Ball said.

Ball noted that SCSD1 has a higher percentage of dual enrollment students than district 2 does, but he believes that may be a result of fewer options being available on campus.

Kobza stated that the opportunity for both dual and concurrent enrollment in district 1 has increased this year, offering 31 concurrent enrollment courses across the two high schools worth more than 100 credits.

“Our goal is to give our students the opportunity to earn up to an associates degree or a certificate in their chosen trade while earning their high school diploma,” Kobza said. “This is an excellent opportunity for students to get a head start on college credits, and workforce or college readiness. They have access to a wide range of expanded offerings from nursing to computing to welding and even advanced science, math and English.”

Additional obstacles, benefits

Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said he has been working with SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty to increase the dual enrollment opportunities at SHS, but figuring out the funding is the first step to that.

“The issue for us doing dual enrollment on a large scale at Sheridan College is that, of course, someone has to pay the tuition and the student by law cannot be charged the tuition,” Young said. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of people and we’re scholarshiping them. If we want to do more we have to find a mechanism for that.”

In district 1, Sheridan College classes are funded by a mill levy from which the district expects to receive $40,000 in funding.

Young said that in Campbell County, their BOCHES budgets $50,000 a year to pay dual enrollment tuition.

The college tuition can be reduced by offering the courses in house through concurrent enrollment, but one obstacle to that includes the need for a highly trained teacher on the high school’s staff. In order to teach college level coursework, most teachers need a master’s degree or specified certification.

At SHS, 52 percent of the teachers have master’s degrees, allowing them to offer 38 course sections to 328 individual students in the 2013-14 school year.

On a broader scale, however, college officials find mindsets to be the major obstacle to growing these programs.

“One of the biggest obstacles is a disinterest in taking college courses; students saying ‘I am not planning on going to college so why do I need to take this?’,” Ball said. “I try to tell the students, you never know. Studies have shown that if you take college credits in high school you are more likely to graduate from college and continue on.”

Young added that Wyoming sits in the bottom half of the nation in terms of the number of adults who have some sort of college education, creating a common attitude that high school is all you need.

“No where in the world is that true anymore,” Young said of the belief. “In the United States, the days of having just high school and earning a salary and buying a house and raising a family are gone forever, and we have got to help people understand that but that attitude dies hard.”

All of the educators seem to agree that taking one of the three options can be a gateway to a student desiring college and having the confidence to pursue it.

“We have certain kids our counselors encourage to take (college credit courses) who weren’t planning on going to college,”Burgess said of district 2. “They just were convinced they would be unsuccessful.”

“We have some students who are first generation college students and it gives them the opportunity to start college in an environment that is secure to them so they are able to take that course and know that they can do this,”Kobza said of district 1. “They can be successful in college.”

Is traditional barbering a thing of the past?

SHERIDAN — Outside the White Swan Barber Shop rests the iconic barber pole. It’s the perpetual swirl of blue, white and red stripes spinning their way upward.

Inside you can find Ron Charlson. He’s a barber; he has been for more than 25 years. Maybe he’s inside listening to talk radio while reading the newspaper, or maybe he is scraping a finely sharpened razor delicately upon the cheek of a gentlemen fully reclined in a barber’s chair.

At 63 years old he still refers to himself as “one of the young guys.” He’s one of the six remaining licensed barbers in Sheridan with a shop.

If you come in for a haircut, Charlson could tell you about how the number of barbers in Wyoming is dwindling. He could tell you about how House Bill 41 in the Wyoming Legislature would make it easier for cosmetologists to become barbers, but not the other way around.

HB41 would let the Wyoming Board of Barber Examiners create rules for cosmetologists to expand their skills into barbering. House Bill 41 also would allow the board to license people to teach barbering, which paves the way for a possible barber college in Wyoming.

But if he is being honest, Charlson would rather not talk about it. Charlson believes a good barber is a better conversationalist; he could talk about anything else in the world so why talk about something negative? He’s just a guy trying to make a living — one $15 haircut at a time.

HB41 opens the door for cosmetologists to become barbers with a few additional hours of training. Supporters of the bill say that it is intended to increase the number of practicing barbers in the state, as most barbers are retiring and barber schools are becoming fewer and further between.

It’s not a new idea. Charlson is active when it comes to how barbers are trained in Wyoming and this is not the first time such a bill has come up. Legislators and other entities have been trying to blend the lines between barbers and cosmetologists for years. After all, there more than 2,000 licensed cosmetologists in Wyoming, while barbers number just over 100.

In many ways, the romanticized notion of a barber is both dying and being born again. Barber shops have gone from a smoke-filled social club providing a well-needed service, to a novelty, almost a luxury, for those who have extra minutes in their day.

It takes time to go to a barber. They mix a social experience with a quality haircut. Sure, they could cut hair in five minutes or less, but when there is a quality discussion on politics or sports, why the rush?

That is how Charlson sells his services. People can get a haircut anywhere. Chain haircutting stores take business away, recent fads moved haircutting to the home, but customers still stop by his shop for the social aspect.

Others, however, and not too fond of that concept anymore. A line of people waiting for a haircut means less time in the day. In a culture where time is money, Charlson now has to pick up the pace when cutting hair or a prospective client may walk in and walk right back out the door.

“You think of an old barber shop, you almost see it as an old saloon — guys sitting around smoking and chewing, passing the spittoon around,” Charlson said. “The days of the guys coming into the barber shop sitting around the wood stove and talking in Sheridan, Wyoming, are mostly gone.”

Charlson said, though, that he misses those days. He operates in a shop which has been used for cutting hair since 1906.

Barber shops used to be located near bars. Men would come into town on weekends to load up on supplies, to socialize and possibly stop in for a haircut or a shave. Even when Charlson began barbering in the late 1980s, he stayed open late on Saturday to cash in on the trades.

“It used to be in rural America, barber shops revolved around cowboys coming to town,” he said.

But, that is no longer the case. Weekend activities send adults to the far corners of the state, some businesses are not open on weekends and ranchers and area residents now stop in at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning or 3 p.m. on Thursday — whenever they have time in their busy schedules.

Some of the male clientele have gone from exclusively attending barber shops to attending salons with their female relatives. It’s a convenient, one-stop shop for everyone there, Charlson said. They also tend to do men’s haircuts cheaper than Charlson can offer them.

But Charlson said he does see some hope in regaining his clients.

Charlson’s largest customer base has begun to shift from Baby Boomers to Generation X and Generation Y. The younger customers are more apt to wait for a haircut — they can stare at their phones while contributing to conversation here and there.

Charlson said most of his clientele comes back every couple of weeks. People’s hair will always grow so there will always be customers to keep him in business, he said.

There is room for barbers and there always will be, Charlson said. But like the pole outside Charlson’s shop, barbers will likely keep rotating, changing and may have more cosmetology experience in the future.

HB41 has passed the Wyoming House and is currently under consideration by the Senate.

Banquet raises $40K for Sheridan College rodeo

SHERIDAN — Approximately 325 people gathered at the Holiday Inn Convention Center on Saturday night for food, fun and to show their support for the 2015 Sheridan College rodeo program at the fifth annual SC Rodeo Banquet.

Ticket sales and donations from live and silent auctions, games and additional pledges help fund scholarships and operating costs for the SC men’s and women’s rodeo teams.

The SC Foundation estimates that this year’s event raised $40,000 for the team, a drastic increase over last year’s total of $27,000.

“The support we receive from the annual Rodeo Banquet helps our student-athletes pursue their dreams,” SC rodeo coach Marc Gilkerson said. “We are grateful for the support the community continues to show us.”

The live auction included 10 SC rodeo baseball caps, which collectively brought in the most money of the evening.

But it wasn’t a simple hat that had the crowd opening their wallets, it was what the hat represented.

Each cap contained a number and each winning bidder had the chance at one of two grand prizes should their number be drawn.

The custom-made .30-06 rifle and Remington 12-gauge shotgun started a bidding war.

Though only two guns were available, those who won the remaining eight caps each received tickets to next year’s banquet instead.

Items including a $1,200 bench made of authentic bull horns and cowhide as well as four one-hour rental sessions at the new SC AgriPark indoor arena also helped the team reach its record-breaking fundraising total.

Former Sheridan College rodeo athletes and now professional competitors Taygen Schuelke — the 2014 College National Finals Rodeo all-around champion — and Zeke Thurston — the 2014 reserve national champion saddle bronc rider — were among those in attendance.

Schuelke told the crowd that head coach Marc Gilkerson has done a lot for the rodeo team, but the supporters and sponsors have done even more, and asked those in attendance to keep supporting the team as they move on to even bigger things.

After a night of dancing to Montana-based band Sam Platts and the Kootenai Three, attendees left with custom made glass boot drinking mugs in hand.

The sixth annual banquet is planned for Feb. 6, 2016.

Making the move to smoke-free

SHERIDAN — Lorraine King immediately felt the difference.

As soon as she stepped inside Kim’s Family Restaurant, King rushed toward the long-time owner Young Ki Kim and gave him a hug.

“Thank you,” she told him while embracing the owner.

With a puzzled and surprised look on his face, Kim asked why.

“You know why,” King responded.

He did know why. For the first time since its opening in 1990, Kim’s Family Restaurant is smoke-free. No longer does King and her husband (who is on oxygen after years of smoking) have to sit on the non-smoking side of the restaurant.

King couldn’t be more thrilled.

“I am very happy for (Kim), I think it is really a good move,” she said.

The restaurant’s move to smoke-free is part of a campaign to make Sheridan healthier. The Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention for Sheridan County, the Prevention Management Organization of Sheridan County and the Wyoming Department of Health have spearheaded the campaign geared toward getting businesses to be smoke and vape free, Sheridan County prevention professional Wendy Bruso said.

Non-smoking establishments will have a sign in front of it saying “Breathe easy and frequent this smoke-free vape-free establishment.”

There is no statewide law banning smoking in eating establishments, leaving the option for smoking open to individual businesses, restaurants and other privately owned properties.

Even before this campaign, restaurants and bars throughout Sheridan have chosen to remove smoking from their establishment.

The push to decrease smoking establishments has primarily been employee driven, Bruso said.

“Sheridan is really doing some great things,” Bruso said. “We are really trying to make things safer here.”

A 2014 survey courtesy of the prevention group shows that most county residents (73 percent) favor non-smoking restaurants.

But prohibiting a custom can be difficult for anyone in the service industry. Kim, who prides himself on his restaurant’s service and is often seen socializing with customers, was concerned what the change might mean for his restaurant.

“Kim really loves his customers,” Bruso said. “He didn’t want to hurt anyone, but he wanted this change for quite a while …  his employees were being exposed to secondhand smoke every day.”

“I didn’t want to make anyone mad,” Kim said. “But already, the non-smoking people were mad.”

In just the days after he ended smoking at the restaurant, Kim said there have been positive changes. Others, besides King, have thanked Kim for making the switch to a non-smoking establishment.

“It didn’t stop us from eating here, but now we are more apt to come in,” King said.

But for Kim becoming a non-smoking restaurant is more than just a wise business move — it’s a choice to ensure that he, his employees and his customers are free from secondhand smoke.

“It’s just better for everybody,” Kim said.

A-C student wins statewide poetry contest

CLEARMONT — Dylan Collins, a senior at Arvada-Clearmont High School, won the 2015 Wyoming Poetry Out Loud competition held Monday and Tuesday in Cheyenne.

Poetry Out Loud is a memorization and performance competition for ninth- through 12th-grade students.

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, the program is administered locally by the Wyoming Arts Council.

This is the sixth consecutive year that an AC student has won the state title in the 10-year history of the competition.

Sara Ellingrod, a 2014 ACHS graduate, captured the first-place title each of the four years of her high school career.

Contestants for the 2015 Wyoming Poetry Out Loud competition came from Sundance, Buffalo, Hulett, Kaycee, Riverton, Casper, Clearmont and Jackson.

This year’s runner-up was Rebecca Dulaney from Sundance Secondary and third place went to Lucy Martinez of Summit High School in Jackson.

Judges for the 2015 Wyoming Poetry Out Loud event, held in the Cheyenne Civic Center, were poet Adrian Molina of Denver, Wyoming Poet Laureate Echo Klaproth of Shoshoni, poet and essayist Rick Kempa of Rock Springs and poet Matt Daly of Jackson.

Wyoming Public Radio’s Cultural Affairs Director Micah Schweizer served as emcee for the competition.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow presented the participation and award certificates at a ceremony held in the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday.

Collins received a prize of $200 for himself, a cash prize to purchase poetry books for his school’s classroom or library and he and his chaperone will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to compete at the national finals in Washington, D.C., April 28-29.

“I was the only kid in the whole competition that wasn’t in theater or drama classes, I was the only guy in the competition and I live on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, so I kept getting asked, ‘Why are you here? You don’t really fit in with this group,” Collins said. “I just kept saying, I may not fit in here but poetry is about the feelings you give off, and no matter your interest and no matter where you’re from everyone can experience happy, sad and all the feelings of poetry.”

Arbitration bill fails on third reading

SHERIDAN— Senate File 123, the bill that would have made arbitration with firefighter unions non-binding to governing bodies was defeated in the Senate this morning by a narrow vote.

The vote was recorded this morning at 11:33 a.m. There were 14 votes in favor of the bill, including Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, who sponsored it. Thirteen senators voted against it and three were excused, including Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan.

The bill failed, despite having more “aye” votes than “nay” votes, because it needed a majority of all those elected to the Senate to cast votes in favor not just a majority of those members present. Since three senators were “excused” for the vote, the majority was not obtained.

Immediately after the third reading, a motion was made to immediately reconsider the bill. That motion passed and the bill was reconsidered by the Senate.

On reconsideration, Kinskey switched his vote in what he called a procedural attempt to save the bill, making the tally 13 in favor, 14 against and three excused. Kinskey said he will continue to pursue the legislation in the future.

The bill had passed in the Senate on second reading Wednesday in spite of stiff opposition from representatives of the firefighter unions that the bill would directly impact.

An identical bill was proposed last year but failed to get a two-thirds majority vote to be introduced onto the House floor. That bill had eight sponsors.

This year’s bill had 20 sponsors, providing an uphill battle for union representatives, former fire chiefs, concerned citizens and even former city officials who have been reaching out to garner support for their opposition of the bill through a variety of means including Twitter, Facebook, emails, phone calls and face-to-face requests.

“We’re more or less doing as much as we can to get people via email or calling to let senators know their concerns about SF123,” Federated Fire Fighters of Wyoming President Joe Fender said. “We’re asking them to respectfully vote no, but we’ve been very professional and courteous.”

Fender said the union tried to act matter-of-factly toward the situation even though it could have significant impacts on its right to negotiate employment contracts for unionized fire departments around the state.

“We have lots of calls into the Senate switchboard, which is all we can do,” Fender said.

SF123 would amend state statute to make arbitration non-binding on governmental bodies.

While unions could have still requested to negotiate contracts with city councils or county commissions, if those negotiations failed and the contract had to be decided by a neutral third-party arbitrator, the arbitration ruling would have been advisory only to the governing bodies, essentially giving them final say and control on the employment contracts for firefighters.

The bill would have also amended state statute to say that city councils or county commissions could appoint a designee, such as an attorney or human resources director, to negotiate on their behalf with the union representatives.

Catching a lift back to class
Facility named for Whitney, Mars: Crews expected to break ground in next several weeks

SHERIDAN — Sheridan on Skates has announced the official name of Sheridan’s new indoor ice arena: Whitney Rink at the M&M’s Center, in recognition of Forrest Mars and Whitney Benefits for their contributions to the project.

SOS also has released the architect’s schematic renderings to the public as contractors prepare to break ground in the next several weeks.

“We’re excited to give the public a preview of what they’ve helped us build,” SOS board member Charley Whiton said. “While we’re still in the middle of our community fundraising campaign, all of the donations received thus far have brought us to a point where we can show a detailed illustration of Sheridan’s first indoor ice arena.”

The design features clean lines in a stacked, modern-looking arrangement, as shown in the drawings released by Dale Buckingham Architects. Brown architectural concrete blocks will define the facade, set apart by thin, white vertical translucent light panels.

These panels will allow natural light in to provide a soft glow at night on the building exterior and allow natural light into the ice rink during the day.

Two tan cornerstones made of hard-coat stucco will sit parallel to Brundage Street, with one surrounding the existing compressor building to make the structure consistent with the new design.

The facility will be approximately 35,000 square feet with the existing pad of ice, eight locker rooms to accommodate both figure skating and hockey programs, and coaches and officials.

The rink will also feature a concession stand, an exercise room, a meeting room and spectator seating for 420. Groathouse Construction will serve as construction manager, working with Dale Buckingham Architects, Martin/Martin Consulting Engineers, A.C.E Associated Construction Engineering, Inc., and DOWL HKM. Subcontractor bid requests will be going out soon.

Early graduation not always just about academic achievement

SHERIDAN — Graduating early from high school is no small feat, requiring extra courses and hard work for the shortened time a student is enrolled. But having the ability to move on from secondary education is not always just a mark of academic achievement — sometimes it is the outcome of necessity.

“We have students who have other situations in their life — sometimes they are a teen parent situation or have some medical issues or are needing to work because of their family situation,” Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “We don’t want them to be making the choice to drop out. We know how important earning a high school diploma is and the doors it opens for that student, so that’s a real priority for us is to help them make it to graduation.”

SCSD1 offers online courses through their Bridges Academy — an alternative school housed in the Tongue River Valley Community Center.

The self-paced digital courses can be used for credit recovery or an alternative learning style, for those who need those options, but the courses also serve as an accelerator when taken simultaneously with traditional classroom lessons.

“We make sure they are working at a minimum pace, but if they choose to work at a faster pace they can do that and move ahead sooner,” Kobza said of the online courses. “Ultimately that’s our goal, to see that students are learning and demonstrating their knowledge to us — not just being here for four years but proving they know what we need them to know to move on.”

When combined with summer school courses, the district has seen some students graduate up to a full year early while still exceeding the minimum amount of credits required by the state to graduate, Kobza said.

Currently, though they are done with school, early graduates do not receive their diploma until their standard graduation date arrives, but Kobza said that may change.

“Within our board strategic plan we talk about individualizing learning opportunities for students and some of these situations might fall into that category, so we will see moving forward if that changes,” Kobza said.

On the other side of the county, graduating early is a much different tale.

At Sheridan County School District 2, administrators discourage students from leaving high school early, urging them to utilize as much of the free education offered to them as possible before moving on to the next level.

SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty said his district’s students are not wanting to graduate early simply to be free of high school, but rather they are eager to advance to the next level.

“One of the things we try to do is comprehensively prepare students with all the tools they have, because once they leave us they are on their own,” Dougherty said. “Eighteen-year-olds feel they have the world by the tail and they are ready to move on, but what we have found is our top performing kids really need that full four years to get the full benefit.”

SCSD2 Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Human Relations Terry Burgess said the district does have two to four kids graduate early each year, but they try to make that the exception, not the rule.

“We feel that if a student comes in and says they are done with their high school career our counselors will talk to them and their parents about their AP (advanced placement) options where they can take courses for free and get books for free and still earn college credits,” Burgess said. “They can earn a free period their senior year, and some kids like to take advantage of that, but there are opportunities between our rigorous classes and our college classes that they can get ahead.”

Both districts agree that the majority of their high academic students are sticking around, earning college credits from the comfort of their high school environment while they still can.

And as SCSD2 continues its Graduation Counts community group efforts looking at multiple pathways to graduation, Dougherty said there is a possibility some early graduation policy changes could take shape.

“We’re trying to look at what can we do to enhance the education of these kids and someone who wants to leave early, we may not be meeting their needs,” Dougherty said. “Hopefully that is something we can look at to expand their options.”

Technology in education: Easter Seals clients benefit from new technology purchase

SHERIDAN — A simple question asked a little over a year ago has led to clients at Easter Seals finding new ways to learn, communicate and accomplish goals such as finding a job, losing weight and becoming better readers.

While an investigation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities may not typically be seen as a way to find inspiration, it was last year, Easter Seals Wyoming Assistant Director Brandy Nielsen said.

CARF commended Easter Seals staff for its use of technology to maintain documentation and confidential records on clients. However, CARF officials wanted to know how Easter Seals was using technology for the benefit of clients.

“We only had two desktop computers clients could use at that time,” Nielsen said. “It got us to thinking, ‘You and I use technology — tablets, laptops and cellphones — why not expect the same of our participants?’”

Staff voted to use funds raised from last year’s Easter Seals play produced for Disability Awareness Month in March to purchase 11 Chromebooks. Easter Seals also purchased several tablets after receiving advice about applications for tablets that can be used for speech therapy.

Nielsen has seen positive results from increased technology use by Easter Seals participants. She hopes that enhancing access to technology will become part of the organization’s budget and educational philosophy.

Education and Community Team Leader Mariah Mitchell said previously clients would use the computers at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library. They eventually began requesting more computer time, saying they’d like to use email or Facebook to communicate with friends and family, watch videos on YouTube and just have fun on the Internet.

That’s when Mitchell and other staff members began exploring the educational uses of technology. After the Chromebooks and tablets were purchased — and immediately put into near constant use as clients signed up daily for time on the technological devices — using the Internet was integrated into the goals that clients set for themselves.

For example, Larry Longland has learned how to access the Wyoming at Work website to search for a job. He regularly looks for jobs that interest him and reports his findings to his job coach.

“It’s not easy finding a job, especially if you want to become a professional cook,” Longland said. “I am looking on Wyomingatwork.com. I incorporate this into my goal, as well, and it becomes part of my time management skill to look for work.”

Mistie Stedillie also uses the Internet to help her in her job search. She used Google voice search on one of the Chromebooks Wednesday to look up videos of job interviews so she could prepare for a job interview of her own.

Stedillie already volunteers at Sheridan Manor and the Dog and Cat Shelter and would like to find a job where she can care for animals and people who need a little extra help.

“It’s really fun, if you really think about it. It’s a rush I get sometimes. I love it,” Stedillie said about using the Internet to research various skills she will need once she gets into the workplace.

Stedillie also uses the Internet to research animals and often tells others what she has learned or seen in a video online, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said several clients have found reading programs online and greatly improved their reading comprehension. Several participants took a sign language class online, and once each section of the course was done, the students would sit in a circle and practice what they had just seen in the Internet video. Many Easter Seals clients also use the Internet to find games that help them learn how to county money, tell time and more.

“It’s just another avenue for us to get across a point,” Mitchell said. “This one might sink in and work, and they might latch on to this avenue.”

Breann Small uses her time online to find inspiration to lose weight, which is one of her goals. She watches exercise videos and finds advice on weight loss. On Wednesday, Small was emailing her mom to tell her she’d lost 8 pounds. Small said her mom loves getting emails from her, especially when they contain such good news.

Many clients also utilize the Internet the stay in touch. Mary Cichonski regularly emails her mom to talk about her day and what she is learning.

“I’m really glad for computers. They make me feel more connected,” Cichonski said.

“Me, too!” Small chimed in.

Mitchell said that Easter Seals participants have found an increased sense of equality and worth through the use of technology.

“They like feeling like they’re, ‘kept in the loop,’ so to speak, that they’re not being left behind out of technology,” Mitchell said.

Learning to maneuver the Internet on their own also boosts their confidence.

“When they get out there and are searching themselves for something that truly interests them, that’s when it’s fun because they they’re just like, ‘Yeah, I can do this!,’” Mitchell said. “The more they feel they can do this, then they get more confident in themselves and their role in society and how they perceive themselves in society.”

Civil Air Patrol provides training for local youth

SHERIDAN — Whether your young one plans to enter the U.S. Air Force, wants to take to the skies for fun or to help people or just needs a little more leadership, he or she may find a jump-start to their dreams in the Civil Air Patrol.

CAP is a nonprofit organization that performs 90 percent of the nation’s inland search and rescue operations, saving approximately 75 lives each year, according to its website.

In the 1930s, more than 150,000 aviators petitioned for an organization to put their planes and flying skills to use in defense of their country.

As a result, the Civil Air Patrol was born one week prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Originally assigned to the War Department under the jurisdiction of the Army Air Corps, the Civil Air Patrol continued providing aid to both local and national agencies after World War II.

In 1946, President Harry Truman incorporated the Civil Air Patrol as a benevolent, nonprofit organization. In 1948, Congress passed a law permanently establishing Civil Air Patrol as the auxiliary of the new U.S. Air Force.

Today the group has about 60,000 members nationwide — including more than 250 in Wyoming — and has three primary mission areas: aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services.

In Sheridan, the Cloud Peak Squadron meets weekly on Thursdays with cadets — the kids — and senior members learning, flying and working their way up the ranks.

Senior member and cadet parent Kristen Marcus said what really sets the program apart from other youth organizations in Sheridan is that this program is putting kids into a situation where they can help someone in an extreme situation.

Currently, cadets are being trained to be ground-level certified in search and rescue missions and hope to be certified in June.

Parents are encouraged to sign up either as a sponsor — who goes with on trips and helps out but doesn’t get any training — or as a senior member who receives training in any of 18 different positions.

“I signed up just to spend more time with my daughter and found out it was really cool and I want to stay in it,” Marcus said. “I think it’s pretty rigorous. For the three things I wanted to train for I had to complete 117 tasks and I’ve completed 37. And that’s just for the lower level of all of those; to be master rating it takes much more time.”

But the hard work could lead to big rewards.

If a cadet begins at age 12 and continues through age 18, they could leave the program with a full pilot’s license. Normally a very expensive process, the training they receive is fully covered by the CAP annual fee.

Civil Air Patrol Cadets salute Cadet Capt. Don Coletta on Thursday at the Wyoming National Guard Armory in Sheridan. Cadets pictured, from left, are Brie Marcus, Bryce Lydic, Talon Heatley, back, and Nathan Lydic.

Civil Air Patrol Cadets salute Cadet Capt. Don Coletta on Thursday at the Wyoming National Guard Armory in Sheridan. Cadets pictured, from left, are Brie Marcus, Bryce Lydic, Talon Heatley, back, and Nathan Lydic.

If a cadet has an interest in enlisting in the Air Force, they could enter the ranks a grade or two higher than a non-CAP enlistee, meaning higher pay and higher rank at a younger age.

Other interests that would benefit from participation are EMTs, life flight pilots, private or small aircraft pilots or even somebody who just wants to learn leadership skills, Marcus said.

Under the direction of Capt. Jeffrey Baum, a commercial airline pilot of 30 years, cadets get to take flight and even take the yoke during flight.

Some members of the community have expressed concerns regarding the cadets taking flight after an accident in 2007 killed CAP senior members from Sheridan.

Three members were out in a Cessna 182R aircraft searching for a teen who went missing while fishing, and were killed when their plane crashed in the Bighorn National Forest.

The plane went down on a Monday evening and on Tuesday, rescuers reached the remote crash site and recovered the bodies of the crew members, Lt. Col. James Henderson of Cowley and Senior Member James Meyer and Capt. Patricia Larson, both of Sheridan.

The missing teen, Keith Bellack of Gillette, was found alive.

“Since then, the community has had a foul taste in their mouths for us,” Marcus said. “It was horrible and it should not have ever happened. Accidents happen and we have worked to rectify the problem. The problem that caused the crash is that orders were not followed to the letter. We have a new wing commander who will not put up with any person not fulfilling any order no matter how inconsequential it may seem. If he gives an order and it is not followed then you will not fly.”

But to Marcus, it is all about the personal benefits both her and her daughter have received.

Marcus has seen a marked improvement in the attitude of her daughter, who she said is a typical pre-teen.

“She is 12 going on 13 and she has that attitude, but she’s learning a lot of restraint with the Civil Air Patrol because she has to follow orders,” Marcus said. “Everybody works as a team so everybody knows what is expected of them and when they are expected to do it.”

As a senior member, Marcus appreciates the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

“I’ve always been in civil service; I’ve been a Girl Scout leader and things throughout my life,” she said.

“So to be a part of potentially making real changes, potentially churning out a cadet who could go out and save someone’s life is excellent,” she added. “I think it is an amazing opportunity for the youth and the adults to not only get involved in the community but also do something that has a much bigger picture.”

Easing the transition to UW: Agreements in the works to help ease student transition to 4-year school

SHERIDAN — Soon, students enrolling in one of 16 programs at Sheridan College with the intention of transferring to the University of Wyoming will be able to rest easy knowing that they have the same chances of receiving a bachelor’s degree in four years as students who spend their first two years at the University.

UW is working with each of the seven community colleges in Wyoming to form articulation agreements in “The Big 17” — the 17 programs most commonly transferred in to at the university.

The agreements are one of many program-level plans UW and the state’s community colleges are working to develop after requests from the Legislature asked the institutions to ease the transition for students moving from community colleges to the university, an effort to encourage Wyoming’s best students to stay in state.

As part of this articulation, UW made some changes to their general education that will go into effect on campus in the fall semester.

These changes will make the process easier for transfer students, but will also benefit students who start their studies at UW. The university is developing four-year curriculum maps that can be easily accessed by prospective students and their families.

In Sheridan, the efforts are part of what they call the “2 plus 2” articulation plans.

The faculty at SC has matched up courses and made agreements they felt comfortable with, and now articulation plans are awaiting the signatures of deans, directors and vice presidents at both institutions to finalize a clear pathway toward a bachelor’s degree in English.

Degrees in other programs are at varying points along the process.

“We’ve got some programs that are finalizing plans and should be coming across my desk soon for review, and we have others who are still drafting plans and reviewing plans,” SC Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Richard Hall said. “If you can imagine trying to fit something into what they offer there with what we offer at the community colleges when we all work independently and have our own ideas of what we would like to see in a degree, it’s quite the task. There is a lot of give and take and compromise to get the where we can say, yeah this is going to work.”

Hall said what students will see when they look at the articulation agreement is a clear plan to transfer without loss of credit or at least knowing ahead of time how many credits they will get at UW for the classes they are picking.

The majority of the changes will come in transferability, not course content, though if the faculty feels they could make a positive change to the content area by matching them up better, they may do so, he added.

“Anytime that we can get university faculty communicating with community college faculty and talking about what is going to work for both institutions while keeping in mind we are talking about student success, it always becomes a positive benefit and students end up becoming the winners in it all,” Hall said. “Whether we have five students transferring to UW or 200 students transferring, if these articulations are going to benefit any students they are worth completing.”

Students transferring from Sheridan College to University of Wyoming

Year No. of transfers to UW

2009 – 2010 109

2010 – 2011 98

2011 – 2012 114

2012 – 2013 112

2013 – 2014 85

What programs will be included in the agreements?

The Big 17:

Animal and veterinary science

Family and consumer science

Biology

Communication – not offered at NWCCD

Criminal justice

English

Political science

Psychology

Wildlife and fisheries

Biology management

Zoology

Accounting

Business administration

Elementary education

Civil engineering

Petroleum engineering

Kinesiology and health promotion

Creating functional art

Lloyd Marsden holds a wood bowl after finishing it on the lathe. The bowl will have to dry for several days before Marsden sands and oils it. The bowl will be auctioned at a fundraiser for the Sagebrush Community Art Center in Sheridan. Marsden has been turning wood since his youth — his father was a woodworker and had Marsden working early on. Marsden works as a part-time engineer, but he spends much of his time in his basement making bowls from an assortment of woods. Marsden’s work walks the line between functionality and art — his products are usually for sale during the Sheridan Community Art Walk or during the auction fundraiser at the Sagebrush Community Art Center in the historic train depot.

Bear Cloud gets more lenient penalty in third round of sentencing

SHERIDAN — Family and friends of Wyatt Bear Cloud gathered Tuesday in 4th Judicial District Court as he received a more lenient penalty in the third round of sentencing stemming from the 2009 murder of local businessman Robert Ernst.

Bear Cloud had been sentenced to life in prison in 2011 in connection with the crime, which included convictions for aggravated burglary and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to an additional 20-25 years for each of those charges, but the conspiracy sentence was to run concurrently with the life sentence while the other was to be served consecutively.

He has since appealed to the Wyoming Supreme Court twice. Following a September decision from the Wyoming Supreme Court in the second appeal, Bear Cloud was given another chance to receive a lesser sentence, and he got it.

On Tuesday, 4th Judicial District Court Judge John Fenn sentenced Bear Cloud to life in prison according to law with the possibility of parole after 25 years for the murder conviction. He also sentenced Bear Cloud to concurrent sentences for the burglary charges, meaning Bear Cloud will be eligible for parole in no more than 25 years.

Bear Cloud, who was 16 at the time of the crimes, will also receive credit for the nearly 5.5 years he has already served.

Neither Bear Cloud’s attorney Tina Olson nor Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Matt Redle called witnesses Tuesday.

Redle argued to have the sentence for aggravated burglary suspended and for probation to be served when Bear Cloud is released from prison for parole. Fenn, though, said he felt that lines between the sentences would be muddied, and there was no point in a probation sentence when the defendant would already be subject to the structure of parole.

Olson told the judge that she felt mitigating circumstances had not been stressed enough and touched briefly on the death of Bear Cloud’s mother, which occurred just months before the crime.

Both Redle and Olson said they wanted Tuesday’s sentencing to be the last to provide finality for not only the Ernst family, but also the Bear Cloud family and the community as a whole.

Bear Cloud chose not to make a statement concerning his sentencing, telling the judge that his feelings on his actions had not changed since the previous sentencings.

A Supreme court decision in 2012 forced the first resentencing. It ruled that juveniles could not be sentenced to life in prison without a meaningful chance at parole. In addition to the Supreme Court hearing, Wyoming legislation did away with the sentence of life without parole for juvenile offenders and instituted a life according to law sentence that makes juvenile offenders eligible for parole after 25 years.

When Bear Cloud was resentenced based on the Wyoming Supreme Court ruling and new state laws in August 2013, only his life sentence was taken into consideration.

Bear Cloud appealed the 2013 sentence, saying that serving 25 years to reach parole only to start a 25-year sentence for the aggravated burglary was equal to serving a life sentence. The Wyoming Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case back to the district court for resentencing for all three counts, resulting in Tuesday’s hearing.

SHS claims 2nd straight “We the People” state championship

SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School Advanced Placement Government teacher Tyson Emborg had better be careful or students might start expecting that enrolling in his course automatically means you get to take a trip to Washington, D.C.

The “We the People” team of SHS has once again claimed the state championship, and for the second year in a row will send 20 students to D.C. in April for the national competition.

“I think it’s been a little bit of time since SHS has gone back-to-back with state championships,” Emborg said. “I’m still tired from last year.”

The competition asks students to prepare four-minute essays on three comprehensive questions posed ahead of the competition by the judging panel. At the competition, one of those questions is chosen at random to be presented by the team.

At the state tournament held yesterday in Casper, the team faced questions on topics including religious clauses of the First Amendment, what rights should be expanded or limited in the U.S. Constitution, executive orders and more.

Following the presentation of the prepared essay, teams answer six minutes of additional questions on the given topic. Due to the format of the competition, teams must have very thorough knowledge of each topic, beyond the prepared answers.

Now, heading to nationals, the team will look to deepen their knowledge even more with their eyes on the prize of a national championship.

“Last year at nationals there were several questions on the parliament vs. the presidential system and several questions on justice, and they were very complex, so we’re really going to have to prepare,” Emborg said. “What we’ll want to get into is a little more on political socialization, voting, electoral processes and things in that regard. I’ve hinted at them before, but now we want to layer that with a deeper understanding. Each time the students learn something they need to discover the next layer.”

As the team is formed by students currently enrolled in the class, every year each contestant is a rookie.

“Each year you have to take a new class that has never heard any of this and try to get them as far as you can,” Emborg said. “It helps to have so much buy-in from the students, but it ain’t easy.”

Emborg said his degrees in the field have afforded him a better understanding of the application of the materials being studied. After 15 years of intense investigation throughout his graduate studies, he feels he has a good understanding of how the materials should be taught to get the students to a different level of understanding.

“It’s not a class out of a textbook where you’re getting secondhand interpretation,” Emborg said. “You’re reading the court case, you’re reading the Constitution, you’re the philosopher, and I think that is something that a lot of students across the country do not do.

“There is no prerequisite for that,” he added. “I am of the firm belief that there should be no prerequisite of that. If they want to work hard and take on the task I will work hard with them to understand the material. It would be easier to have prerequisites or just bring last year’s team back, but the whole notion is to expose as many kids as you can to the material.”

To get the rookies to the state champion level, Emborg and the class invests countless hours in and out of the classroom.

“If anyone has been around town on the weekends they will see us at Starbucks and Java Moon studying; it takes putting in the time to get ready,” Emborg said. “We had 12 essays for state. The students spent a ton of time on each essay and I probably spent about 15 hours on each essay outside the classroom as well. It is extremely tight in its writing because it is so deep in its content, so it ends up being a pretty big undertaking.”

The overtime will not end anytime soon as the group now needs to prepare 18 questions for nationals. The 10 boys and 10 girls will prepare in six different units to explore the variety of different sub-content areas within each study.

Emborg hopes to host another dress rehearsal in Sheridan in the spring to not only give the students practice with their topics but also give the community a glimpse of what is on the minds of their most rigorous students, he said.

“Almost every single one of the students is involved in some other activity at the school so it is a pretty incredible mix of students,” he said. “And April is a wonderful time to be touring around the capital and the Washington monument, as well as competing in the national finals, so it should a really exciting time to be back there.”

Winnop goes to Washington

SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School senior Elizabeth Winnop will be making her second trip in two years to Washington, D.C., but this time she will get to meet the president.

A member of last year’s state champion “We the People” team, Winnop has been selected as one of two students from Wyoming to spend a week in D.C. for the 53rd annual U.S. Senate Youth Program to be held March 7-14.

Each year, this competitive merit-based program brings 104 of the most outstanding high school students to Washington, D.C., for a weeklong study of the federal government and the people who lead it.

Winnop and her counterpart Eben Cowger of Upton were selected by Sens. Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyoming, and John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, after an extensive application, testing and interview process.

“It was a massive test,” Winnop said of the application process. “It took me close to two hours to do and spanned all sorts of government information. It discussed areas from the Constitutional Convention all the way up to present politics.”

After the test, six finalists were chosen to be interviewed in two groups of three.

A panel of judges asked the finalists individual questions on state and national government and general policy.

“I am pretty well spoken and comfortable with public speaking and interviews, but the questions I ended up with were very different than the other two in my group so each time I was thrown through a loop; but I think I handled it well,” Winnop said. “I’m just excited for the overall experience of all it. I’ll actually get to see the Capitol building, the rotunda, because last time we were there it was under maintenance.”

While in Washington the student delegates attend meetings and briefings with senators, House representatives and congressional staff, the president, a justice of the Supreme Court, leaders of cabinet agencies, an ambassador to the United States and senior members of the national media.

Winnop anticipates the meeting with the president will begin with a group speech and hopes that everyone will get to shake his hand while there.

“It’ll be really exciting and something a girl from Wyoming doesn’t get to do very often,” Winnop said.

Winnop said prior to enrolling in AP U.S. Government last year — the class that forms the “We the People” team — she had barely a cursory knowledge of the workings of government.

Since the class, her interest has been piqued and she is considering going into civil government in Sheridan or for the state of Wyoming after college.

In addition to the program week, each selected student will receive a $5,000 undergraduate college scholarship.

Winnop is unsure of where she will attend college but said Carol College in Montana, Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington, and Stanford are her top three choices.

She intends to go into the study of medicine with a possible emphasis on medical rehabilitation.

“I want to go into the medical field to help people,” she said. “I am a very nurturing person, so I think that would suit me well.”

Winnop has been involved in Student Council for the past three years where she has served as vice president, president and class representative. She has participated in Wyoming Girls State and the Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp.

Winnop is also a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist, a member of Honor Choir and Honor Society, a competitive figure skater, a regular volunteer and participant in church functions and she works in the summers as a tour guide at The Brinton Museum.

“I don’t sleep very much,” she said with a laugh when describing her many commitments. “I think, for me, a lot of it is my parents have always preached to me balance and being a well-rounded person and not just excelling at one thing. You just have to stay organized and prioritize.”

From Sheridan to Washington D.C.: Local student tells of her time working as a Senate page

SHERIDAN — She got there on a Sunday — Sept. 7, 2014 — and by 4:50 a.m. Sept. 8 it had hit her: this was going to be a very different semester.

Back home in Sheridan, Madison Pehringer didn’t get out of bed at 5 in the morning to be at school by 6:15 a.m. In Sheridan, she didn’t ride a private subway beneath the U.S. Capitol to get to lunch, she didn’t make photocopies for people like John McCain and Marco Rubio and she didn’t regularly shake hands with Vice President Joe Biden.

Yes, indeed, the first semester of her junior year in high school would be memorable and quite possibly life-changing.

“This was a whole new ballgame for me,” Pehringer said. “I like to think that before this I was interested in politics, but now, coming back, it’s crazy just how much more aware I am of what’s going on in the world.”

Pehringer returned on Sunday from a semester working as a Senate page for the Republican Party in the United States Senate. She was appointed by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming.

When people asked her on her first day back in town if the experience made her want to pursue a political career, she said no.

By Thursday, after a few days of letting her time in the nation’s capital sink in, her answer has become a definite maybe, especially as she reflects on newfound heroes like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, who helped her see the need for women to step into politics.

But for now, Pehringer is adjusting to actually having free time again and to days that don’t involve leaving school at 9 in the morning to report to work in the U.S. Senate Chambers.

Becoming a page

A family friend originally told her she should apply to be a Senate page. Pehringer deliberated the idea but remained indecisive before taking a trip to Washington, D.C., last spring to participate in the National History Bowl.

While there, she went on a Capitol tour with a staffer for Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and asked about the Senate page program since she couldn’t find much information on it. The staffer later told her that Enzi had an opening to appoint a Senate page.

Pehringer applied, and months later her parents, George Neeson and Wendy Wood Neeson, were sending her off to live, work and go to school in D.C.

“It was the awe of being in the Capitol,” Pehringer said about making the decision to apply. “The Capitol is just gorgeous, and it’s this huge, historic building, and just the thought of being able to be there every day. There weren’t any pages there, so there was kind of that mystery about the program, too, that ‘What do these people do? Why aren’t they here?’”

Pehringer soon found out for herself what Senate pages do.

By her second day on the job, Sept. 9, 2014, Senate was back in session after a month-long recess.

Pehringer attended school that day from 6:15 to 9 a.m. By 9:40 a.m. she was on the Senate floor preparing the chambers for the day’s work, piling records on desks, running bills here and there, getting water, lecterns and other needed items for senators and bustling through areas like the cloak rooms that are off-limits to all but Congress members, clerks and pages.

There were a lot of mistakes made that day, but all 30 pages — 14 for the Republicans and 16 for the Democrats — learned as fast as they could before retiring to their home in Webster Hall where they made dinner, did homework and hit the sack before another full day in the Senate.

Unlikely heroes and hangouts

While in D.C. Pehringer found some unlikely heroes and hangouts for a Wyoming girl her age.

Take Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, for instance.

“Senator Leahy was really awesome just because he’s been in the Senate so long and he’s also been in all the Batman movies,” Pehringer said. “He has a scene in the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ when the Joker crashes the cocktail party and his line in the movie is, ‘We’re not afraid of thugs like you.’ He acted out his scene for a couple of us pages on the Senate floor when they were in recess, and that’s probably my favorite memory of being on the Senate floor.”

Pehringer and the other pages now regularly tweet with Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Pehringer gets giddy when she tells you about getting to hear President Petro Poroshenko, the current president of Ukraine, in a joint meeting of Congress.

She was there in November when the Senate voted on the XL Pipeline. And she and the other pages didn’t mind missing the chance to go to an Army-Navy game in order to be at “Voterama” on the Saturday after the election. They worked the floor until almost 1 a.m. as vote after vote was made.

Union Station became a favorite hangout because of its food and free Wi-Fi. Pages must give up their cell phones and can only use the internet at Webster Hall for their courses in order to eliminate distractions from school and work. They also were not allowed to talk to the press or to use social media during their time as a page.

“Election night was the Super Bowl of Webster Hall,” Pehringer said. “Everyone had ice cream and popcorn and every single TV that we had was tuned in to every news channel that was broadcasting the voting results.”

Pehringer also visited sites like Jamestown, Valley Forge, the Library of Congress and Philadelphia on school field trips.

“I would highly recommend it to anyone who has any inkling of an interest in politics,” Pehringer said, “to anyone looking to expand their horizons in high school.”

A typical day

Madison Pehringer said she went in a little blind when she was appointed as a Senate page in D.C. for the fall 2014 semester of her junior year in high school. Maybe it’s better she did, because a schedule like the one she kept is not for the faint of heart. Here was her typical day as a Senate page:

• 4:50 a.m. – Alarm goes off

• 5 a.m. – Get out of bed in the room she shared with three roommates who became the best of friends.

• 5:30 a.m. – Make breakfast in the basement kitchen of Webster Hall, using a microwave and a hot plate.

• 6:15 a.m. – Be at the Senate page school located in Webster Hall. Study pre-calculus, English, political science and chemistry.

• 8:30 a.m. – Finish the school day and head to the Capitol to begin work. Prepare the Senate chambers for the day’s session.

• 9:30 a.m. to noon – Senate convenes. Provide assistance as needed.

• Noon – take the private subway system that snakes under the Capitol to Dirksen Senate Office Building to eat lunch in the cafe.

• 1 to 6 or 7 p.m. – Work on the Senate floor until Senate adjourns.

• 7 to 10 or 11 p.m. – Make dinner, do homework and chores, go to bed.

Ferrari of the piano world gets a tune-up

SHERIDAN — Imagine a wide open road, shimmering with dew, and an F12berlinetta Ferrari with every “rosso corsa” curve glistening and its V12 engine purring with a soft restraint that almost belies the power beneath the hood.

Now imagine easing the gas pedal down, expecting the heart-pounding rev and the 0 to 124 in 8.5 seconds, only to find it’s running on four cylinders and your friend’s Yaris has it beat.

As piano technician Joel Weber said:“That would be really sad.”

But that’s about what happened when Weber came up from Colorado to do some work on the piano at First Baptist Church — a 1981 concert grand Bechstein producing 50 percent of the tone, clarity and beauty of which it is capable.

Weber said when he got the call from local musician Ron Krikac to come and work on the Bechstein, he was surprised to hear that such a piano had found its way to a small city in Wyoming.

“It’s almost like finding a Ferrari in the middle of nowhere,”Weber said.

It’s not that Sheridan is nowhere, he added; it’s just that a Bechstein of this size — 9 feet, 6 inches — is rare, making this shiny Ferrari of the piano world one of the best pianos in the state — and region. Weber knows of a few 6- or 7-foot Bechsteins in Colorado and Montana, but a 9-footer is a marvel.

A marvel it may be, but the Bechstein — originally from Vermont — had a hard time with the move to Wyoming last spring.

“It had some mechanical issues that needed to be addressed,” Weber said. “And they were way beyond an oil change.”

There are more moving parts in a grand piano than in a car and fixing all those moving parts requires attention to minute details.

A piece of leather or felt used to temper friction points in the piano can affect the sound when compressed by even a few millimeters. A drop in humidity — Weber recorded the humidity at 15 percent inside the church — can dry the wood and cause the keys to twist. When the keys twist, they may hit only one or two of the three strings struck by each key, muting the piano’s tone.

For four days, Weber has used intricate geometry and layers of felt and paper punchings to adjust the level of each of the 88 keys to optimum height. He has filed down hammers with loose layers of felt that are hampering the sound and tweaked hammers that are bouncing when they shouldn’t.

When he’s all done, Sheridan’s Bechstein concert grand will rev.

Its real ivory and ebony keys will belie the power inside until the “hood” is propped open and all 200-plus strings with 30,000 pounds of linear tension are purring like 12 cylinders of spine-tingling power encased in racing red and blurring out of vision on the wide open road.

How Sheridan got its Bechstein

SHERIDAN — Local musician Ron Krikac heard the 1981 Bechstein concert grand at First Baptist Church on Wednesday. It brought tears to his eyes — but not for the first time in his life.

Krikac, who owns several pianos of his own, came upon the Bechstein by accident on a trip to Vermont a couple years ago. He walked into a piano store and there it was. He fell in love before the piano said “Hello.”

But then, a young concert pianist walked up to the piano and began to play.

“I was just blown away,” Krikac said. “It was fortuitous that he showed up that day.”

Krikac knew he wanted the piano, but he didn’t have room for a 9-foot-6 grand in his house. He had heard that First Baptist Church was looking for a piano whose sound would fill its large sanctuary. He mentioned the Bechstein, which had sat in the piano store in Vermont for three years, and a deal was negotiated.

About the same time, pastor John Craft had been talking with the Sheridan Arts Council about using First Baptist Church to host classical music concerts. A concert featuring pianist Josh Wright tonight will be the third in a series of four concerts this year hosted by the church and the Sheridan Arts Council.

“We love being part of the community and being good neighbors, opening our doors and welcoming the community in to enjoy beautiful things,”Craft said.

Sheridan Arts Council President Jack Burke said the partnership has been beneficial to all.

He said for each concert generous donors have purchased tickets to allow young people from area schools and group homes to attend the classical concerts for free. He thinks those opportunities — especially when the vehicle for the concerts is the Ferrari of the piano world — can be life-changing.

“I feel very strongly that sometimes you get kids that would never be exposed to some of this stuff and it changes their life,”Burke said. “We each have a paradigm of what life is about. We look at life through our own lenses. Every so often, we’ve all had the experience of looking at something or being exposed to something and suddenly saying, ‘Wow, maybe I should expand my paradigm or maybe my paradigm should change.’”

Burke said he hopes the classical concerts at First Baptist Church will continue long into the future. After all, a Ferrari is meant to be driven.

Survey shows residents OK with more lax development rules

SHERIDAN — Recent survey results indicate Sheridan residents think downtown development is important enough that the city should consider revising its rules to make it easier to remodel or replace downtown buildings.

The survey was the second sent out this year to gauge public opinion during development of the Sheridan Land Use Plan and a future land use map. The documents will identify areas for housing, transportation, open space, commercial and industrial development and be used to guide future development of the city.

In considering downtown Sheridan, 77 percent of respondents said they agree the city should consider revisions to the rules for downtown development to make it easier to remodel or replace a downtown building.

“No one likes to see vacant stores downtown,” City Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs said. “We are aware of things we can do to make development easier in downtown. We recognize it as an asset.”

Briggs said development rules that could be re-examined include regulations about parking, setbacks and building height.

Relaxing downtown development standards does not mean that safety will be compromised, Briggs said.

The city has adopted the international code set for fire and building codes and must adhere to a minimum set of life safety standards. For example, code requires that there must be a fire barrier such as sheetrocking or fire-rated doors between stores that are divided only by a common wall. That provides a fire break and can slow the spread of a fire that can quickly destroy one-third of a downtown, as recently happened in Dubois.

Other than safety standards that must be met, even in existing historic buildings that are remodeled, the city would like to promote development by making it a little easier to satisfy development regulations.

Greg Von Krosigk is part of a group of residents who bought the old Montgomery Ward building at 104 N. Main St. and are working to restore the inside and outside of the building and make it a vibrant part of the downtown. He said the partnership understands the need for codes that preserve public safety but added that, yes, it would be nice if some codes took into account what is already present in an existing building.

“It would be beneficial to the revitalization efforts in downtown Sheridan if the city and those involved in the downtown efforts continue to work toward improving some additional code provisions that keep people safe but also make common sense in the context of 100+ year old building rehabilitation,” Von Krosigk wrote in an email to The Press.

However, the remodeling project at “The Montgomery” is a good example of what can be accomplished downtown.

Custom black-smithed Juliette balconies and French doors have already been installed on the exterior. The roof still needs to be replaced and additional windows will be cut in. Exterior paint removal will continue following coordination with environmental agencies on dust containment.

Inside, there will be eight residential condo/lofts on the upper two floors, and the partnership is looking for a few tenants to fill the main floor and mezzanine who are suitable for the group’s general goal of improving the downtown experience, Von Krosigk said. If all goes well with permitting and construction, Von Krosigk said the group will hopefully be ready for tenants and loft residents by summer.

Downtown development was only one part of the survey recently completed for the Sheridan Land Use Plan.

A question about subdivision lot sizes on the edge of the city found that 55 percent of survey participants would like to encourage a mixture of small and large lot subdivisions. Briggs said the response affirmed a sentiment found five years ago when the joint planning area land use plan was completed by the city and the county.

A question about using infill development to utilize areas of vacant land in existing neighborhoods found that 67 percent of respondents supported the idea of promoting infill through incentives such as waiving permit fees or relaxing code requirements. Approximately 20 percent said they did not support promoting infill development.

Briggs said ways to promote infill could be reducing plant investment fees for water and sewer access, allowing for higher density or mixed use with infill development and relaxing setback requirements so that buildings can be placed in unique angles to best utilize available space.

Allowing higher density can offset the cost to buy infill property. For example, if a person buys two dilapidated homes at $130,000 each and must tear both down, he or she may be more likely to do so if the maximum density is increased from three to four units, which would allow for a larger income stream once the units were complete.

Joanne Garnett with Orion Planning Group, a local consultant, said she was glad to see support for infill development since it can be a hard sell to surrounding neighbors who want to preserve an open field nearby.

“It’s so economically wise for us to take advantage of land that’s already available and served by city services,” Garnett said.

A fourth question found that 78 percent would like to see industrial development steered toward more appropriate areas of the city, leaving areas that already have commercial development to transition to commercial zoning. Much of the area around Coffeen Avenue is zoned industrial.

Garnett said ways to transition zoning from industrial to commercial are to have the city initiate it, to encourage property owners to band together and request a large area to be rezoned, or to do it piece by piece, which can be tedious.

Finally, survey respondents were asked for their opinions about future development priorities. The priorities most strongly supported were downtown preservation and redevelopment (74 percent), North Main Street redevelopment and revitalization (69 percent), and purchase and preservation of open space (68 percent). The least favored idea was an eastern roadway that connected to I-90 north and south.

No injuries reported in structure fire on Delphi Ave.

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire Wednesday morning on Delphi Avenue. No injuries were reported.

“The origin and cause of the fire are under investigation,” SFR Chief Terry Lenhart said. “We’ll have certified investigators looking for the cause.”

Both SFR and Goose Valley responded to the fire, and a hazardous materials unit was called in.

“The HAZMAT is a desk unit,” Lenhart explained. “It’s going to be a mobile headquarters for investigators where they can set up and work.”

Lenhart said it took only 15 minutes to put out the seed fire, but he said the overhaul — the search for hot spots or areas that might still be smoldering — would take a little longer. He said he didn’t know who made the call to report the fire.

Kerri Wambolt rents the home and lives there with her two dogs and her cat.

“I don’t know what happened,” Wambolt said. “I was at work. Someone called to tell me my house was on fire.”

Wambolt said her cat was outside somewhere in the neighborhood, but her dogs had been in the back yard. Lenhart said firefighters waited until the area was safe before removing the dogs from the yard.

Lenhart said there were no injuries to either civilians or responders.

The Sheridan Police Department had the block secured, and Rocky Mountain Ambulance was on standby.

Mayor: City has one foot in Old West, one in technology

SHERIDAN — Mayor John Heath gave his first State of the City address at City Council on Monday, calling on city staff and officials to foster economic development for the city, a high quality of life for its residents and professionalism and financial discipline in city government.

The address came after a special musical performance by the Big Horn Alphorns, a group of local musicians who have learned to play the long, wooden horns made famous by years of Ricola commercials. Group member Edre Maier said the second song played by the ensemble, titled “Knife Sharpeners,”seemed appropriate for a meeting of local government where sharp decisions must be made.

With no public comments or old business to tend to, Heath transitioned from the alphorns of European mountains to a city with one foot planted in the Old West and the other planted in modern technology and practices needed to propel Sheridan into the future.

He began his address with a personal anecdote about his first trip to Sheridan more than 50 years ago as a boy from Billings, Montana, when his dad loaded the family into the old 1960 Buick — fins and all — and took them on a trip to see the Old West. Fifty years later, the city is even better, Heath said, and he wants that to be the case 50 years from now.

“While we still have the feeling of the Old West — an intact Main Street, safe neighborhoods, the rodeo and parade and surrounding ranches — I am pleased that Sheridan is also a leader in the New West — high-speed Internet, top notch schools, data centers, manufacturing jobs,”Heath said.

“Our mission as we start in 2015 is to make sure that Sheridan is a great place to live in 2065,” Heath added. “Just as today, I challenge each of us to strive to build a better Sheridan for today and also to look out 50 years and make sure Sheridan is a great place for our kids, our grandkids to work and to raise a family.”

Heath said economic development is best accomplished by the private sector but that government can help foster it by streamlining permitting processes, building and maintaining infrastructure and building key partnerships with the county, the school districts, the Wyoming Business Council, Sheridan College, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and local foundations and organizations.

He said commercial and residential building permits are up to the levels they were at eight years ago, a sign that the economy is turning around and is ready for development.

He applauded the city’s building permit process, its cross-trained building inspectors, its maintenance of infrastructure and its parks and pathways. Heath also noted the importance of local foundations and business people for completing projects like the Sheridan College large animal science facility, the renovations at the WYOTheater on Main Street and more.

“Sheridan doesn’t talk about economic development; we work hard to get it done,”Heath said.

Heath then spoke of the need to promote and protect the city’s high quality of life. He noted that assets like the Bighorn Mountains, nearby hunting and fishing and a pathway system that is envied by the rest of the state are used daily by citizens and must be enhanced.

“I am committed, with Council support, to use our special use taxes to support project improvements and enhancements for the citizens of Sheridan and to support efforts to develop new aquatic and recreational opportunities for our kids, our families, our seniors,”Heath said.

Heath ended his address by saying the city needs to plan for sustainability, reduce its debt and strive to not allow its regular operational budget to grow beyond its means. He said he will support one-time expenses that will reduce long-term costs, citing as examples the landfill grinder used for grinding up construction and demolition waste and making city services available online.

“As we look into the future, let us resolve in the spirit of our pioneer founders that we shall work together ever more closely to build upon the successes we’ve had, to secure for our families the kind of prosperous future they deserve, and to preserve for them our great quality of life,” Heath said.

Officials release name of woman killed in Friday crash

SHERIDAN — Local law enforcement said Monday morning that witnesses reported the woman who died Friday in a collision with a train in Sheridan County had pulled in front of the train.

Kevin Sessions with the Sheridan County Coroner’s office confirmed that Michelle Clemens, 33, of Sheridan was killed when her car was hit by two Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotives just north of Sheridan. Sessions said Clemens died of blunt force trauma, but that the manner of death has not yet been determined.

Matt Jones, the BNSF director of public affairs for Wyoming and Montana said the locomotives had been returning to Sheridan from the area of Parkman Hill where they had been assisting a train up the hill. He said the locomotives collided with the vehicle near Kleenburn Road, causing minimal damage to the locomotives, but killing Clemens.

Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office officials said that Clemens was sitting at the crossing and drove into the tracks when the locomotives approached. Toxicology results are pending. Clemens had been arrested Jan. 11 for driving under the influence.

Clemens was the only person in the car at the time of the crash.

The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Downtown business switching hands: Longtime Trophy Case owners sell business, ready to retire

SHERIDAN — For years, Dianne and Wade Freiboth have dedicated their lives to making achievements and milestones special for local residents.

But the Freiboths will soon be celebrating a milestone of their own: stepping out of ownership at the Trophy Case and into retirement.

The Freiboths recently sold their long-time business in order to spend more time with family in Billings. The Trophy Case in downtown Sheridan will remain open under new management.

“We just want to be more available to visit grandkids,” Dianne Freiboth explained as the reason for their retirement.

Their 26-year ownership of the trophy design and engraving shop provided the Freiboths with many friends and great experiences.

In 1987, the Freiboths bought a partial share with the current owners of M&M Trophies as a retirement investment. They ran the shop as a joint venture, operating the shop for six months while the other owner operated for the other six months, until they bought the store outright in 1994.

Both former educators in Sheridan, the Freiboths operated the shop while working full time as teachers. Owning a business while teaching full time was hectic, Wade Freiboth said, adding that they put in many hours at the shop the first few years.

“We would both teach, then come back down here and work until about 11 (p.m.) or so,” he said.

After six years, Wade Freiboth decided to retire from teaching to run the store full time. His wife taught for six more years after that until she joined him in dedicating their time to the Trophy Case.

The Freiboths stayed busy all of those years — making everything from commemorative plaques to ribbons.

“We’ve never missed an order,” Wade Freiboth said.

On one occasion, he directly contacted the CEO of FedEx to ensure materials for an order arrived on time.

The Freiboths agreed they are going to miss interacting with people the most. The Trophy Case has worked with the school districts, 4-H and the municipal governments, among other organizations. The relationships they built with their clientele are going to be difficult to leave behind.

“That’s the great thing about this business — everyone always comes in here in a good mood,” Dianne Freiboth said.

The Freiboths are passing the torch to local resident Wendy Watts.

Watts used to come into the Trophy Case for her old business and enjoyed her experiences at the shop. When the business was put up for sale, she contemplated buying it for a while. Finally, she decided to pull the trigger and buy the store.

“I always had a good impression of it,” Watts said. “When I saw it for sale, I kept looking at it and thinking, ‘Gosh, that would be neat.’”

Watts has been under the Freiboth’s tutelage since Jan. 5 and is slowly but surely learning the trade. The Freiboths will remain in Sheridan until this summer, periodically helping Watts with the business.

While there is a lot to learn with trophy engraving, Dianne Freiboth said Watts is picking it up quick.

Watts doesn’t plan on making any major changes to the shop. She wants to preserve the Freiboth’s legacy by providing a quality product and excellent customer service.

“I want to keep things exactly the way they’ve been,” Watts said. “Dianne and Wade have done a great job with this business, and I don’t want to be messing with it.”

Barnes sentenced to 6-10 years in embezzlement case

SHERIDAN — Judge William Edelman of 4th Judicial District Court heard testimony from investigators, victims and character witnesses Thursday before sentencing Ronald Barnes for felony fraud and larceny.

Barnes, 55, had been charged with five counts of felony fraud and two counts of felony larceny in a case in which he embezzled more than $1 million in royalties from local company Summit Gas Resources between 2004 and 2012.

Barnes received six to 10 years in prison for one count of obtaining property under false pretenses. Edelman sentenced Barnes to eight to 10 years in prison for each of the other six counts against him — another four counts of obtaining property under false pretenses and two counts of larceny — but those sentences were suspended, and Barnes was given eight to 10 years of supervised probation instead, set to run consecutively to his prison sentence.

In addition to about $2,500 in court costs and fees, Barnes must pay restitution of the $1 million stolen from Summit Gas Resources, Inc., during the nine years that he was employed with the company.

Barnes had originally pled not guilty to all charges but then changed his plea several months ago to guilty.

Fake companies used

Summit was operating as Pinnacle Gas Resources, Inc., when it hired Barnes in January 2004. He became the chief financial officer in April 2004 and was also named senior vice president. The company was preparing to go public, and Barnes’ duties involved setting up an accounting department in preparation for that move.

Investigators found, though, that within 90 days of being hired, Barnes began stealing from the company using both his position and the accounting software with which he had trained.

He set up fake companies or, in some cases, used companies that already had accounts in the software, and submitted false evidence that Summit owed these companies royalty money. He presented this evidence to Summit CEO Pete Schoonmaker, who signed checks believing he was making payments his company owed.

Forrest Williams, from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, said the checks would be addressed to fake addresses, but Barnes would intercept them before they were sent out and deposit them in a bank in Montana. Barnes and his now ex-wife Jayne owned a company called Bellcamp, and royalty checks stolen from Summit were deposited into that account. Barnes said he hid the money from his wife and never claimed it on his taxes.

State’s attorney Christopher LaRosa told the court that Barnes adjusted his patterns of stealing to account for problems that arose over the course of his time with Summit. In 2011, when the bank in Montana would no longer take checks that were not made out to Bellcamp, Barnes created a limited liability corporation called BK Energy, LLC, and set up a bank account and post office box in Denver. He, again, produced evidence that Summit owed this company royalties money and that he had negotiated payments.

Despite a fiduciary contract with Summit, he never revealed that he was the sole proprietor and member of BK Energy in any of the five reports he filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

LaRosa also told the court that Barnes did not stop stealing money from Summit when gas prices dropped and the company began to struggle in 2009.

“The company was buffeted by forces beyond control,” LaRosa said. “There was less money to steal, but Mr. Barnes did not cease.”

Summit CEO asks for restitution

Barnes’ attorney, John Robinson, told the court that, while what Barnes was doing was wrong, the money stolen came from suspense accounts used for royalties and not accounts used for the operation of the company, suggesting that Barnes’ activities had not resulted in harm to the company. He asked Williams, of the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, if the falling gas prices and not Barnes had done more harm to the company.

Williams said it was apparent to investigators that Barnes spent more time trying to get away with his crime than working to offset problems due to those falling gas prices, which, in turn, caused harm to Summit.

Schoonmaker gave a victim’s impact statement, telling the court how proud he had been to be CEO of the only NASDAQ listed company in Sheridan, but how Barnes’ actions had caused Summit to lose the support of investors. Schoonmaker called Barnes the “Bernie Madoff of Sheridan” and said Summit had to lay off half of its employees because Barnes failed to do his job properly.

Summit is no longer a publicly traded company.

“I want pay back,” Schoonmaker said. “But it is equally important that (Barnes) is made an example of.”

Schoonmaker asked the court to sentence Barnes to at least eight to 10 years in prison.

Bad choices

Robinson called three character witnesses for Barnes. Lynn Barnes, sister of the defendant, told the court her brother had always been a positive role model to his children and nieces and nephews. She said he had always been truthful and had never been in a lot of trouble.

“He was never a bad person, he just made some really bad choices,” she said.

Kevin Jones, Barnes’ pastor at Grace Anglican Church, said Barnes was relieved at finally being caught.

“He felt a burden had been lifted,” Jones said. “He was ready to take ownership of his wrongdoing.”

Mindy Wilson married Barnes in June 2013, aware of the trouble he was in. She asked the court for mercy.

“It was a compulsion that snowballed, and he didn’t know how to stop it,” Wilson said. “I don’t see how any prison can make him suffer any more than he already has.”

Barnes told the court he was making restitution and doing a 12-step program to deal with compulsion. He has paid back about 80 percent of the money stolen.

Before handing down the sentence, Edelman told Barnes that he had learned something about the defendant’s character over the course of the case. He was bothered by Barnes’ apology to everyone except Schoonmaker, whom the judge said was most owed an apology.

“That speaks volumes of your character,” Edelman told Barnes. “They aren’t good volumes.”

Edelman also noted that character witnesses for Barnes spoke of him as a good man who did a bad thing.

“You didn’t do a bad thing,” Edelman said. “You did thousands of bad things over a 10-year period.”

Barnes was taken into custody after the sentence and led from the courtroom in handcuffs.

Gov. Matt Mead: I will wage fight for Wyoming coal

CHEYENNE (AP) — Gov. Matt Mead is pledging to keep fighting “with bulldog determination” for the future of Wyoming coal.

Mead told Wyoming legislators in his state of the state address Wednesday that he has never seen an onslaught against a single industry like what he described as the Barack Obama administration’s anti-coal agenda.

Mead, a Republican sworn in last week to his second consecutive term, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has had “a green light to go after the coal industry, and six years later coal is still targeted by federal regulators.”

Wyoming is the nation’s largest coal-producing state, but demand for coal has sagged in recent years in the face of stricter federal power plant pollution regulations and cheaper natural gas.

“In coming years, I will continue to work with bulldog determination on coal initiatives, port expansion, new technology and value-added products,” Mead said. “And in coming years, we don’t need to let up, we need to double down. We must assure coal’s continuity.”

Mead said he will keep pressing for access to Pacific coast ports so Wyoming can export its coal overseas. Both Wyoming and Montana are appealing a recent rejection by the state of Oregon of an energy company’s proposal to build a coal terminal on the Columbia River.

On another critical issue, Mead said he’s ready to stop fighting the federal government and seek the best deal he can get to expand the Medicaid program.

Expanding Medicaid is a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care Act. But Mead has opposed it in Wyoming, even though it would offer insurance to some 17,000 low-income adults. He has insisted he didn’t trust federal promises to pay for most of the expansion in future years. Wyoming’s legislature repeatedly has rejected expansion.

But Mead told lawmakers Wednesday that the state is losing money to other states by rejecting the program while sticking hospitals with the cost of uncompensated care. He said it’s time for Wyoming to act.

Senior Wyoming legislative leaders said they’re not certain what the Legislature will do.

Senate President Phil Nicholas, R-Laramie, said many senators oppose expanding Medicaid. House Speaker Rep. Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, said he expects expansion “is going to be difficult and acrimonious” in the house.

Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, said he’s open to any approach that leads to expanded health care.

The Joint Interim Labor, Health and Social Services Committee in December voted to endorse a Medicaid expansion plan. But it voted to require people receiving that coverage to pay into a fund similar to a health savings account to help cover costs.

Mead’s supplemental budget request to lawmakers this session calls for lawmakers to approve more than $150 million in additional spending for highway improvements, local government funding and projects at the University of Wyoming.

“We have and should continue to invest, we should continue to save,” Mead said. “The fact is, we have seen record savings, and we can be proud of that. But we have opportunities, not down the road but this session, to invest in more infrastructure.”

On other topics, Mead:

—Called for the legislature to develop a clear policy for managing Wyoming’s so-called rainy day fund, which has roughly $2 billion. Many lawmakers are concerned about the future of state revenues given recent declines in oil prices.

—Said his administration is crafting a water policy to be released soon. Water is Wyoming’s most important resource, the governor said, and the state needs to protect its supplies from downstream demands.

Mead said the plan will call for building 10 small reservoirs over the next 10 years as well as other projects. His supplemental budget request to lawmakers for this legislative session seeks $18.6 million to fund water projects.

A big payoff: City, county begin to see payments from gambling revenue

SHERIDAN — City and county officials are saying “Whoa!” after receiving payments due to local governments from an off-track betting parlor permitted to open in Sheridan just over a year ago.

In October, the city and county each received $30,085 for a total distribution of $60,171. That amount represented 1 percent of total wagers on historical horse races from the opening of the OTB parlor on Dec. 10, 2013, through June 30, 2014.

County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller said she received a letter on Monday alerting her that a check for $41,702 was on its way for wagers made from July to December 2014. The city will receive the same amount.

That means in just over a year, Wyoming Downs made a total payment to local government of $143,577, meaning the total amount wagered in that timeframe on historic horse races in Sheridan was $14.35 million.

“All of us thought it might generate a little bit,” Obermueller said. “You know, free enterprise, a lot of people like it, and then it was like, ‘Whoa!’”

County Commissioners approved two companies to operate two separate off-track betting sites in Sheridan on Sept. 17, 2013.

Wyoming Downs, LLC, operates at Rails Brews & Cues on Broadway Avenue. It offers wagering on historic horse races via video consoles and off-track betting on live simulcasts of horse, dog and harness races and professional roping events. It opened Nov. 26, 2013, for OTB on live simulcast events and began offering pari-mutuel wagering on historic horse races on Dec. 10, 2013.

Sheridan Horse Palace, operated by Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC, recently opened in the plaza behind Starbucks on Coffeen Avenue on Jan. 3. It also offers wagering on historic horse races and off-track betting on live simulcasts of horse, dog and harness races. One percent of wagers made on historic horse races at Sheridan Horse Palace will also be paid to the city and county, split evenly.

“It just blows our mind. We had no idea that kind of wagering would be happening,” Obermueller said.

City Clerk and Treasurer Scott Badley agreed.

“When we got it, it was a surprise,” Badley said. “Thirty-thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze at, that’s for sure. It’s nice to see that kind of revenue come in.”

Badley said the city didn’t think much about the county approving OTB parlors or the revenues it could generate until the first check showed up nearly a year later.

The money will be placed into the general fund for both the city and county. It is not currently earmarked for a specific use, but Obermueller and Badley both said city councilors and county commissioners would likely discuss the new source of revenue and whether or not to earmark it in the future.

Chris Macha, site manager for Wyoming Downs at Rails Brews & Cues, said customers have said they appreciate not having to drive to South Dakota or Montana to wager on horse races.

“The money is staying in Wyoming,” Macha said. “Our customers really enjoy the convenience of it being in the city of Sheridan, from what I’ve heard. They love to do gambling and this gives them something closer to home.”

Macha said two to three new players per day come into Wyoming Downs. He also noted that he and his staff keep an eye out for evidence of gambling addictions and make sure literature and phone numbers for the gambling addiction hotline are readily visible and available.

As required by state statute to operate off-track betting parlors, both Wyoming Downs and Wyoming Horse Racing operate live horse races in the state, primarily in Evanston and Rock Springs, although Wyoming Horse Racing will hold races in Casper and Gillette this year.

Eugene Joyce, president of Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC, said live horse racing is the primary goal for his company. The OTB parlors provide additional funds to promote live horse racing in the state, which can, in turn, help Wyoming’s economy. Joyce called it the “economic home run” of the program because money from the purses supports horse breeders, jockeys, veterinarians, feed stores and more.

Joyce said live horse races in the state by Wyoming Horse Racing have increased from four last year to 32 scheduled in 2015.

“Expanding will take more revenue, but we want to grow the pie,” Joyce said. “People in Sheridan are seeing the gambling aspect, but this is an agricultural business and first and foremost an opportunity to give horse breeders a chance to thrive.”

Still, Joyce said he was happy with how much people were enjoying the OTB parlors and with how much revenue was going to the city and county.

“Nobody in their wildest dreams thought it would produce this much,” Joyce said. “We are happy to say we are overachieving the goals we originally set.”

Too cold to play outside
Ready to recycle? Get ready for curbside this summer

SHERIDAN — Excuses may be running out.

A 2012 public opinion survey found that some of the main reasons city residents didn’t recycle were because it was inconvenient, they didn’t like sorting their recycled goods and there was no pick-up service.

However, if City Council approves a resolution it is slated to consider on Feb. 16, those reasons not to recycle will all but disappear.

In December, city staff presented a curbside recycling program — with the moniker Curbcycle — to members of City Council. If approved in February, the expected roll-out date for the program is June 6 for phase 1 and Aug. 10 for phase 2.

As the plan currently stands, curbside recycling will provide each household with a 90-gallon collection bin (the same size as the rolling trash bins) in which tin, aluminum, plastic, paper, magazines, newspaper, cardboard and paperboard can be placed, co-mingled, for collection from the curbside every other week.

Glass cannot be placed in co-mingled recycling containers for safety reasons, and green waste will still need to be taken to green waste drop sites, Public Works Director Nic Bateson said.

The proposed cost per month, per household is $3.

Prior to 2007, the city of Sheridan used a handful of small trailers to collect cardboard, mixed paper, newspaper, aluminum and scrap metals for recycling, baling the materials in two vertical balers.

In 2007, the city launched seven drop sites for sorted commodities, expanding to 12 drop sites in 2010. The city purchased a horizontal baler and began accepting more goods including plastics 1-7, tin cans, styrofoam and all colors of glass. The landfill also began to accept green waste.

When the program started in 2007, 864 tons of municipal solid waste were recycled while 25,675 tons of material were placed in the landfill. In 2013, the amount of garbage placed in the landfill dropped to 21,754 tons and the amount of waste recycled increased to 1,787 tons.

In 2010, the city conducted a pilot curbside recycling program. A survey conducted after the program found that 72 percent of respondents would participate in the future if the program were offered. However, after program completion, curbside recycling was not reported as affordable because it was assumed that all the drop sites were still in operation and that pick-up would be weekly.

In the years since the pilot program, city staff continued to evaluate their recycling goals and the best ways to keep operation costs at the landfill low, Bateson said. They found that curbside recycling would be the best way to save money and extend the life of the landfill.

Less waste going into the landfill means less airspace used which defers the need to build a new cell, saving millions of dollars.

Bateson said the city is currently diverting approximately 30-40 percent of its municipal solid waste through grinding construction and demolition waste, through composting green waste and through recycling. Of that 30-40 percent, approximately 9 percent is recyclables.

The city’s goal with curbside recycling is to divert 75 percent of waste from the landfill, with 50 percent of that diversion coming from recycling.

“We’ve been told by a lot of communities and a lot of consultants that to do that you really need to make this step to curbside recycling and make it that much more convenient,”Bateson said.

As for the cost of $3 per month, Bateson said that 85 percent of public opinion survey respondents said they would pay $3 or less for curbside recycling. If the city reaches its 50 percent recycling goal, Bateson said it may be possible to reduce the fee because revenues from selling the recyclables may be able to pay for the expenses of collecting and sorting.

“For $3 a month, I hope that people can relate that to their other spending habits per month,”Bateson said. “If that investment can be made by citizens in the community for the long-term benefits, both long-term environmental benefits but also longterm financial benefits because we’re going to be able to keep our landfill operations at a minimum, I think that’s what really matters.”

RECYCLING Q&A

Will the city get rid of all its drop sites?

No. Public Works Director Nic Bateson said two drop sites will remain, and sorted recyclables may also be brought to the recycling center at the landfill.

Is participation mandatory?

No, residents will not be required to recycle and there will be no fines assessed if they do not. However, the $3 per month recycling service fee will be assessed to all city garbage collection customers.

What about county residents?

Curbside recycling will only be offered in city limits, which is why a few drop sites will remain. Bateson said he hopes county residents — who produce approximately half of municipal solid waste put into the landfill — will continue to recycle using the drop sites and that perhaps the county will consider implementing curbside recycling utilizing county collection or private haulers.

What needs to happen for Curbcycle to begin?

First, City Council must approve a resolution authorizing improvements to the recycling center, purchase of needed equipment and curbside recycling containers and establishment of a $3 per month curbside recycling fee.

The city needs to purchase a second bailer and sorting line equipment to become its own sort center. Containers will need to be purchased and given to customers. More staff will need to be hired to collect and sort recyclables.

What about residents who live in apartments?

The first phase of curbside recycling will involve single-family households, which will each receive a 90-gallon collection bin. This phase is projected to begin June 6.

The second phase will involve multi-family housing (more than four units) and large apartment complexes. Bateson said city staff are still trying to figure out the best way to provide curbside recycling to these city residents. This may include an alley container or collective bins to be placed on the streetside. This phase is expected to roll out Aug. 10.

What other cities in Wyoming offer curbside recycling?

More than 9,000 communities in the U.S. offer curbside recycling. In Wyoming, cities that offer the service include Cheyenne ($16.80-$22.05 for combined trash and recycle pick-up), Laramie ($4.30/month), Jackson ($17/month for private collection), Gillette (free, but residents must purchase blue recycling bags), Riverton (free, but not comingled and residents must provide containers).

‘Bigs’ helping ‘Littles’: Finding support, love through nonprofit

SHERIDAN — Depending on the day, 10-year-old Julian Skinner of Sheridan will tell you he is the youngest sibling of three, the oldest sibling of four and also the middle child of six.

That is because Skinner is a “Little” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, but he is in a unique arrangement in which he got more than a big brother, he got a whole second family.

Echo Hepp, Julian’s mom, left her husband in 2006 and started raising her three children as a single mom.

“Their dad was not a good role model. They haven’t seen him since, and after the divorce it just seemed like we were struggling,” Hepp said. “We were struggling with communicating; they were struggling in school; everything seemed like a struggle.”

Julian in particular was having a hard time — being disruptive in school and risking being kicked-out of his class. Hepp could not get past the hurdles on her own.

So, she reached out to the school counselor at her youngest son’s elementary to ask if there were any programs available that may help her reconnect with her kids.

“If they are not going to talk to me then I need to find somebody they are going to talk to, and then maybe that person can talk to me and we can figure this out as a team,” she said. So she signed Julian up for BBBS.

Unfortunately, a shortage of Bigs led to there being no appropriate match for Julian at the time, so he waited.

There was a match made, however, for his big sister, now 12-year-old Colleen.

So on June 10, 2011, Colleen was matched with her big sister, Sue Tarter.

“After they would meet up, Sue would call me and say Colleen is struggling with ‘this,’ and Colleen knew that we were talking, but it was easier for her to tell Sue than tell me what was going on,” Hepp said. “It helped a lot with my and Colleen’s relationship knowing what I could do for her through Sue, and she became like part of the family. She would even take Julian because he felt left out because they didn’t have anybody for him.”

But BBBS eventually did find someone for Julian. Actually, they found a few people.

“They said they liked to match boys with male adults, but I told them I didn’t care,” Hepp said. “It would be nice to have a male in his life that he could look up to, but at that point I was grasping at straws trying to figure out something. Then they called and said they had gotten a family interested in being Bigs as a team and asked how I would feel about that.

“I was kind of hesitant at first because he has a family, we’re his family, and as a mom I don’t want him to butter up to another mom, but we met and it was instant that everybody hit it off,” she added.

Ryan and Kristen Healy — along with their three children, 9-year-old Kellan, 6-year-old Annabelle and 3-year-old Alivia — joined the program to allow a child who may not otherwise have the opportunity to do so, to join in on their family activities.

“I just thought it was unfortunate that we did all these fun things as a family and there were kids out there who didn’t get to do fun things and they may as well come along,” Kristen Healy said. “I remembered Big Brothers Big Sisters from when I was younger, but I didn’t even know if they still existed, so I found their number.”

Healy said after her initial contact, the organization informed her that they match one-on-one, not whole families. She asked them to keep her in mind if that ever changes.

A couple days later she got a call saying they had contacted the district manager for approval and wanted to give it a shot.

On July 18, 2013, Julian and the Healys were matched, and today he calls them his family and everyone, including his mom, could not be more pleased with the arrangement.

“I thought I would be jealous of Kristen because they can do more with him, especially like the movies and everything that costs a lot of money that I can’t do all the time,” Hepp said. “But, he gets so excited when he goes to spend time with them. Kristen and I talk all the time about how he is doing and he pulled through a lot of the behavioral issues that he was having just by having them in his life.

“Before we started, it was just us for almost five years and it was hard,” Hepp continued. “He has so many people support him through everything now. Even when he was naughty and got kicked out of school, we were all there as a team.”

Hepp said Julian now has better manners and better grades, and he is not the only one who has gotten something out of the arrangement.

“As a parent I think I have more confidence because it feels like I have more backup,” Hepp said. “And knowing they weren’t trying to take my place, they were just filling in where I couldn’t do things, really helped me out.”

“Echo is a such great mom; when we were matched, she was working all night and sleeping when she could,” Kristen Healy said. “Julian wasn’t not getting everything because she was a bad mom, he wasn’t getting everything because she was giving all she could give and it was impossible for her given her circumstances. Just for her to have that security that her son is in a home, safe, with a family, as opposed to at home with his older brother and sister, helped her out.

“And it’s constantly reinforced with him how much we love him also, and that has made a big difference,” Healy added. “And I know as a parent, the more people you have to love your kids, the better they are going to be.”

Healy has even seen positive impacts on her own children.

“I think my kids have realized it doesn’t have to be just your bloodline that you love, I mean the girls are growing up knowing Julian as their brother,” she said. “They also have seen that people come from all different backgrounds and I think it has given them a sense of humanity and taught them to reach out to people they wouldn’t normally reach out to.”

The “Big” family has expanded more lately, as Colleen and her Big, Sue, have even joined with Julian and the Healys for family activities like fishing, all working together and separate to do the best they can for the children.

“Sue has shown Colleen, as a successful woman who has always been single, that you can be successful in life without a man around, and Kristen and Ryan have shown Julian that there are real families out there with strong father figures,” Hepp said. “We’ve all extended ourselves so we’re all family, and if Julian had gotten a single person I don’t know that that would’ve happened because it would have been a man and I would have had a harder time communicating with him.”

The Healys hope to see more involvement in BBBS from the community, and hope BBBS will allow for more family style arrangements in the future.

“We would love for more Big Brothers, more Big Sisters and now more Big Families to get involved,” Ryan Healy said. “It’s been a great experience for us, and it’s not like it’s hard work. We just include him, it’s as simple as that.”

Fourth-quarter rally propels Eagles past Southeast

DAYTON — It only takes a spark to start a fire.

Down 29-35 at the end of the third quarter, it appeared the Tongue River Eagles boys basketball team was traveling down its all-too-familiar path of “close, but not enough.” It was the same path they had been on since the team’s opening game of the season Dec. 12

Southeast (Yoder) Cyclone’s Garrett Murphy was lights out from 3-point land accounting for nearly half of the team’s points. No one from Tongue River took the offensive reins. The Eagles were making mistakes on both sides of the ball and they couldn’t capitalize on Southeast’s miscues.

But then, a spark.

An offensive rebound by junior Jamie Dickerson translated into a second-chance bucket for senior Lane Dockery. Another offensive rebound for sophomore Cody Buller turned into two more points. Full-court pressure led to a Southeast turnover and a fast-break, easy layup by Buller.

A home Tongue River crowd, which had been nearly lulled to sleep by the first three quarters, erupted with deafening chants. A timeout was called by a fuming Southeast head coach Tim Williams. The Eagles ran to the sideline — greeting their teammates with chest bumps and high fives.

In 57 seconds, Tongue River had gone from defeated and fatigued to unstoppable after tying the game at 35.

“I didn’t change anything,” Tongue River head coach Robert Griffin said about the fourth quarter. “We put a little pressure on in the third [quarter], and it wasn’t doing that great. But then, guy after guy started stepping up instead of just letting (Southeast) take control of the game.”

After the timeout, an inside pass from senior Wyatt Schumacher to Dockery led to a foul. Dockery sank both of his free throws, leading to the Eagles’ first lead of the game.

Then, the Eagles caught fire.

The Cyclones couldn’t make a basket. The Eagles couldn’t miss. The Cyclones made one mistake after another. The Eagles played to near perfection.

“It was their determination,” Griffin said about his team. “They decided they were going to win … they just dug their heels in, made big shots and did things right.”

In the aftermath of a whirlwind of a fourth quarter, the scoreboard was 53-39 in the Eagles’ favor. They had just went on a 24-4 run in the fourth quarter — putting up more points in the fourth quarter than they had for the entire first half.

Buller led the team with 16 points, followed by Dockery with 11 and Dickerson and Schumacher with 8 apiece. But if you ask Griffin, it was not the individual performance that led to the fourth-quarter surge. Instead, it was a collective team mentality that they were not going to quit.

“Anyone who watched the game: who stood out? No one did. It was each guy, one after another, doing their job,” Griffin said.

The 2-7 Eagles celebrated their victory last night, but it is going to be anything but easy during the remaining three games of the Winter Classic. Today, they take on Burns and Niobrara County (Lusk).

The Eagles have yet to beat Burns in Griffin’s three years as head coach.

By Mike Dunn, The Sheridan Press

I-90 northbound now open

UPDATE: (7:15)
SHERIDAN – Interstate 90 between Sheridan and Buffalo is now open in both directions. Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ronda Holwell advised travelers to use caution and be aware that road conditions are still slick in spots.

UPDATE: (6:15 p.m.)

SHERIDAN — Interstate 90 northbound has reopened. The southbound lanes are expected to re-open within a couple hours.

UPDATE: (4 p.m.)

SHERIDAN — Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ronda Holwell said she expected northbound lanes of Interstate 90 between Sheridan and Buffalo to re-open within an hour.

The southbound lane is still blocked by a fuel truck that needs to be off-loaded before it can be moved. Holwell said as soon as that happened, the southbound lanes would re-open as well.

 

UPDATE (2:13 p.m.)

SHERIDAN — Interstate 90 remains closed between Sheridan and Buffalo as crews try to clear the road of several accidents that occurred around noon today.

Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ronda Holwell said approximately 18 passenger vehicles and four semi-trucks were involved in accidents. Holwell noted that while several other vehicles were on the highway near the accidents, they were not necessarily involved.

Holwell said one law enforcement vehicle was hit and received minor damage. In addition, three individuals were transported to local hospitals via ground ambulance. She had no additional details on the extent of their injuries.

The highway will continue to be closed for an extended period of time. Holwell said a Homax fuel truck will need to be off-loaded before it can be moved from the roadway. In addition, weather conditions are still poor.

“Even if the road were completely cleared of accidents, visibility is still not good enough to re-open that road,” Holwell said.

WYDOT also has a no unnecessary travel advisory for US Highway 14/16 through Ucross. Holwell said she highly suggests that people do not try to take that route, unless it is an emergency.

“We have several plows working that stretch of highway, but it is poor visibility in several spots,” Holwell said, adding that there is increased traffic on US Highway 14/16 making the road more hazardous.

ORIGINAL STORY (Published 12:18 p.m.)

SHERIDAN — Interstate 90 between Sheridan and Buffalo has been closed, and Wyoming Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ronda Holwell said it likely will be closed for an extended period of time.

Holwell said crews are dealing with multiple vehicle accidents near Prairie Dog Creek. Those accidents include multiple slide-offs and incidences where cars have slid into other cars. She had no estimate on how many vehicles have been involved in accidents, but noted that Wyoming Highway Patrol is on scene along with fire and EMS crews.

Holwell said the crews are dealing with the crashes with extremely limited visibility. She also said that even when the weather clears, the roads will take some time to clean up.

Check back here, or on The Sheridan Press Facebook page for additional details as they become available.

JE SUIS CHARLIE: ‘I Am Charlie’ goes viral after Paris news attack

From The Associated Press

Protesters in some U.S. cities — repeating the viral online slogan “Je Suis Charlie” or “I Am Charlie”— demonstrated against the deadly terror attack on a Paris newspaper office, joining thousands around the world who took to the streets to rally against the killings.

At a gathering in Place de la Republique in eastern Paris near the site of Wednesday’s noontime attack, many waved papers, pencils and pens. Journalists led the march but most in the crowd weren’t from the media world, expressing solidarity and support of freedom of speech.

Other demonstrations, including some silent vigils, took place in some U.S. cities, at London’s Trafalgar Square, in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, in Madrid, Brussels, Nice and elsewhere.

“No matter what a journalist or magazine has to say, even if it is not what the majority of people think, they still have the right to say it without feeling in danger, which is the case today,” said Alice Blanc, a London student who is originally from Paris and was among those in the London crowd, estimated in the hundreds.

Online, the declaration “Je Suis Charlie” replaced profile pictures on Facebook while Twitter users showed themselves with the slogan on signs with words of support for the 12 victims who were killed at Charlie Hebdo, a weekly newspaper that had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.

The “Je Suis Charlie” slogan grew into a trending hashtag on Twitter and spread to Instagram, along with an image of a machine gun with the words “Ceci n’est pas une religion,” or “This is not a religion.”

One user on Instagram sent out a simple black-and-white drawing of the Eiffel Tower with the message: “Pray for Paris.” Another wrote: “Islam is a beautiful religion. This is not what we see on TV. Terrorists are not real Muslims. #IamCharlie.”

The protests extended to some American cities.

In San Francisco, hundreds of people held pens, tiny French flags and signs that read “I am Charlie” up in the air outside the French Consulate in the financial district. A handful of the participants lit candles that spell out “Je Suis Charlie,” while others placed pens and pencils and bouquets of white carnations and red roses by the consulate’s door.

Julia Olson, of Nimes, France, said she wanted to be in the company of other people after hearing the news.

“There is nothing we can do but be together,” the 26-year-old said.

Several hundred people gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square amid chants of “We are not afraid” and holding signs in English and French saying “We are Charlie.”

In Seattle, about 100 people assembled near the French Consulate office with many holding signs in support of the victims.

The Newseum in Washington displayed “#JeSuisCharlie” on its atrium screen as a show of support for free expression.

In Los Angeles, a small group gathered outside a French restaurant with people holding up signs and cell phones that read “Je Sui Charlie” and “I am Charlie.”

Masked gunmen methodically killed the 12 people, including the newspaper’s editor, as they shouted “Allahu akbar!” — or “Allah is the greatest” — while firing, then fleeing in a car.

The newspaper’s depictions of Islam have drawn condemnation and threats before. It was firebombed in 2011 and also satirized other religions and political figures.

About 1,000 people gathered near the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels to express sympathy and outrage. In Spain, about 200 people in Madrid gathered outside the French Embassy to voice outrage. Some also held pens in the air and chanted “Freedom of Expression” and “We Are All Charlie.”

In 2004, bombs on rush-hour trains killed 191 people in Madrid in Europe’s most deadly Islamic terror attack.

French students in Stockholm organized about 100 people to lay flowers and candles in front of the French Embassy in Stockholm.

A handful of women in the swank Roman piazza where the French Embassy is located had “Je suis Charlie” banners taped to their jackets.

“I still cannot believe what happened,” said protester Linda Chille. “It is cruel and very shocking.”

The Newseum in Washington is dedicated to the subject of journalism and planned to project “#JeSuisCharlie” on its atrium screen later Wednesday in a show of support for free expression.

Rolling out the hay
County crews help clear snow from Red Grade slide

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County road and bridge crews helped clear the way for recreationists on Red Grade Road today after snow slid across and covered a portion of the winter trail commonly used by snowmobilers.

Public Works Director Rod Liesinger said Tuesday that Rob Schwartz, who grooms the portion of Red Grade Road from the parking area to the Big Goose Ranger Station, reported the slide. Liesinger added that snow had slid off the hill, covering an area approximately 75 feet long with up to 20 feet of snow.

The area affected is approximately one-quarter of a mile past the springs on Red Grade Road, and Liesinger noted that the area can be problematic.

“The area is common for slides, and the fire several years ago made it worse,” Liesinger said. “There is no vegetation to hold the snow, so we’re having problems with not only snow sliding, but soil too.”

Liesinger said county crews took snow removal equipment up Red Grade Road to help clear part of the slide to allow Schwartz and others to pass. A path 14 feet wide was cleared, but Liesinger noted that additional work may need to be done.

He asked that individuals utilizing the trails pass through the area with caution and recommended they be aware of the conditions. He also asked that if individuals notice another slide, to call him at the county Public Works Department, 674-2920.

Dayton Town Council says goodbye to longtime mayor Wood

DAYTON — When it comes right down to it, a town’s allure is found in its people. That sentiment was obvious at a reception held before the Dayton Town Council meeting Monday.

Council members and community members alike mingled around Town Hall, swapping stories, laughing and, in a few cases, trying not to tear up. The reception was held to honor outgoing councilors Bob Alley and Dennis Wagner and Mayor Bob Wood, who served the town for more than 25 years first as a council member and then as mayor for the last 16 years.

“Mayor Wood has been very much a visionary with the amazing things he accomplished in his years,” Town Clerk Linda Lofgren said. “He was a very busy mayor, very busy.”

Lofgren put together a photo book for Wood full of photos of town employees and town events over the years. She said she was fighting back tears at the thought of Wood’s departure.

At the same time, Lofgren said she’s worked with new Mayor Norm Anderson in his 14 years on council and is confident the transition will be seamless. Already plans are on place to review the town’s ordinances and to create a five-year plan for the community, something Wood requested be done by the new mayor rather than himself.

Following the reception, the Council convened for its regular session. The chambers were packed with family of new councilors, town employees and other well-wishers.

Wood called the meeting to order for his last time, led the Council through reports and announcements and approval of minutes and warrants.

He then lowered the gavel for his last time, adjourning the meeting. He and Wagner left their seats — eliciting laughter when they sat down at the only two available seats in the room at the junior council table.

“It was time,” Wood said after the meeting. “I’ve been mayor for a long time, had a good run and had very few problems with the town of Dayton. The town of Dayton is such a great town to work with. We have great employees in here. You treat your employees right, they treat you right.”

Wood also noted that he couldn’t fully step out of public service. He was recently appointed to serve on the Sheridan County Fair Association, with his first meeting on Thursday.

Once Wood and Wagner left their seats, the swearing in of the new mayor and two new councilors began.

Anderson, Eric Lofgren, who has served on the Council for one four-year term before, and Craig Reichert took their oaths before Anderson called the meeting to order — as the new mayor of Dayton.

The first order of business was to declare Anderson’s council seat vacant. The vacancy will be advertised for two weeks, and then the Council will interview applicants and make their choice on who to appoint in a public meeting. Whoever is appointed will serve the remainder of Anderson’s term through 2016.

The next order of business was to approve three resolutions to honor Alley’s, Wagner’s and Wood’s years of service to the town.

Business then carried on as usual.

The Council approved a variance request for Wood to fix a misaligned street and lot line on a property in the Woodrock Subdivision Phase II that he recently purchased to build a smaller house in which to live.

Councilors approved an agreement between the town of Dayton and the Sheridan County Sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement services in Dayton for $1,500 per month, paid quarterly. The agreement allows sheriff deputies to spend approximately eight hours per day in Dayton and enforce town ordinances and state laws.

Councilwoman Joey Sheeley was elected to become a signer on town checks, in addition to Linda Lofgren, Treasurer Vicki Cotton and Anderson.

The meeting date for the second meeting in January was changed to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 due to a conflict with the WAM convention in Cheyenne on Jan. 21.

More snow on its way

Dennis Bacon runs his snowblower in front of his neighbor’s home Saturday morning in Sheridan. Sheridan received several inches of snow Friday night and early Saturday morning, creating a lot of work for Sheridan residents and snow removal crews. Several more inches of snow are expected through Tuesday.

17 juveniles cited for MIP on otherwise quiet New Year’s holiday

SHERIDAN — Sgt. Travis Koltiska with the Sheridan Police Department said that NewYear’s Eve and New Year’s Day were relatively calm this year.

“I was not notified of any major issues. In the middle of the week you can expect it not to be too crazy,”Koltiska said.

According to police reports for Wednesday and Thursday, there were a few bar checks in the early evening hours on Wednesday, a DUI late Wednesday night and another DUIearly Thursday morning, an instance of public intoxication on North Brooks Street at 12:41 a.m. Thursday, and five more bar checks on Broadway and North Main streets between midnight and 2 a.m. Thursday.

Koltiska said there was one minor fight in which one person was cited in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day at 1809 Sugarland Drive, the address for the Holiday Inn and Oasis Lounge.

Otherwise, there were a couple eggings, which is not unusual for NewYear’s Eve, Koltiska said.

One case involving a burglary and two juveniles is also under investigation.

In response to an alarm on South Main Street at 8:28 p.m. Wednesday, police found a broken window and the owner said it appeared items had been removed, but nothing has been officially determined by the property owner, Koltiska said.

Sgt. Allen Thompson with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s office said this year’s holiday was also relatively uneventful in the county.

The Sheriff’s office did deal with an “MIPparty” where 19 citations were issued to 17 different minors in possession of alcohol. Thompson said those cited ranged in age from 15 to 19 years old.

The sheriff’s office received the report of the party at 9:50 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Dealing with the party was time-consuming but uneventful, Thompson said. None of the juveniles were taken to jail.

The SCSO also arrested two juveniles following a traffic stop at 4 a.m. Thursday when the vehicle they were driving was determined to be stolen.

The investigation was handed over to the police department early on Thursday. The juveniles are allegedly connected with a string of vehicle thefts and burglaries that occurred in the week before New Year’s Eve.

Thompson said the string of thefts and burglaries could be described more as joy riding, where a vehicle is stolen, driven for a time and then abandoned.

Sheriff deputies had significant contact at bars in the county but found good crowds who had prepared for the evening with designated drivers, taxi rides, hotel rooms and more in order to avoid driving while drunk.

Thompson said DUIs are actually not too common on holidays like NewYear’s Eve or Saint Patrick’s Day because people plan ahead for their alcohol consumption. He said DUIs are more common on weekday or weekend nights when people don’t necessarily plan to drink heavily but still try to drive home.

Revelers kick off the New Year with a jump into DeSmet

SHERIDAN — Sarah Forister has been jumping into freezing water every New Year’s Day since she was 9 years old.

Shrouded in a fuzzy pink robe, she was standing with friends and waiting for her turn to jump through a hole in the ice on Lake DeSmet. Her father, Scott Forister, and his brother, Rob Forister, were two of the organizers for this year’s Polar Bear Plunge.

The annual tradition of stripping down to shorts, bathing suits or underwear and jumping into the frigid winter waters of the lake started 28 years ago when four men from Sheridan who, in co-organizer Jerry Pilch’s words, were “absolutely crazy,” headed down to the lake on New Year’s Eve.

“They just chopped a hole in the ice with axes and put a board over the hole so they could pull themselves out,” Pilch said. “We’re a little more sophisticated.”

Pilch, the Foristers and other helpful hands showed up at the lake early to prepare for the event. Rob Forister cut a 10-foot hole in the ice with a chain saw. Scott Forister secured a board meant to be a jumping platform to the ice to keep it from slipping. The very top of an 8-foot ladder peeked above the water across the hole from the platform.

For the Foristers, the event is a family affair. Not only did the brothers, Rob and Scott, take the plunge, but so did their children, all of them young adults. Rob Forister said the family had been jumping since 2000.

“It’s never the same,” he said. “There have been years when there is no ice and we just all run into the water.”

More than 90 people stood on the platform and leapt into the water. While some jumped in with the intention to get in and out as quickly as possible, others favored a more stylish approach. Several jumpers dived head-first, while a few others did the cannonball in an effort to soak anyone standing nearby. It didn’t take long before spectators and photographers standing on the ice were nearly ankle deep in icy water.

The Forister brothers were among the last of the jumpers. They left the platform simultaneously, with Rob doing a somersault into the water before he and Scott were racing for the ladder.

Jumpers claimed to be adventurous, and spectators called them insane. But everyone had their own reasons for jumping. For Collin Eisenman, Megan Eisenhaur and Gabe Legler, friends of Sarah Forister, the reason was simple.

“Sarah talked us into it,” Eisenman said.

Beth Music said she decided to jump after an ice fishing incident.

“I decided to take a shortcut back across the ice to the truck and found myself chest deep in water,” she said. “I figured if I could do that and go back to fishing, I could jump in the lake.”

Tate Ulven moved to Buffalo from California in September.

“I just figured this was what people here do,” he joked.

He wasn’t far off. Asked why they would jump, most people just grinned and shrugged. It truly is just what they do.

“You have to do it at least once, just to say you did it,” Music said.

A taste of the New Year: Inn offers guests first glance at new restaurant

SHERIDAN — New Year’s Eve celebrations mark new beginnings and nearly 350 people have been invited to get a first glance — and taste — of what the Sheridan Inn’s new restaurant will have to offer the public beginning next week.

Inn General Manager Bob Townsend said invitations were sent to major donors, individuals who have used the Inn for events and volunteer staff and other workers who have helped rehabilitate the historic landmark.

The invitations will admit those individuals to a New Year’s Eve celebration that will include live music from Dave Munsick, samples of every item set to be featured on the restaurant’s new menu and a midnight lighting ceremony to celebrate a milestone of the facility.

Townsend said the three groups of individuals were chosen to participate in the New Year’s Eve bash as a way to say thank you.

And while merriment and good wishes for the new year will abound, the evening has a bigger purpose for the restaurant’s employees.

Townsend said the Open Range Bar and Grill has hired nearly 30 employees and has room for nearly a dozen more. That staff has been training throughout the week and will get its first test tonight in what Townsend is calling a “soft opening.”

“It gives us an opportunity to test the kitchen and test the recipes,” Townsend said. “Our chef is in town and he has been training staff all this week. They’ll train after the event too. (New Year’s Eve) will test the kitchen and our ability to produce a lot of food in a short period of time.”

Then, over the weekend, the staff at the Open Range Bar and Grill will invite family and friends to try out the new local eatery with a full, sit-down meal.

“We’ll be testing ourselves consistently until we can execute everything the way it needs to be done,” Townsend said.

Townsend added that once he and the staff feel comfortable with their abilities, they’ll open the doors to the public. He hopes that will happen by the end of next week, though he noted it could be sooner.

The restaurant has seen many changes — beyond a new menu and staff. The interior of the facility has been redesigned to nearly double the restaurant’s capacity. It now has an occupancy rate of 146 compared to the 75 it used to hold.

The changes within the restaurant provide examples of the work still to be done upstairs, where crews continue to construct and decorate the 22 rooms that will be available to guests.

Townsend said crews plan to have at least the 11 rooms on the north side of the Inn completed this spring. Once work can be completed on the roof on the south side of the building, and a custom fire escape can be installed, Townsend said he hopes to complete the other rooms.

But, Townsend said, progress is steady and one example of that will be on display tonight.

At midnight, staff at the Inn plan to turn on every light in the Inn — a task that has not been done, or been possible, for approximately 50 years, Townsend said.

Two-vehicle crash closes I-90 Monday

SHERIDAN — Emergency crews responded to a two-vehicle motor vehicle accident that closed a portion of Interstate 90 on Monday just after 11 a.m. near mile marker 23.5.

The passing lane of the highway was closed for approximately 45 minutes.

According to Sheridan Fire-Rescue personnel, extrication was required as a result of the crash caused when a semi-truck rear-ended an SUV that was not visible due to snow dust.

Sheridan Fire-Rescue, Rocky Mountain Ambulance, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to the incident.

Officials said no injuries sustained in the accident were life threatening.

Buffalo man dies in fire

SHERIDAN — One man and two dogs died Saturday in a fire that burned the man’s living room.

John Knebel and his two boxers were found deceased in Knebel’s home after firefighters put out the fire. Buffalo Volunteer Fire Chief Clarence “Gomer” Gammon said a cause of death had not yet been released, but, so far, there was nothing suspicious about the incident.

Gammon said the fire is being treated as an accident, but the exact cause is not yet known.

“The whole room flashed,” Gammon said. “By the time we got there the only thing burning was the sofa.”

A “flash” describes the near-simultaneous combustion of an entire room at one time. This type of fire is often associated with electrical fires. Gammon said a flash, or flashover, burns extremely hot.

Gammon said he didn’t know who called the fire in, but the department was told that someone was in the home at the time of the fire.

“We were paged at 19:47 (7:47 p.m.),” Gammon said. “I don’t know if it was a neighbor who called or someone passing in a car who saw the flames.”

Gammon said that 14 firefighters responded to the call, and that the Buffalo Volunteer Fire Department was the only department that responded to the fire.

Gammon added that a lack of oxygen kept the fire from spreading to other areas of the home.

Gammon said because only the sofa was still burning when the department arrived, it took only 10 minutes to put the fire out. There were no other injuries reported.

No one other than Knebel and the dogs were in the home at the time of the fire.

Knebel was a well-known native of Buffalo who owned Knebel Body and Paint on North Lobban Street in Buffalo.

Knebel’s funeral will be held Saturday at the Big Horn Baptist Church in Buffalo.

Keeping kids safe in our schools

SHERIDAN — From natural disasters to man-made chaos, there are many things that can occur on a daily basis requiring a quick and calculated response. This is especially true when you are responsible for hundreds of children.

Crisis management in schools is a daunting task that involves everyone from state legislators to students preparing for things that may never occur.

Following the 2013 legislative session, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead assembled a task force to evaluate the status of school safety and security across the state and propose recommendations for improvement.

As a result, the School Facilities Department was allocated more than $11 million to develop physical and operational security guidelines, develop a physical security assessment of public schools and immediately enhance public school security.

These efforts involved two special review teams dividing efforts between reviews of Wyoming school facilities and the District Emergency Operations Plan.

Safety in facilities

In July, the SFD hired a consultant team including MOA Architecture, RETA Security, Inc. and Emergent Policy and Systems, Inc. to help them define the security standards and guidelines for educational facilities.

In October, the SFD presented the updated “Security Standards for the Wyoming K-12 Schools” report to the Select Committee on School Facilities.

Next, the team will evaluate current facilities for correlation with the recommended standards.

The ultimate goal is to use the assessment of all Wyoming school facilities as the basis for prioritization of funding for security improvements. The SFD solicited funding requests from districts for security-related improvements earlier in the year.

With required state bidding processes, it is estimated that field reviews can start after the New Year and be completed within six months, according to the SFD. This would allow the assembled team time to evaluate the results and reflect those results in recommendations for the 2015-2016 biennial budget process.

Examples of the standards of security that will be reviewed in each facility include classroom doors that can be locked from the inside without aftermarket devices, exterior doors with hardware capable of a full perimeter lockdown and a single point of entry for visitors.

Currently, both Sheridan County School Districts 1 and 2 can remotely lock all interior and exterior doors in all of their schools, but both districts also have areas needing improvement.

SCSD1 hopes to increase the presence of video surveillance on their properties, for example, and SCSD2 only has double door secure entryways in its newer schools.

Since 2006, various studies and surveys have attempted to identify the current state of security in Wyoming schools, highlighting strengths and areas of concern while proposing recommendations for improvement. Not designed to replace those recommendations, one of the purposes of the newest review is to build on the previous work and document the most current philosophies regarding security.

Emergency Operation Plans

While one team worked on identifying standard security design in facilities, another team — comprised of the Department of Education, the Office of Homeland Security and the Attorney General’s Office — worked on the review of emergency operation plans.

The School Safety and Security Advisory Committee recommendations resulting from the review included adopting the Safe2Tell strategic initiative — utilizing TipSoft as the software platform for anonymous tipping — with adaptations customized for Wyoming and creating a school resource officer program based on a shared funding concept.

The procedural and operational interventions called for in the emergency plans are just as multi-faceted as the facility structure standards, but require more man hours in the schools.

SCSD1 and SCSD2 each have districtwide plans in place, and although some of the plans are common sense, neither administration shares details of the plan with the public due to security concerns.

In SCSD1, school resource officers are provided through the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the school principals are responsible for implementing the centralized plan.

The district does fire and severe weather drills, and preparation for intruder situations follows the ALICE (Alert. Lockdown. Inform. Counter. Evacuate.) training program.

“We hope and pray that what’s happening throughout the rest of the country in regards to intruders and school shootings never happens here, but one of our top priorities is keeping students safe and as we looked at what was going on with some of these school-based incidents around the country, they were finding that the traditional lockdown method was really one of the least effective methods as far as minimizing damage,” SCSD1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “What they were finding is they needed the ability to evacuate, the ability to barricade, the ability to take other options than just lockdown to remain safe and we found ALICE provided the best options for our students.”

SCSD2 employs an in-district crisis management team headed by psychologist Servio Carroll and comprised mostly of school counselors and administration.

SCSD2 drills not only weather situations but also full-school lockdowns and other drills, at age-appropriate levels of intensity.

Carroll said this helps the students learn to remain calm, should an actual crisis occur.

“You can’t be prepared for everything but what can happen is to continue to send the message that regardless of what transpires in a crisis situation to remain calm,” Carroll said. “When you practice those kinds of things, albeit they’re not real, but they are caught off guard, and if we help kids understand that the best thing we can do in any situation is to be calm and to remain in control. That is the best way to deal with the situation regardless of what degree of severity it is.”

Key players in each school are trained on an annual basis in both crisis management and crisis response.

Each classroom has a classroom bucket containing very basic tools including information about the class and classroom, student lists, materials a teacher could use to manage the class if they have to leave the classroom and materials that can be used if anyone is locked in for a long period of time including safety blankets, gloves and plastic bags.

Students are trained how to lockdown and how to utilize the bucket by teachers, who learned from the counselors, who are overseen by Carroll.

“We had a rare situation that a teacher happened to get caught out of the room when a practice lockdown was called and the kids went ahead and locked themselves down,” Carroll said. “It was kind of embarrassing for her, but it showed that the kids know what to do, which is important.”

Carroll said the district’s plan is closely aligned to state recommendations but is continually evolving.

“A plan is a living document,” he said. “Every time we have an incident, we learn something, and our goal is to improve it as we go.”

Big Horn senior eager to serve

BIGHORN — He’s lived in Wyoming less than six months — making the move from Kodiak, Alaska, to Big Horn his senior year of high school — and already the honors and accolades are piling up:

• All-Conference football player for the Rams

• All-State football player for the Rams

• Named to the WyoVarsity Super 25 for his 1,193 yards on the ground; his 20 touchdowns — the second most rushing touchdowns in 2A; his 117 total tackles that led the team, including 74 assisted tackles; his 4.5 sacks; his fumble recovery; and his all-around work that helped lead the Big Horn Rams to an undefeated regular season, a conference championship and a 2A state championship runner-up as a running back for the team.

• More than a dozen mentions and several photos in the newspaper for his skill on the football field

• A third-place finish and All-American honors at the Reno Tournament of Champions where he competed against 100 of the nation’s top high school wrestlers. Powers won the 4A Wrestling State Championships in Alaska in his weight class last spring.

Recently, Powers received another honor, one that will likely guide the rest of his already ambitious life. It made him so overjoyed he couldn’t stop smiling, and it came from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., just days before Christmas.

After a rigorous application and interview process, Powers received Barrasso’s nomination to receive the congressional recommendations needed to pursue an appointment at one of four U.S. Service Academies.

Barrasso annually nominates the most qualified Wyoming students to compete for vacancies at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, West Point or the Merchant Marine Academy.

“Wyoming has a proud history of nominating some of our best and brightest students to attend our nation’s military academies,” Barrasso said in a press release. “Kerry is hardworking, highly motivated, and has shown he possesses the characteristics necessary to succeed. It’s an honor to nominate him, and I am confident that if he is offered appointments, he will represent Wyoming well.”

Usually, Powers said, students begin the process of filling out applications and seeking congressional nominations in their junior year. Since he began at the start of his senior year, Powers had a lot of catching up to do in his application process — but he more than made it, vying for the nomination with more than 20 of Wyoming’s most elite students.

Competition for appointments to America’s service academies is rigorous, Barrasso said. Students who make it have high GPAs, high ACTor SAT scores, high recommendations from adults in their life, strong leadership skills and strength of character.

For Powers, he hopes his leadership and character shine most prominently.

Accolades for good grades and good performance on the field or mat are nice, but at the end of it all, they are just pieces of paper, Powers said. He feels fortunate and grateful to earn All-American in wrestling and All-State in football, but what he really wants to earn is a life of service to his country.

“Your character is important in any military branch, so they really tried to figure out who I was and what I could do for the Army or Navy,”Powers said about the interview for the congressional nomination. “They know what type of leader they want leading those people into battle.”

Powers has applied to the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy, West Point, the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy, which does not require a congressional recommendation. He said he feels he could thrive at any one of the schools with the structure and rigorous training, but right now he has his sights set on Air Force.

“My goal is to lead my country and at the same time be able to get a degree and perform in a sport that I love,”Powers said. “What I see in the Air Force Academy is all three. Wow, it would be a dream come true.”

Powers said Air Force has been talking to him about wrestling for the school and he should find out if he earned an appointment in a few months.

Mainly, he just wants to serve. In Kodiak, Alaska, he grew up next to one of the biggest Coast Guard bases in the world. Many of his friends were in the Coast Guard, and he always appreciated the sense of community and altruism he saw.

“I think that it’s just an amazing, amazing system we have in place just to serve our country,” Powers said. “I would be blessed to do that. I feel like more people should be serving because of the freedoms we have here. People say I will have to forfeit stuff, but there’s nothing to forfeit because we’re protecting this nation that’s supporting my family and all I’ve ever dreamed to do.”

Santa delivers

Dave Marquis, as Santa, wraps a floral arrangement in plastic for delivery Tuesday at Babe’s Flowers on Main Street. Santa has been delivering flowers from the downtown flower shop for the past two weeks in the spirit of the season.

Little libraries: Woman builds library in honor of books, friend

SHERIDAN — There’s just something about a stack of books.

All cattywampus, the corners of colorful covers peek out from under each other, begging to be unearthed, admired and opened. There is the tilt of the head to read the titles, and there is the wondering what story lies beneath that title, inside those pages.

From a fanciful adventure, to a true tale of a harrowing escape, to that recipe that will be the next blue-ribbon winner at the fair or the kids’ most requested dish for the dinner table, books contain a bit of magic.

“Anybody who’s ever read a good book just knows that you will do anything to finish that book, to find out how the story ends,” Sheridan resident Karen Davies said. “It’s so fun to be in an imaginary world for a little while. I think kids love that. I mean, I still love that.”

Fueled by her love of books — and her love of her mom’s best friend who was lost to cancer — Davies has installed a Wendy’s Words Library in front of her home on Big Horn Avenue.

It is a box about 2 feet wide, 2 feet high and a foot deep that is attached to a post driven into the ground, placing it about mailbox height.

Community members can find it in the 700 block of Big Horn Avenue, on the eastern side of the road.

Davies painted her little library bright red with beloved kids’ book characters like Captain Underpants, Wimpy Kid, Lyle the Crocodile and Pinkalicious seeming to bounce about on every side. It is the first Wendy’s Words Library to be placed outside of California.

Davies’ mom, Susan Reep, started Wendy’s Words Libraries with her friend Pat Johnson to honor their friend Wendy Wayne, who died in June 2012 of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Wayne was an icon in Bakersfield, California, a woman with an open heart and open house who inspired people to be better people — both when alive and even now after she has gone, Davies said.

There are now 33 Wendy’s Words Libraries — 32 in California and one here in Sheridan. The moniker, Wendy’s Words, was meant to inspire people to live by Wayne’s own words of wisdom. A tag is placed inside each book with 10 of Wayne’s sayings. Just a few include:

• Commit to something bigger than yourself.

• Never meet a stranger. Extend a helping hand to those you meet.

• Erase the word “can’t” from your vocabulary and see only possibilities, not obstacles.

Davies said Wayne lived by these words and more throughout her life. She hopes her Wendy’s Words Library will inspire others to do the same.

For example, Wayne said she would visit every continent, and she did. She said she’d swim in all five oceans, and she did. She said she’d have an open home, and would listen to others, and would “walk as if she had a pebble in her shoe, keeping herself just a little uncomfortable so she’d try new things.”

“I wish I could explain Wendy in a way people could understand. She was a person who never knew the word, ‘No,’” Davies said. “She always tried to make the world a better place, that was something she just did. She tried to leave everybody feeling better than they were.”

Davies has stocked her Wendy’s Words Library full of books, including kids’ books, to be taken, enjoyed and returned. She wants people to stop by and browse a bit and remember the wonder found inside a book.

“They’re cute, and they’re free and people like when something’s offered to them, I think,” Davies said. “It’s just nice to know that you’re welcome to go to somebody’s house and pick up a book. It’s fun to know that you can just walk by, no strings attached, grab a book, go home, read it, put it back if you want or pass it on to someone else.”

Davies added that her own Wendy’s Word Library was also built in honor of Sheridan teacher Connie Schmidt, who died nearly two years ago. Schmidt was one of Davies’ daughter’s favorite teachers, and Davies said she’d love to see more little libraries dedicated to a local woman who made a difference.

“Everybody loves books,” Davies said. “What if there were libraries everywhere?”

Little Free Libraries in Dayton, too

Wendy’s Words Libraries are a version of the Little Free Library organization started in 2009 by Todd Bol in Wisconsin. Bol built a model of a one-room school house in honor of his mother, a teacher, filled it with books and put it in his front yard.

Neighbors loved the idea — who doesn’t love little and free? — and the movement to build Little Free Libraries grew and grew.

People got creative, building not just boxes with doors but log cabins, Victorian homes, red British telephone booths, dog houses, choo-choo trains, pagodas and more to house their own Little Free Library in front of their home, alongside a community walking path or on Main Street.

Now, there are more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries in more than 60 countries around the world — including three in Sheridan County.

In addition to Karen Davies’ library on Big Horn Avenue in Sheridan, Dayton residents Joey Sheeley and Gina Donnor installed two Little Free Libraries in Dayton this past summer.

The two women — the self-proclaimed “Dayton Business Alliance” — used money from the town yard sale and a raffle to purchase the supplies to build the two little libraries and asked Dayton residents to join the endeavor.

Larry Moser built the libraries, Shayna Caywood painted the one in front of Gina’s Beauty Bar, and the students in Dayton resident Polly Rhodes’ art class in Lodge Grass, Montana, painted the other one located in front of the Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton. Sheeley’s husband, Weegie Sheeley, dug the post holes and poured the cement.

So far, the two woman said, the libraries are a hit. A log in each little library allows visitors to write “love notes” for the books and record their hometown. Touring cycling groups have logged in, as have the stream of tourists who pass through the tiny mountain town.

Locals love the libraries, too.

“Love this little book stop! We love bringing and taking new books!” wrote one visitor.

“It’s a little something to add more character,” Donnor, the owner of Gina’s Beauty Bar, said.

“I like anything unique, anything that not everybody else is doing,” Sheeley said. “It was a do-able project that we thought would add something.”

Although small, the two Little Free Libraries are the only libraries in Dayton, giving them even more appeal. They are full of a variety of books — National Geographic magazines, cookbooks, kids books, novels.

“The idea of digging through a pile of books, I like it,” Sheely said.

Grab a book, build a library

Grab a book, leave a book at one of three Little Free Libraries in Sheridan County. Find them in the 700 block of Big Horn Avenue in Sheridan, in front of Gina’s Beauty Bar in Dayton, 307 Main Street, or in front of the Tongue River Valley Community Center in Dayton, 1100 Main Street.

Build a Little Free Library or Wendy’s Word Library in your own yard or in front of your business.

Find more information at: littlefreelibrary.org and wendyswordslibraries.org.

Local youth ‘Shop with a Cop’: Kids buy Christmas gifts for parents, guardians

SHERIDAN — Saturday marked the first day of Christmas Break for area schools, but five local youth were up and out the door early in the morning.

Ellie Bard, Alexis McKinley, Zane Huntley and brothers Cody and Justin Hope, all members of the Sheridan Livestock Club through 4-H, were among the volunteers who gave their time to wrap presents for the annual Shop with a Cop event.

Shop with a Cop is organized and paid for by the People Assistance Food Bank of Sheridan. Local kids who wished to buy Christmas presents for their parents showed up at Kmart and went into the store to shop, accompanied by a police officer. Each child went home with a wrapped gift to put under the tree for each of their parents or guardians. This year, four TSA agents from the Sheridan County Airport also participated in the event.

While Shop with a Cop has been around for 11 years, this is the first year the Sheridan Livestock Club volunteered. Bard said they were informed of the event because McKinley’s father is an officer at the college.

“Lexie’s mom told us this was available to wrap,” Bard said. “So we got this idea to come and help.”

Huntley said wrapping isn’t new to the group.

“We did this at Shipton’s,” he said. “But that was just for anyone who was buying a gift. It wasn’t for donated money.”

As youth who raise livestock, ranging from horses to pigs, getting up early is not new to them, but Bard admitted the timing wasn’t the best.

“The day after Christmas Break, it’s a little hard,” she said.

Even so, Bard said they felt the group gained a sense of responsibility through volunteering for the event.

“It’s something we’re doing for the community,” she said. “We’re helping make sure everyone has something under the tree.”

Despite the early morning, all five kids affirmed, without hesitation, that Shop with a Cop is something they would definitely do again.

“Some people can’t take care of this stuff and get things wrapped,” Huntley said. “We’re helping them, and that’s a good deed.”

Starting a new chapter: Longtime police captain, Scott Chandler, retires from force

SHERIDAN — The story starts something like a Louis L’Amour novel — an Iowa boy goes west and becomes a cowboy and then a lawman. And while this story is not written on the pages of any book, it’s about to get a new chapter.

Reserved and soft-spoken, Capt. Scott Chandler chooses his words carefully when he speaks. He muses about growing up in the Midwest before moving to Montana.

“The lure of being a cowboy drew me out there,” Chandler said. “I worked on a 450 section ranch. That kind of life is quickly fading, so I’m grateful that I got a chance to enjoy that and learn that kind of lifestyle for a little bit.”

He lived the life, working the ranch and spending weeks or months at a time in cow camps. As a hunting guide he formed friendships that still stand today.

“There were these guys from out near Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, who still go out to hunt,” he said. “I don’t guide them anymore, but I still go up to see them when they come.”

Ten years after moving to Montana, Chandler was ready for a change. He applied for a position at the Rosebud County Sheriff’s Office in Forsyth, Montana, which he didn’t get. Then Chandler met Bob Green, a detective with the Sheridan Police Department.

“He invited me to come and test for a police officer position,” Chandler said. “There were 130 guys testing for two positions, and I got one of those positions.”

As a man who has been working since high school, Chandler has not had the time for the type of educational regimen that ends with a degree. But with an accumulated 80 college credit hours and 2,000 hours of law enforcement training, he is far from uneducated. He said he was also able to draw from his life on the ranch.

“The morals and values of the people I worked with, and my mentors, the people who owned the ranch, helped prepare me for this position,” he said.

But Chandler also champions another influence during his years in law enforcement — family.

“I owe a lot to my wife,” he said. “My wife and kids endured a lot of me working shift work, me working weekends, me not being around for a holiday. But they stuck by me.”

Chandler was promoted to sergeant, then to lieutenant. In 2006, he made captain.

“It’s a long time to spend in a supervisory role,” he said.

Chandler said when he hit 20 years with the police department, he told himself he’d leave in five more years. With two new lieutenants able to pick up some of his duties, he said it’s a good time to leave.

“I’m going to take a month or two off to spend time with family and friends,” he said. “I just want to relax a little bit, refocus. There’s a couple of things I’m looking into, but nothing definite. I want to do something different and learn something new.”

It was during this final year on the force, though, that things changed quickly.

When Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, died in June, Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey was appointed senator in his place. City Council President John Heath was nominated by the Council to step into the mayor’s position. Heath appointed Police Chief Richard Adriaens to be an interim chief-of-staff, and Chandler became interim police chief, a position he has held two times before during department staffing changes.

“It’s a little less hands-on,” Chandler said. “I had to appoint one of my sergeants to be an administrative sergeant, and he kind of took over some of my captain’s role.”

When Chandler leaves, Adriaens will step back into the role of police chief, and it will be time for the Iowa boy turned cowboy turned lawman, to ride off into the sunset. But not too far into the sunset.

“I love Sheridan,” Chandler said. “It’s a wonderful place to live. I like to think I’ve had a part in maintaining the quality of life here and making it a place that people want to come to, and a place that people want to stay, and a place where people want to stay safe.”

Getting ready for kindergarten: Subcommittee focusing on early childhood education, kindergarten readiness

SHERIDAN — While members of the Graduation Counts Committee at Sheridan County School District 2 continue to investigate ways to improve the district’s graduation rates, a subcommittee is turning their sights on a much younger group of students.

Headed up by SCSD2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults, the Early Childhood Subcommittee believes ensuring a child enters kindergarten ready to succeed is the first of many steps to guiding the student to the finish line.

During the December meeting of the master committee, Stults stated that studies show the success of a student can be traced back to what their early learning environment looked like.

Showing impacts beyond degree completion, Stults also shared data stating that every dollar spent on early childhood education earns 10 cents annually for the life of the child.

“For example, if $8,000 is invested in early childhood education at birth, for a child who goes on to live to age 65 the return on investment for society would be more than $650,000, more than 80 times the amount of the original investment,” Stults said. “So we know that early intervention is critical, and we know that the value of those dollars invested is worth it.”

Seeking a starting point and focus for the committee’s efforts, Stults investigated an early learning program in Thermopolis that began in 2009.

Though the program may not need to be replicated exactly in Sheridan, Stults said, it provides good insight into some success that has already been established.

The program, started because the local district in Thermopolis was defining only 50 percent of incoming students as “kindergarten ready,” works with families and their students from birth through school age to ensure they are coming to school with the skills necessary to succeed.

One of the critical components to the program, Stults said, is working with daycares.

“Initially it was perceived that this was going to be something that they were taking away (daycares) livelihood when in fact it was the exact opposite,” Stults said. “What they have done is talk to some of the preschool providers about some of the critical skills that they feel like kindergarteners need to be able to do and that has worked very well.”

Beyond helping daycares to teach necessary skills, the program also provides supplemental classes housed within the school district itself.

One class is a weekly preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, but unique from daycare the preschool is not a drop-off class, meaning parents stay and attend class with them.

“I think that is a real key piece that is particularly important; it is a requirement that parents have to attend these classes,” Stults said. “They are also giving them hard copies of lessons for the parents to bring home so there are expectations that it doesn’t take even a diploma for a parent to be able to work with their child at home. And the parents, in this case, are extremely receptive.”

Another aspect offered by the program is summer school for incoming kindergarteners.

In summer school, the student’s future kindergarten teacher works with the preschool teacher the children are already familiar with in classes held in their future building.

Through this, students enter kindergarten with familiarity of the building, the teacher and an idea of what they will be learning.

Sheridan High School Principal Brent Leibach said, though he is on the other end of things working with the oldest students in the district, he hopes the district and the community embraces the early childhood movement to give the kids a fair chance in kindergarten.

“We have continued to raise the bar for kindergarteners as they have come into our schools and our kindergarten teachers work harder than anyone else,” Leibach said. “The bar is continuing to be raised, but what are we doing on the other end to prepare them to come into that setting? Nothing.”

SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty said that after sitting in on a kindergarten class recently he can concur that the teachers are doing a phenomenal job, but in order to give those teachers a chance to provide the best education they can, the district needs to do more to ensure the students are coming to them at a workable level.

“These were kids who ranged from basic phonemic awareness to kids who are really reading chapter books and they all felt valued and treasured by that teacher,” Dougherty said. “It’s our teachers who are going to be the models for the rest of the state.”

The subcommittee is still seeking members and intends to meet in January to start processing how to utilize their learnings to date.

Return to the ‘Rose Parade’: Robbins will work on Queen’s float for second year

SHERIDAN — After millions of flowers have been assembled in more than 80,000 hours of labor by about 935 volunteer designers, the 126th annual Rose Parade will take to the pavement on New Year’s Day in California.

In the midst of the stringently organized chaos will once again be a Sheridanite as Linda Robbins, owner of Annie Greenthumb’s Flowers and Gifts, has been invited back for her second year of float design.

After a presumably impressive performance last year, Robbins will again work on the Queen’s float, the special float for the royal court of the parade.

From covering every inch of the float in natural materials including eight to 10 large arrangements to making hand-tied arrangements to be held by each of the six princesses and the queen, Robbins’ work is extensive.

Robbins has been a certified designer through the American Institute of Floral Designers for nearly 20 years.

The AIFD are the head designers for the parade and they select who will be assigned to each float.

In addition to the Queen’s float, Robbins will also work on two other floats: the Dole Foods float and the float for the new season of the television show “The Bachelor.”

On the Dole Foods float, Robbins will be in charge of the dancers’ infamous fruit headdresses, and for “The Bachelor” she will create boutonnières including the star’s personal arrangement.

Robbins said her team will do the Queen’s float first because all of her flowers are in water, and the corsages and headdresses will wait until the very end because they won’t be in a water source.

Rigging up the thousands of flowers that require a water source is a feat all its own that requires the help of hundreds of volunteers.

­­Robbins said those volunteers typically come from the Girl Scouts of America working in 12 groups of 10 in three-hour stints making about 100,000 little water tubes and then filling them with flowers.

Having gone through the process once before, Robbins hopes to be a little more prepared this year.

“I wasn’t prepared for the scope of how big it was,” she said of last year’s event. “The people I work for made 14 floats, and until you’re right up next to it you have no idea how big those floats are and the scope of work that has to be done in a very narrow period of time. It seemed like I walked around there with my mouth hanging open all the time because I was so amazed at how quickly it got done, from skeletons of woods to every single inch of the float being covered with some sort of natural product from seeds and grasses to mosses is really exciting.”

The work begins on Dec. 27, designing from 6 a.m. to about 10 or 11 p.m. every day until New Year’s Eve. On Dec. 30, crews will work a continuous 24-hour shift to finish the floats just before judging on Dec. 31.

“It’s truly grueling, it really is,” Robbins said. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life yet had such an amazing time.”

She added that in order to accomplish the task at hand last year, she and her group ate fast food together, didn’t do any sightseeing and were together non-stop until the parade kicked off.

Regardless of the sheer magnitude of everything happening around her, Robbins said, everything went off without a single hitch she can remember.

“Somebody is one heck of an organizer,” she said. “With the scope of everything, the amount of flowers that come into where we are on huge trucks and pushable carts, making it exactly where they need to go is unbelievable.”

Sheridan residents are invited to follow along with Robbins this year as the parade floats are born. She will be posting pictures and updates to the Annie Greenthumb’s Facebook page.

Sharing in the warmth of the season
Gayle Fuhrman kisses her grandson Robby Duellette during the Prekindergarten Christmas Program at Holy Name Catholic Church Parish Hall Tuesday evening.  Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

Gayle Fuhrman kisses her grandson Robby Duellette during the Prekindergarten Christmas Program at Holy Name Catholic Church Parish Hall Tuesday evening. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

Sheridan birders are keeping count

SHERIDAN — Sheridan may be going to the birds — and that’s a good thing for several groups in town that want to preserve, enhance and enjoy bird populations in the area for centuries to come.

Within the last several months, several efforts have placed Sheridan County’s feathered friends center stage in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

Most recently, Sheridan birders participated in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. On a cold, snowy Sunday, 29 people went out in 11 teams and canvassed an area in a 15-mile radius around Sheridan to identify and count every bird seen. Another four people counted birds at their home bird feeders.

Bird count coordinator Julie Rieder said the day went well in spite of the weather.

Three youth, Eloise Newbold and Camden and Rosi Schroth, and two college students, Paige and Hannah Jernigan, participated, which was encouraging to Rieder.

“It can’t be just the gray hair club where everyone is 70 or older,” Rieder said. “That’s my fear for Audubon in general. We need to get young people involved and interested. It’s a lot more powerful for a young person to say, ‘Don’t rip up my trees, and don’t tear up my mountains.’”

The unconfirmed total count for the day was 39 species, Rieder said. This included two rare sightings: a pair of wood ducks — which are common in the summer but have been seen only twice since 1969 in the Sheridan Christmas Bird Count — and a potential Krider’s red-tailed hawk, which has never been seen on the local bird count.

Last year 47 species were counted.

While Rieder had a general sense that numbers were lower this year, that isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. One low year may not mean much unless it becomes five or 10 low years in a row.

“That’s what nice about the count is you get these overall trends over long time spans,” Rieder said.

One of the biggest challenges with the count this year was finding good birders to be team leaders and provide direction on bird identification. Rieder hopes that more local people will show an interest in birds and care about their conservation. She also hopes to get more young people involved so they can be trained up to preserve birds into the future.

That’s where another local effort comes into play.

Earlier in December, the YMCA, Science Kids, the Trail End Museum and the Bighorn Audubon Society teamed up to create the Trail End Trackers.

Every two weeks, Science Kids Executive Director Sarah Mentock grabs a dozen or so students in the YMCA after school program and takes them on a bird walk through Kendrick Park up to the the Trail End Museum at Kendrick Mansion.

Museum staff installed four bird feeders on the grounds and keep them full, the Bighorn Audubon Society purchased the feeders and provided a few months worth of food, the YMCA “provides the kiddos” and Science Kids heads up the naturalist education, Mentock said.

On the first outing Dec. 8, the kids really got into it, Mentock said. She hopes their passion continues.

We are so fortunate in Sheridan to be right smack dab in the middle of a major fly way for birds,” Mentock said. “In the fall and spring we get incredible bird life. This is really a neat idea to try to grow the next generation of birders in our area.”

Other efforts to boost birding and bird habitat in the area include revitalizing the Bighorn Audubon Society and installing a bird path behind the Green House Living homes so that residents can get outside and enjoy the birds in their backyard.

“The bird path idea is one I had when they were building the buildings,” Green House Living for Sheridan board member Liz Howell said. “I just want out back and it was early spring and the wetlands back there were full of reeds and it was just chock full of birds. The sound was like a symphony. I thought my mother would love to sit here and listen.”

So Howell and several others teamed up to raise money to purchase feeders and build a gazebo on the newly installed pathway. The Audubon society donated binoculars and field guides for each Green House home. And now, the residents and their families have a place to feed and watch the birds that call Sheridan home.

Local ornithologist Jackie Canterbury was recently named the president of the local Bighorn Audubon Society and is striving to revitalize it, she said.

In revitalizing the local chapter, she hopes to get more people interested in birding and bird conservation. She also hopes to make Sheridan a better place for the birds.

“Climate change and habitat loss from agriculture, oil and gas and urban development are two profound threats facing birds globally,” Canterbury said.

A recent climate study by the national Audubon Society, utilizing Christmas Bird Count and Breeding Bird Survey data — has shown dramatic decreases in bird habitats across the nation. The study modeled 17 climate variables and predicted that of the 588 north American bird species, over half — about 314 — would lose more than 50 percent of their current range by the year 2080.

The bald eagle, a staple in Wyoming, could lose up to 70 percent of its current range by 2050.

Several birds in Wyoming — including the osprey, bald eagle, golden eagle, rufus hummingbird, burrowing owl and greater sage grouse — are on the list of birds at risk of losing habitat.

One of the key projects the revitalized Bighorn Audubon Society is taking on to address the loss of habitat is establishing Important Bird Areas.  They are meeting with people in the area to identify areas that are important for birds, areas that if they disappeared, the birds that use it would also disappear.

IBAs are a global Audubon initiative. Areas in the Sheridan area that may be possible IBA designations include Lake DeSmet, an area of large trees near Big Horn that bald eagles use to nest, South Park and Kleenburn Recreation Area. An IBA designation doesn’t limit what can and can’t be done in the area, it just urges conservation to preserve birds.

SCSD2 considering sale of Gollings work to fund SHS remodel

SHERIDAN — If you have attended a performance in the Sue Henry Auditorium at Sheridan High School, it is likely you have experienced the sound cutting out, lighting issues or had trouble finding an empty seat.

If you are one of the 315 students enrolled in band, orchestra or choir at SHS this semester alone, it likely comes as no surprise to you that there is a need for more practice and storage space.

Unlike many of the issues arising as the flagship school of Sheridan County School District 2 ages, the renovations needed to the performance arts area are likely one most frequently experienced by the public.

Members of the Fine Arts Committee who are launching the renovation efforts are hoping this will help them as they begin discussions with the community and local foundations to raise funds for the project.

Part renovation, part small addition, the auditorium project is in its infancy — little more than thoughts and discussions at this point.

One issue the committee is hoping to address is that of capacity.

Currently the auditorium can hold 444 audience members, but committee member Richard Bridger said if they do anything to alter the room they’ll fall into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance issues and will lose quite a bit of seating.

One idea for the project was to push up the drop ceiling and add a balcony for additional seating.

Another proposal includes the addition of practice rooms behind the stage curtain.

Even more discussion has been held regarding the instruments of technology in the room that are now antiquated — no longer even in production — and therefore need a complete overhaul.

With all needs considered, the best ballpark estimate of cost committee member Marva Craft has heard is $6 million based on the proposed square footage. But with little to nothing on paper yet, that figure could be off.

“You don’t know what you’re getting into until you get into it,” Bridger reminded. “How you tie in your HVAC and how everything ties in with the rest of the building and what kind of a mess that’s going to be and so on, we don’t know.”

What they do know is that the music program at SHS is strong and will likely continue to grow.

Craft said a very optimistic timeline for completion would be three to five years and a recent discovery could have the potential to jump start their efforts dramatically.

SCSD2 is the owner of 10 original oil paintings by renowned artist William Gollings that used to be housed in the district elementary schools but now live in the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.

Gollings lived and worked in the West before dying in Sheridan in 1932. While alive, he created depictions of Western life that grew in acclaim and value throughout his career and since.

Though the paintings were attained by purchase of the Parent Teacher Association at the time of his death for a very low cost, the 10 works have now collectively grown in value to more than $3 million.

The Fine Arts Committee is asking what is best for the art, for the community and for the students, and the answer may be to sell the paintings.

Originally transferred from the unsecured halls of the schools to the library for more protection and the option for public viewing, the paintings were not consigned to their current home with the concern of care or restoration.

As a result, they are in need of some repair, with eight remaining at the library and two now on display at The Brinton Museum.

“This was a gift back then so how do we steward that gift and who do we involve in the decisions about how you steward a gift like that because they’re valuable, and they’re an asset, not just financially but educationally,” committee member Jeannie Hall said. “There is a lot we still need to understand. There are a lot of tentacles that need to come into the hub and just say what are the possibilities here and how can they best be realized. I personally as Jean Q Citizen wouldn’t want anybody to feel like we are going to remove this asset from the community because he lived here.”

“Ideally it would be really nice if someone locally decided to purchase them if that was the direction we decided to head in, and they decided to keep them here,” Bridger added.

For now, the committee is focused on community discussions and securing an updated appraisal of the works.

The group plans to reach out to Sheridan County Museum historians to learn more about the history of the paintings. The will also visit with the current caretaker and other key art stakeholders in the community for their thoughts on the option.

“When the paintings came to our attention we all went, ‘oh, oh,’ but we just want to be cognizant of the fact that there are other people who would like to have input on them,” Craft said. “We just need to let everyone know they are in the loop and we’re not leaving them out. And we’re always going back to what’s good for the students, what’s good for the students.”

Is fat the new winter fad? Bikes built for snow, sand finding a niche with riders

SHERIDAN — The shorter and cooler days have arrived, which for cyclists in our area, signals that it is time to swap two-wheeled transportation for four-wheeled, and that cycling season is over for another season. Or is it?

In recent years, a new type of bicycle has emerged that allows cyclists to continue with their biking adventures through the winter. The bikes are designed specifically to ride in snow or sand, both of which provide little traction for regular bike tires. To combat this, bike companies developed the “fat bike.”

Fat bikes get their name from the extra-large tires with which they are outfitted. As a comparison, most mountain bike tires are approximately 2 inches wide, while fat bikes have 4-inch tires.

“They originated in Alaska and were designed as a mode of transportation in the wintertime,” explained Jeff Stine, co-owner of Backcountry Bike and Mountain Works. “They were designed in a way to accommodate fat tires in the winter and thinner tires in the summer. So, one bike and two sets of wheels got you a year round commuter in Alaska with just a wheel change.”

Stine said that a couple of bike engineers in Alaska initially came up with the concept, but that other bike companies soon copied the idea and began their own lines of fat bikes.

“They’ve been out for quite a while, but other companies are starting to figure out it isn’t just a fad it is part of cycling now, so more companies are starting to produce them now,” said Jordan LeDuc, owner of Sheridan Bicycle Company.

Outfitting yourself with a new fat bike will empty your bank account of at least $1,500, and often more. However, LeDuc said that prices are being reduced as the bikes become more common.

“What makes them a little more spendy is that obviously, they have a specially designed frame to accommodate the larger wheels,” he explained. “You have to have different jigs to build the frame, different molds to get the tires that big, so there is a lot that goes into building the bike that drives that price up. But with more companies producing them, that is driving the price down for the consumers.”

LeDuc and Stine said although fat bikes have been around for several years, they are rather new to Sheridan customers and consequently, only about a dozen or so folks have them in town.

“There’s certainly more curiosity than there is actual purchasing of the bikes. There’s probably not a day that goes by without someone coming by and saying ‘what in the heck is that?’” added Stine, about the fat bike displayed in his store window. “Most people don’t have any clue it is a snow bike. They think it is some downhill racing mountain bike, which couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Fat bikes can be used for commuting during the winter, with a small decrease in tire pressure providing good traction on concrete. However, there are plenty of places in the Bighorns to ride recreationally through the winter. LeDuc noted that Sibley Lake trails, Red Grade and Little Piney in Story are all great places to ride.

He added that anyone on a fat bike should stick to groomed trails such as cross-country skiing or snowmobiling trails. However, he stressed that cyclists should stick to the sides of the trail on cross-country trails to maintain integrity of the trail. He said cyclists should respect the efforts of trail groomers and help avoid conflict between cyclists, skiers and snowmobilers.

In order to provide local cyclists with the opportunity to try a fat bike before purchase, Sheridan Bicycle Company will offer fat bike daily and weekend rentals beginning in November. Stine said his store will also likely offer rentals in the near future, possibly next winter.

Anyone heading out for a winter bike ride should definitely take weather precautions like any other winter recreation, with proper clothing and supplies. Additionally, LeDuc said to be prepared for a little less distance and more effort while riding through the snow.

“Obviously with a wide tire there is some resistance,” he said. “But I tell people we aren’t setting any land speed records, just enjoy the fact we are still riding in December!”

Nonprofits seeing a mixed bag of giving this holiday season

SHERIDAN — With the season of giving in full swing, the various charitable organizations in Sheridan County seem to be experiencing support in differing degrees.

While organizers of the annual Community Holiday Dinner reported more donations and volunteers this year than ever before, programs like the Festival of Trees benefitting the Special Olympics and the Toys for Tots collection efforts are seeing decreased giving. Others, like The Salvation Army, say donations are unchanged but need is up.

With just two weeks remaining until Christmas, and three before the new year, for most organizations the message is simply that it’s not too late to help.

Capt. Don Warriner of The Salvation Army reported that though their Angel Trees are still holding the names of several children and families hoping to receive gifts for Christmas, he has faith in the community that their wishes will be fulfilled.

“We’re doing OK,” he said. “There are still names up on them but a lot of people wait until this week or next week to do it, so I’m not concerned.”

Donations to the SA food pantry are down, he added, but the thrift store and monetary donations in the kettles are on par with donations from last year.

“By no means am I saying Sheridan isn’t stepping up — this community is more than giving for its size — but what has happened is the need has continued to grow,” Warriner said. “I think more people are becoming aware of what is called the working poor. They are people who have jobs, $10 an hour jobs, and you can’t survive on that, and a lot of those people are starting to figure out that it is OK to come to The Salvation Army and ask for help.”

Heading into Christmas the SA will serve the first 125 qualified people who come for help and the rest will be put on a waiting list to see if there are extra resources remaining to be distributed.

Their guideline for qualification is 175 percent below the poverty level, which is the same line drawn for free and reduced lunches at schools, as well as the guidelines for qualifying for Toys for Tots gifts.

Local Toys for Tots coordinator Kristina Hernandez-McDougall said this year families will need to provide proof of poverty level as well as proof of a living child to receive a gift from them.

McDougall said these requirements were put in place after some people took advantage of the program last year.

“Last year people were taking advantage of the fact that I was not requiring proof of a living child and they were telling me they had 10 kids when in fact they only had two,” she said. “It’s not fair to the rest of Sheridan that they may only get one toy because I have so many children to serve when these families are receiving more for children who are not even real.”

McDougall will also be cross-referencing her list of applicants with the list of those receiving gifts from The Salvation Army as well as the Sheridan Angels group to make sure no one is “double dipping.”

Beyond fairness, McDougall said the tighter distribution control is also needed as donations to the toy program run by the Marines are down this year.

Last year 1,112 toys were donated in Sheridan County, 1,176 toys were received from the foundation and 172 stocking stuffers were donated with the rest of the small items purchased locally with donated money.

With those, each of the 743 children on their list received four toys.

This year, over 1,000 children have already pre-registered to receive gifts and the current amount of donated toys will only allow for them to receive one full-size and one small gift each.

“All of the monies I have to spend are donated; I do not receive money from the foundation or grants or anything else,” McDougall said. “I am not really sure what is going on locally but I would sure like to enlist the community’s help in donating a toy in one of the donation boxes. I understand anything is better than nothing, especially on Christmas, but it’s just not the volume the Sheridan area is calling for.”

If someone doesn’t receive free and reduced lunch or Medicaid but they are having a hard time this season, McDougall invites them to come in and talk to her about it.

“The level of poverty in Sheridan this year is amazing,” she said. “I’d say it’s tripled from last year and none of the situations are the children’s fault and if something as simple as a new toy on Christmas morning instills hope in a child then let’s pay it forward. The magic of Christmas still exists when a child wakes up Christmas morning to a shiny new gift under the Christmas tree, and some children will not receive anything without a donation.”

Sheridan Press publisher and program sponsor Stephen Woody said donations for Season’s Readings are on par with last year.

“We thank the people who took the time to go through their kids or grandkids’ books and bring them down to the drop-off points,” Woody said. “Two weeks ago, Sheridan Fire-Rescue brought in a big donation of almost-new or new books. It’s a unique program and we’ve had good response to it in the three years we’ve done it.”

Season’s Readings is a book donation program where slightly-used children’s books are collected then distributed in weekend food packs for the underserved in Sheridan County by The Food Group. Participating co-sponsors include McDonald’s, Fulmer Public Library, Sheridan College and Java Moon.

No money to spare? You can still help.

• Volunteer your time as a bell ringer at The Salvation Army. Though paid bell ringers are people who need the income, Warriner said, volunteers historically earn double the money in donations and can work in as small as two-hour increments.

• Donate gently used books to the Season’s Readings program. Books dropped off at either McDonald’s location, The Sheridan Press, Sheridan College, Sheridan Fulmer Public Library or Java Moon will be given to The Food Group to send home with children who may not get a book for Christmas this year.

• See a complete list of giving opportunities online at sheridanwyomingchamber.org.

Where can you donate?

• The Salvation Army Angel Trees are located at the SA Thrift Store on Coffeen Avenue and First Interstate Bank on Main Street.

• The Toys for Tots collection boxes are located at Walmart, Walgreens, the Powder Horn Golf Club, Perkins, My Buddy’s Place, Pinnacle Energy, Family Dollar, Sheridan College, Fremont Toyota, Grease Monkey, Rocky Mountain Sports, Branding Iron, Silver Spur Café, Wyoming Women’s Clinic, Shipton’s Big R, Sutton’s Tavern, Rendezvous Lounge and Yonkee and Toner.

Planning to attend?

The Toys for Tots giveaway will be held Dec. 20 at 151 W. Brundage St. from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parents must bring their photo ID and their children’s Social Security cards, proof of address and Medicaid cards or letters from the child’s school stating they receive free and reduced lunches to receive a gift.

Cattle theft not just a crime of the past: Livestock investigator continues to collect evidence on Aug. 2013 cattle theft

SHERIDAN — The ad in the paper is a plea for help. An offer is made — $20,000 in exchange for information about 24 cows branded D — D and 28 calves stolen from Sheridan last year. Cattle rustling is not a thing of the past in Wyoming.

The missing cattle wear a brand owned by William J. Doenz of Sheridan who manages the D Bar D Ranch on Bear Gulch Road. The cattle were grazing on land near the end of Maverick Lane when they disappeared in August 2013. Attempts to reach Doenz and his attorney for comment were not immediately returned.

Livestock investigator Casey Cunningham was limited in what he could say about the case other than it was open and under investigation.

Investigating cattle disappearances is not always a cut-and-dry job, Cunningham said.

“Sometimes we won’t get a report until a month after the fact,” he said. “And then we tend to have to go on speculation. We need good evidence.”

Cunningham said reasons for cattle disappearances can vary from predator attacks to cattle wandering off on open range. Reports run the gamut from simple missing reports to outright accusations.

“We’ll have people accusing other people of stealing cattle just because they don’t like them,” Cunningham said. “We have to look at all the facts and make sure we’re actually dealing with stolen cattle.”

While some reports have reported that cattle rustling in Wyoming is on the rise, Cunningham said he feels it’s about what it usually is. Doug Miyamoto, director of the Wyoming Livestock Board, said he feels it’s somewhere in the middle.

“It’s a tough question,” Miyamoto said. “But if you take a hard look at it, (rustling) is up a little, but not significantly.”

According to the USDA, nationally, cow herds are at a 63-year low due, in part, to drought situations in various parts of the county. With calf herds low, 3.1 percent more heifers are being held back for breeding rather than for sale, which contributed to the drop. The calf herd is down 2.1 percent from last year, meaning less beef three years down the road.

The drop in the herd is driving beef prices up. While industry production is at a 20-year low, retail prices are at an all-time high. According to the USDA, a feeder cow that sold for just under $170 last year will now fetch about $230 per hundredweight. That means the cows and calves missing from Sheridan potentially represent about a $120,000 loss.

Miyamoto said there is a register for missing cattle similar to a missing persons register, but hard and fast statistics are almost impossible.

“About 40 percent of Wyoming is federal land,” Miyamoto said. “Much of that is BLM land, and it’s available for grazing. Cattle can disappear on open range and then show up a year later after they’ve been reported missing. That’s going to alter the statistics some.”

Carl Clements, District 4 supervisor for the Wyoming Highway Patrol, said it wasn’t unusual for ranchers not see cattle for weeks, which tends to delay reports of stolen cattle.

The WHP handles initial calls reporting livestock theft.

“Most ranchers only see their cattle every day in the winter,” Clements said. “If they’re grazing cattle on leased land with a good fence and plenty of grass and water, it can be weeks before they see the cattle again. If the cattle are on open range, it can be even longer.”

Cunningham said the lag time between when cattle actually go missing and when they’re reported makes investigating difficult.

“By the time we hear about it, any evidence we need is gone,” he said.

Cattle trucks in Wyoming can be stopped at any time for a brand inspection, Clements said, and shipping papers are checked at port of entries throughout the state. But Cunningham said cattle traveling in horse trailers are a little harder to keep track of, and cattle that the make it over the Missouri River are even harder to trace.

“There’s no inspection that far east,” he said. “Out-of-state buyers are supposed to check brands, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do it.”

Miyamoto said the brand law in eastern parts of Nebraska and in Kansas have no brand inspections.

“If they can make it to Kansas, they really can be impossible to trace,” he said.

Merry Ucross Christmas: Community invited to Ucross Christmas celebration Saturday

SHERIDAN — It started last year as a way to thank the community for its support and will return this year with 24,000 twinkling lights in trees accompanied by the glow of fire pits and fireworks.

The second annual Community Christmas Celebration at the Park at Ucross is coming Saturday, presented by the Ucross Foundation and the Plank Stewardship Initiative.

Just a short drive from Sheridan, the Raymond Plank Creative Center inside the park will be filled with hot chocolate, Christmas cheer, choral singers and children’s crafts in a free gathering that is open to all.

Last year approximately 400 people gathered at the center, wandered between the lighted trees in the park and finished the night huddled by bonfires outside to watch the grand finale fireworks display.

This year, the weather is expected to be a bit more celebration friendly and the staff is expecting the same strong turnout.

“Bringing together community is important to the mission of Ucross and this time of year is such a special time to do so,” Ucross Foundation Director of Development and Community Relations Viv Banks said. “We’re most excited about the local student choirs that will be performing.”

Last year and again this year the Buffalo Balladiers and the Clearmont-Arvada Chamber Ensemble will perform.

The choirs are comprised of students ranging in grade from elementary through high school, and Banks said they are a perfect fit for the event that is really geared toward families.

“It’s important for Ucross to generate more access to arts and culture, especially being in a rural area and that’s why it’s important for us to provide the space for local students to perform their music and help support the arts among our local youth,” Banks said.

The Ucross Foundation is a nonprofit organization with the mission to foster the creative spirit of deeply committed artists and groups by uninterrupted time, space and experience of the majestic high plains while serving as a good steward on its historic 20,000-acre ranch.

Mountain Meadow Wool Mill of Buffalo will also be at the event presenting some of their artists’ work, and a holiday children’s craft table will offer young visitors the chance to create something they can take home with them.

The event will run from 4-6 p.m. and will culminate with fireworks provided by Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Wyo., and the lighting of the trees throughout the park, signaled by the firing of the cannon.

The Park at Ucross is located at the intersection of Highways 14 and 16, about 10 miles west of Clearmont.

For further information, contact 737-2291 or info@ucross.org.

Bursting with excitement
Hanson goes for 44 in Lady Generals’ overtime win

SHERIDAN — It was an exciting weekend of basketball in Sheridan, and the fans at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome were treated to some free-hoops action Saturday as both the Lady Generals and Generals played overtime games against North Dakota State College of Science.

The Lady Generals got off to a big week Thursday when the latest junior college rankings were released with Sheridan College ranked 19th in the nation. Coach Frank McCarthy was excited about the ranking but a little disappointed that his starting center, Tiana Hanson, wasn’t named JuCo Player of the Week after her 40-point, 18-rebound, seven-block performance last weekend.

Hanson wasn’t deterred.

After scoring 20 points in just 17 minutes of play in Sheridan’s easy 101-56 win over Dawson Friday, Hanson went for 44 Saturday to lead the Lady Generals to an overtime victory.

The Lady Generals had their work cut out for them against the 9-3 Lady Wildcats, a team with three 6-footers on their roster.

It was the long ball that hurt Sheridan early.

NDSCS got off to a hot start, mostly because freshman Tyler Davis went 5-7 from behind the arc to finish with 20 points in the first half.

Sheridan, down 10 early, clawed their way back thanks to 21 first-half points from Hanson and 14 team free throws to tie the game at 46 at the half.

From that point forward, it was a back-and-forth slugfest the rest of the way, and the intensity steadily increased as the clock ticked down.

With 10 seconds left in the game, Hanson brought down a defensive rebound and was fouled, sending her to the line to shoot two with the game tied at 82. She made both.

But NDSCS quickly sprinted up the court and fed the ball to the 6-foot Brittney Thibeaux on the right block, who made the layup and drew the foul with 3.5 seconds to go.

The sound in the Golden Dome got louder than it’s been all season, and Thibeaux’s potential game-winning free throw rimmed out. Frank McCarthy drew up a play to get the Lady Generals a good shot, which they executed perfectly, but Sierra Toms’ shot was a touch too strong.

After a quick Lady Wildcats bucket to start the overtime, the Lady Generals maintained composure and took the win, 98-93.

“It seems like the bigger the stage, the better our kids play,” McCarthy said after the win. “We had energy; I thought the crowd gave us energy. We want to compete, especially at home, and we knew we had to play really well to beat these guys.”

Hanson finished with 14 rebounds to go with her 44 points, which included shooting 21-of-24 from the free-throw line. Toms got back into early-season form, finishing with 19 and 11. Zuzana Talackova added 15 and Tamara Brine had 11.

The 19th-ranked Lady Generals are now 11-2 on the season. They will head to Dawson Saturday for their final game before Christmas break.

In the nightcap, what the Lady Generals brought in energy, the men’s team lacked for the first 30 minutes of their matchup with NDSCS.

The NDSCS men didn’t have the size inside that the women’s team did, so they spent the entire game weaving around the perimeter, handing the ball off and firing 3-pointers — 45 of them — and the Generals were struggling to contest the shooters.

The Wildcats went 10-for-23 from 3-point land in the first half to lead the Generals 50-38 at the break.

“That first half, it just looked like we were lost out there defensively,” Sheridan coach Matt Hammer said. “Guys not communicating, not really sure what they’re doing, and that’s all time that you put in preparing for the game.”

Things continued to go the way of the visiting team for the first nine minutes of the second half, as they stretched their lead to 17.

It was a Jamir Andrews 3-pointer with 10:55 left to play that turned on the light for Sheridan.

The Generals cranked the intensity and were staring at a two-point deficit with 30 seconds to play. Andrews bounced off defenders in the lane before finding Tre McCallum under the basket for an easy game-tying lay-in that sent the game to overtime.

With Sheridan up one in the extra period, North Dakota’s Brian Goodwin dropped in a short hook shot from the lane to take a 106-105 lead with six seconds to go. Andrews pulled up for a long, contested 3-pointer that fell short, and the Generals fell short in their comeback.

“What’s unique about Science, is they’re so patient with it,” Hammer said of the NDSCS offense. “They keep running it, they keep running it and they wait for that one guy to make a mistake. Tonight, we didn’t just have one guy make a mistake, we had all five guys out there, at least a few times, not communicate or not jump out and switch when we wanted to switch, or not hustle through and get a hand up.”

Bennie Lufile finished with 28 points and eight rebounds, and Pablo Rivas added 19 and 15. Andrews finished with 22 points but shot just 33 percent from the field, including 5-of-15 from behind the arc.

The Generals fall to 11-3 on the season and will play at Laramie County Community College Friday before taking three weeks off.

Father Christmas hands out holiday magic

Father Christmas (David Peterson) gives a bell to Haylee Wagenor, 5, during the Trail End State Historic Site holiday open house on Friday evening.

Remembering a day of infamy: Local residents recall the impacts of Pearl Harbor

SHERIDAN — He was working for a dollar a day plus room and board at a grocery store in Sheridan when he heard the news over the radio.

She had just come in from feeding cows with her boyfriend on her parent’s ranch north of Gillette when her mother told her. The day was snowy and not too cold, about 25 degrees.

Neighbors drove to nearby neighbors and asked if they had heard; teachers told their young students who found themselves wondering if a bomb might drop on their one-room schoolhouse at any moment.

Dec. 7, 1941, did indeed become “a date which will live in infamy,” as President Franklin Roosevelt said in his speech on Dec. 8 when he asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

For years, newspaper and radio headlines had followed the progress of World War II. Roosevelt knew that war was probable. Then, war came.

Japanese forces executed a surprise attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that killed more than 2,400 naval and military personnel, including 68 civilians, and wounded another 1,200.

“Uneasy peace hangs over Pacific,” The Sheridan Press said on Sunday, Dec. 7. Monday, the Press declared in bold red letters, “Nation at war.”

There was a story that day about 50 Sheridan men who went to Army and Navy recruiting stations on the second floor of the post office building to inquire about enlisting in the war. Ansel Gibson Brown was the first to volunteer, the story said.

There were no tweets to announce the attack or instant blog posts to debate the merits of going to war. People knew they would help support the war campaign the best they were able.

Now, 73 years later, those same people still remember where they were when they heard Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

They remember rations of sugar, gas and shoes; they remember choosing to enlist or getting drafted; they remember things they don’t want to talk about; they remember their husbands getting shipped to Guam and dropping the H-bomb on Japan.

Pearl Harbor shaped the rest of their lives. Pearl Harbor, they say, is something they will never forget — and should never forget.

Ed Poll

Ed Poll, 94, knew what it meant when Pearl Harbor was attacked: he would have to go to war.

He was 21 at the time, working for a dollar a day plus room and board at a grocery store in Sheridan. He heard the news on the radio.

“I can’t remember how I felt,” Poll said. “But believe me, I just hated like the devil to think that I was going to have to go.”

Poll was told in a phone call taken at the post office that he would leave in a week to serve, but he told the caller, “No, I want to go home and spend a few weeks with my parents.”

Poll went home to Rozet, Wyoming, before being shipped out of Sheridan to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

He received no basic training but was able to work his way up the ranks, a seemingly natural leader.

He eventually dedicated 25 years, nine months and five days to the military in World War II and Korea. He was discharged as a sergeant major.

Poll served in Europe with Patton — going a few days without food once so Patton could have gas for his tanks — and remembers working in a factory in Germany where the “buzz bomb” was made. He still has a knife, a micrometer and a caliper he took off the bench at the factory.

“It was a shocker when it happened, that’s for sure. We did the best we could,” Poll said. “I been there, done that, and I thank God I’m here today, that’s all I can say.”

Eva Burton

Eva Burton still has a photograph of her parents taken on Dec. 7, 1941: they are in winter coats, ready to do chores, a field of snow behind them.

“Being so far from it and everything, I didn’t have any real thoughts about it then. All my feelings and thoughts have come later,” Burton said.

Burton was 16 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked. She had graduated high school that spring but was too young to go to college so she was working on her parent’s ranch 50 miles north of Gillette.

“On that Sunday, my boyfriend had come to see me,” Burton said. “We drove about 3 miles to feed cattle. There was snow on the ground; it was not terrible cold, probably 25, 30 degrees. When we got back to the house, my mother, Hazel Potts, had heard on the radio that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and she told us then.”

Burton later married Edwin Wells, a tall and slender man who tried to enlist in the Army three times before being accepted.

“When he went he was 5 pounds underweight,” Burton said. “The third time he ate 5 pounds of bananas so that he could weigh enough to get into the service. He wanted to go that badly.”

Wells was part of the group that dropped the H-bomb on Japan. Burton said going to Pearl Harbor later in life is when it really sank in.

“It was just mind-boggling, really,” she said. “Too many of our young people don’t realize what it means to be free, the sacrifices that were, the thousands of men that we lost.”

Bob May

“I remember the day that they bombed Pearl Harbor,” Bob May said. “We were at home, and the neighbors drove over — we didn’t have a telephone — so the neighbors drove over and says the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”

At 11, May knew he wouldn’t have to go to war, but he wondered if his dad might.

“It sounded like excitement to me,” May said. “I was 11; you don’t know anything.”

May’s family worked as farmers near Elgin, Nebraska. His dad didn’t have to go; he got deferred.

May did have a cousin who was in the Air Force and went to England, where he flew bombing missions over Germany. He remembers the ration stamps that limited much of certain items like gas, sugar, butter and bacon they could have. And he remembers going to the movie house in Elgin, 4 miles from the farm, and watching news reels about the progress of the war.

May later served during the Korean War but didn’t go to Korea.

“I made up my mind when they said I was going to be drafted, I said, ‘I’m not going to be drafted; I’m going to enlist in the Air Force and get a degree, get an education.’”

Chuck Gazdik

Chuck Gazdik was in Gillette when he heard the news. At 18, he was working as a clerk/typist at the coal mine, a job he’d taken when he dropped out of high school in Sheridan due to the Depression.

“We didn’t have nothing to eat at home, five children, so I had to quit high school, and I had to send my $30 home every month,” Gazdik said.

He was in camp at the mine with his co-workers when they heard the news on the radio.

“With the boys it was a common thing, nobody discussed it because we didn’t know nothing about it,” Gazdik said.

What he did know was that he got drafted into the war. He got his first draft card in January 1942 but failed his final physical checkup due to a hernia. He returned to the mine. In February, he got called again and reported for duty in Fort Logan, Colorado.

Gazdik did his training at Camp Roberts in California and boarded a train to the coast to ship to the Philippines on Dec. 30, 1942, his birthday.

He served from 1943-1945, including a transfer to Tokyo to work as a clerk/typist for General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters. He received a Purple Heart and Bronze Medal for his service.

Don Larsen

Don Larsen was 10 when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He lived on a ranch near Beckton and didn’t hear the news until he was at his one-room schoolhouse at Wolf Creek the next day.

“I remember hearing about this thing and setting there in my desk, and I thought, ‘Anytime there will be one of them big bombs come right down in this outfit.’ That’s how much I knew about war,” Larsen said.

Larsen remembers the rationing and the way everyone came together to support the war effort.

“That’s the one thing about it, everybody was together and behind the campaign,” Larsen said. “Of course, in the end, we came out ahead.”

Larsen had a cousin, Billy Williams, who served. He was buried at sea in the Coral Sea when he was 19 or 20 years old. Larsen, himself, later served as a communications technician in Korea from March 1951 to February 1955.

“I think it’s important to remember because it was a big deal,” Larsen said. “First and foremost with most people at that time, they done what was required with rationing and all that stuff. I think with their efforts and what else we could gather up, I think we should recognize all the guys who didn’t make it back and just keep it in mind.”

Train locomotive catches fire

PARKMAN — The Tongue River Fire Protection District and Dayton Volunteer Fire Department responded Thursday morning to a Burlington Northern Santa Fe locomotive fire on the Parkman hill.

Matt Jones, BNSF regional director of public affairs for Montana and Wyoming, confirmed that the train was carrying grain and was approximately 110 cars long. The train was traveling from Lincoln, Nebraska, to the Pacific Northwest. He said the damaged locomotive was returned to Sheridan and that the train proceeded without it.

The locomotive was a diesel engine at the rear of the train. It was unmanned and satellite operated by the crew in the locomotive at the front of the train.

Tongue River Fire Chief Donnie Dobrenz said his department responded to a call reporting the fire at 10:40 a.m. with a four-man crew. He said Dayton’s fire department also responded with a three-man crew. The fire was out by noon.

Dobrenz said that at about a 4 percent grade, the Parkman hill can be a rough climb for some trains. The track rises from about 3,700 feet in Sheridan to about 5,280 feet at the summit of the hill, and some locomotives can get “pretty warm” during the climb. He said the train was climbing the hill at the time of the fire.

“Most of them don’t do too bad,” Dobrenz said. “Every so often, one of them catches fire.”

Dobrenz speculated the fire was caused by overheating, but could not confirm that theory.

Jones said the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He said the fire was contained to the locomotive and did not spread to the cars.

Jones was not able to say by press time how much damage was done to the locomotive or how the fire may have delayed travel on the route.   

Dobrenz said no one on the train or on the fire crews were injured.

Getting ‘inn’ the spirit
Police still on the lookout for vandals

SHERIDAN — It’s hard to miss when you travel through the city; it’s under brides on the pathways and on the sides of trains, bridges and historic buildings. Some may call it art, even though it is crude, but to others graffiti is a serious, and expensive crime.

“It’s been sporadic,” Det. Sgt. Travis Koltiska of the Sheridan Police Department said of the instances of graffiti in Sheridan. “We occasionally get several individuals who feel the need to express themselves by painting all over a building.”

In the most recent case, police need tips concerning the defacement of several buildings and a railroad trestle on the east side of town between Main Street and Interstate 90.

One reoccurring piece features lips, closed eyes and a tear and the words “RIP my love.” Other areas show only spray painted words. A train trestle shows a “Kilroy” similar to those from World War II.

Koltiska said that while its easy for area residents to assume the vandals are kids, that tends to not be the case.

“We’ve dealt with three main graffiti cases since I’ve been here, and all three times, the group was not juveniles,” he said.

Koltiska also said that while graffiti damage can be minor on just one building, it can aggregate and become a more serious crime.

“One building might not have much damage,” he said. “But if $100 worth of damage is done to one building and someone damages 10 buildings, that’s $1,000 worth of damage. Now it’s a felony rather than a misdemeanor.”

The sentence for felony defacement can be up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine before court costs and restitution. And, while a person caught vandalizing a building might be cited up to a certain point, a felony warrants an arrest.

Law enforcement in Sheridan said it’s unlikely the local graffiti represents a gang tag. but that fact doesn’t make the vandalism any less of a problem. Clean up can be expensive, particularly for private homes. Cleanup can also cause preservation problems with historic buildings.

“Unfortunately, if a person’s property has been vandalized, they are the ones that have to pay to clean it up unless we find out who did it and they pay restitution,” Koltiska said. “That’s why we need to rely on the citizens of Sheridan to let the police know if they see something.

If anyone knows of vandals or sees someone defacing property, Koltiska asked that they call the Sheridan police at 672-2413 or the Sheridan Crime Line at (307) 672-CRIME.

South Park feature to be built over winter months

SHERIDAN — Over the winter, a boardwalk will be installed in the wetlands area in South Park to provide an educational and interpretive area for school students and community members.

“When the master plan was derived and adopted by City Council in August 2009, this was one of the many ‘natural’ areas the committee felt would be beneficial to the schools for educational zones within the park,” City Project Manager Tom O’Leary said.

City Council approved a bid award for $142,750 to O’Dell Construction to complete the project at its meeting Monday.

City Engineer Lane Thompson said $50,000 of the project cost will be funded with a land and water conservation grant received this year. Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funds and public benefit funds will also be used.

The boardwalk will be placed in an old oxbow of the creek that is now a wetland area in the center and western edge of South Park.

The boardwalk project will include a 10-foot wide elevated boardwalk meandering through the wetlands, an outdoor classroom with seating for students, instructional nodes with interpretive signs and cleared areas with seating for students and enhancements to vegetation in the area.

Thompson said the winter is a good time to complete the project because the area is frozen.

“Part of the reason we got the grant for this project was because it will be an outdoor learning center that the grade school, the junior high and high school biology classes can go out there and study the wetlands and that ecosystem without disturbing it,” Thompson said.

In other business, City Council:

• approved a replat of 5 acres of urban residential land in the Adkins Valley Subdivision into three lots and a public road right-of-way. City Planner Robert Briggs said the replat was being done to better conform to the existing homes in the area.

• approved on second reading the WESCO II annexation that will annex approximately 88.71 acres into city limits and zone the land B-2 business. The unplatted land is located south of Dry Ranch Road and east of Interstate 90. The purpose of the annexation is to allow for future development of heavy commercial and light industrial businesses in the area.

Decking the halls with holiday cheer

A couple looks at a window display at the Best Out West store during the annual Christmas Stroll Friday night on Main Street.

Holiday spirit revealed at Christmas Stroll: Town gathers for an evening of festivities

SHERIDAN — With South Main Street blocked off and music coming from nearly every door, the town of Sheridan strolled.

This year marked the 19th annual Christmas Stroll, when local businesses participate in an evening of festivities, food and local Black Friday shopping.

Patrons wore the latest Stroll button and meandered in and out of stores and eateries, some with plans to buy, some with plans to browse and some just looking for the shop number to match their button.

Free food, performances and trolley and hay rides kept the crowds circulating — most of the time.

For some on the street, the Stroll is a beloved tradition. For others, it was a new experience.

“I just love this,” Jennifer McInerney, a visitor from Texas said. “Everyone is so relaxed and there’s just such a community feeling to all of it.”

McInerney said she’d never experienced a Stroll before. Houston, she said, is just too large to host what she was experiencing. She was in town visiting family for Thanksgiving made a purchase as a souvenir to remember her trip to Wyoming.

In addition to participation signs in the windows, many businesses also had “Get Caught Shopping” signs to remind people of the new program to stay local for their Christmas shopping. The program includes about $3,000 in prizes and is a new addition to the Stroll. “Get Caught Shopping” will happen the three Saturdays before Christmas.

Stores and cafes were not the only establishments with visitors. An impromptu art show next to the WYO Theater featured the work of local artists. Liz Howell, Heather Plank and Cindy Mohsini drew people in off the street with a promise of artwork and the sound of Bluegrass music.

“We needed music and my son texted his friends and they all showed up,” Howell said of her son who was playing the fiddle in a jam session. “He lives in Laramie, but he was up for Thanksgiving, so this worked out perfectly.”

Howell said the hadn’t known until Friday morning if they’d have a place to do their show, but when they got the room next to the WYO, they quickly framed and labeled their art — a selection of mixed media, watercolor paintings and photography.

“It was packed in here earlier,” Howell said. “You could barely get to the wall to look at the paintings.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus were set up at the Chamber of Commerce, and a line of parents with children waiting to give Santa their Christmas list trailed out the door and onto the sidewalk.

The evening ended with a fireworks show

Beautiful day for a Turkey Trot
Alternative schools: Unique learning environments

SHERIDAN — Each of the school districts in Sheridan County, and most throughout the nation, have begun to focus on individualized student learning, realizing that education is not cookie-cutter for all.

Beyond the traditional learning labels of personality issues or mental capacity, it is now commonly accepted that any number of things could affect the way a child learns.

Attendance, academic format, behavior, relationships or lack thereof, needing more time to grasp a concept or needing to be in a smaller teacher-to-student ratio are but a few of the issues that affect learning.

Whether they simply do not learn well in a traditional setting, they want more control over their education and the pace with which they work or they are seeking to find the everyday relevance behind what they are learning, students are having their unique needs met in local alternative schools.

Not troublemakers

Often community perception of alternative schools can carry negative connotations, with notions that the attendees are troublemakers or poor students whom are forced to attend the school. That is not the case.

“Our kids experience schools in different variations of success and our obligation is to all children, and all means all,” Sheridan County School District 2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty said. “The notion that they are the troublemakers is the wrong message. They don’t want to be perceived as troublemakers; they just want to be educated by someone who gets them. They have hopes and dreams like anyone else.”

While there are some schools that may fit this idea of a correctional facility, the current alternative offerings — and the future of alternative schools — in Sheridan County are far from that.

In SCSD2, Fort Mackenzie High School and The Wright Place junior high work to meet the needs of their students looking to learn outside the lecture.

Far from the “dumping grounds” Dougherty said other districts sometimes treat their alternative schools as, students interested in enrolling in “The Fort” must go through an application and interview process to be accepted.

Interested students will complete an interview with a team of teachers from the school to identify the needs they are hoping to fill and ensure the school is the right place for them.

Upon enrollment, students will join a “Tribe,” which is Fort talk for their homeroom, but the Tribe goes far beyond a traditional homeroom to become the students’ support system.

Tribes meet daily for 30 minutes, using the time to build relationships with one another and the community by performing community service and receiving overall support as they foster what FM/WP Principal Sean Wells calls the “family mentality” of the school.

“We do things a little bit differently here, we treat our students differently,” Wells said. “For example, all of our students and staff are on a first name basis. We try to be a family here, some of our students are missing that; they crave that.”

The first class students take upon enrollment is called the Discovery program, which involves character development that SCSD2 Assistant Superintendent for Instruction and Human Relations Terry Burgess said will make them successful in a high school or a college, in a career, in a marriage, in life.

“They talk about being polite, having positive attitudes, being punctual, producing, being persistent,” Burgess said. “That it’s those kinds of character traits that give us the grit to get through something and have the self-discipline it takes to be successful, those are the things that come from Discovery.”

A unique learning environment

It’s not just the entry and initiation into the school that are different. Everything from class structures to room designs are unique from a traditional school at the Fort.

If you enter the Large Project Room you will find brightly colored walls, bean bags and, at present, even a full-size canoe on a table.

The school emphasizes project based learning, which allows students to select a project that is important to them, and last year a group of eight students earned language arts credits by creating the room.

The students researched what features might make a classroom more inviting and educationally suitable.

They focused on having access to primary sources, what colors aid in focusing on reading and writing, talking about what kind of furniture should be in the room and what overall enhancements they would like to see.

The students ended up generating a budget, presenting their plan in public speeches, writing a narrative on the colors they chose and what their research showed them and creating the room.

“So these kids took this project on, and it obviously wasn’t your typical English class, but they got standards for writing and they got standards credit for public speaking,” Burgess said.

“And we’re looking at implementing that model into different classes,” Wells said. “For example, in the government class they would actually go to some sessions of local government and state government to have that hands-on piece. We’ve had them out looking at the rivers and whatnot just so they can get out from behind the desk and get their hands in it. I know the high school has that mentality as well but with our small class size our students tend to get that more one-to-one attention and opportunity.”

Class sizes at the school range from five to 12 students per teacher.

Classes are taught in 90-minute blocks, with four courses per day as opposed to the seven daily at Sheridan High School.

The school differs from SHS in many ways: they are on a quarter system while SHS is on a semester system, FM/WP does not accept Ds as passing grades and students who are making all Cs or better receive early release on Fridays, to name a few.

The Fort actually requires more credit to graduate than SHS, as well.

But the rigor has been student driven, and so far effective.

Last year’s junior class at FMHS achieved the highest composite ACT score in the state of Wyoming.

“They are proud of the rigor,” Burgess said. “One important piece is that there are several reasons why a student may struggle, but the other piece is making a connection to what their talents may allow and we spend a lot more time focusing on those individual talents here than at the high school.”

As the success of the school has grown, so has the facility itself.

After starting the alternative school as a school within a school at SHS, SCSD2 rented a couple rooms at the Veterans Affairs campus to house the students, then moved FM/WP into the Early Building on the Sheridan Junior High School campus and this year the school is finally in its own space in the old Woodland Park School.

However, with the aged state of the building, the district hopes to attain a new campus for the alternative school soon.

The future of alternative schools

A building may not be the only change alternative education in Sheridan County sees in the future.

Currently, superintendents of each of the local school districts, as well as Johnson County and representatives from Sheridan College, have been meeting monthly to discuss what they can each collectively bring to the table, and possibly creating a singular shared facility for all.

“There is a possibility, if the state allows us to do that, but we don’t want it to be a loss-loss, we want it to be a win-win, so it would have to come from each school district and the college saying this would be good for everybody,” Dougherty said on opening a collaborative center. “In the beginning the meetings are more of gathering information on if there is something we can do together, talking to the kids about their dreams and wishes in terms of a school. (SCSD3) being a really small district has got to be very creative with what they offer and they have some great ideas for us.”

SCSD3 allows their students in need of credit recovery to enroll in Wyoming Connections Academy, a state approved online institute.

SCSD1 currently offers an alternative school that is essentially a meld between districts 2 and 3.

A software and Internet based option currently housed in the Tongue River Valley Community Center, the SCSD1 alternative school allows students to have the option to take some or all of their courses in a self-paced but supervised and deadline-driven format.

Like the Fort, SCSD1’s facility requires an application, legitimate reason for enrolling and acceptance into the program.

“It is really just how these students learn best and how they can be successful,” SCSD1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “One thing the tech base allows to happen, though, is they have 24/7 access to the programs at home. They take the regular courses that our students take, if they are having trouble with specific content they can utilize a content teacher at the school and their progress is monitored just like everyone else’s, but they do not have to physically be in the school.”

SCSD1 suffers from different struggles than district 2, being in more remote locations with their district divided spatially by Sheridan.

By housing the courses in Ranchester, students of the Big Horn campus may have a harder time attending their alternative school, but by having courses online, they may be used for credit recovery by all.

Regardless of the location, structure, size or style, there is a need to reach students who learn outside the lecture, and local districts continue to work to meet those needs with their alternative school offerings.

“It’s really like a puzzle and we have to figure out how to make the pieces fit,” Wells said. “It’s such a great honor when you can see that light turn on in their head finally.”

“The fact that we know more about the way peoples’ brains work and everyone learns different, we know a cookie cutter approach is not the best way to making all students learn,” Kobza said. “We believe all students can learn, and they can learn at high levels, but it may take some students longer, it may take some students a different method and we have to recognize that this exists.”

South Park adventure
Cultural classroom lessons: Tongue River Elementary students participate in Native American Culture week

SHERIDAN — In honor of November being Native American Heritage Month, students at Tongue River Elementary School are taking part in Native American Culture week with a variety of activities that commenced Wednesday and will conclude with a public performance by the Wyola Culture Club at the school tomorrow.

As part of the event, local Indian artist and historian Kim Fuka has been in residence at the school, beginning by sharing Crow art during art classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

He taught kindergarten and first-grade students the art of Crow design, second- and third-grade students how to make Dream Catchers and fourth- and fifth-grade students learned to make an Indian Parfleche Box.

On Friday, a group of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students traveled to the Western Heritage Center in Billings, Montana, which houses a collection of Native American artifacts and tribal flags.

Today, Fuka will assemble a teepee in the library while he shares artifacts he has collected over the years.

Tuesday, the public is invited to attend the grand finale of culture week complete with more education and entertainment.

Fuka will be working with small groups of kids to tell stories and to teach some basic Crow words.

The Wyola Culture Club, under the direction of Janice Wilson, will share stories, drumming, songs and dance with the students.

While one group is with the Culture Club in the gym, the others will meet with Family, Career and Community Leaders of America students from Tongue River High School who have been working on a culture awareness project.

The kids, representing a variety of Native American tribes, will share items from their culture as well as a buffalo trunk from the Sheridan County Museum and two trunks from the Western Heritage Center.

Fuka, who is known locally by his Indian name, Mountain Man, has been a fixture at TRE for some years as his sons Fletcher and John Taylor were both students there and he has helped the fourth-grade history teachers for many years.

For more information, contact TRE at 655-2206.

Tongue River Elementary is located at 124 Dayton Road in Ranchester.

Diabetes: Are you at risk ? Wyoming diabetes rate nearly doubled in 12 years

SHERIDAN — According to the Wyoming Department of Health, in little more than a decade the adult diabetes rate has almost doubled in Wyoming — rising from 4.5 percent in 2001 to 8.6 percent in 2013 — leading to new efforts to help limit the disease.

WDH is teaming up with WYhealth, a group that offers a variety of free services to all Wyoming Medicaid clients, to offer a new yearlong program called “Choice Rewards.”

The program will offer diabetes focused education, one-on-one support for living with diabetes and tools to help clients learn how to self-manage the disease.

Participants will be eligible to receive a $25 incentive card for every three months of the program they complete.

Locally, the diabetes education department at Sheridan Memorial Hospital already offers similar help navigating the process of preventing, managing or living with any form of diabetes.

November is National Diabetes Month, but registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at SMH Sarah Houghton said diabetes awareness needs to be an ongoing effort.

“A lot of times we have patients just put ‘diabetes’ in a Google search and a lot of stuff can come up that’s not true, so we are a local resource for them if they have questions,” Houghton said.

The department sees patients with any type of diabetes including pregnant women with gestational diabetes, patients with pre- or borderline diabetes, kids and adults with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and patients on insulin pumps. Dietitians and educators offer individual appointments as well as group classes, teaching everything you need to know to manage diabetes.

The class is taught on an as-requested basis but is typically offered quarterly, meeting for two hours a week for four weeks.

Most insurances, including Medicare, cover 10 hours of diabetes education upon diagnosis and three hours each year after as a refresher.

Houghton said staying educated and active with your treatment is key to managing the disease for which there is no cure.

“Once you have any form of diabetes, with the exception of gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, there is no reversing that diagnosis,” Houghton said. “That’s a misconception that floats around. They have said, for example, that bariatric surgery cures diabetes and that’s not true, it’s just in serious remission.”

The course discusses things like diet, exercise and medication options for those managing diabetes.

One class focuses solely on the timing, portion and balance of meals using food models and discussion to clear up misconceptions about how and what to eat with diabetes.

“I think people have misconceptions that there are all these foods that are off limits with diabetes, and I clear up that there is really nothing off the table, it’s more about portions and consistent eating patterns so you get steady, consistent blood sugars,” Houghton said. “Exercise also substantially lowers blood sugars, not just right then and there, but you can actually have lower blood sugar for 10 to 12 hours just because you took a 30-minute walk. It’s better than any medication we can prescribe, quite honestly.”

But if a patient does need medication, fellow CDE at the department Alyssa Wright is a registered nurse who works with patients where Houghton leaves off.

“Lots of times when people are diagnosed we have the pillars of diet and exercise but many people will still need medications, and there are several on the market with more and more coming all the time,” Wright said. “Some people are controlled on oral medications alone, there are some injectable medications that aren’t insulin and then there is insulin, which often gets a bad rep, but it is the most effective way to get those sugars back down because we are simply replacing a hormone that our bodies are not making enough of.”

Proper individualized treatment is essential because having diabetes increases your risk for heart disease and other complications that can affect most systems in the body including eyes, kidneys and nerve endings, particularly in the feet with neuropathy.

Though management is key after diagnosis, early detection of risk factors and steps toward prevention can reduce or eliminate your chance of diagnosis.

“One of my biggest passions is working with a patient with pre-diabetes as it is absolutely preventable in most cases,” Houghton said. “Research shows if you lose even 7 percent of your body weight it can have a significant impact on preventing diabetes. A lot of people assume they need to lose 40 to 50 pounds to help it but it’s really just 7 percent.”

Houghton encourages everyone to have annual health screenings and blood work, and anyone with risk factors for diabetes to get the diabetic management lab panel which includes the hemoglobin A1C test used to diagnose diabetes.

The lab panel can be ordered at the hospital’s outpatient lab for $35 year-round or by contacting your personal physician.

“Anyone experiencing classic symptoms of undiagnosed high blood sugars — increased urination, dry mouth, chronic fatigue, insatiable thirst — anyone experiencing those over a couple weeks time, that may be a red flag as someone wanting to go in and get screened,” Wright said. “But not everyone experiences those symptoms and that is why we suggest those with risk factors get the screening regardless.”

Risk factors for diabetes:

• family history

• weight

• diet

• inactivity

• race

• age

• high blood pressure

• abnormal cholesterol

• stress

Steps to help prevent diabetes and its complications:

• Be aware of personal risk factors.

• Be physically active — aim for at least 30 minutes per day.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables.

• Eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and pasta, and less refined grains like white and enriched bread and pasta.

• Work with your doctor on preventive measures.

• Manage blood pressure and cholesterol.

• Quit or don’t start using tobacco — see quitwyo.org or call 800-QUIT-NOW for help.

Type 1 vs. Type 2

There are two main types of diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes and a condition known as pre-diabetes.

Type 1, formerly called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes, accounts for 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with the disease. It is most often diagnosed in children and adolescents.

In this form of the disease, the body’s immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that release insulin, eventually causing all insulin production by the pancreas to cease. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate how the body converts sugar, or glucose, into energy.

Type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar, and it is not preventable. It is an auto-immune disorder that can be inherited genetically but not always.

Type 2 diabetes, formerly called adult-onset, can develop at any age but most commonly becomes apparent in adults. Cases of children with Type 2 diabetes are increasing.

This form of the disease accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes diagnoses. In Type 2 diabetes, the body is unable to use insulin properly, called insulin resistance. As the disease worsens, the pancreas may make less insulin or be unable to produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs, which is called insulin deficiency.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and getting regular exercise. Weight, family history, diet, age and other health measures like blood pressure and cholesterol are all risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.

Got skates? Sheridan Ice does
AgriPark unveiled: Community gathers for Sheridan College’s new large animal science center grand opening

SHERIDAN — In true Sheridan fashion, it took a chilly weather, dirt-spattered event complete with the smell of horses and crocks of chili to bring together some of the most influential people in our community.

The grand opening ceremony of Sheridan College’s new AgriPark was held Wednesday afternoon at the Wrench Ranch north of Sheridan. It honored everyone involved in the development of the new indoor rodeo arena from individual donors to county officials, and from college administration to the family of a rodeo legend.

The AgriPark is Sheridan College’s new large animal science center and future home for the men’s and women’s rodeo teams. The public will be able to rent the arena as of January.

As kettle corn and coffee was served, the honored ladies in attendance were escorted through the sand covered arena floor on the arms of the gentlemen from the college rodeo team.

SC President Dr. Paul Young was the master of ceremonies and one-by-one he recognized people he often referred to as “giants.”

The land needed for the development of the project was gifted to the college by local artist Neltje, and Young introduced her to the crowd in attendance as a “living legend” and “spiritual giant who is shaping the character of Sheridan College.”

“This college, as I’ve often noted, is built on the vision, support and energy of giants,” Young said. “The buildings on the campus carry the names of many of those people who are no longer with us but carry on through their legacies. … And what we are today, what we are doing at this site and also in the classrooms back on the campus is being inspired by a spiritual giant who is here with us today. … She has been a creator of economic opportunities in this community and today she is helping to create a new spirit at Sheridan College.”

Neltje replied stating that this building has been a dream of hers for as long as she has owned Wrench Ranch.

“To see young people here on horseback, riding around, developing themselves in showmanship, in muscles, they have to train and this is wonderful, and this is what this country is about,” she said. “I love this land and I love the people of Sheridan, and here we have another generation of people growing up who are going to have a facility, and how about that.”

Neltje added that she thinks the lives of Sheridan County have changed since Young become president of the college by making “so many of us who just sort of sat around and muttered about things get involved in wonderful tasks and events.”

Standing with Neltje during the ceremony was Butch Jellis, a man who Young said has been at the site of the project every day.

“He is connected to this land in an almost metaphysical way,” Young said. “He has an incredible vision for Sheridan.”

Along with honoring benefactors, Young and the college used the occasion to honor the memory of a former student rodeo athlete and the family surviving him.

Chris LeDoux went on to compete professionally in rodeo as well as becoming a singer-songwriter after rodeoing at SC, and he passed away in 2005 after a battle with a rare form of cancer.

The Northern Wyoming Community College District board of trustees voted earlier this fall to name the road leading through the ranch to the center “Chris LeDoux Way.”

Young thanked LeDoux’s family, in attendance at the ceremony Wednesday afternoon, for allowing the college to include him in their vision of what they want the college to be.

“I went to the Chris LeDoux website and I lost a couple hours reading all these comments by people all over Wyoming, all over America, all over Canada, all over the world, who were touched and affected by Chris LeDoux,” Young said. “I am so pleased and happy that the family is going to allow us to recover that legacy and make that spirit part of this college going forward. Because believe me, what I learned about what he stood for and what he represented, that’s what this college stands for and that’s what we represent.”

Following the ceremony, members of the mens and womens rodeo teams performed demonstrations of their skills as SC Director of College Services Zane Garstad provided emcee services.

“One of the most important things to happen to this program was we found this man, and I forget what his title is, but he’s the director of very important things,” Young said of Garstad with a laugh from the dirt floor in his nice gray suit. “I’m still wondering why they didn’t put a floor in and Zane told me to shut up. He said ‘wear western’ so I got this tie. I’m doing the best I can but that’s why we have him.”

Garstad said he is already taking reservations for the AgriPark from the community for the 2015 calendar, and he knows the center will provide for the college in many ways.

“It’s providing opportunity for the rodeo team to practice in a way that they haven’t been able to do so previously,” Garstad said. “Really, it is the one thing that probably held our program back, and now we’ll be able to continue to recruit a high quality of athlete and it’ll just add to the program. I really believe it’s going to help our entire community. Our community has waited a long time to have access to a facility like the AgriPark and it will allow us to be more connected to the community and allow for economic development.”

Students create clay critters
How does a city design paradise?

City considers conceptual plans for large community park

SHERIDAN — Conceptual plans for a proposed park on West Fifth Street have been released and were presented to City Council during a work session Monday.

The park is proposed to include approximately 10 acres of multi-purpose sporting fields and more than 20 acres of open space with playgrounds, pathways, picnic areas, pond access and gazebos for a total of just over 32 acres, city Public Works Director Nic Bateson said.

The park will be located adjacent to the south side of West Fifth Street, west of the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality building and will wrap around the northern edge of a large pond on the Hidden Bridge Golf Course.

Paul Mills of Russell + Mills Studios out of Fort Collins, Colorado, presented at the work session about the conceptual plans for the park.

“It’s really spectacular,” Mills said. “You can see how much of an asset this will be to Sheridan.”

The park will be accessed off of the future West Corridor roadway going south off of Fifth Street. It will include an 8-acre pond, although only part of the pond will be accessible since the golf course surrounds the west, south and eastern edges.

The park will consist of two areas: a core area near the pond and a sports area adjacent to West Fifth Street, Mills said.

The core area will include:

• the pond

• a boardwalk through wetlands near the pond

• fishing piers with possible boating access to the pond

• a central playground

• a concession area

• an ampitheater/outdoor education area overlooking the pond

• several picnic areas

• an open “village green” for activities like frisbee or tag

• a “viewing mound” that will be raised above the rest of the park and have a gazebo on top. This mound will feature a walkway that winds up the hill to the gazebo and will offer space for kids to roll down the hill or sled in the winter.

The sporting area will feature three collegiate sized sporting fields for use by schools, the YMCA, the recreation district and members of the public.

The parking area will feature a couple pick-up and drop-off areas as well as parking spaces.

Bateson said the conceptual cost for the park is approximately $2 million. City staff will re-evaluate the Capital Improvement Plan to see how development of the park can be phased in over coming years.

Rams fall short of State Championship repeat

LARAMIE — It was a cold winter day at War Memorial Stadium as the Big Horn Rams fell short in their attempt at a repeat state championship Saturday.

With a high of 10 degrees at kickoff and wind blowing snow sideways across the field, volunteers attempted to shovel the white powder off the turf throughout the ballgame.

Big Horn players, with their white jerseys and maroon pants layered atop Under Armour cold-weather gear, huddled around heaters on the sidelines any brief chance they got.

“Offensively it probably hurt us a little bit,” Big Horn head coach Michael McGuire said of the on-field conditions. “With our vertical passing game, we weren’t quite able to get going today.”

The Rams were forced to cut their offensive scheme down to a mostly-rushing attack, which worked, at least to start the game.

The Rams received the opening kickoff and put together a three-and-a-half-minute, run-heavy drive before running back Kerry Powers capped things off with an 11-yard score to give Big Horn an early 6-0 lead.

The inability to pass helped the Big Horn defense, as well.

After forcing a punt on Mountain View’s first possession, a holding penalty forced an eventual Big Horn punt as well. But Mason Lube jumped in front of a Mountain View wide receiver for an interception that he took 50 yards to the end zone, giving the Rams a 12-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Things went awry for the Rams early in the second quarter.

After going three-and-out, the Buffaloes marched deep into Big Horn territory but were facing a big third-and-4. Big Horn jumped offsides, and the Buffaloes cut the score to 12-7.

On the ensuing Big Horn possession, Colton Williams took a short pass from Collin Powers but lost the football as he went to the ground. Mountain View recovered the fumble at the Big Horn 22-yard line, leading to an eventual 12-yard touchdown run and a 14-12 Mountain View lead.

Thanks to a 50-yard kickoff return and 22-yard touchdown reception by Christian Mayer, the Rams regained the lead at the end of the half, 19-14, the last lead Big Horn would have for the season.

Mountain View scored another touchdown late in the third quarter and another early in the fourth, to go with a two-point conversion, giving them a 28-19 lead on their way to the 2A state championship.

“We had chances,” McGuire said. “We didn’t capitalize on them, and they capitalized on the opportunities they got.”

The Rams won 18 straight games over the last two seasons before Saturday’s loss, which included a 2013 state championship, an undefeated 2014 regular season and a 2014 state championship runner-up. They finished the season 10-1 for the third straight year and are now 30-3 under coach McGuire.

“Our kids did a great job all season long,” McGuire said. “One win or one loss doesn’t define us, doesn’t define our program, doesn’t define our kids and what we’re about. We did things first class all the way, and today just wasn’t our day. Hats off to Mountain View. They’re a really good football team, and they deserved to win today.”

Historic business in Sheridan for sale: Sheridan Iron Works owners prepare to close up shop

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Iron Works sign is a comforting sight in Sheridan. The first lighted sign in Sheridan, it has been glowing on A Street since 1910. The future of that sight and that sign, though, is uncertain.

“I’ll tell you that I’m going to be really picky about who buys this place,” Sue Lytton said. 

Joe and Sue Lytton have owned the business since 1990 after stepping in to keep it from being shut down. Joe Lytton has worked there since 1978. But, they’ve decided it’s time to retire, and they’ve put the business up for sale. On Nov. 26, they’ll lock up and go home for the last time.

“Someone at that Downtown Sheridan (Association) asked me if we’d leave the sign on,” Sue Lytton said. “I told her I would.”

She added that she and Joe had met in Seattle and come to Sheridan after they were married. But Sheridan wasn’t what they were looking for, Sue Lytton said. In 1978, the couple planned to move to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

Then something unexpected happened. Joe Lytton started working at the Sheridan Iron Works.

“I wasn’t looking for a job,” he said. “But they started me welding.”

From welding, Joe moved to machine work, stepping in “for a guy who kept messing things up,” Joe Lytton said.

As for the business itself, Sheridan Iron Works was founded at the turn of the 20th century. Some records say 1904. Some say 1906. The business was incorporated in 1908 and the brick building with the iconic sign was built in 1910.

In 1988, the corporation sold Sheridan Iron Works to Alvin Neard and Ellie Horsley. Eighteen months later, the company was deeply in debt and ready to close its doors. Joe Lytton decided he couldn’t see that happen and bought the business.     The Lyttons took over the company debts and paid them off.

“We watched our money,” Sue Lytton said. “We made sure we had the money to pay for what we needed.”

Now, 24 years later, the couple said it’s time to retire.

“We didn’t want to still be here in our 80s,” she said.

They let their employees know ahead of time and have pared their workforce from seven employees to three. They placed the Sheridan Ironworks on the market as a turnkey business — the buyer takes the property, the inventory and the customers. With the business owned outright and the bills paid, they hope to find someone to step up to the plate soon.

The Lyttons are leaving behind a piece of history, and they know it. Their wall safe says it was built in 1915. Submarine valves built during World War II sit on a shelf. Original machines sit on original wooden flooring, and iron pieces for various jobs are stored in an apothecary-style cabinet built when the building was. An old hard hat, tossed into a corner by who knows what worker who knows when, sits on a window sill.

“There are so many stories here,” Sue Lytton said. “You’d have to write a book to tell them all.”

Food bank scrambling for Thanksgiving fare

SHERIDAN — Dan Lick will spend Friday and Saturday standing outside Safeway. He said he’s begging.

“I need 150 turkeys,” he said. “I have three. I’m actually kind of scared.”

Three turkeys means that nearly 150 people who signed up for a holiday meal may not get one.

Lick, the executive director of People Assistance Food Bank, said he’s seen an increase of people in need, many of them working, but for fewer hours resulting in smaller paychecks.

“What are you going to do?” Lick asked. “You’re either not going to pay something or you’re not going to eat.”

To make matters worse, donations have decreased. The combination of fewer donations and more families in need have driven Lick and his employees to make a public request for assistance as they kick off a holiday food drive.

They will be standing in front of grocery stores appealing to shoppers to think of others as they’re walking through the doors.

“We’ll be standing out front asking for donations,” Lick said. “We’ll be in front of Kmart, Albertsons, Safeway, Walmart and Warehouse Market on Friday and Saturday.”

The food bank has been in existence since 2004 and has been operating out of the old gas station at 2560 N. Main St. since 2007. The community organization is manned by volunteers who run the food bank, direct people to resources they might need and hand out emergency food boxes.

But Lick said this has been a tough year.

“We’ve never seen it this busy before,” he said.

Dawn Mauch, Salvation Army resource manager, said her organization needs donations, but that they’re not in as desperate need as the People Assistance Food Bank.

“There’s a food drive going on right now at Safeway,” she said. “And the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are doing food drives for food that will be divided up among food banks in the county. The library is also doing a ‘canned food for fines’ drive right now.”

Mauch said The Salvation Army is also getting ready for the Angel Tree program. The program features the collection of Christmas gifts for those in financial need. Trees will go up the day after Thanksgiving in the First Interstate Bank branch on Sugarland Drive, the Salvation Army Thrift Store and several area churches.

Lick is trying to stay positive.

“God knows the situation,” he said. “I know he can provide what we need when we need it.”

Deepening shadows on eastern foothills
Honoring our veterans; Tongue River Middle school celebrates veterans with community

SHERIDAN — It is a tradition at Tongue River Middle School to honor our nation’s veterans with an assembly on Veterans Day, but this is no traditional “thank you.”

For the second year, the assembly has taken the shape of a community celebration with the help of the eighth-grade class and a member of the faculty dedicated to ensuring his students understand the value of veterans.

TRMS teacher Robert Griffin is a veteran himself. In class, he includes lessons on things like what war is really like and how to respectfully talk to a veteran, drawing on his own experiences to help the students understand war beyond how movies and video games depict it.

“I ask my students to keep in mind when you think about approaching a veteran, at least in my mind, I am very proud of the service I gave my country and I’m very proud that our students are supportive of us today, but I also think about when I was a little boy and I asked my father who was a Vietnam veteran about things that happened in war — and he very seldom spoke at all about it,” Griffin said during the assembly. “In fact he talked only twice in my life about what it was like to be a Vietnam veteran, so trying to interact with him as a young boy I didn’t understand what it meant and I said the things that you would never want to be asked as a veteran.

“He was actually a door gunner during Vietnam and if you’re familiar with the statistic, a door gunner’s life expectancy was 50 percent whether you would make it through that year or not,” Griffin continued. “And when you ask a veteran certain questions, their memories of those events sometimes aren’t pleasant. They did things that normally wouldn’t be things you would ever do in a lifetime, so when you seek that information you draw those memories out almost instantly; you cannot just forget about those things.”

Griffin’s lessons are particularly important on Veterans Day as the school gym filled with a variety of veterans.

“We have a lot of veterans here who have no affiliation with the school because we sent out letters to a wide variety of veterans inviting them,” Griffin said. “These veterans are here primarily due to the respect and sincerity with which those letters were wrote.”

The students composed hand-written letters to veterans in the Sheridan community and elsewhere inviting them to come to the assembly.

“I got an invitation and it was so nice I couldn’t not go,” Air Force veteran Keith Luegge said Tuesday during the assembly. “A 12-year-old girl from here got my name from the VFW and wrote me a two-page letter and I just couldn’t say no.”

The students sent dozens of letters to veterans as far away as Brazil asking them to attend so they could meet more veterans and honor them for their service.

As part of the project, every student at TRMS wrote a letter to Taylor Morris, a quadruple amputee veteran, telling them how they feel about his sacrifice for their first letter of the year.

“I’m very impressed with the sincerity and the empathy they wrote those letters with,” Griffin said. “Reading them has been one of the best experiences for me as a teacher, not because they were well written, but because they were so touching.”

Veterans gathered with students, parents, community members, staff and the entire population of Tongue River High School for a ceremony Tuesday afternoon honoring their service.

The honor came in the form of multiple patriotic pieces performed by the school band and choir as well as special speeches and presentations to the crowd that Griffin said is the largest they’ve had yet.

Three TRMS students were selected to read essays they had written on the meaning of Veterans Day: Kenzie McPhie, Zaveah Kobza and Morgan Warren.

“Being courageous isn’t being unafraid,” McPhie read during the assembly. “Everyone is afraid of something, no matter who they are. Having courage is looking fear in the eye and facing it. Being a soldier takes both courage and sacrifice.”

Daniel Gallegos, a representative of Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, and a veteran, also addressed the crowd.

“I love Veterans Day because not every American can be a veteran, but everyone can be a patriot on this day and what’s important about patriotism is starting with the young,” Gallegos said. “Not every hero has to be shot at. Heroes can be behind a desk making sure intelligence is moving forward, making sure we’re getting food, those guys are as important as the ones that are on the front lines getting shot at.”

A student generated video presentation and a live Skype conversation with a deployed Wyoming soldier were also on the program.

The keynote speaker for the assembly was Sheridan County School District 1 educator and Navy and Marine Corps veteran Steven Hanson.

Hanson’s units were involved in five separate deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq from 2002-2006, and he spoke about the courage and character of a soldier.

But perhaps the highlight of the ceremony came in the form of an off-program speech as a veteran in the audience stood and asked to address the students.

“I’m just an old soldier, perhaps the oldest one here, just an old enlisted man, but I have something to say,” he said. “There’s one word you need to know when it comes to servicemen, the most powerful word in the English language. That word is ‘love.’

“You might ask what love has to do with war,” he continued. “But let me tell you, love is why each and every veteran did what they did. Just look at a mama bear who’s cub is under attack by a lion and what she is capable. These veterans go to war out of love and if you remember that, you’ll never offend one of the veterans.”

The “old soldier” turned out to be army veteran Jack Russell, and Russell received a standing ovation from tear-filled eyes after his impromptu speech.

Griffin intends to continue growting the Veterans Day program, and hopes to add an element in future years that allows students and the veterans who received their letters to meet in person following the ceremony.

Seeking a little excitement? Sheridan College offers classes in outdoor leadership

SHERIDAN — Outdoor Leadership may sound like a term describing the kid who is known to gather his friends to build a fort or the hiker who charges to the front of the path, but it is actually a course of study available at Sheridan College.

Wrapping up its first full year as a degree focus for an Associate of Science, the course of study combines experiential learning with outdoor adventure.

“A lot of people hear that and think, ‘What are you going to do with that?’” SC Director of Recreation and Outdoor Education Julie Davidson said.

“You’re just going to go outside and play; it’s not a real degree.”

And from Introduction to Rock Climbing, Fly Tying and Fishing to Winter Survival and Snowshoeing, there are a variety of courses in the newly printed Spring 2015 class schedule that do offer a hint of outdoor play.

But, Davidson said in reality the students have a diverse set of opportunities once they receive a four-year degree.

Graduates often go on to work as a guide, a camp director, program coordinator, work in recreation and environmental sciences or outdoor education after transferring to a four-year school in order to complete baccalaureate studies.

People in these fields need to write and read at a high level and they need a diverse background of knowledge, Davidson said.

Fulfilling this need, she and English faculty member Sarah Sinclair created a new English elective, Literature of the Outdoors.

“The lit class gets them writing and reading and gets them thinking on a deeper level about what they’re doing,” Davidson said. “It also exposes them to the history of outdoor education.”

Sinclair said the course covers environmentalism, ecology and the things that tie the human experience with the natural environment.

The course was offered last spring as a topics course, meaning it hadn’t been through the curriculum and standards board for approval yet.

In it, the class studied one full text (“Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer), several pieces of short fiction, non-fiction, poetry and a lot of writing.

This spring, the course is in the catalog as a full-credit course and in the future, it may become a required course for Outdoor Leadership students.

“There is a cultural studies requirement to the degree, and I advise them to take this course to fulfill that requirement, but once we go back through review there will be a couple revisions now that we have been running the degree for a full year,” Davidson said. “One of them may be adding that course as a required one as opposed to just a recommended one.”

Literature aside, most of the courses in the study are much less traditional, and much less traditionally structured.

Winter Survival, for example, is taught over the course of two weeks including two evening classroom sessions and two full days spent outside.

The class is part of the spring semester because the fall semester ends Dec. 21 with no guarantee of heavy snow, but by Feb. 5 when the course starts, students are pretty sure they will have plenty of precipitation to plow through.

The evening sessions are focused on outdoor safety, clothing and equipment lectures but during the full-day sessions the students get out, and get cold.

During the first full-day session students learn how to build a quinzhee building — a snow hut.

“You have to build up the snow, pack it down in a pretty high mound and then dig out the center, and the students just had a blast doing it the first day,” Davidson said. “Last year at the end we had finished up and we had a couple hours left and it was cold, we had been snowed on all day, and the instructor threw out there that we could go home or stay and learn something else, and all the students were having so much fun they opted to stay.”

The second full-day is focused on outdoor cooking, avalanche awareness, avalanche beacon use, digging people out of avalanches and more.

“It covers the basics of a lot of stuff; it’s getting students comfortable with what they need to have fun in a winter setting,” Davidson said. “It is not an advanced class by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a great course for everyone.”

In fact, Davidson, Sinclair and even SC Director of Marketing and Public Information Wendy Smith are quick to remind people that though the degree can lead to careers, the courses are fun and interesting and can be taken for only that reason.

“It is always an exciting time when registration for a new semester begins, perusing the menu of courses and contemplating learning something new is fun,” Smith said. “We have such a wide variety of classes. I encourage folks to sign up right away.”

Smith added that all courses have capacity limits and many fill up fast.

Sinclair said that many of the students in her Literature of the Outdoors class last year were what she would consider non-traditional students.

“Often our lit courses are taken by community members and we welcome that,” Sinclair said. “Especially in a course like this where there is so much experience in the community on the topic.”

Fire crews move out as winter moves in

SHERIDAN — A late season wildfire started Saturday in the Bighorn Mountains just outside of Buffalo, but the snow and cold temperatures forecasted for the rest of the week are expected to diminish the affects of the blaze.

In all, officials said the fire, called the West Range Fire, scorched approximately 1,170 acres, though some of that area included back fires lit by firefighters to help contain the blaze. The fire was estimated to be 95 percent contained this morning.

Crews from around the region, including volunteer firefighters and crews from state and federal agencies, helped battle the blaze Saturday and Sunday. At one point yesterday, officials said more than 150 firefighters were battling the fire. Crews included volunteer firefighters from Clearmont, Big Horn, Story and the Goose Valley Fire Department.

Most of those crews were demobilized this morning, though the Wyoming Department of Corrections crew known as the Smoke Busters was expected to remain on scene today to help with mop up. Johnson County volunteer firefighters will also continue to monitor the fire.

Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator Marilyn Connolly said this morning that there is still some fire in the area and area residents will continue to see smoke.

While several structures and communication towers were threatened by the fire, no losses were reported.

Rams escape Wheatland comeback to earn trip back to State Championship

BIG HORN — One minute and 20 seconds. That’s how long the Wheatland Bulldogs had the lead before the Big Horn Rams scored what would be the winning touchdown Saturday afternoon in what was their closest contest of the season.

With that score, the Rams are headed back to Laramie for a chance to repeat as State Champions.

After trailing 20-0, Wheatland scored three straight touchdowns to steal the lead away from Big Horn with 2:48 left in the third quarter.

It looked as if all the momentum had swung in the Bulldogs’ favor, as the Rams were facing a crucial third-and-13 deep in their own territory immediately following Wheatland’s go-ahead score.

It was a short pass to Colton Williams along the far sideline that turned into a monster gain for Big Horn. After the sophomore caught the pass, he lowered his shoulder, shook off a defender grabbing his face mask and tiptoed the sideline before stumbling down just shy of the goal line.

The yards-after-catch, along with the face mask penalty yards, led to an easy stroll into the end zone for senior running back Kerry Powers on the ensuing handoff. The Rams completed a two-point conversion to give them a 28-21 lead, a score that would hold until the final horn sounded.

“They’re huge for us,” Big Horn coach Mike McGuire said of making big plays. “They’re a big part of what we do. (Wheatland’s) defense is hard to go play after play after play against, so you’ve got to try and get some big ones in there, and we got enough of them today to win.”

The Big Horn defense has been dominant all year, giving up just 9.9 points a game headed into Saturday’s matchup. But it wasn’t until after Powers’s go-ahead touchdown when the Rams defense stepped up and made the big plays they had made all year.

Big Horn’s last two offensive drives — not including the kneel-downs in the final minute — resulted in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs. It was the Big Horn defense, though, that sandwiched those two drives with two turnovers on downs and an interception, sealing the deal for the Rams.

“A lot of those drives were a lot of missed tackles, guys dropping to the wrong spot in their pass coverages,” McGuire said of the early defensive struggles. “We knew if we just get some of that stuff cleaned up, we had a chance to stop them, and our kids came out and made some plays when they had to.”

The win keeps Big Horn’s undefeated season going and sends the Rams on a return trip to Laramie for a rematch of last year’s 2A state-title game. Big Horn defeated Mountain View 47-22 last year for their fourth state championship.

Next Saturday’s game will be played at 10 a.m. at War Memorial Stadium at the University of Wyoming.

‘Tis the season: With hunting season in full swing, taxidermist discusses changes to the art form

RANCHESTER — With the hunting season now several weeks in, quite a few big game animals have disappeared from the local landscape. While many freezers have now been filled with meat, parts of many of these animals will reappear in another few weeks not on the table, but on the wall.

“It is a total art form,” Ranchester taxidermist Patrick Pearce said about the profession. “I use the same type of clay that sculptors use.”

Pearce, who owns Big Bear Taxidermy, said many people do not recognize taxidermy for the art form that it truly is or realize how much artistic talent is needed to realistically recreate the form of a once-living creature. In fact, he noted that many taxidermists are former sculptors or take up sculpting to help better their skills.

To learn his craft, Pearce apprenticed with another taxidermist, and also continues his education by watching or reading videos and tutorials and talking with colleagues to learn new tricks and techniques. However, he noted that much of the preparation a taxidermist needs to be successful is taught by the animals themselves, through hours of observation.

“You have to be familiar with how they look in nature, their anatomy and their basic movements,” Pearce said, noting that a good taxidermist is familiar with the habits and habitats of the animals they work with. “That is why sitting there glassing (looking through binoculars) and just watching deer can help you so much.”

In its early days, taxidermy often involved toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and arsenic to preserve the hides. In addition, much of the animal, such as the skull, was left intact, with the hide dried and tanned, then re-stretched over the bones.

Nowadays, taxidermists use Styrofoam forms instead of skulls, as well as clay, paint, glue and glass for eyes.

“We only use the skin and the antlers,” Pearce explained. “Everything else is artificial.”

The creation of a mount takes many weeks and begins with careful skinning and preservation of the hide.

“I’ll cape them off the skull, prepare the hide by salting it and drying it, then at the end of the season I’ll take it to the tannery,” Pearce said. “When I get it back from the tannery, I’ll measure it and order a (Styrofoam) form. Then I’ll do the final preparation work on the cape, such as set the antlers, sculpt the eyes, ears and nose and all the little details I want.”

How the mount ends up depends much on the instructions given by the hunter. Pearce said he visits with each hunter about what head position they want the mount to have, what position the ears should be in, where it will fit best in their house and whether the animal is looking left, right or straight on.

“I get a general idea from them and then I do my thing with it to make it look the best I can,” he said.

While each mount is unique, Pearce said they all give him the same difficulty.

“Always, it is getting the eyes correct because that can make or break your mount,” he said.  “The position of how they are looking, the rotation, how they set in an animal’s head, getting the eyelid just right so it sits flush on the eye and making sure your pupil is lined up right.”

Pearce estimated that he works on approximately 300 animals per year. In addition to creating new mounts, he also takes on a considerable amount of work repairing damaged mounts or cleaning old ones.

“I fix a lot of mounts because people just throw them in a box or stack stuff on top of them, especially fish,” he said. “I just repaired a deer mount that was about 100 years old. There was a piece of wood in the center with wire around it and newspaper for filler. That is how I could date it. It had saddles listed for sale for three dollars.”

He also has customers who need mounts cleaned because of years of accumulated buildup.

“To a certain extent I could bring those back to life a bit from the smoke and nicotine and years of dirt and grime that is built up on them,” he said. “But some of that stuff you just can’t get out without running the risk of ruining the hide.”

While much of his work consists of big game animals, Pearce also creates bird and fish mounts and takes in unique animals from around the world, including specimens from Alaska and New Zealand and African game animals.

“Each animal gives me something different to try,” he said. “Most people look at it as you are a mortician for animals, but really, I bring them back to life.”

Stroll button design winner recognized

Eleven-year-old Jessica Stewart Stewart, left, is given the #1 stroll button and $100 in Chamber Bucks by Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Dixie Johnson, right, with Mayor John Heath watching Thursday at City Hall. Stewart won Christmas Stroll button design contest for 2014. Her twin sister Elizabeth Stewart received the runner-up recognition for her entry. The contest theme “Sugar Plum Stroll” was open to Sheridan County students grades 1-6.

‘Dancing at Lughnasa’
Mead gets four more years; Mead to focus on coal, Endangered Species Act

CHEYENNE (AP) — Gov. Matt Mead says he plans to push in his second term to finish projects that map out a better future for the state.

Addressing campaign workers Tuesday night in Cheyenne, Mead said it’s incumbent on people who live in Wyoming to question what they can do every day to make the state better. “In Wyoming, if you find one blade of grass, you have an obligation to leave two,” he said.

Mead, a Republican and former U.S. attorney for Wyoming, won a second term Tuesday, beating Democrat Pete Gosar and two other challengers.

Looking ahead to his second term, Mead said, “We think it provides an opportunity for me and the office to continue our work on the energy strategy, the water strategy, expanding technology and broadband in the state, continuing to strengthen our local governments and our infrastructure.”

Mead also said he looks forward to beginning a discussion on how Wyoming should handle its rainy day fund — a $2 billion fund that unlike state permanent savings could be spent on projects or government operations. Some state lawmakers have been increasingly calling for an open policy discussion on how the state should handle the funds and how much money ultimately should be in savings.

Mead said he wants to address where the fund should be, what it should be used for, “and how we can make sure we’re investing not only in our markets, but investing in that which has made us so strong in our own state.”

Mead’s second term also will likely find him continuing to serve as a salesman with efforts to try to lobby for markets for coal. Wyoming is the country’s leading coal-producing state, although recent revenue forecasts say the industry’s future is clouded by uncertainty.

Mead has traveled to Asia during his first term and says nations there are hungry for Wyoming coal. Meanwhile, domestic demand is slipping due to a combination of cheaper natural gas and increasingly strict federal emissions standards that industry officials say makes construction of new coal-fired power plants infeasible in this country.

Mead’s administration has filed dozens of legal challenges to EPA air quality regulations it says would hurt coal production. So far, the state has been stymied in its efforts to secure deep-water port access in the Northwest for coal exports.

“While coal, no question, has a target on its back, I remain optimistic,” Mead said in a recent interview. He said the U.S. gets 40 percent of its electricity from coal, and he can’t see the nation making the decision to lose the competitive advantage of affordable energy by taking that off the table.

Another challenge facing Mead in his second term will likely continue to be how to handle contentious decisions about the federal Endangered Species Act.

Acting in response to a lawsuit filed by conservation groups, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently rejected Wyoming’s wolf-management plan and returned the animals to federal protections.

Mead has said he believes the state’s best path forward lies in calling on its congressional delegation to sponsor legislation, similar to an existing law that already covers Idaho and Montana, specifying that there can be no legal challenges to the state’s management plan.

In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a decision next year whether to grant the sage grouse protections under the Endangered Species Act.

Although the sage grouse population has dropped all over the West, its greatest numbers are still found in Wyoming. Officials say a decision to grant federal protections for the bird could threaten energy development across the state.

“I am so frustrated about wolves, and my frustration is now not limited to wolves, it’s the Endangered Species Act,” Mead said recently.

Once a species is listed, Mead said states have no way of knowing what they have to do to end federal protections and regain state management.

“We have a huge decision coming up next year on sage grouse,” Mead said, adding that Wyoming has led the nation with voluntary efforts to conserve the bird. He said it would have a huge effect on the state to see it listed.

“And again, whatever the Fish and Wildlife Service says — if they support what Wyoming’s done or don’t — the groups are going to come and sue,” Mead said. “And some judge somewhere is going to determine so much of what’s going to happen in Wyoming. That doesn’t seem like it’s working to me, and I think the Endangered Species Act needs to be looked at carefully on how it could be improved.”

2014 General Election final unofficial results with absentee ballots

Absentee votes have been added in and 29 out of 29 precincts are reporting for the 2014 general election.

A total of 9,644 ballots were cast. Winners are marked with an asterisk.

Final unofficial results for contested local and state Legislature races and renewal of the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax are:

STATE LEGISLATURE

State Representative, District 29

* R – John Patton, Sheridan – 2,012
Write-in votes, not specified – 157

State Representative, District 30
* R – Mark Jennings, Sheridan – 2,068
Write-in votes, not specified – 544

COUNTY, CITY AND TOWN POSITIONS

Sheridan Councilmember, 4-year term (elect 3)
* Kelly Gooch – 3,108
* Alex Lee, incumbent – 2,841
* Jesus Rios, incumbent – 2,709
Darryl Szymanksi – 2,334

Sheridan Councilmember, 2-year term (elect 1)
* Thayer Shafer – 2,646
Robert Lloyd Webster, incumbent – 1,880

Dayton Mayor 
Robert Alley – 134
* Norm Anderson – 212

Dayton Councilmember (elect 2)
* Eric Lofgren – 199
Clifford Reed – 144
* Craig Reichert – 184
Jeremy Smith -131

Ranchester Councilmember, 2-year term (elect 1)
Gayle Ogle – 94
* Jesse Hinkhouse – 122

SCHOOLS

Sheridan County School District 1 trustees (elect 2)
* Carol Garber – 1,124
Penny Mentock-Barkan – 731
* Mary Schilling – 865

Sheridan County School District 2 trustee (elect 4)
* Ann Perkins – 3,468
* Marva Craft – 3,889
* Erica O’Dell – 2,940
Jeff Jones – 2,488
Ami Erickson – 2,292
* Susan Wilson – 3,181

Northern Wyoming Community College District (elect 3)
* Bob Leibrich – 3,650
Mike Watkins – 2,955
* Norleen Healy – 4,994
* Jerry Iekel – 4,734
Rolf Thor Distad – 3,120

CONSERVATION DISTRICT

Sheridan County Conservation District, At-large (elect 1)
Robert Brug – 2,972
* Susan Holmes – 3,818

OPTIONAL ONE-CENT SALES TAX

Renewal of the Optional One-Cent Sales Tax
* For – 6,469
Against – 2,999

Preparing students for the future

SHERIDAN — College and career readiness is more than just a goal in Sheridan County School District 2, it’s a class.

Sheridan High School and Fort Mackenzie High School each offer a course in the cluster of Career and Technical Education that takes their students beyond discussing their next step in life to doing a deep dive of research on the topic.

Career Development is an optional class at SHS — though about 75 percent of the student body chooses to enroll — and a mandatory course at FMHS, that expands upon the student portfolio that is required for graduation.

By taking the class, students not only have help completing their portfolio but also earn one credit from Sheridan College through the introduction to online learning component, complete a finance unit, get all six of the CTE standards tested and learn skills that SHS teacher Sharon Deutscher and FMHS teacher Kathleen Pilch say will stay with the students for the rest of their lives.

One of the most important of these skills, they say, is the ability to research careers and/or colleges before selecting them.

Students in the course complete a personality assessment, learning things including their learning style, their interests and what may be a good career for them.

Next, they will research careers they are interested in, learning things like the salary range, required training or certification, job longevity and outcome, what tasks are involved and more.

“We’re not telling them you’re going to take Careers Class in high school and choose your career for the rest of your life, but we’re going to teach you how to explore careers realistically,” Pilch said. “We tell them that it’s a lifelong process. We as adults may still be doing it. As adults, we know if we’re going to change careers we’ll do our research and I think a lot of it is just once you’ve gone through that process, regardless of the career you pick, you can use that process for the rest of your life, because people change jobs and careers often.”

“Instead of using the television to make a career choice, they are learning how to go through it and take the right steps to making an informed decision,” Deutscher added. “They say people change their careers seven times. And we don’t just do research on one career. We do research on many different careers.”

Once the student has an idea of the career cluster that may be right for them, they begin researching the college component required for that career.

However, Deutscher said when they discuss “college” they are not necessarily talking about a four-year institution.

“Not every student is meant to go to college, so we don’t force them to do just college research,” she said. “I think any type of education is going to better a person. Whether they go straight into the workforce, they’re still going to get some education there because employers have them go get trained. There are those who want to go into the military, but military is just another name for college to me, because you learn. It’s a hands on college.”

“I think that’s why we try to use the terminology ‘expect post-secondary education and or training,’ rather than just saying ‘college,’” Pilch added. “I think kids these days need to know to expect to need more after high school and there are a lot of ways to get that.”

But whether the student intends to attend a university or go straight into the workforce, the teachers say both kinds of students are prepared for both kinds of paths.

In looking at universities, they go beyond reviewing what they’ve heard to researching what they really need to know.

From proximity to home, to true cost of attending and how they will pay for it, to school safety ratings and student reported on-campus “vibe,” the high schoolers look at every aspect of at least three universities.

The students study scholarships — different options outside the Hathaway which is discussed in the district’s middle schools — and learn how to ask for money.

They even project their success curve were they to attend the school they selected, based on their current study habits and grades.

In preparing for the workforce, they practice things like a solid handshake, asking for letters of recommendation and even go through several mock interviews.

Deutscher says the class is just the beginning of the learning opportunities as when the self-paced class is over and each student has a unique portfolio representing their skills, interests and research, they can move on to other resources in the school like PACE.

The PACE Internship program places students in the community to gain hands on experience in careers. In order to be eligible to apply for the program, students must have a completed portfolio and be in their senior year.

There are currently almost 40 students interning and Pilch said this is another way students can learn if their chosen path is right for them or not.

Pilch has been the PACE coordinator at SHS and in her first year also working at Fort Mackenzie, the program is now available to FMHS students as well.

Deutscher said she is passionate about this class because of her own life experience and knowing she would have benefitted from having this available to her.

“I went off to college and went into nursing. I spent all this money on the little hat and pumper and stethoscope thing and made it six weeks and I dropped out of the program because I was not meant to be a nurse,” she said.

As she learned she did not like blood or surgery, Deutscher reinvested in schooling for archeology, which she ended up dropping as well.

After some time as a general studies student, and some pressure from her dad, she landed on business as a major.

“If I would have had this it would’ve saved me a lot of money because I would have known that my career cluster was nothing in medicine,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and if I would have taken any of these tests I bet I would’ve seen that was my intent, to be a teacher.”

Longtime business planning move: Farmers Co-op purchases property on Coffeen Avenue

SHERIDAN — It’s been on the corner of Scott Street and Brundage Street for nearly 60 years — a place to buy propane, gasoline or cattle feed, to outfit for horseback hunting trips, or to reference as a landmark when giving directions to newcomers in town.

But next summer, the Farmer’s Co-op building will stand empty.

With room becoming an issue, the co-op’s board agreed that it was time to move. They purchased property on Coffeen Avenue and are preparing for new facilties that will be able to accommodate growing demands for the co-op’s supplies.

In his office, co-op manager Jim Wolfe rolled out the blueprints for the new Farmer’s Co-op. The cover drawing shows a Western farm-style building that reflects the nature of the co-op’s business.

“My architect says it will be done in July,” Wolfe said. “But July is a busy month in Sheridan.”

July can be a busy month for any town that has a thriving tourism industry, but in Sheridan, July means the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, and for a company that caters to farms and ranches, that means a lot of work with little extra time.

While the co-op is open to any customers, it is owned by members who benefit from its success. The business itself was established in 1943, but the building at 117 Scott St. was built in 1957. In addition to propane, bulk fuels, work equipment and animal feeds, it also featured a full-service gas station and garage.

“As the times changed, the cars changed and we weren’t getting as many people in here for work on their cars,” Wolfe said. “Cars are becoming more sophisticated. People started buying tires somewhere else. We had to adapt with the times.”

For the co-op, “adapting to the times” just meant a step in a different direction. That direction, in many other states, might look like it’s going backward.

The garage bays now hold bags of feed for ranch animals and fertilizers for fields. Refrigerated cases keep veterinary supplies. A pegged display inside the store houses work gloves. It’s almost as if the co-op has stepped back in time, and that step was good for business.

But the demand is such that the co-op could do more with more room.

After some discussion, the members voted to move. The co-op purchased property at 1424 and 1450 Coffeen Ave. The properties had belonged Robert and Linda Ernst in the care of Triangle, Inc., since 1977 and then Robert and Linda Ernst since 1990, but both properties have been empty for several years. There is only an old restaurant and an rental center surrounded by fencing identifying it as the new home of the Sheridan Farmer’s Co-op. But the blueprints in Wolfe’s office show something more vibrant.

“We’re going to tear down the restaurant,” Wolfe said. “We’re going to have a convenience store with the gas pumps, and we’re going to utilize the old rental buildings.”

The new facilties will offer more room than the corner of Scott Street and Brundage Street allows, with room for all of the feed, the fertilizer, the fencing and the fuel. There will be more room for parking and loading and room for trailers.

After the move next summer, Wolfe said the Scott Street building will probably be sold. It will then be at the mercy of new owner who can either tear it down or let it stay on the corner of Scott Street for another 60 years.

Greasy, grimy pumpkin guts

Derek Phelps, left, and Hannah Shafer carve pumpkins during the outdoor club meeting Thursday night at Sheridan College.

Egg to release: Kids help raise pheasants

 Kids learn connection to wildlife through program

ACME — Local pheasant hunters trekking into the fields this weekend for the opening of pheasant season can tip their hats to students at nearly 20 area schools for their help in hatching hundreds of the 28,000 birds to be released this season around the state.

This year was the first in a new partnership between the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Sheridan-Johnson County Pheasants Forever chapter and local schools. That partnership allowed Bird Farm Coordinator Darrell Meineke to significantly expand his education efforts on incubating, hatching and raising pheasants to be stocked on public lands for hunting.

Prior to the start of the program, Meineke was able to loan a few small incubators to area classrooms for students to incubate and hatch pheasants. Last year, members of the local Pheasants Forever chapter asked Meineke if he had any ideas for a project they could complete.

Meineke did have an idea, and the partnership was born. Pheasants Forever purchased 10 incubators at $150 each to be used by nearly 20 classrooms, ranging from pre-school to high school, around the county.

Students incubated batches of pheasant eggs, maintaining water, humidity and temperature, watched them hatch and delivered them to the Sheridan Bird Farm to finish their growth over the summer for release this fall.

Wednesday, fifth-grade students from Tongue River Elementary headed to Acme to witness the release of 100 pheasants as a culmination of their work with Meineke and TRE interventionist and science teacher Meg Maze.

“Any time you have live things children can observe, they can really understand better the ideas of wildlife, that this is wildlife,” Maze said. “They can buy in a little bit to caring for our environment and all the pieces — especially the prey and predator piece — involved in helping to be good stewards of wildlife.”

At the release, students watched with anticipation as Meineke opened 10 cages each holding 10 pheasants that were mounted on the back of his truck. The cages faced an open field that had been sprinkled with feed on the other side of the Tongue River near Acme.

Students had predicted what the birds would do: go crazy, bolt out of the cages, hop out and walk around for a while then fly.

For about five minutes, birds approached the edge of their cages and leapt. Most flew straight across the river, but some were caught by a stiff wind and pushed backward toward the field behind the students.

Students gasped and screamed before remembering that scientists observe with their eyes and ears and must be quiet in order to not miss important details.

“It’s like a fuzzy rainbow,” one student cooed.

“It’s nice to see a bunch of them released, and we do know they’re probably going to be hunted because hunting is a big part of Wyoming’s culture,” fifth-grader Wes Beadle said.

Before the release, students discussed the project and how much they enjoyed watching an egg become a fuzzy brown or yellow chick, perfectly colored to fit into surrounding habitat and be protected from prey, that eventually grew into the birds set to fly into the wild.

“We’ve never had that may living things in the science lab before that we knew were going to get released one day. It was just a cool thing I’d never seen before,” fifth-grader Jake Massar said.

Katy Kalasinsky said she learned how important it is to know about how animals live, where they live and how they care for their babies.

“I learned that they grow really fast. They grow faster than humans do. It only takes three weeks to get full-grown,” Kalasinsky said. “We might find some of the pheasants that we raised. It would be kind of cool to see what they would be like after they hatched in our science room.”

Meineke told the students that they were witnessing a long-standing program that started in 1937, and that approximately 14,000 pheasants would be released from the Sheridan Bird Farm this year with more coming from a bird farm near Yoder.

“I want you to understand how historic our program is and also that it happens in your backyard,” Meineke said.

Meineke also hoped the program would connect students with their food.

“Anymore we’ve gotten our kids disconnected with where food comes from. A chicken isn’t born under a plastic bag, a steak isn’t born under plastic,” Meineke said. “In a hands-on way, they can see that this egg, after 24 days, becomes this chick that is raised, and taken care of and released for people to hunt for food and recreation. It grounds them and gives them opportunity to start questioning: what about chickens or cows or deer or elk?”

For Maze, the pheasant program was one more way to show her students the valuable work of real-life scientists that they can meet and watch in action.

“The big concept of having a science lab is encouraging children to see the possibility of them being a scientist, to help them feel like it’s possible,” Maze said. “We measure, we draw diagrams, we explore, we ask wondering questions. They are doing it, they are doing what scientists do on a level that is K-5.”

Haunted road trips

SHERIDAN — After the pumpkins have been carved and the candy collected, Halloween has come and gone and you’re still looking for some more spirited fun for the remainder of your weekend, consider taking a haunted road trip.

With the old, rich history of the region — from battlefields in Montana to ghost towns in Wyoming and everything in between — it may come as no surprise that several towns in driving proximity of Sheridan County feature places with reported supernatural activities.

Even here in Sheridan reports of apparitions in the Kendrick Mansion and the Historic Sheridan Inn have surfaced.

At the mansion, built in 1913 as the residence of John B. Kendrick and his family, surveillance cameras have picked up images in rooms resembling human or ghostly form moving about, but when police investigate in person, no one is ever found.

But have no fear (oh wait, maybe have a little) because these other nearby places claim to house haunts of a somewhat more interactive nature.

So pack up the car and hit the road, but for any places not open to the public consider calling ahead, as the living residents may have had enough of uninvited visitors.

Garryowen — Little Bighorn Battlefield

At one of the better-known stops on our tour, the monument to the historic battle also known as Custer’s Last Stand is also known to house the spirits of fallen soldiers and Native Americans. Some visitors have reported physical contact with the apparitions, feeling taps on shoulders with no one behind them and hearing Indian war cries in empty fields.

Colstrip — Colstrip Power Plant

The power plant in Colstrip, Montana, is one you might not want to just pop-by; all reports of activity from this location have come from employees.

But if you do get a chance to tour the plant, don’t be surprised if you see ghostly figures traveling between transistors or see objects disappear and reappear in plain sight, or so the workers say.

Billings, Montana

If your travels bring you to Billings, Montana the town has several locations reporting supernatural activity. Perhaps the most intriguing tales, though, come out of the Antique Depot. In 1940s Billings, a plane crashed and the small funeral home became overfilled, so some bodies were stored in the fridge at what was then a grocery store. A WWII soldier was one of the people to die in the crash, and today people say they have seen a WWII soldier wandering the aisles of what is now an antique shop. When they approach him, he vanishes.

Lovell – The Blue Lady of Kane Cemetery

Lovell is another town with more than one reportedly haunted place including the Old Motocross tracks and the Shoshone Bar. But just outside of Lovell, about 10 miles west, lays the remains of a town long forgotten — Kane. When the Yellowtail Reservoir is low, the old town’s remains and the local cemetery can be seen rising from below the water. Here the “Blue Lady” haunts, searching the reservoir for her child who drowned at the hands of her husband. Spectators say the figure looks beautiful from afar but the closer you get the uglier she becomes, and crossing the line from a story of a ghost to a ghost story, some warn not to get too close as she is happy to take you in place of her child.

Cody — Irma Hotel

Perhaps you’ll pass through Cody on your way down to Thermopolis and decide to rest up for the night. If sleep is what you seek, you may want to skip the Irma Hotel, which is said to be the “resting place” of Buffalo Bill Cody’s daughter Irma, among other ghostly guests. The Lady in White is said to roam the halls of the second floor suites and have an aggressive presence in the kitchen. An 1800s style uniformed soldier is said to pull up a seat at the old cherry wood bar in the main dining room. Guests report strange noises and a ghost without a bottom half gliding through the halls. If you can’t sleep and feel like taking a hike, Cody is also home to Cedar Mountain, sometimes called Spirit Mountain because people lost in the caves that honeycomb the area are said to occupy the mountain along with “little people.” The caves are closed to public access but you can register with the U.S. Forest Service for a tour.

Thermopolis

Visitors could make a weekend of ghostly tours in Thermopolis alone. With a quick stop at the Kwik Mart travelers may hear moaning in the bathroom, coming from a man who died during a robbery that took place in the bank that used to stand there. A tour of the County Museum could bring history to life as a woman sitting on the displays’ chairs wears a dress as accurate to the turn of the century, but she is no employee. At the library, staff reports finding books strewn everywhere each morning when they arrive and janitors rarely keep their jobs for more than a month because of the spooky nighttime figures and noises.

Source: First-hand accounts reported to hauntedplaces.org and theshadowlands.net.

Kids costume contest brings families downtown: Prizes given in three age groups

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Jaycees and the Downtown Sheridan Association hosted their annual kids’ costume contest and trick-or-treating parade in downtown Sheridan on Saturday. Organizer Brianna Straub said it was another successful day of Halloween fun.

Approximately 75 costumed kids and parents attended the event which began with costume contests broken into three age groups.

Firefighters from Sheridan Fire-Rescue again brought down a truck to entertain the young guests while they waited for the contest to start, a community partnership Straub said has been in place for several years.

Four Jaycees — without children of their own — acted as judges for the event, because they “figured that was the fair way to do it.”

Winners of each category received a $15 gift certificate to Walmart and runners-up received a big Halloween them candy.

“Originally the items were together in one prize but it was just too hard to decide on one winner so we split them up,” Straub said.

After the contest, kids trolled the streets in search of the 28 businesses that chose to participate in the parade by hanging signs on their doors and handing out candy inside.

There is no cost to the stores to participate, the Jaycees even provide them with the candy to hand out, though they do encourage store owners to purchase their own backup candy.

Straub said the event is not a benefit for the Jaycees, other than they enjoy giving back.

“We do a lot of community service and a lot of fundraising,and while all our fundraising efforts are great it’s just nice to do something fun to give back to the community,” Straub said.

Winners

0-4 year old category

First place: Cash Sorenson dressed as Carl Fredricksen

Runner-up: Xavier Brown dressed a the Good Cop/Bad Cop Lego

5-7 year old category

First place: Nicole Hunter dressed as a “Cat-fish”

Runner-up: Kyndal McFadden dressed as Little Orphan Annie

8-10 year old category

First place: Coen Rader dressed as a steampunk boy

Runner-up: Sarah Siemion dressed as the Bride of Beetlejuice

‘Up’ costumes earns award at Jaycees parade

One-year-old Cash Sorenson walks with his mother Heather, left, past the judges Saturday afternoon during the Jaycees annual Halloween event in downtown Sheridan. Cash won the birth to 4-year-olds division of the costume contest dressed as Carl Fredrickson, the star character from the movie “Up.”

Woodland Park student to perform in Billings ‘The Nutcracker’

SHERIDAN — The Sugar Plum Fairy will be dressed to the nines, and the Mouse King will be covered in fur.

Clara and her Nutcracker Prince will be ready to dance, warmed up and anxious backstage at the Alberta Bair Theater.

As it does every year around the holidays, “The Nutcracker Ballet” will soon return to stages nationwide, dancing a tale told since it came to life on stage in 1892 Russia.

While many people in attendance will have visited the Land of the Sweets in their imaginations many times before, when the San Diego Ballet company takes to the stage Nov. 29 in Billings, Montana, one little local will experience a first: dancing in a professional performance.

Actually, 8-year-old Gabby Wright will experience many firsts playing a junior soldier in the upcoming ballet after recently being selected for the role following her first-ever audition.

Wright is a student at Woodland Park Elementary School by day and at Pieknik’s School of Dance by night.

She has been dancing for three years now and has danced in two performances, both here in Sheridan with fellow students at her studio.

But after a bit of encouragement from dance teacher Christina Davey, Wright (and her mom) drove north to try her hand (and toes) at a tryout.

Justin SHeely | THe Sheridan Press Eight-year-old Gabby Wright holds onto the bars during practice at Peiknik’s School of Dance last week. Wright has selected for a role in “The Nutcracker” ballet production at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, Montana, Nov. 30 with the San Diego Ballet company.

Justin SHeely | THe Sheridan Press
Eight-year-old Gabby Wright holds onto the bars during practice at Peiknik’s School of Dance last week. Wright has selected for a role in “The Nutcracker” ballet production at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, Montana, Nov. 30 with the San Diego Ballet company.

After what Wright describes as a lot of waiting, some leaps across the gym and a bunch of easy moves, she landed the role.

“The Nutcracker is mainly a children’s ballet,” Davey said. “The ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ is all on point so professionals do those parts but there are several parts like the party scene, the mice and the little soldiers, those are all scenes children play.

“Some of the younger parts they just do some skipping and running across the stage, not so much dancing, but the older they get the more dancing they do,” she added. “Her (Wright’s) part requires some definite ballet training and skill.”

Wright, some more junior and senior soldiers, some baby mice and Clara herself, are all rehearsing together weekly at Betty Loo’s School of Classical Ballet in Billings, preparing themselves for the arrival of the San Diego Ballet dancers who will join them in one short month.

The excitement will come Thanksgiving weekend.

Traditionally, on the Friday after Thanksgiving the dancers are fitted for costumes and have rehearsal all day until almost midnight.

“That’s when the company actually comes and does it with them,” Davey said. “All the big dancers will be there.”

Davey said Wright and the other young dancers in the area have never really seen anything like this because there aren’t any big performances or real dance companies nearby.

 “It’s going to enlighten her,” Davey said. “They will find out they have to do it over and over and over. There’s a lot of waiting and having to be very quiet and pay attention and when it’s your time to be on stage you better get it right or you’ll do it again.”

But Wright is ready, and surprisingly calm about the whole thing.

“She is a very serious little girl, a very hard worker,” Davey said of Wright. “I don’t want to say I pick favorites but she is the ideal student as far as working hard, paying attention and not goofing around.”

Perhaps this is because Wright wants to be a professional dancer, not “when she grows up” but now, and always.

The quiet and focused ballerina said she cannot remember why she joined ballet in the beginning, but the whole thing just comes naturally to her.

“I like that I am good at it; it’s easy and it makes me feel good,” Wright said from the couch in her studio recently.

“I have a lot of energy,” she added, saying that all the rehearsing does not make her tired.

Davey knows how thrilling this will be for Wright as she has performed in “The Nutcracker” many times, once at a young age alongside some famous dancers.

Davey is the daughter of a ballet teacher, who owned Pieknik’s School of Classical Ballet as well.

After starting to dance at age 2, Davey went on to study at the National Academy of Ballet and Theater Arts in New York, a place where studying began at 6:30 a.m. and went to 9:30 p.m. without break, so students could master not just their typical high school topics but also ballet, character dancing, jazz and more.

At the age of 14, Davey was selected to dance in “The Nutcracker” with the Royal Ballet of London, a company that did not usually take dancers that young.

The role afforded Davey the opportunity to dance on stage with world famous dancer Rudolf Nureyev, one of the dancers who defected from Russia and the top dancer in the world at the time.

“The thing I remember most is he yelled at me,” Davey said with a chuckle. “I wore contact lenses at the time and I had got something in my eye and I came out a couple seconds late for one of my entrances and he started yelling at me and that stayed with me all my life; it terrified me.”

But the experience was what she needed to understand what professional dancing was really like, Davey said.

“To be in that atmosphere gives you a really good idea of what you’re looking at if that’s what you’re pursuing as a career,” she said. “You get to see how it’s not just flitting across the stage like a fairy with wings, it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of practicing and rehearsal. Dancing is a hard life.”

Davey did go on to dance professionally before developing foot problems and switching to teaching.

But when asked what she thinks about Davey’s story, Wright said, “I’m just excited to be in a performance,” in her typical focused way.

“I think about anybody can do it,” she added as she waited for the class of dancers occupying the hall to finish up. “You just have to keep practicing.”

Departments partner for training exercise
Lonesome leaf
Big Horn reading program helps students learn on multiple levels

SHERIDAN — The classrooms in Big Horn Elementary School are taking a unique approach to reading, based not on grade level, but rather ability level.

Leveraging the information received by the benchmark assessments already in place, the school uses the Fountas and Pinnell Leveled Books system to form cross-classroom small reading groups, called flood groups, with aptitude assigned texts.

The F&P Text Level Gradient was created in 1996 after more than two decades of research and practical work with teachers.

Their research found it was essential to match books to readers, to provide differentiated instruction through working with small groups in reading and works off the concept of guided reading.

Guided reading is not about increasing a student’s ability to read but is more about reading well, meaning reading with deep, high-quality comprehension and gaining maximum insight or knowledge from each source.

Students, and books, are assigned a letter A to Z to pair groups up with the appropriate reading.

The closer to the end of the alphabet, the more challenging not only the reading is but also the guided discussion is after completing a text.

For example, level T guided reading is the equivalent of a beginning fifth-grade reader, however the T group does have fourth-graders in it who are already reading at that level.

Level X is the highest level of book assignments, and students work their way to level Z on those same readings by increasing the difficulty of the reflection and comprehension questions.

According to fifth-grade teacher Laurie Graves, at BHES the groups are fluid throughout the year, so if a student shows progress they move on to a new small group.

Each student receives a benchmark their teacher would like them to reach by the end of the year, and is aware of what their benchmark is so they can continue to work toward that.

The flood groups meet to read and discuss for 30 minutes of every school day.

Most books take about a week to read and discuss, but the discussions are multi-faceted and if interest levels are high, it can take much longer.

“We just finished a book on the Japanese internment camps and that took us three weeks because the interest was so high,” Graves said. “We added components like Internet research and are working on a field trip to Heart Mountain.”

Graves said currently the students can only move within one grade of their own due to scheduling difficulties but they would like to span the grades more in the future, as the blended groups exist in every class K-5.

Students get ‘text-to-world’ connection

BIG HORN — The fourth- and fifth-grade students at Big Horn Elementary received real-world exposure to their guided reading Monday afternoon.

After the L group finished reading “Help with the Herd” by Carol Domblewski, the 11 members of the small group broke up to lead their classmates in a guided discussion of the book.

Each student taught three to five listeners about sheep herding, dog commands and other things learned from the book.

Then, to make a “text-to-world” connection, local ranchers John and Wendy Auzqui brought three of their 900 sheep to the fields behind the school for a sheep herding demonstration.

“We are always looking for ways to bridge student-community relationships,” Graves said. “And the bottom line for us is the more real and relevant we make their learning the better chance there is of them grasping the concepts.”

So on a sunny fall afternoon, the students — armed with the knowledge of the book — took to the field to not just watch a sheep show, but also interact by sharing their knowledge with the ranchers and asking questions.

“We do a lot of stuff that is interest driven, and there was a high level of interest in this book so we looked for a way to expand on that,” Graves said during the demonstration. “You learn better if you’re interested. Just look at how attentive they are all being.”

The Auzqui’s said they have never done an educational demonstration such as this before, but they were very impressed by the questions the students were coming up with.

The students learned that the four border collies on the ranch receive 15 minutes of training daily to hone their skills, and one well-trained dog, Tony, also competes in sheep dog trials.

The presentation ended with the students connecting what they had learned to their own homes, by talking about the dogs they own, the commands those dogs know and what else those breeds might be capable of learning.

Advocacy groups ask Sheridan to say #nomore

SHERIDAN — She was young and insecure. She wanted someone to love and someone to love her. She was the perfect choice.

“They pick you, and they pick you great,” domestic violence survivor Channing Spradling said. “They can see right through you, so Ithink that they seek out that love, the need for somebody who they know, ‘I can do whatever I want and this person’s not going to leave me.’”

For years in Spradling’s life, that was true.

For years, she was just like the one in four women in the United States estimated to be victims of domestic violence at some point in their life, according to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence studies.

But then, she became a survivor. In one instant on one horrible night, she made the decision that she deserved better.

The actual process of getting out and getting through the court system took years, but she made it. Now, three years after her ex-husband was put in prison for more than 50 years, Spradling is hoping her story will help others find hope and become survivors of domestic violence.

#sheridanmarches against violence

One in four women in the U.S. equates to approximately 39.5 million potential domestic violence victims. One in four is about 2,299 women in Sheridan and 3,637 women in the county.

At the Advocacy and Resource Center — which seeks to empower people affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of violence to realize lives of choice, safety and freedom — advocates saw 276 individual domestic violence victims in 2013. Many come for help again and again, meaning actual visits were much higher, and studies show more than half of domestic abuse victims don’t report their abuse to authorities.

It isn’t just women who are abused. Research indicates between 3.3 to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. NCADV statistics also show that 1 in 14 men in the U.S. have been abused.

It’s time for the abuse to stop, and it’s time for the victim blaming to stop, Advocacy and Resource Center Victim Witness Coordinator Rhonda Weber said. It’s time to say, “no more.”

That is why ARC, Child Advocacy Services of the Big Horns and other advocates for victims of domestic abuse are taking to the streets — of social media.

Maybe you’ve seen them walking through your Facebook news feed: people holding signs that read, “Fear is not a substitute for respect” or “Violence is a choice! Choose not to be violent!!” or, simply, “I deserve better.”

These social media marchers — some survivors of abuse and some trying to raise awareness — are neighbors and co-workers and friends of your children. They are marching through social media — the Main Street that connects the world — holding their signs high, tagging them #nomore and #sheridanmarches, and asking everyone to join the Virtual March Against Family Violence.

Channing Spradling holds up her sign for the Advocacy and Resource Center’s Virtual March Against Family Violence being held this month to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence in Sheridan County. Spradling worked with the Advocacy and Resource Center to get out of an abusive situation in 2009.

Channing Spradling holds up her sign for the Advocacy and Resource Center’s Virtual March Against Family Violence being held this month to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence in Sheridan County. Spradling worked with the Advocacy and Resource Center to get out of an abusive situation in 2009.

#nomore false love

The man who would become Spradling’s abuser became the man she chose to marry first. She said “I do,” and she kept her promise for years. She kept it when her husband was kind and romantic, and she kept it when tensions began to build, when tensions blew up into emotional and physical abuse and when he apologized and asked her not to tell and became a kind, romantic husband again.

Spradling kept her wedding vows because she wanted her family — husband, wife, son and baby daughter — to stay together.

At the same time, she didn’t choose to stay either. She was made to stay by fear, force, shame, confusion and love, even.

“It’s not that they choose to stay, which is what everybody thinks,” Weber said. “They have all of these things happening to them at any given point in their daily life that make them stay: intimidation, isolation, financial threats, using the children. It all comes full circle. The tactics that abusers use are the reasons victims stay.”

But then, one day, something clicked. Spradling, who was studying victim advocacy at Sheridan College, made a choice that she had learned would lead to the most dangerous time in her life: she got a protection order and she determined to end her husband’s control.

#nomore control

It was not a simple matter of leaving.

In 2008, Spradling asked her husband to move out after he picked their children up from day care when he was drunk. He did move out, but he came back. He came back in the middle of night, in the middle of winter and knocked on her windows. He begged her to take him back. She called the cops, and she says the cops told her to let him in because it was cold.

That was in 2008. Afraid, she let him in, and they lived together another year. The abuse continued.

Abuse is not about who is stronger; it is about control, Weber said. Spradling’s husband continued to control her through fear and manipulation.

While protection orders are a valid defense that can provide an “arrestable offense” for law enforcement, they often create a dangerous situation for the victim of abuse because they cut off the abuser’s control.

“Everything that the abuser’s been working so hard to do to a victim, isolate them, cut them off of support, teach them that they don’t have strength, that they’re nothing, that they’re nobody, all of a sudden this abuser is faced with the possibility of, ‘Wait a minute. They’re advancing, they’re getting stronger, and I’m going to shut that down,’” Weber said.

In November 2009, just seven days after securing a protection order, Spradling and her children returned home from dinner out with friends at 8 p.m. Her husband had broken into the basement and was waiting for her with a baseball bat and duct tape.

“Everything happened for 12 hours,” Spradling said.

“Everything” was a nightmare. He threatened her and her then 5-year-old son with a knife. Her son was pushed down the stairs during a physical struggle. She tried to call the cops, but he knocked the phone out of her hand. He demanded sex, twice, and she obliged to prevent more violent anger, to protect her children.

Her husband was eventually charged with three felonies — first-degree sexual assault, aggravated assault and battery and child abuse — and three misdemeanors — violation of a protection order, interference with a 911 call and domestic battery.

In the morning, Spradling’s husband said he would leave if she didn’t tell. She agreed, and he left because she had never told before.

Spradling called her friend and they called the police together. Police separated her and her son and had each tell their version of the story. The stories matched up, and the bruising and rape investigation at the hospital confirmed everything.

#nomore fear

The court process to get her husband convicted took a year and a half. He was sentenced in April 2011. He knew the court system and stalled as much as he could, Spradling said. But eventually, with Weber by her side, Spradling made it through every trial and saw her abuser locked away for more than 50 years.

But then, she had to deal with the guilt of putting a man she once loved in prison.

“My emotions went up and down about seven times a day,”Spradling said.

She put her son in therapy, and herself, too, so she could effectively parent her two children. She kept pursuing her college education, obtaining an associate’s degree in victim advocacy in 2011. She is now in college full time working on a bachelor’s in psychology and criminal justice at the University of Wyoming. She has re-married.

Still, five years later, she must fight daily to remember she did the right thing. She sometimes struggles to trust even small decisions, like what to make for dinner, she said.

But the fight is worth it. As Spradling’s own sign for the #sheridanmarches Virtual March Against Family Violence read, “My kids deserve a safe home.” She fights so there will be no more fear for herself, for her children, and for anyone who hears her story and finds the strength to create a survival story for their friend — or for themselves.

As Weber has said: No one should fight domestic violence alone. It’s time for the community to make it their business.

Join the march

Visit the Advocacy and Resource Center to join the Virtual March Against Family Violence at: facebook.com/pages/Advocacy-Resource-Center/175946411759.

Write your message against domestic violence, take a photo and post it to Twitter and Facebook under the hashtags #nomore and #sheridanmarches.

If you or someone you know needs help in any kind of an abusive situation, call the Advocacy and Resource Center 24-hour crisis line at 672-3222, visit arcsheridan.org or stop by 136 Coffeen Ave. in Sheridan.

Gala brings Broadway to Main Street

Guests take a closer look at an antique car parked outside the WYO Theater minutes before the curtain of “42nd Street” during the 25th anniversary gala Saturday.

Broncs lose to Natrona 24-0

SHERIDAN — Through the first seven weeks of the season, the Natrona Mustangs only gave up 6.1 points a game, and their stifling defense was too much for the Broncs to handle last night in Casper.

Head coach Don Julian knew that turnovers would be the difference maker in the ballgame, but he was hoping his team would be on the better end of them Friday.

The Broncs dug themselves an early hole by giving up a touchdown to the Mustangs right away. Sheridan received the opening kickoff and had a great possibility to move the ball immediately, but quarterback Blake Godwin barely overthrew a wide-open Joe Shassetz on the opening play of the game. The play would have gone for at least 40 yards.

Two plays later, on a third-and-6 from their own 24-yard line, Godwin threw an interception. To go along with the already short field in front of them, a Sheridan encroachment penalty on fourth-and-1 kept the drive going and led to an eventual 6-yard touchdown run.

The Broncs’ offense was never able to get going after that.

It seemed as if the big “NC” logo at midfield was a magnet, attracted to the blue pants and white jerseys of the Sheridan Broncs. Anytime the Sheridan offense gained any momentum, it hit a wall right at the midfield logo. The Broncs were forced to punt six times last night and turned the ball over on downs right around midfield.

The running game was virtually nonexistent for Sheridan as well. The Broncs only ran the ball 12 times, allowing the Natrona defense to play the pass and come away with three interceptions on the game.

“We just weren’t able to sustain drives on offense,” Julian said after the game. “They took away the run game for the most part, so now you’ve got to put it in the air. They know that, and they’re coming with heat, and they did a good job with that tonight.”

After trailing 14-0 at the half, the Sheridan defense came out and forced Natrona to punt on the opening drive of the second half. Three big runs by Evan Coon kept the chains moving and got the Broncs into Natrona territory. On a crucial fourth-down play, the Broncs needed six yards but Joe Shassetz was dropped immediately a yard short of the first-down marker.

The Mustangs took over possession, and a 30-yard pass to the Sheridan 14-yard line put Natrona in the red zone just before the end of the third quarter. It didn’t take long for Natrona to score again on a quarterback keeper that gave them a 21-0 lead in the final quarter of play.

The Mustangs added a 50-yard field goal late in the quarter — Cody Wilkinson’s sixth field goal of 50 yards or longer on the season — that sealed the deal for Natrona in the 24-0 victory.

Natrona clinched the top seed in 4A with the win, and Sheridan fell to 6-2 on the season.

“We’ll go back home, and we’ll go back to work,” Julian said.

The Broncs are back in action next Friday to finish the regular season at Cheyenne South.

SC unveils plans for new arts center

SHERIDAN — The schematic design for the new Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College was released at the Northern Wyoming Community College District board of trustees meeting Thursday night, and it is going to be grandiose.

The 42,000 square foot addition to, and the 12,000 square foot renovation of, the current Whitney Academic Center will house art, theater and music on a scale never before seen at the college.

And it’s happening fast.

The master plan for the project was approved by the college board in April, the funding was approved by the Whitney Benefits Board in June, design work began in August, a scale model was built in September, construction will begin in February and the project is scheduled to be completed by June 2016.

Gutting of the existing Whitney Presentation Hall and surrounding rooms will be required for the renovation portion of the project, and temporary classrooms are planned to house classes for those three semesters.

With a $16 million budget, the art center will cost nearly double that of the planned new tech center ($6 million), agriculture and science center ($1.3 million) and infrastructure work ($2 million) combined.

Karen Kelly of CTA Architects, John Knapp of Knapp Architecture Design Development, Sheridan College Facilities Director Kent Andersen and steering committee members NWCCD trustees Norleen Healy and Walter Wragge presented the update and a list of project goals Thursday.

The top goal of the project was to leverage interdisciplinary opportunities between the arts, and the proposed interior floorplan of the building reflects that in every room.

Honoring faculty requests for adaptability, accessibility and flexibility, the learning spaces are designed as large open rooms with plenty of storage and an abundance of natural lighting.

Music faculty requested acoustically proper teaching spaces that adapt into small recital spaces; they got it.

Art faculty requested flexible cross-disciplinary studio environments with quality daylight and proper environmental containment of multiple creative processes; they got it.

Performance faculty requested a concert hall that was adaptable to other uses; they got it.

When the presenters said their goal was to help students find their voice, it appears they meant it.

Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young stated the crew was working with top tier specialists to ensure the new recital hall and all individual spaces offer the strongest acoustics possible.

Wragge, a former music instructor, said this is reflected in the floorplan through the angled walls. None of the acoustic learning spaces are perfect squares and Wragge said, though this design is hard to achieve, it is ideal.

Special features like a receding front portion of the stage to allow for a pit orchestra space when needed or a longer stage when not and a “bone yard” for concealed storage of large art pieces in progress or deliveries of large supplies like scrap metal, every aspect of the building is nothing if not adaptable.

An open space the trustees jokingly referred to as the “bus stop” was also included in the plan with the intention of future use in a wide variety of ways, ranging from gallery space to a place of contemplation.

With an exterior designed to reflect the layers of rock in the mountains, complete with terracotta tiles, stone facades and a large glass wall overlooking the new mall, the look commands attention.

Trustee Scott Ludwig expressed concern that the building will jump out too much and be an obvious addition to the campus.

Healy responded quickly, “We want it to jump out!,” adding that the building is more modern art looking than the other buildings, but that was the intention.

“We worked very hard as a group for it to tie into the other buildings, but this is a whole different thing: this is a fine arts center,” she said. “We want it to have its own identity on campus.”

A scale model of the schematics was built and left at Sheridan College for review by the public.

Candidates speak out: Forums allow voters to ask questions

SHERIDAN — In the wake of a scandal alleging misconduct in the office of the superintendent of public instruction, two new candidates are hoping to bring respect back to the office. Republican Jillian Balow and Democrat Mike Ceballos were among candidates who attended a two-night forum hosted by the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.

Each candidate present stated his or her position on certain issues and took turns answering questions presented by the audience. Candidates for U.S. Senate and governor also participated in the forum.

Superintendent of public instruction

Who was there: Republican Jillian Balow and Democrat Mike Ceballos

Question: With excess money in the general fund, couldn’t taxes be cut at the local level?

Response: Ceballos suggested a recalculation for funding and making sure that the state actually is funded enough. He said cutting taxes at the local level shouldn’t be considered, and cautioned that the state should not be spending money to make money.

Balow said she felt that some of Wyoming’s schools are too well funded with no results to show for the money. She said the state should give local schools the flexibility to put their money where they need it most. She also suggested that one of the problems with education in Wyoming is a lack of vision for the system.

Question: Should students be allowed to leave school at 16 or before they graduate from high school?

Response: Balow said that Wyoming education statistics show that for a student to stay through the final two years of high school will not necessarily benefit them if they don’t want to be there. She said that students have been failed by a system with a federal standard for college readiness. The question, she said, should not be why would you want to leave at 16 or 18, but why would you not want to graduate?

Ceballos pointed out that the state can’t force people to do things they don’t want to do. If a student feels like leaving rather than graduating, there is no way to stop them, particularly if education is unsatisfactory. He suggested that schools should be a combination of hands-on learning as well as curriculum.

Question: What do you think should be done to clean up the reputation of the office of the superintendent of public instruction?

Response: Ceballos said that getting out into the community to meet with parents, students and teachers to hear their perspective is vital. He agreed with Balow that there was no real shared vision in Wyoming concerning education and called for a collaboration with the community to create one.

Balow said this was a unique time for healing a system fractured by problems and that both she and Ceballos were running for the right reasons — to do the right thing at the right time. She said the office needs to move past “this is how we’ve always done it,” and adopt a shared vision and develop a 10-year education plan.

U.S. Senate

Who was there: Independent candidate Curt Gottshall and Democrat Charlie Hardy

Who else is running: Sen. Mike Enzi and Libertarian Joseph S. Porambo

Question: Do you think money is becoming too important in politics?

Response: Hardy said he felt strongly that politicians allowed corporations too much power in politics. Gottshall said he felt corporations should be held to the same limits that individuals are held to and should not be allowed to give unlimited resources to any candidate.

Question: Do you feel investigative journalists are doing their job as the watchdogs of democracy?

Response: Gottshall said that he felt that there was no unbiased reporting by any outlet. Hardy agreed and suggested the media were not asking the big questions.

Question: Should sales tax be imposed on Internet sales?

Response: Hardy said he felt taxes should be levied against Internet sales. Gottshall disagreed. He said imposing tax on Internet items would mean that any online business would have to understand tax code for all 50 states, which, he said was unfeasible. He said the sales tax might also curtail foreign Internet trade.

Question: Incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi doesn’t seem to be campaigning. Why do you think that is?

Response: Gottshall said he believed that after 18 years in Washington, D.C., Enzi has lost touch with the people of Wyoming and feels that his win is assured.

Hardy said he feels the senator should be ashamed of the condition of the debt in Washington and the financial condition of the country. He also said Enzi may not want to talk to the people of Wyoming.

Wyoming governor

Who was there: Democrat Pete Gosar and Independent Don Wills

Who else is running: Incumbent Gov. Matt Mead and Libertarian candidate Dee Cozzens

Question: What do you feel should be done about the overreach of the federal government?

Response: Wills stated that the overreach of the government is a violation of the 10th Amendment that needed to be seriously addressed. He said that while it is good that Mead worked to take the federal government to court over violations, more needs to be done.

Gosar said he would like to see results. He said Wyoming has spent a lot of money dealing with overreach and he feels the state should be able to show what they’ve gotten for the money. He said he would like to see more accountability from the office of the governor.

Question: How do you feel about allowing Somalian refugees into Wyoming?

Response: Wills criticized the idea of having a refugee resettlement center in Wyoming, and cited the cost to educate children of the refugees should they decide to stay in Wyoming. He said the idea of having a center in Wyoming has never been discussed by the state Legislature.

Gosar pointed out that the refugees were people fleeing their country for safety and that Wyoming is the only state that does not participate in a refugee program. He said he didn’t object to the idea of the refugee plan, but added that the state needs to find a place for the relocation program and a way to go about it.

Question: How do you feel about Medicaid expansion?

Response: Gosar said he supported the expansion. He pointed out that there are $200 million in unpaid healthcare expenses in Wyoming and a need for better mental health care that is outlined in the expansions. He said Wyoming has already turned down $90 million in Medicaid funding when there are facilities in danger of closing.

Wills said he is opposed to the expansions because he sees it as the Obamacare that people are complaining about. He also pointed out that the state would be using free money that isn’t free. He said that Wyoming had a great deal of autonomy in health care that would end if the state took the money offered in the expansions.

Question: How do you plan to work with the anti-government climate in the state?

Wills said he feels the state spends too much money on what he called “bloated bureaucracies” and that he would begin cutting positions on the state level that he felt were unnecessary. He pointed out that Wyoming had the third highest ratio of public to private employees.

Gosar agreed that the state could do things better, but said that the state is being run by capable people and “capable people don’t come for free.” He pointed out areas where the government was attempting to streamline and cut costs where they could, and that money was put back into the budget. He defended paying state employees better wages because many capable workers are leaving the state for better money elsewhere.

Cemetery tours to offer glimpse into past

SHERIDAN — There are more people in the City of Sheridan Municipal Cemetery than there are in the city itself.

With 20,000 backstories ranging from World War I veterans to town founders, there is not only local but also regional, national and even world history to experience just by taking a walk through the plots.

Sheridan High School government teacher and self-proclaimed history buff Tyson Emborg has been giving tours at the cemetery for a while now, but within the next week or so interested parties will be able to give themselves a tour armed with his research.

Emborg, along with help from The Wyoming Room and cartographer Rich Urbatchka, has developed a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery that he hopes will help make history more real for people.

The tour follows a logical walking path from the entrance and highlights 53 people or sections of interest with short snippets of information on each.

Emborg said the tour offers the intrigue of being truly surrounded by history.

“When you’re in different parts of the city or reading it (history) in a book, you’re doing one thing at a time,” Emborg said. “But, when you’re at a spot in the cemetery, you look over at someone who is a Civil War veteran next to the Spanish American War and WWI and WWII and you find out that the history you’ve been reading about on a Utah beach in Normandy, for example, this person before you was actually there.”

He added that, to him, it makes history especially real knowing there was a Sheridan connection.

“A lot of historical things seem distant and far off, and it’s hard to put together, say, just how long ago the Declaration of Independence was,” he said, “but then you’re standing next to two people whose great-great-grandfather signed it so you think, ‘maybe this really happened.’”

In addition to the self-guided tours, Emborg has been leading walking tours in conjunction with the Sheridan County Museum, which he hopes will take ownership of the project moving forward.

“We had a very rainy and cold tour on Sunday afternoon and we had 26 hearty souls that ventured out and had a great time,” museum director John Woodward said. “Cemetery tours are a popular historical activity not just in Wyoming but across the U.S. You often find them connected with museums or historical interest groups in communities large and small.”

Walking around town from restaurants to parks, Woodward said, the history of Sheridan can be found, but only in the cemetery can you see it all in one place.

“These people are important because they helped build the foundations of the community we live in today,” Woodward said. “If it were not for Whitney, we might not have our college. If not for Kendrick, we might not have the shops downtown. A lot of the things we enjoy might not have existed without the efforts of these people.

“And for some of the lesser known people, it shows some of Sheridan’s historical flavor,” he added. “It tells the stories of our past that can only be told through the retelling of these characters.”

One such story is that of Horton  S. Boal.

Born in 1865, Boal was the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody and he took his own life at the Sheridan Inn — which was owned by Cody at the time.

According to reports, Boal was distraught over his wife, who had left him, and wrote a note to his father-in-law innkeeper apologizing for the “trouble I am about to make in your house.”

Just before visiting Boal, the tour brings you to the resting place of Delilah S. Sonnesberger, the first woman to cast a ballot in an election in Wyoming — done in the 1880s, long before women were regularly voting in other parts of the country.

These and other tales are told in the tour book that will be on sale for $5 soon at both The Wyoming Room inside Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library and at the museum.

“I’ve done a lot of research but there’s still a ton to be discovered up there,” Emborg said. “There’s a whole section of typhoid victims. If you’re in to different trials, there’s all sorts of shootouts and those kind of things. What about our founding mothers? There are whole lines of discovery up there that I hope people take what I’ve done — which is an extension of what other people have done before me — and take it a step further, that’s kind of my hope.”

Emborg said depending on your interest, there’s sure to be a connection to the cemetery; and further research at The Wyoming Room or the museum will help put together more pieces to the puzzle of our past.

“Every time you’re up there you find out how much more there is that you don’t know,” he said. “My hope was they would be able to go up anytime and get a general overview of the cemetery but there’s all kinds of stories up there, and I have lots more that could have been included, but I think the discovery is on the part of the participant, not on being told this is what you’re going to learn.”

Emborg lead the first of these tours Sunday and will host another at the cemetery today at 4:30 p.m.

The final guided tour, for now, will be lead by Woodward on Saturday at 2 p.m.

From there, Emborg and Woodward hope the tours will become a regular part of the museum’s offerings.

“We ask for younger children not to attend. A cemetery is a final resting place of a lot of people and we want to be respectful of not only the people we are touring but others there,” Woodward said. “Tyson uses the term walk with purpose, watch where you are. This is one of the reasons we’re very grateful the city allows us to do this.”

Spooky night at Fort Phil Kearny
United in pink

Racers take off from the starting line during “The Link-Partners in Pink Run/Walk” Saturday at Whitney Commons. Funds raised by the event benefit Sheridan Memorial Hospital cancer diagnostics projects.

Rams’ varsity defense still perfect: Big Horn defends home turf in 55-7 win over Burns

BIG HORN — It’s beginning to become a pride thing for the Big Horn High School varsity football team to not give up any points this season, and Friday’s matchup with Burns was no different.

By the time the varsity squad stepped off the field at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Rams hadn’t given up any points, despite Burns marching into Big Horn territory a few times.

One of those times was on the opening drive of the game.

The Rams got off to a rough start, allowing the Burns Broncs to run the ball down the field, accumulating first downs along the way. Just when it looked like the Rams were finally going to hold them, an encroachment penalty added to the first-down stat line for Burns.

Burns made it all the way to the Big Horn 9-yard line before the Rams flipped the switch and got back to the dominant play they’ve shown all season. A sack on third-and-7 and another stop on fourth down turned the ball over to the Rams, and it was lights out from there.

“That’s two weeks in a row where we’ve had teams inside our red zone and had to bow our neck a little bit and get a stop,” Rams coach Mike McGuire said of the early pressure on his defense.

“Our varsity defense right now is playing with a lot of pride, and they don’t want anybody to score any points on them, ever,” McGuire added. “When they get down there, we really focus in and are doing a great job of playing some red zone defense.”

The good news for the Rams is that, despite committing their fair share of penalties, they were always able to respond and make stops when they needed to.

To go along with the opening drive, the Big Horn defense forced a turnover on downs three more times, none bigger than their red-zone stop in the third quarter. A facemask penalty and a horse collar penalty helped Burns move down into Big Horn territory. Facing a fourth-and-1 at their own 6-yard line, the Rams buckled down and stopped the running back in the backfield to keep the Broncs off the board.

Offensively, the Rams countered the Burns rushing attack with a strong ground game of their own. Big Horn rushed for 222 yards, led by Kerry Powers’ 7.2 yards a carry and three touchdowns.

The strong run game opened up the door to air it out for a total of 276 passing yards, a big chunk of that coming on a 95-yard touchdown pass from Collin Powers to Christian Mayer on the first play immediately following the Rams fourth-and-1 stop in the third quarter.

“I really like where our run game is getting to,” McGuire said. “We’ve been consistent, and we’ve been able to run it with three or four backs well. I thought our o-line did a good job of getting a good push and getting up to the next level on linebackers and us being able to break some long runs.”

Although the junior varsity team gave up the only score of the game, they made sure to shake it off and do some damage of their own before the final horn sounded.

A Colton Williams interception led to a 37-yard score from Will Walker, giving the Rams the 55-7 victory and a 6-0 start to the season.

The top team in 2A will take their undefeated record to third-ranked Newcastle next week for their biggest test of the season, so far.

Kids work as citizen scientists

DAYTON — Green hair bows and delightful squeals on a merry-go-round are not typical images associated with scientists, but the absence of white lab coats and doctorate degrees did not make the science occurring at the park in Dayton on Wednesday any less valid.

Students from sixth-grade classes at Tongue River Middle School spent the morning at Scott Bicentennial Park working alongside representatives from Trout Unlimited, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Sheridan County Conservation District and an independent environmental consultant to begin a telemetry study on Tongue River’s fish population that will last all year.

Not sure what telemetry is?

Ask the young scientists there that day and they could tell you all about the use of radio transmissions to remotely gather measurements and collect data on hard to reach populations.

They could tell you about the process of electro-fishing to catch study participants, how to surgically implant radio transmitter tags, how to hold the telemetry receiver and listen to the volume of beeps to track a fish, how to identify bugs (the food the fish will eat) and even how to cast a fly rod for an added bonus.

Citizen scientists

The study, part of Trout Unlimited’s Adopt a Trout program, will enable the sixth-grade citizen scientists to track swim patterns, seasonal locations and habitat preferences of 30 brown and rainbow trout in the Tongue River fishery.

The data collected by the students will be used by Trout Unlimited and the WGFD to identify future projects needed to improve the fishery and river quality in order to conserve one of Dayton’s prime assets long into the future.

“It’s exactly kids doing science; it’s kids being citizen scientists,”sixth-grade teacher Ann Powers said. “It fits very well with the science standards we’re using at Tongue River where students are practicing discourse, discussing things, collecting data, doing real life projects. They were very engaged.”

Powers worked with Trout Unlimited this summer to bring the project to Tongue River Middle School. Schools in Pinedale, Jackson, McKinnon and Meeteetse are also completing the Adopt a Trout program this year. Trout Unlimited Wyoming Coordinator Scott Christy said he hopes to run the program for several years in the Sheridan area to study and improve fisheries in the Tongue River and Goose creeks.

“The interest is having a vibrant fishery, especially since we’re so lucky in Wyoming to have the fisheries that we do have,” Christy said.

The study will involve pairs of students “adopting” one of the tagged fish and keeping data on the same fish throughout the year. Twice a month, independent environmental consultant Katie Taylor will work with the WGFD to track the location of each tagged fish.

The data will be shared with the students who will enter their fish’s location on a map, producing a comprehensive look at where the fish like to be at certain times throughout the year. Students will enter their data on the University of Wyoming’s biodiversity website and on a Trout Unlimited website dedicated to the program. Students will also make hypotheses about where they think their fish will be located and test it against the data that is gathered.

Christy said the study has three objectives, apart from getting students to do real science:To determine how trout are responding to recently completed restoration efforts in the Tongue River, including fish holes created in Dayton park; to better understand how fish respond to fluctuating temperatures in the Tongue River; and to determine whether the overall fish population is affected by fish getting stuck in irrigation infrastructure.

From past Adopt a Trout programs, Trout Unlimited and the WGFD have identified and implemented several projects that have had positive impacts on the state’s fish populations by reconnecting rivers and improving fish habitats.

Field day

Wednesday was the field introduction to the Adopt a Trout program.

Students watched WGFD personnel electro-fish to catch study participants, which involved maneuvering a cataraft equipped with electrodes through the river to stun the fish while eight people on the raft worked to net the fish, place them in safe holding tanks and deliver them to shore. There they were placed in a fish anesthetic to await the surgery to implant radio transmitters.

Following the electro-fishing, students rotated through four stations to learn about the project.

At one station, kids gathered around tubs containing water and rocks pulled from the river and identified the macro invertebrates they found. Christy told them bugs, apart from being weird and cool, are one of the best indicators of the river’s health and thus the health of the fish.

At another station, students took turns hiding transmitters around the park and using a telemetry machine, which looks like an old TV antennae attached to a radio carried in a leather bag, to locate the transmitters by listening to the volume of beeps emitted from the machine.

At the fly casting station, Trout Unlimited member Cory Toye told the students that fish are just waiting for “Burger King or a Big Mac to fall into the river,” and that flyfishing is learning how to mimic those meals floating on the river’s surface.

At the tagging station, students crowded around Trout Unlimited member Jim Gregory to watch as he pulled anesthetized fish from a tank, measured their weight and length and then placed them belly up on a tray beneath a stream of running water. He made an incision near the head and another one near the tail on the opposite side of the body. He then lifted the fish’s skin away from the fish’s body and used a needle to thread an antennae through the body and out the lower incision. The antennae was attached to a numbered transmitter that was inserted in the fish’s abdomen. The incision was stapled shut and the fish released.

In one group, student Grace Sopko, 12, took down the data for each fish, including its transmitter number that will be used to track its progress throughout the year.

“I think it’s cool how they can put the trackers in and be able to see everywhere the fish goes,” Sopko said. “I think that’s going to be fun and finally, like, real science that we get to do.”

Sopko also spoke about the other prong of the project: conservation. Christy said it is hoped that projects like Adopt a Trout will raise up a new generation of conscientious stewards of the land.

Sopko got it: “Our earth, if we make it dirty and pollute it, then our earth will eventually just be one big place where we can’t breathe fresh air and have fresh water.”

Yes, during a snack break, girls in flowered headbands and boys in ripped jeans filled the merry-go-round to capacity, but after the break, it was all business for these young citizen scientists.

Local submariner to display replica of lost ship

SHERIDAN — When word got out that 129 men had perished when the U.S.S. Thresher went down off the New England coast on April 10, 1963, U.S. Navy submariners responded with grim silence.

Local resident Ron Martini was stationed as a submariner at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, at the time.

“I remember the submarine chapel bells rang constantly all the next day after word was officially released that the submarine was lost,” Martini said. “Those chapel bells — I’ll never forget them — rang all day long. The base was super quiet, just everything shut down.”

The U.S.S. Thresher, SSN 593, was the first nuclear submarine to be lost at sea and to this day remains one of the worst submarine disasters in the world. The submarine was in the midst of deep-diving tests with a submarine rescue ship nearby on the surface of the ocean. Its final transmission to the rescue ship was, “Having difficulty attempting to surface.”

It never did resurface and remains on “eternal patrol” in the Atlantic Ocean, according to a website dedicated to the lost vessel.

While the real Thresher rests on the ocean floor, a 1/12 scale model of the submarine is making rounds in Wyoming this week to offer residents a chance to learn more about the “silent service” of Navy submariners. It will be on display in Sheridan on Monday and Tuesday in front of the Thorne-Rider Student Center at Sheridan College and at the entrance to the clinic at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Oct. 16-17. Martini will be on hand, particularly at the college, to talk about the submarine and submarine life in general.

“In World War II, the submarine service was known as the ‘silent service’ because we’re not seen and we’re not heard under the ocean,” Martini said. “But that situation has changed. The government said, ‘We need some support for the submarine force. It is our major deterrent against attack from enemies, so let’s tell the American people about it.’ I think it’s very important for the American people to understand about the submarines.”

Martini said he served in the Navy from 1960-1968. He worked on the U.S.S. Catfish, a World War II diesel submarine from San Diego, for two years before receiving one year of nuclear power training and then serving on the U.S.S. Patrick Henry, a nuclear missile sub, from 1963-1968.

Martini and the rest of his crew rotated three-month missions with the U.S.S. Patrick Henry’s second crew. The submarine was based at Holy Loch, Scotland, and submersed in the Atlantic Ocean as a deterrent during the Cold War. Martini said submarines are still an active part of the Navy today, often serving as deterrents to conflict.

Martini serves as district commander for U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc., a nationwide society of U.S. submariners with 166 chapters. His district includes Montana, Wyoming, western South Dakota, western Nebraska and southeast Idaho. Wyoming has two chapters, one in the northern half of the state that represents northern Wyoming, and the Cheyenne chapter that represents southern Wyoming.

There are 74 total members in the state, but Martini is always looking for more and said anyone who served as a submariner or knows a submariner should consider joining.

Martini borrowed the scale model of the U.S.S. Thresher from the submarine veterans group in Rapid City, South Dakota, that built it. He said the model vessel makes regular appearances in parades and events in South Dakota. The U.S.S. Thresher will also be on display in Casper on Oct. 18 at the State Veterans Museum in the Casper Airport.

See the submarine

View a 1/12 scale model of the U.S.S. Thresher Navy submarine Monday and Tuesday in front of the Thorne-Rider Student Center at Sheridan College, and Oct. 16-17 in front of the clinic at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Anyone interested in more information about the U.S.S. Thresher or the local chapter of U.S. Submarine Veterans Inc. can contact Ron Martini at rontini@bresnan.net or 674-9847.

Hamilton touts need to set small goals for yourself

SHERIDAN — In 2004 the book “Soul Surfer” made waves telling the tale of a brave young woman who survived a shark attack while surfing and went on to become a national champion and professional surfer, all after the shark claimed her left arm.

In 2011 that tale was made into a major motion picture of the same name and the story of Bethany Hamilton became somewhat of a household tale.

On Monday afternoon, the author, athlete, inspirational speaker and devote Christian spoke in Sheridan at the Early Auditorium of Sheridan Junior High School on behalf of K-Life, the local chapter of a Christian youth organization.

The event was a youth rally, which K-Life board member Amy Rabon said was a long time in the making.

K-Life

K-Life is a national Christian youth program with more than 40 independent local chapters in 12 states.

The Sheridan chapter is relatively new — established just shy of two years ago — and serves elementary through high school students.

K-Life was born of Kanakuk Ministries, a Christian sports camp in Branson, Missouri, and Rabon said they continue to promote exercise, good body image and good healthy principals in everything they do.

The group hosts weekly clubs for kids, social activities, service opportunities, special events like concerts and some small study groups like Bible study.

The have already amassed a base of approximately 100 kids who attend activities on a weekly basis and Rabon said they reach between 500-600 kids a year including their special events.

The mission of K-Life is to transform lives through relationships and Christian principles, but they also have strong ties to athleticism.

They have taken a group of kids to experience Kanakuk Camp each of the past two summers and hope to continue to do so.

For their first ever-fundraising banquet, the Sheridan chapter wanted to tie in all of these aspects and bring in someone who would have a broad impact on all ages.

“From the beginning we thought Bethany Hamilton was a good person who matched our values,” Rabon said. “Her newest book has great healthy tips for young people, looking at it from spiritual, mental and emotional dimensions. How can young people live a healthy life? And that’s how we look at it as well; healthy in mind, body and soul.”

Hamilton had another connection to the organization as her husband, Adam Dirks, previously worked as a counselor for Kanakuk Ministries and a similar program to K-Life, called Young Life, impacted Hamilton when she was young.

Through what Rabon describes as a lot of persistence and on-going conversation, Hamilton was secured for the local event and on Monday presented her tale to a standing-room-only crowd.

“She is an inspiring Christian athlete and we appreciate that she has that great faith story, but we also appreciate that she is just a powerful young person who can reach our youth,” Rabon said.

The youth rally preceded an invitation only fundraising dinner.

Bethany Hamilton

Hamilton was born to a family of surfers on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, and entered her first surfing competition at the age of 8.

When she was 13 years old, Hamilton was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark off the Kauai North Shore.

The attack caused Hamilton to lose more than 60 percent of her blood, as well as her left arm.

“I thought that I had lost surfing and I felt that my life was just at a halt and I didn’t know what my future was going to hold,” Hamilton said Monday at the rally. “But I knew that God did know what it held and that strengthened me to just keep moving forward.”

Only one month after her attack, Hamilton returned to the water and two short months after that she returned to competition.

Just over a year after the attack, she won her first national title, taking first in the Explorer Women’s Division of the 2005 National Scholastic Surfing Association National Championships.

By 2007, Hamilton turned pro and her surfing, and life in general, have not slowed down since.

Along with writing her autobiography “Soul Surfer,” Hamilton has written several other books including “Devotions for the Soul Surfer,” “Rise Above,” “A Soul Surfer Bible” and more.

Today, Hamilton and her husband can be seen as contestants on the current season of the television show “The Amazing Race” or at one of their many stops nationally speaking about their new nonprofit endeavour Friends of Bethany.

Hamilton told the crowd Monday it is always important to stay motivated and set goals.

“I set little goals in my head and work toward them and stay pretty motivated naturally,” she said. “I appreciate the beauty in goal setting and think when you are setting goals you need to make them attainable. Set little goals to reach your bigger goal.”

Signs of the season
Fenn earns 3rd straight state title

GILLETTE — Sheridan High School junior Julia Fenn remained undefeated and won her third straight tennis title in Gillette over the weekend.

Fenn beat Lucia Cho of Laramie without any problems, winning 6-1 and 6-1.

After easily taking the first set, the second set took a little longer. As teams cleared the court, it was down to Fenn and Cho at one end of the Campbell County Recreation Center and the boys No.1 singles on the other end.

The crowd split in the middle, gathering to each side of the stands to watch the matches.

“I wanted to be patient and hit my shots and really play how I know I could,” Fenn said after the match. “And I thought Iaccomplished that today.”

She added that each opponent is different, and what may appear on the surface isn’t always how it is.

Cho has a small build and many would find it hard to imagine she was a power hitter, but she came out and proved her strength.

“Her serve was very hard and flat, it catches you off guard,” Fenn said.

Coach Bob Faurot said Fenn is very good at analyzing everyone she faces on the court.

“She’s so easy to coach,” Faurot said. “She’s a student of the game, but she’s almost beyond me.”

Faurot added that Fenn was level and confident going into state and the championship Saturday.

As for rituals or superstitions, Fenn doesn’t want to get inside of her own head by having such things.

“I don’t allow myself to,” Fenn said, “but every pro does so I might have to get one.”

After beating every opponent she has faced for the past three years, some would think nerves were a thing of the past.

Hardly the case. Fenn still gets a little bit nervous before she plays, something she said is a good thing.

Now that the season is over, she will have time to rest up before she starts practicing and playing tournaments around the state and region again.

As for next year, Fenn just wants to continue to improve and, most importantly, have fun.

“This year Ireally enjoyed it and had a lot of fun,” she said.

“I don’t know if any girls have won four straight tournaments,” Faurot said. “So it will be interesting to see.”

The SHS girls tennis team also took third in state over the weekend with a score of 30, coming in behind Campbell County and Cheyenne Central.

Looking for a spooky night under the full moon?

SHERIDAN — The field was so bright that even the night wouldn’t allow an escape from the grisly scene as soldiers collected the bodies of their 81 massacred comrades.

It was one of only three occasions in modern history in which a full moon, record lunar perigee — the distance from the moon to the earth — and the December solstice all occurred within a 24-hour period, and the illumination could only be described as eerie.

Quick work was made of the battle held 3 miles from Fort Phil Kearny on the shortest day of the year, as more than 1,000 Native American warriors decimated the entire American Army they faced. The scene left behind was one of grim and gore.

But on that cold, creepy, bright night, the men of Fort Phil Kearny retrieved the bodies of the fallen, including that of Capt. William J. Fetterman.

Stories like these and many other eerie but true tales of the fort will be told under a bright moon next Saturday during the second annual “Full Moon Fort,” a special event at Fort Phil Kearny that illuminates the darker side of the fort and the “Bloody Bozeman.”

Fort Phil Kearny superintendent Misty Stoll said general interpretations and tours often focus on larger concepts, but this event will get more into the day-to-day details and living conditions of those housed at the fort.

“There are supernatural things that we don’t put in our everyday interpretation but are real and make people say, ‘oooo, that’s spooky,’” she said. “You can’t get that just by visiting and reading signs. There are true details, unique to the fort, that make people realize it’s a special place.”

Some of those supernatural coincidences, as Stoll calls them, include dates.

The soldiers first arrive on Friday the 13th of July in 1866, and later that year the fort was officially dedicated on Oct. 31, two dates both tied to superstitions.

Stoll said the history of the fort lends itself to Halloween antics. Full moons, terrifying diseases and creepy dates are not just theatrics to them; they are history.

“It was a terrifying place,” she said. “So to see the fort after dark is a special event and we decided to do it near Halloween and near the full moon.”

Attendees will be led around the fort by period-costumed tour guides armed with nothing more than a lantern to light the way.

The 30-minute tour under the waning full moon — full on Wednesday — will also discuss scurvy, the isolation of the fort and the upheaval and removal of soldiers burial sites once underground at the battlefield.

Tours will launch every 15 minutes, with no reservations needed, between 6-9 p.m. on Oct. 11.

From 6-8 p.m., while the sky is not as dark, the content will be a little lighter and more conducive to a younger audience.

Stoll said the stories will still be spooky, but the guides won’t go into as great of detail in terms of the gore.

After 8 p.m., however, buyers beware.

“People who visit the Fetterman battlefield definitely feel the power of place there,” Stoll said. “That human experience is really available.”

Hundreds of people attended the inaugural event last year and the fort is ready for another big turn out this year.

The cost to attend is $5 per carload of people and the gift shop will be open.

Attendees are reminded to dress warm as it gets cold at the fort after dark. Organizers also suggest checking the website, www.fortphilkearny.com, for cancellations if there are extreme cold or wet conditions expected.

Plan to attend?

Check out Fort Phil Kearny under the light of a waning full moon to hear spooky stories of the fort’s history.

When: Oct. 11

What time: From 6-8 p.m. tours will be geared toward a younger audience, while from 8-9 p.m. tours will be a little more spooky. Tours will launch every 15 minutes.

Where: Fort Phil Kearny, 528 Wagon Box Road

How much: $5 per carload

Highland Park Elementary earns Blue Ribbon designation

SHERIDAN — Sheridan is home to another blue ribbon.

The National Blue Ribbon School Program named Highland Park Elementary School an Exemplary High Performing School for the 2013-14 school year.

The program honors public and private K-12 schools where students perform at very high levels — such as HPE’s award — or where students are making significant gains in academic achievement — the Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing Schools award.

Awarded annually, recipients hold the title for five years, at which point they are eligible to be nominated again.

National Blue Ribbon Schools are chosen from all public and private American schools including charter schools, magnet or choice schools, Title I schools, parochial schools and independent schools.

Winners are chosen from public schools nominated by the Chief State School Officer in each state, and private schools nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

All public schools must meet their state’s AYP and at least one-third of the public schools nominated from each state must have at least 40 percent of their student populations come from disadvantage backgrounds, as defined by the state’s CSSO.

Created in 1982, the award was thought-up by then Secretary of Education Terrel Bell, designed to bring public attention to the best schools in the United States and to facilitate communication and sharing of best practices within and among schools.

The U.S. Department of Education says the award is both a high aspiration and a potent resource of practitioner knowledge as it is not just an honor, but also a means to identify and disseminate knowledge about effective school leadership and instructional practices.

In the past five years, a school in Sheridan County has brought home a blue ribbon on a near annual basis.

Last year Coffeen Elementary received the honor, and Meadowlark Elementary took it the year before.

In 2011 it was Sheridan County School District 1 claiming the prize with Big Horn High School being named a Blue Ribbon School, and back in 2009 Sagebrush Elementary claimed the title.

Highland Park was one of only three schools in the state to receive the honor for 2014, alongside Glenn Livingston Elementary School in Cody and Southside Elementary School in Powell.

Glenn Livingston is the school former Sagebrush Elementary Principal Michael Wood now leads.

In total, 337 schools earned Blue Ribbon  status this year including 50 private schools nationwide.

Highland Park Principal Scott Cleland said that although the designation is a high honor, it does not mean the staff will slow down this year.

“This means that we continue to set high expectations and as we achieve them we move the bar higher every year,” he said. “The teachers still aren’t satisfied with where their kids are because not 100 percent of our students are where they need to be. The staff works incredibly hard and does a great job of targeting each kid and treating each student differently to get them to that level.”

Cleland is spending his first year at the helm of HPE after last year’s Principal Brent Leibach moved on to serve as principal at Sheridan High School.

Leibach said Highland Park is “a perfect example of a school that came together as a collaborative force and placed laser-like focus on student learning.”

“They took the challenge to be the best and it was that one-day-at-a-time approach to focus on learning that got us there,” he said. “It wasn’t something I did or they did, we did it together. We knew all the other factors will take care of themselves if we take care of what we’re doing in learning each and every day.”

Leibach added that though it is an award for the school, it is really about the staff staying year after year as new students come and go, focusing on each one of them.

“The goal has to be about our students and it was for everybody; our secretaries, our paraprofessionals, it was a schoolwide effort,” he said. “It has to be about ‘us.’ It can’t be about how ‘I view things,’ about how ‘I see my kids;’ it has to be about how ‘we do it.’ You can never be as successful as an individual as you can working together toward a common goal and that’s not just true in education, that’s true in life.”

Leibach said at times working at Highland Park he just sat back and was amazed by how driven the team was to be the best, and he is convinced Cleland will continue to have the same experience.

“I truly believe their new principal will be the one to take them to the next level,” Leibach said. “This group won’t settle. They won’t be satisfied. They will continue to push. That staff will take the challenge, and they won’t step back for a second.”

Pedaling across the country to raise money for veterans
Teaching in their world: Districts move closer to putting computers in all students’ hands

SHERIDAN — Some of us recall a time when having a computer in your very own home seemed futuristic, a time when walking around with a computer in your bag (or hand) was never even a thought due to the size and weight of a processor.

Many of us recall the thrill of the first computer being installed at our school, and the first time it was our turn to sit down to play “The Oregon Trail” as part of our history lesson.

Times have changed.

Districts across the state and nation are swiftly moving toward going “1:1,” having a handheld personal computer in the hands of every student.

Personalized learning supervisor Edward Olson with the Wyoming Department of Education said while the number of schools currently going 1:1 are not tracked, the trend is widespread.

“I don’t believe there is any district who hasn’t attempted it or began it in some fashion,” he said. “Districts are very aware of the significant impact these devices can have on the learner and their activities.”

From downloadable textbooks to online administered exams in the middle and high schools, to counting apps and coloring games at the elementary schools, the use of technology is making learning simultaneously faster, and also more individualized.

Last year’s graduating senior class in Sheridan County School District 1 were the final class of high schoolers to complete their learning in the district without a tablet in hand.

Over the past three years, SCSD1 has been phasing in iPads and InFocus tablets in an effort to move all students in sixth through 12th grade to a 1:1 technology ratio.

At a cost of roughly $65,000 a year to supply incoming classes with tablets, administer software support and get the program off the ground, each of those students now has their own device.

SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said that this cost will drop significantly next year to approximately $15,000 to simply maintain existing infrastructure and buy additional tablets as class sizes grow.

Recently, the district received a $53,477 technology grant from the Wyoming Department of Education that will pay for the installation of additional wireless Internet access points as well as the launch of a new blended learning management system.

Canvas — the learning management system — is a cloud-based system designed specifically for K-12 teachers and students that connects all the digital tools and resources teachers may use in one place.

“It’s a one stop shop so teachers can set up a class and link resources for kids to access via Canvas,” Smith said. “They can log on to it from anywhere, anytime, to access resources they need for any class.”

SCSD1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said this is all part of their strategic plan to individualize the learning process.

“There really is a movement in our district and others to move more toward an educational process geared toward the individuals’ needs; technology is only part of that,” he said adding that the students also take the tablets home to continue the learning process on their own timeline. “With technology, learning becomes an anytime, anywhere, type of situation, so if we limit their ability to log on at home it defeats at least our purpose of having it.”

Kobza added that the district has technology in the elementary schools as well — the kids use a lot of apps on iPads, have a computer in every classroom and computer labs in every school — but they feel the 1:1 lends itself more to the older students.

Sheridan County School District 2 has also been taking steps toward 1:1 but with slightly different approaches.

Sheridan Junior High School is fully 1:1 as of this school year, as are some levels at some elementary schools, but the high school is not.

Additionally, students at SJHS check their tablets out each morning and return them each afternoon during seventh period, as they are not allowed to bring them home.

“We thought we needed to keep the 1:1 initiative within the walls of the schools,” SJHS Principal Mitch Craft said. “We need to sit down with our parents and get lots of input from them before sending them home. We also have concerns with how they would be used outside of school. More research needs to be done on how it’s navigated in other districts around the region.”

Regardless of the structure or who is receiving the devices from district-to-district, the feedback and results have been positive.

“Student engagement is increased significantly, student motivation is impacted as well,” Craft said. “If a teacher is to hand out a piece of paper to kids and say ‘I want you to write a paragraph about ‘blank’’ they will do it, but what we find is if the teacher assigns it through Schoology (SCSD2’s learning management system) and has them submit it digitally, the students are committed to better work in a more timely fashion. They are more engaged when using 21st century tools.”

Craft said he believes this is because the learning is packaged to fit in the world the students live in outside of school.

With things like automatic assessment calculations, the learning environment is improving for teachers too.

“We have teachers working voluntarily in groups helping each other in little teams to troubleshoot and bounce ideas off one another, and they are finding and using apps and online resources that we never even heard of,” Craft said. “At the same time they know that the real quality of learning comes from the teacher and the apps are only as good as the teacher selecting them.”

He added that in the old days of taking stacks of papers home to evaluate and grade, it could often take days before feedback or intervention was offered to a student who may have struggled with the topic. Now, not only can feedback often be given in the same day, if not the same period, that student can then revisit the topic from a different angle to find the tactic that will stick.

“We’re not giving up the classroom and not giving up the teacher in any way, but students are using different tools now in addition to those resources,” Craft said. “We’re taking the same content and skills and packaging it in a much more relevant way.”

TRHS homecoming royalty
Lacunza arrested in connection with Friday chase, crash

SHERIDAN — A 27-year-old Sheridan man has been arrested for stealing a vehicle and attempting to evade law enforcement officers.

Micah Lacunza was arrested Friday and is expected to appear in Sheridan County Circuit Court this afternoon.

At approximately 3 p.m. Friday, Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to a crash on Acme Road, just off of Interstate 90 near mile marker 14.

Wyoming Highway Patrol and emergency medical responders were already on scene, but there was no driver or passengers in sight.

SCSO Lt. Mark Conrad said the silver Honda Accord had obviously rolled several times. Once it was determined that nobody was pinned under the vehicle, law enforcement began investigating who the driver may have been.

The license plates on the vehicle were registered to a black Honda and the vehicle itself had been reporting stolen by a registered owner in Buffalo.

Conrad said they found some evidence in and around the car that indicated who the driver may have been.

At 5:13 p.m. deputies were called to 118 Kleenburn Road. At that location, an individual had a conversation with Lacunza. The individual was aware of the crash and shortly after he went back inside, he saw his neighbor’s vehicle leave the residence.

The individual then called 911, believing that Lacunza had stolen the neighbor’s vehicle. He had, and law enforcement officers pursued Lacunza. The chase led law enforcement onto Interstate 90, through Ranchester, onto Wolf Creek Road and then Soldier Creek Road.

Officers had set up spike strips on Soldier Creek Road. Lacunza stopped before the strips, but backed into a ditch where he became stuck.

He was then arrested without further incident.

Lacunza is expected to be charged with possession of stolen property, driving under the influence, eluding officers and reckless driving. A felony charge for stealing the silver Honda Accord may also be pending.

No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.

FAB Women of the Year: Rideout’s contributions to community have far reaching impact

“Carmen Rideout is one of the most beautiful people inside and out that you will ever meet. She is kind, compassionate and smart. Her social skills background coupled with her non-profit savvy make her an ideal person to promote community. Carmen’s work at the Sheridan Senior Center has been extremely dedicated and her service to community through volunteer leadership astounding.”

— Rindy West on Carmen Rideout, the 2014 FAB Woman of the Year

SHERIDAN — This opening paragraph of Rindy West’s letter to the FAB (For.About.By.) Women’s Conference committee nominating Carmen Rideout for the Woman of the Year award shows a level of high regard for the executive director of the Sheridan Senior Center which seems to resonate throughout the community.

At Friday night’s second annual Woman of the Year banquet, Rideout was selected from a pool of nine women nominated for their myriad talents to be honored as Sheridan’s finest.

“Carmen has given so much of herself to not only the Senior Center and the other agencies that she has worked for in Sheridan County, but moreover she has left a compassion imprint within the community that will always be remembered,” West continued.

Rideout has served as the head of the non-profit center whose mission is to celebrate, embrace and serve older adults for the betterment of the community since 2000.

Her prior work has included three years at the Volunteers of America and seven with Renew.

Rideout attained her Master of Science in Social Work degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a specialization in gerontology before beginning work as a counselor in Arizona.

However, she quickly learned that the 8-5, new patient every hour, “OK, next” type of job — as she described it — was not for her.

“I like to be moving around, talking to people, problem solving, working with all types; it gives me a lot of energy,” she said. “I feel like it (the Senior Center) is a really good fit for me. We laugh, we have fun and we also tackle serious stuff too, but it’s a great job.”

Rideout’s love of the center is evident by the sheer amount of time she spends on-site, interacting with her staff and guests, and off-site, attending one of the endless events the center produces.

Director of Family Caregiver Services Stella Montano said Rideout combines career and volunteerism to “do it all” at the center.

“We have things during the day, in the evening, on the weekends, and somehow Carmen gets to each of these events,” Montano said. “You can call it part of her job or you could call it she’s out delivering a meal because maybe a driver called in and couldn’t make it and she wanted that meal to go out.”

Montano added that though Rideout seems to be everywhere, all the time, she always finds a way to remain accessible to not just the staff but also everyone who walks in the door.

“She can be seen in the dining room probably every day, and she will sit and have lunch with whomever,” Montano said.

“Everyone is a friend that walks through those doors, to us, but especially to Carmen. She has a very open door policy and she is approached every day by the people that use our services because they know they can.”

From a young age, Rideout knew he wanted to work with people.

“I wasn’t good in math or science, plus my dad was a social worker and my mom was a teacher, so I felt really comfortable working with people,” she said. “There are all sorts of things you can get into with social work but I really love the community piece. Community develop work seems very creative to me and I have a creativity side too.”

Rideout’s first semester of college was spent as an art major but she switched after deciding she didn’t have “the disposition to be an artist as a career.”

“Doing something that can help people and add to the quality of life of individuals, or volunteers, or the health of the community as a whole, is just fun,” she added.

Rideout is having so much fun doing good for the community, she doesn’t feel as if what she does is deserving of this award, though she is trying not to say that.

“I work with a lot of woman so one of the things we talk about is when someone gives you a compliment just say ‘thank you;’ you don’t have to make excuses,” she said. “So I’m trying to be good and just say thank you, but part of me does think, I’m doing my job and I’ve got really good staff and having good people around you is the key.

“I am very fortunate to be living in Sheridan, be healthy, have a great husband who supports me, great friends,” she added. “A lot of the women who were nominated, I can see why they were. They’ve touched people and they’ve done a lot for the community… I am really touched and honored that I was nominated with them. I’m humbled by it.”

But whether she readily shares it or not, Rideout has done her fair share for the community as well, in and outside of the Senior Center.

Through the years she has served on a number of community non-profit boards including the Volunteers of America, the Rotary Club (which she was president of), the Wyoming Association of Senior Project Directors (which she was president of), Greenhouse Living for Sheridan, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church committees including work at the soup kitchen, and is a graduate of the Bladdin Civic Leadership Program.

“Carmen is a shining example of others before self, and gives tirelessly of her time and talents to continue to make Sheridan County a better place,” West wrote. “She is the perfect nominee for Woman of the Year and deserves this award for not just one thing she has done or accomplished, but for an overflowing basket of good that has permeated into many facets of community.”

A day at a one-room schoolhouse
Students build lego robots after school
Discussing lessons learned at Heart Mountain
First phase of Red Grade Trails System approved

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Community Land Trust has received a permit to build trails and improve parking areas on 160 acres of state land bisected by Red Grade Road in the first of an estimated five phases that will produce a 33-mile trail system along the road.

The 25-year special use lease will allow SCLT to build up to 5.3 miles of non-motorized, natural surface trail while improving existing parking areas for both motorized and non-motorized recreationists, according to a media release.

SCLT anticipates improvements and construction to begin in 2015, pending successful grant applications and fundraising efforts.

The Red Grade Trails System will feature clusters of trails ranging from easy to advanced and designed for hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use. The non-motorized trail system will traverse state, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands accessed via Red Grade Road between the graveled parking lot at the start of the road and the Bear Gulch parking area approximately 2.5 miles further up the mountain as the bird flies.

SCLT estimates it will take approximately five years to complete the entire trail system.

“This project is in response to a community desire for high-quality recreation opportunities that are convenient, safe and scenic,” SCLT Executive Director Colin Betzler said. “Trails are an essential ingredient for building and sustaining healthy communities, and we are very excited to move ahead with the first phase of this project.”

After more than a year of research and planning, SCLT announced its intention to create a new, non-motorized trail system along Red Grade Road in June. SCLT then contracted with Trail Solutions, the professional trail design firm that recently designed Curt Gowdy State Park between Laramie and Cheyenne, to create a master plan for the Red Grade Trails System.

Professional trail designer Joey Klein hiked more than 60 miles during his two weeks on the project, completing a design that maximizes benefits for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians and highlights the natural beauty of the Bighorn Mountains. Klein focused on building sustainable trails that blend in with the surrounding topography while being located out of site of existing viewsheds. He took into consideration steepness of grade, scenic values and user safety, while minimizing the impact to the land, plants and wildlife.

For more information about the project, visit SCLT’s website at sheridanclt.org.

National Public Lands Day

Sheridan Community Land Trust will host a free guided hike at Poverty Flats on National Public Lands Day to celebrate the organization’s recent approval for a lease that will launch the first phase of the Red Grade Trails System. The hike will be easy to moderate in difficulty and last about 90 minutes with shorter options available. Dessert and additional information on the Red Grade Trails project will be available following the hike.

Hikers should bring a picnic dinner, sturdy shoes, a camera and dress in warm layers of clothing. RSVP is required.

• When: 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

• Where: Poverty Flats area on U.S. Forest Service land (directions will be sent upon RSVP)

• Info: For more information or to RSVP for the hike, call 673-4702 or email claire@sheridanclt.org.

Changing seasons

A cluster of trees turn color on the land adjacent to Steamboat Point Sunday evening near Highway 14 west of  Dayton. The foliage in the Bighorn Mountains has been showing fall colors despite damage from snowfall earlier this month.

Fall Fly fishers enjoy autumn day on the water

SHERIDAN— A breeze laced with autumn chill rustles leaves blushing yellow along the banks of Piney Creek south of Sheridan. Dots of red foliage flash through the leaves like beacons catching one’s attention again, and again. Rays of sunlight refract in the ripples of the creek, scattering across the cool water like glitter spilled on a dark canvass.

It is quiet, save the rush of water over rock, a sound with a magical ability to make it quiet on the inside, in the soul.

And then, a young boy in a red shirt, orange hat and brown waders pulled nearly to his armpits walks into sight in a clearing on the creek. A man wades behind him, pointing to eddies in the water, leaning close to whisper, “Cast here, try over there.”

One of those glittering sparkles in the dark water may belong to a fish swimming beneath the surface.

Will Huckeba, 12, whisks his rod backward and forward, the pale green fly line curving like an ‘S’ over his head. The fly rests momentarily on the water, drifts, and Huckeba casts again, guide Pete Veinberg in step close behind.

The fishing tournament for Joey’s Fall Fly II has just begun and there are fish to be hooked. The tournament is a fundraiser for Joey’s Foundation.

But more than that, it is a time to reinforce the purpose of the foundation: using fly fishing to develop supportive relationships between youth and qualified mentors that will lead to lasting relationships and positive learning in the beauty of the outdoors.

This year marks the second annual tournament that sees teams consisting of a youth angler, an adult angler and a professional fly fishing guide spread out along 10 miles of creek across seven private ranches that donate access for the event.

Further down the creek, Billy Watson, 12, has tied a purple pheasant tail onto the fly fishing rod he built himself at Joey’s Foundation three years ago. Watson has been fishing since he was 4. He learned from his grandpa in the Bighorn Mountains and simply nods his head “yes” when asked if he is a pro fisherman after eight years on the water.

His eyes duck beneath the brim of an orange hat when he dips his head in thought and answers that he just likes being outside, and that’s why he became a fisherman.

The creek weaves east across the land toward Ucross, and beneath a dusty orange cliff rising from the water’s edge, Mollie Watson, 13, wades just along the bank, casting upstream into a section of faster water, her orange ballcap pulled over long, brown hair.

Her guide, Ray Johnson, steps carefully into the center of the creek to free Watson’s fly from the rocky bed of the creek but otherwise stands on shore and brags about her skill to anyone nearby.

“Mollie here is our star,”Johnson says.

Johnson says he’s learned more from Mollie than she probably has from him. When asked what he’s learned, he thinks for just a moment.

“Patience,”he says. “Fly fishing is like ballet; it’s not rock and roll.”

Johnson points out that he often sees men thrusting the line onto the water, snapping the fly into place. But women, he says, are natural fly fishers. They are not in a hurry; they are patient and gentle, often just lightly kissing the surface of the water with their fly.

A couple hours into the tournament on Saturday, not many fish had been caught, but teams were enjoying the fine autumn day, and that’s what really matters in fishing.

“As Elizabeth Barrett Browntrout wrote, ‘It is better to have hooked and lost than never to have hooked at all,’” guide and renowned fly fisherman Bob Krumm says when his youth angler Robert Watson, 15, reports a nibble and a fish escaped.

Joey’s Foundation founder Joey Puettman notes that when he was a boy, he had a poster of Bob Krumm on his bedroom wall. Puettman later interned with Krumm as a guide on the Bighorn River, although Krumm claims he taught Puettman everything he knows about fishing “in about a minute.”

Puettman smiles but quickly turns the focus back on the task at hand, marveling that one of his mentors and fly fishing heroes is now fishing with youth Puettman himself has mentored in the art of fly fishing.

But that’s how fishing is, generations passing the skills of working a fly line and a love for the outdoors down the line, older to younger, and often younger to older, as mentors become friends for life.

“It’s been a privilege to work with Joey. That’s what life is all about, and that’s why I’m so enthused to work with this young fellow up here,”Krumm says. “So many kids, if they had the choice of a fishing game on the computer and getting outside to actually fish, would choose the game.”

But that’s not true of the kids in Joey’s Foundation. They’d rather pull on their orange Joey’s Fall Fly ball caps and cast a line into a creek because there’s no way a video game can capture those red leaves and glitters strewn across the water that impart the peace of a day of fishing.

Joey’s Fall Fly results

• First place team: Cloud Peak Energy; Rob Newman, adult angler; Trevor White, youth angler; guide John Sweet.

• Second place team: Landeis Ranch; Rick Landeis, adult angler; Billy Watson, youth angler; guide Brett Smith.

• Third place team: Pepsi; Shawn Buckley, adult angler; Mollie Watson, youth angler; guide Ray Johnson.

• Biggest fish: Adult — Rob Newman, 23 inches; Youth — Jacob Townsend and Nathan Hallsworth, tied at 14 inches.

Taking time for tea
SHS grad excels in FBI career

SHERIDAN — It’s been 10 years since he’s been back to Sheridan, but it’s really the same town he remembers.

Mike Rankin arrived in town Thursday afternoon to speak at the Wyoming Big Data Conference held at the former Warehouse 201 building.

“It has grown a lot,” Rankin said of Sheridan. “There are a lot of new businesses and it looks like there has been a lot of economic development, but it’s still the same old Sheridan.”

Rankin graduated from Sheridan High School in 1982 and noted that he misses being this close to the mountains and the rural atmosphere. While he’s currently based in Denver, Rankin’s career has taken him far and wide, fulfilling the promise of adventure and variety the high school version of him had hoped for.

During a career day at SHS, Rankin met with a former FBI agent who worked at a bank in town.

“From then I was hooked,” Rankin said, adding that getting a spot with the FBI became his goal as he completed his undergraduate and law degrees.

The retired agent had lured Rankin with the mission of the FBI: “… to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.”

Rankin said the international and law enforcement aspects are what sparked his interest.

The SHS graduate earned a spot with the agency in 1991 and his first assignment landed him in Salt Lake City, Utah. There he conducted a wide variety of investigations — drug trafficking, gangs, kidnappings, domestic terrorism, white collar crimes, extortions.

In 2001, he was promoted to Supervisory Special Agent and “paid his dues” in Washington, D.C., managing and coordinating drug investigations.

Rankin also served in California before being promoted to Deputy Legal Attaché in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007. He was the second in command for the FBI’s operations in Iraq.

Rankin noted that working in a combat zone allowed him to see how the military operates, and while a debate on the level of success in that campaign could carry on for hours, he was sure of one thing.

“In terms of individual efforts and what our government can bring to bear when the commander in chief says ‘do that’ is really awe inspiring,” Rankin said.

Rankin added that while the FBI team served as support for the military and in the nation building process, a primary goal was to ferret out groups and individuals who were trying to commit terrorism in the U.S. or against American interests abroad.

While he certainly learned a lot in Iraq, Rankin noted that Americans have to be careful about imposing our cultures and views on another country.

“Not that we certainly can’t help other countries and groups in a time of need or to progress, but we need to make sure we understand those cultures as well, not simply view their world through our perspective,” Rankin said.

In 2008, Rankin was promoted again and now serves as the assistant special agent in charge, overseeing the criminal and critical incident response programs in Colorado and Wyoming.

He and members of the FBI team spoke at the Wyoming Big Data Conference about data breaches and how the FBI is working to help businesses big and small protect themselves and their customers. He noted that the FBI has a large amount of responsibility in terms of investigating and preventing cyber crime, but they need help from local agencies and the private sector.

“Whether you are a small, medium or large international business, there are practices you need to adopt to protect information,” Rankin said, adding that businesses need to learn from each other and share best practices.

Each business has limits, he said, but the cost benefit of investing in protection is high and there are ways to protect data without breaking the bank.

Customers, too, can protect their information with simple steps like routinely changing passwords.

“You can’t just bump along and say ‘that will never happen to me,’” Rankin said. “You need to take basic steps to protect yourself.”

While in Sheridan, in addition to speaking at the conference, Rankin met with leaders from the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and the Sheridan Police Department.

Law enforcement pursuit of stolen vehicle ends in crash

SHERIDAN — One juvenile male was transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital this morning following a crash in which a pickup truck rolled and he was ejected from the vehicle.

The crash occurred on Interstate 90 behind Sheridan College and crews accessed the wreck from the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome parking lot.

No information on the condition of the driver was immediately available.

Sheridan Police Department Sgt. Travis Koltiska said the incident began shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday when an individual on Highland Avenue reported that his truck had been stolen. Officers later saw the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. Koltiska said the driver initially stopped, but when the SPD officer got out of his vehicle the juvenile drove north on Main Street trying to elude officers.

When the juvenile entered Interstate 90, Wyoming Highway Patrol took over as the lead agency in the pursuit and SPD followed behind in a support role.

Koltiska said when the juvenile driver was on the interstate, he ended up on the wrong side of the construction cones and in an attempt to correct that, he lost control and crashed the vehicle.

Law enforcement pursuit of stolen vehicle ends in crash

SHERIDAN — One juvenile male was transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital this morning following a crash in which a pickup truck rolled and he was ejected from the vehicle.

The crash occurred on Interstate 90 behind Sheridan College and crews accessed the wreck from the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome parking lot.

No information on the condition of the driver is immediately available.

Sheridan Police Department Sgt. Travis Koltiska said the incident began shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday when an individual on Highland Avenue reported that his truck had been stolen. Officers later saw the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop. Koltiska said the driver initially stopped, but when the SPD officer got out of his vehicle the juvenile drove north on Main Street trying to elude officers.

When the juvenile entered Interstate 90, Wyoming Highway Patrol took over as the lead agency in the pursuit and SPD followed behind in a support role.

Koltiska said when the juvenile driver was on the interstate, he ended up on the wrong side of the construction cones and in an attempt to correct that, he lost control and crashed the vehicle.

 

 

Helping teachers, students dig deeper

Trainers help SCSD1 shift paradigm of teaching

SHERIDAN — In high school, students often see equations like 2x/5=14. Most can figure out the answer because a teacher has shown them how, but they may not know why they are solving problems that way.

“They’re doing the procedure for a concept they don’t understand; it’s a ‘do it the way I showed you’ kind of teaching,” Shannon Samulski said Monday.

She and colleague Lisa Handyside of Staff Development for Educators visited Sheridan County School District 1 classrooms Monday to help coach teachers on a different way to help students learn.

The process started when SCSD1 began aligning its curriculum with the Wyoming Content and Performance Standards, which are modeled after Common Core State Standards. SCSD1 Curriculum Director Sara McGinnis said once the curriculum was revised, assessments were put in place and unit plans were developed, the district decided that teachers could use some help implementing the Eight Math Practices that were part of that curriculum.

The district contracted with SDE for $22,000.

The Eight Math Practices ask kids to persevere through problem solving, reason abstractly and quantitatively, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, model with mathematics, use appropriate tools, be precise, look for and make use of the structure and look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

In essence, the eight concepts ask kids to go beyond the “do it the way I showed you” model and really understand why they are doing math a certain way.

Both Handyside and Samulski emphasized that the change in the kind of teaching being provided for students is a paradigm shift. As kids, the teachers were not taught this way and as adults becoming teachers, they weren’t taught this way. The change doesn’t happen quickly.

“The point is to get at the meaning and the understanding behind math,” Handyside said, adding that the teachers who participated in the training were all very receptive and enthusiastic about the shift.

In sessions throughout Monday, teachers struggled to sit back and let their students work through math problems and mistakes on their own. The urge to correct mistakes and point students in the right direction is strong, but Handyside and Samulski said letting kids reason through those mistakes to get to the correct answer on their own is much more meaningful.

In a debriefing after working with students, more than one teacher remarked that it was inspiring to see how much their students knew.

Another noticeable change in the style of teaching is that it takes time. As teachers prompt students with questions to help them along, the amount of time it takes to problem solve can become extended.

“The teachers found that it is OK to do less to get more from the kids,” McGinnis said. “It made it more meaningful. Teachers still want the rigor and the preparation, but letting the kids lead their own learning and tackle deeper problems is really powerful.”

The kids responded to the different style of teaching as well. They were challenged, but they didn’t give up and they seemed to enjoy trying something new. One student, while not a ringing endorsement said the experience “wasn’t sucky,” a review considered a triumph in today’s classrooms.

This is the second time Handyside and Samulski visited SCSD1 this year. In August, they provided training for grade school math teachers with a special emphasis on the Eight Math Practices. Their return visit Monday was to demonstrate how those practices can be utilized in the classroom.

“This is about creating systemic change in the foundations of teaching,” Samulski said. “We’ll never teach math the same way we used to. We’ve made that shift in the U.S. in literacy, but not in math. It will take years.”

McGinnis said an ongoing goal for the district will be to provide continued support to teachers as they implement the new practices.

“They have all been so positive,” McGinnis said of the teachers. “They want more training.”

Old, modern mix in unique skiing culture

SHERIDAN —At first glance, the hunt may look much like one in Wyoming: a group of men up before dawn standing high on a ridge, peering down the snowy slopes below and looking for signs of elk.

But then, when an elk is spotted, this group of hunters starts hollering, and within seconds it becomes obvious that this is a different sort of hunt.

The hunters leap into the air and start careening down the slope on skis, but these are no ordinary skis, either.

These skis have been carved from a tree, steamed to bend the tip upward and covered on the bottom with horse hair a half-inch long that has been nailed into place.

As the hunters race downhill, bound on their skis with loose leather straps, they drag a long, wooden pole behind them and use it like a rudder to steer left and right on the slope.

If that weren’t enough, these hunters then pull out a lasso and whirl it over their head as they ski toward the elk that is their target. Guns are illegal in China.

“They get the lasso around the antlers and set perpendicular to the line. The elk gets pissed off and jerks left and right — like the ‘Old Man and the Sea’ — and the elk wears itself out. The skier gets dragged along for an hour or more,” National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins said. “It’s pretty damn crazy. It’s so impressive.”

Crazy and impressive, the tradition of hunting elk on skis with a lasso is also dying.

Jenkins lived with the Tuvan and Kazakh tribes, the last known people to practice the tradition deep in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia, for a month last winter and said he feels like he witnessed something that won’t be seen 25 years from now even though the tradition is depicted in pictographs dating back to at least 5,000 B.C.

Jenkins, who lives in Laramie when he’s not trekking the world on assignment for National Geographic, will present “Last of the First Skiers” detailing his adventures at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Whitney Presentation Hall at Sheridan College.

Although there is debate about when and where skiing was invented — Norway tries to claim the distinction of being first — Jenkins said anthropologic evidence has carbon dated a ski found in a Russian dig at 8,000 years old. Since the Tuvan people live in a remote mountain range where China touches Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russian, it can’t be denied that they may well be one of the first ski cultures in the world.

The Tuvans are pastoralists who raise horses to sell to the Chinese meat market for a living. They live in one-bedroom cabins in the winter in “villages” that may be comprised of only three to five cabins. In the summer, they move their herds to the high pastures and live in yurts made of goat hair.

“Imagine Sheridan 100 years ago,” Jenkins said about the tiny cabins heated with a small wood stove.

But the comparisons to 100-year-old frontier days living in the West fizzle out there. The cabins are solar powered with enough electricity to power a light bulb, or more likely, an iPhone with Internet access.

Like many cultures around the world, the Tuvan and Kazakh tribes are striving to bridge the gap between their ancient traditions and the lure of modernization.

“It’s this bizarre mix of ancient traditions with the most modern cell phone. I see it everywhere. It’s the way the world is now, a mix of new and old,” Jenkins said.

There are approximately 20,000 Tuvans who live deep in the Altai Mountains of Central Asia now, and only a couple hundred still ski, Jenkins said. While the allure of skiing has not died — youngsters were eager to show Jenkins their skills with the ancient horse-hair skis and the Taiyak, the pole used to steer — the allure of the pastoral lifestyle is threatened as young people move to a big city to attend school and get a professional job.

But, for now, the tradition is alive and when there’s enough snow — last winter was the first in four years that enough snow fell to track the elk and successfully ski — a few hundred of some of the world’s first skiers will hit the slopes with lasso in hand, peering around and looking for signs of elk.

• Check out the “Last of the First Skiers” presentation with National Geographic writer Mark Jenkins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Whitney Presentation Hall at Sheridan College. The program is free and open to the public.

Local groups celebrate anniversary of Wilderness legislation

SHERIDAN — Just a few weeks ago, Wyoming Wilderness Association Executive Director Carolyn Schroth was speaking with a woman from France who had moved to Wyoming in great part for its beauty. A vivacious, cosmopolitan woman, she told Schroth what made her come: “We don’t have these wide open spaces, and we don’t have these forests in France where you can feel so free.”

It was a simple statement, but to Schroth it represented a truth many Wyoming residents take for granted.

What Wyoming has — mountains, streams, plains and deserts, places wild, quiet and beloved — is rare.

And Schroth believes what Wyoming has is worth preserving through Congressional designations of Wilderness, which offer the most protection to an area, or through other designations that still value the pristine beauty in the state.

She is not alone.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sept. 3, 1964, signing of the national Wilderness Act, which established a “National Wilderness Preservation System for the permanent good of the whole people”by laying out the process to place lands untrammeled by man under federal protection from motorized access and development such as logging, drilling and construction of roads.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Wyoming Wilderness Act, a statewide wilderness designation “package” that placed approximately 900,000 acres of Wyoming lands under protection from development, including the nearly 190,000-acre Cloud Peak Wilderness in the Bighorn Mountains.

The anniversaries of wilderness have been celebrated around the state — Sheridan resident Martha Tate held a birthday party for Cloud Peak this summer, complete with party hats and kazoos — but they have also been a time to examine the current status of wilderness and plan future actions that will preserve the lands in Wyoming “where you can feel so free.”

Celebrating 50

On Sept. 3, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, providing a legal definition for wilderness and placing 9.1 million acres of federal land into protection from development.

The signing of the act came eight years after wilderness advocate Howard Zahniser wrote the act and it went through 66 revisions seeking a painstaking balance between saving wild lands and allowing for growth and development across the nation.

Schroth said she believes one of the best ways to celebrate 50 years of wilderness is to honor the long-term vision for wilderness held by those who made the Wilderness Act reality. That vision is seen in the definition of Wilderness with a capital “W.”

On Wednesday, the University of Wyoming hosted a panel discussion on “Wyoming Wilderness History, Politics and Perceptions” to mark the 50th and 30th anniversaries of wilderness. Panelists included rancher Joel Bousman, WWA co-founder Bart Koehler, owner and operator of the HF Bar Guest Ranch near Buffalo Margi Schroth, retired U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson — a sponsor of the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act — and Ralph Swain, wilderness program manager for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service.

Swain outlined what is meant by Wilderness. With a small “w,” wilderness is defined as an uninhabited and uncultivated area and carries emotional and even spiritual meanings for people. With a big “W,” Wilderness is land designated by Congress as worthy of protection from development.

 The act itself defined wilderness “as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

Untrammeled, Swain noted, means letting the land remain self-willed by the forces of nature, not necessarily untrampled by man.

Schroth said that distinction is important to note because many people think a wilderness designation “locks up” land from use, whereas wilderness can be used for hiking, camping, fishing and many other outdoor pursuits that provide quiet, non-motorized recreation. Schroth said it is also important to note that with only 5 percent of Wyoming’s total acreage being designated wilderness, there is land available for other pursuits like mountain biking and ORV adventures. Wyoming’s wilderness comprises 3 percent of the nation’s total wilderness acreage.

The Wilderness Act includes four requirements for land to become wilderness: It must be affected primarily by forces of nature; it must offer outstanding opportunities for solitude; it must be at least 5,000 acres in size; and it may offer scientific, educational, scenic or historical value.

What started as 9 million acres 50 years ago now numbers nearly 110 million acres. As civilization spreads, those celebrating 50 years of wilderness protection are hoping more acres will continue to be added for “the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness,” as stated in the act itself.

Questioning 30

Thirty years ago before the Wyoming Wilderness Act was passed, Wyoming had 2.3 million acres of designated wilderness mainly in the northwest corner of the state. Advocates like Koehler, who co-founded the WWA, said there were many other areas around the state deserving of the designation and began to urge then Wyoming Congressmen Sen. Alan Simpson, Sen. Ed Herschler and Rep. Malcolm Wallop to push for more.

At the forum Wednesday, Simpson admitted that the general feeling at the time was that Wyoming had “given at the office,”so to speak, and already had plenty of wilderness areas with Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, which are not officially designated wilderness.

However, Koehler and others kept pleading, and eventually the legislators sat down around a map of Wyoming with a pen and drew circles around areas they deemed worthy of preserving.

“The people said, ‘That’s an odd way to legislate,’ and I said, ‘all of legislating is odd,’” Simpson said.

Questions aside of whether designating wilderness was handled appropriately or not, the act did add another 800,000 acres of wilderness lands in the state.

However, many in Wyoming are wondering why there have been no new wilderness designations in the 30 years since passage of the Wyoming Wilderness Act.

With Wyoming’s vast lands, it may not seem like there is a need, but Schroth pointed to one local example to indicate that development is eating away at potential wilderness areas.

The Rock Creek Recommended Wilderness, located at the northeast corner of the Cloud Peak Wilderness, was supposed to be included in the 1984 designations. It was 54,000 acres at that time and met all the requirements. It is unclear why it was lopped off from the final designation, but, Schroth noted, the 30 years since have brought change.

Rock Creek Recommended Wilderness is now only 34,000 acres in size following studies done for the 2005 revised management plan for the Forest Service. Roads have been built into the wilderness, compromising 20,000 acres of land that can no longer become wilderness.

As wilderness advocates look toward the future, many still hope for more wilderness designations for places like the Rock Creek Recommended Wilderness. However, Schroth said, they are beginning to see the value of using other designations like National Scenic Areas and Roadless Areas to preserve land that may not qualify for full wilderness designation. It is likely efforts to protect Wyoming’s lands will become more diverse.

Schroth said she realizes balance is needed to address the desires of people who use ORVs and those who seek vehicle access to beautiful spots and she said she hopes all who enjoy being in the wilderness will be able to work together to both enjoy and preserve it for future generations.

As Swain said at Wednesday’s forum: “I just want you to listen. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the future. That’s the voice of the future, your kids’ kids. When you think about wilderness, think of the voice you’re not even hearing yet. … What defines Wyoming is your wildness, your wildlife, your wild country. It is you. It is your character. You should be very proud of these areas.”

Teacher of the Year Poulsen hopes to reach out to parents, teachers, Legislature

SHERIDAN — After 24 years of teaching for Sheridan County School District 2, eighth-grade history teacher Lorna Poulsen has a couple lessons left she hopes to teach, but these ones are not for her students.

Poulsen was recently selected SCSD2 District Teacher of the Year and has centered her multiple speeches and interviews — as she worked her way into the top three candidates for State of Wyoming Teacher of the Year — on two platforms.

The first group of people she hopes to reach is the public, with the goal of educating them on how teachers use the Common Core in their classrooms.

Poulsen supports the education initiative that has become somewhat controversial at all levels of government because it stresses relevance, rigor and the four Cs: creativity, communication, critical thinking and collaboration.

“Some people have the misconception that the Common Core has given us our curriculum that we have to follow but that’s not true,” she said. “They’ve given us minimum standards that our kids have to be at, but our team sits down and develops the lesson to get our kids where they need to be.”

She added that the best analogy she has found to help others understand Common Core better is that of building a house.

“It’s only a building block. If you are building a house you have minimum codes you have to meet for electricity and plumbing and insulation. You can have the best insulation that money can buy, if you choose, but you just can’t fall below,” she said. “Common Core is nothing more than that, just minimum codes that teachers have to meet across the United States and how we meet them is totally up to us as a team.”

Poulsen’s second lesson is one she hopes to teach legislators: All educators, administrators and school board members need to be held accountable for implementing proven best practices that are guaranteed to improve student learning.

“Why do we fail to hold school districts accountable for implementing best practices? Because in other professions — law, medicine, engineering — there’s consequences for refusing to implement research proven practices,” she said. “Doctors are slapped with malpractice suits, attorneys can be disbarred, so where’s that brand of accountability in education?”

Poulsen added that she feels strongly about this accountability for districts rather than solely holding teachers accountable for student scores.

“I think student scores absolutely have a place in evaluations but they are only a small place,” she said. “It should be a multi-layered approach.”

The layers of the approach, Poulsen said, should include professional learning communities with teachers getting together and figuring out what their students need and what their best practices are to meet those needs.  Principals should also be providing evaluations with actionable feedback where the principal reviews the teachers and tells them what they can do to be a better educator.  Peer-to-peer mentoring, when teachers go into each others’ rooms and identify what each can do to be the best teachers they can be, should also be included, Poulsen said.

“And then finally add that last layer of test scores and analyze those test scores,” she added. “But to just hold us accountable for our student test scores, I don’t think is appropriate.”

Poulsen developed a passion for history her senior year of high school when a dynamic teacher turned her on to it, but she said the lesson she has learned throughout her career is that her true passion is simply teaching in general.

She said she could teach anything and as a testament to that, she also teaches pregnant women Lamaze and coaches birthing.

“At one point I had six or seven kids in my class that I had helped coach into the world,” she said with a smile.

These days Poulsen spends just half her day instructing students and the other half working with teachers as an instructional facilitator.

Sheridan Junior High School Principal Mitch Craft described her as a culture builder, a mentor and a cutting edge professional.

“The kids like her,” he said. “They actually look forward to going to her class.”

Poulsen said though she will be eligible for retirement soon, she does not know what the future holds for her.

However, with a husband teaching art at Sheridan High School, two children in education in Bozeman, Montana, and a lifetime of passion rooting her to education, she knows whatever she does will stem from that.

“I want to finish out strong, I want to finish as a leader,” she said. “I’m trying to decide what they next step is…I can’t see not being an educator so no matter what the outcome is of the state teacher of the year I still hope to be somewhere where I’m teaching. Maybe it will be teaching workshops for teachers.”

What about my garden?

SHERIDAN — The predicted snow and freezing temperatures no doubt have gardeners around the region trying to decide the best course of action to protect their veggies and other crops that they’ve babied along all summer.

UW Extension Agent Scott Hininger said measures to protect gardens come down to personal preference, but he did recommend doing something to care for your greens.

If the temperatures drop only into the 30s, a cover such as a tarp or a blanket — or a commercial frost blanket — will protect a majority of plants. If the temperatures drop to the mid-20s or lower, it is a good idea to harvest the fruit and vegetables before the cold weather hits.

The predicted low for Thursday night is 22 degrees.

However, since it’s only one night, Hininger said with a good covering, most crops will survive.

Cold season crops like carrots, onions and potatoes will likely be okay with a few nights of freezing temperatures. Their leaves may frost, but the vegetables should be fine.

More vulnerable plants like corn, tomatoes, peppers, squash, pumpkins and beans will need to be well covered or harvested. The more insulating the cover, the better. Blankets work well, although tarps or garbage bags should also do the trick.

The most effective way to cover plants is to prop the cover so it is 1-2 inches above the leaves of the plant. Leaves that touch the tarp or cover may freeze. This will be indicated by blackened leaves. The vegetables should be okay, even if the leaves do get frosted.

Use stakes, cages or other support systems to keep covers off the leaves.

Hininger said the ground temperature is still warm enough that it will heat up the plants under covers.

Hininger said apple trees will be vulnerable to breakage due to the snow resting on the fruit. He suggested harvesting, if possible, or shaking snow off branches as it falls. Apples should be safe to temperatures in the low-30s.

While the plants will not like this weather, and may be stunted a bit, Hininger said there are likely 30 or more growing days left in the season if they can get through this cold snap. Once the sun is back out and the air warmed up again, remove coverings so plants can soak up the rays again.

Are students going hungry?

SHERIDAN — With the recent announcement from Sheridan County School District 1 that officials have withdrawn their secondary schools from the National School Lunch Program in favor of locally sourced foods and higher calorie counts, many students, parents and community members in SCSD2 have been questioning why their schools, particularly Sheridan High School, have not followed suit.

In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued new standards for the school lunch program that increased the amount of fruits and vegetables served, emphasized whole grain-rich foods, reduced sodium and limited total calories that can be served to students.

School lunch programs must follow the nutritional standards set forth in order to receive federal funds and food commodities.

For SCSD2, this is a sizeable contribution, with more than 37 percent of their students districtwide qualifying for free or reduced lunch. Business Manager Roxy Taft said that is the main reason the district cannot exit the federal program.

In the 2013-14 school year, SCSD2 received $506,634.93 from the federal government to help offset the cost of the 302,777 school lunches they served, of which 159,883 were free or at a reduced cost. They also received $83,087.74 worth of federal food commodities.

“We looked at it (withdrawing) seriously this year, mainly for our high school because of the stringent calorie limits and what goes on at the high school level,” Taft said. “We knew some of the tighter regulations were coming — it’s been a change over three years now — and we did cost out over the summer to see if we could ever afford to take our kids off the federal lunch program. The numbers just didn’t work out for how we would help the free and reduced kids, how much we would have to charge the paying students and how much the district would have to contribute.”

SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said his district is slightly less subsidized than SCSD2 with 24.01 percent of students on free or reduced lunches — 18.1 are free and 5.9 are considered reduced — districtwide.

While parents have been pushing for more calories and more locally grown foods, their reasons may be due to incorrect information circulating about the program.

Taft stated the district does not agree with some of the restrictions in the federal regulations and acknowledged that some of the kids are leaving school hungry, but she also knows that with what the school offers, this does not have to be the case.

Regulations state that students must take at minimum a half-cup of either fruit or vegetables as well as two of the five components offered — meat (or meat substitute), grains, milk, fruit or vegetable.

“Kids are kids and on any given day they might not choose to take all five components,” she said, “but the cooks offer it and the kids get to make the choice.”

And as the meals have been designed to fit within federal restrictions, SHS students have the ability to take everything that is offered to them in line, including the five components and an all-you-can-eat salad bar, all for only $3.

Edith Green is head cook at SHS and she said it is not uncommon to see a student only take one half-cup fruit cup, a milk serving and a breadstick just to get through the line.

“What we try to explain to parents is this is not the cooks saying you can only have this much, they can have all the fruits and vegetables they want,” she said. “It’s training the students, but a lot of it has to start at home. We can provide it, but if they’re not eating it at home they are not going to adapt.”

With the caloric limitations for high school students set at 750-850 per lunch, the program brings calorie consumption closer to the Federal Drug Administration suggested daily intake of 2,000 calories for an average person.

Supervisor of Nutrition Programs at the Wyoming Department of Education Tamra Jackson said that the program is not just focused on reduced calorie intake, but overall health.

“Yes there are restrictions, but it’s just trying to spread the calories out among fruits and vegetables and not have it all be in one area,” Jackson said.

“Are you going to be able to have a kid look at a new food option the first time and say, ‘oh good I’m excited for these changes’? No. It takes 15 exposures to anything to form a new habit. But this is a good program to get these fresh fruits and vegetables to these students.”

Jackson said she understands it is going to take time for students and parents alike to form new habits as parents struggle to understand why their kids are complaining of hunger.

“Recently a parent from Sheridan called me and said their son was only served a cheesestick for lunch and came home hungry,” Jackson said. “I walked them through how the program works and she called me back the next day and apologized and said it was not true; their child was not only given a cheesestick, it’s just what he chose. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.”

Jackson said there are many instances of individuals misunderstanding the rules of the food program. For example, some believe that a la carte items count against their child’s caloric limits and that if a district wanted to source local foods like SCSD1 they would have to exit the federal program.

Jackson said a la carte items must meet the federal “smart snack” requirements, which is done by entering the proposed item to sell in a “calculator” online that will approve or deny the item. A la carte food carts or lines can carry and sell any number of meals, snacks and drinks that have been “smart snack” approved with no limit to how much the student may purchase.

Should a student choose — and have the money — items like $1 corn dogs can subsidize or replace their lunch of the day and salad bar as they are considered vendors in the school and are not part of the reimbursable lunch.

Additionally, Jackson clarified that SCSD1 did not withdraw from the program in order to do farm-to-table food, as that may be done while still qualifying for the federal lunch program.

“We’re supporting statewide districts to do farm-to-table. We have a farm-to-table task force we are working on in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture trying to get schools and farmers together so they can understand what each side needs to do to make it happen,” Jackson said. “Districts can make that decision and still be on the National School Lunch Program. If they sent bids out and picked what they wanted, they could certainly go through local farmers.”

If districts do decide the federal program is not working for them, they may choose any school or level to withdraw individually or leave the program as an entire district.

To date, SCSD1 has withdrawn only their secondary schools, Lincoln County School District 1 in Kemmerer has withdrawn just their high school and Park County School District 16, which is Meeteetse, has withdrawn all together.

“We’re trying really hard to come up with kid-friendly menus that are compliant,” Taft said. “It’s a constant battle, but we have a fine bunch of head cooks that try really hard to serve the best lunch to our students possible.”

And if parents are still unsure of how the program works or whether or not their child is getting enough food, they can send them to school with any food they like or as Green says, they can come join them for lunch.

“I would like parents to come experience what goes on in my lunchroom,” she said. “I will buy them lunch so they can see how it works and experience what is offered and also what is wasted.”

Uberbrew nabs People’s Choice award

Cups line the tables at the Sheridan County of Commerce Brewfest Saturday. Uberbrew out of Billings took home the People’s Choice Award while judges picked Prairie Fire Brewing out of Gillette for best Amber Ale.

Pulling out all the stops: Local pipe organ oldest in Wyoming

SHERIDAN — It is a sound that you feel, more than you hear. If you are lucky enough to sit in the pews of one of several Sheridan area churches that are home to a pipe organ, then your Sunday services are surely improved with the addition of this amazing instrument.

The complex, layered music that comes from a pipe organ can take the mood of a wedding, funeral or Sunday church service from mournful to joyful, and vice versa, in a matter of seconds.

“When you hear the pipe organ and you are sitting out there singing, you feel it,” local organist Gary Bowers said. “I compare it to when you are at a parade and the band comes marching by; you can kind of feel that. Plus, in theory, they make it easier for people to sing. You are playing multiple pitches. That higher pitch helps them hear their note and some people find it easier to sing to.”

Whether it helps you find your note, or for some us, drowns out the sound of us singing the wrong note, a pipe organ creates a special musical atmosphere whenever it is played.

Bowers has been playing organ on a full-time or part-time basis at First Congregational Church downtown since 1988. The organ is a Hutchings pipe organ that was installed in the church during the fall of 1913.

It cost $7,000 to purchase, with most of the money raised by one of the church’s women’s groups, and $1,500 of the cost donated by Andrew Carnegie. It is unique in that it was installed fully electrified, while other pipe organs in Sheridan were not electrified until the 1950s.

“Just like with cars, there are different levels of quality for organs,” Bowers explained. “They are made for a specific job. Each organ is pretty much unique, for the most part. Hutchings at the time was considered the Cadillac of organ builders at the turn of the century. This wasn’t a run-of-the-mill organ.”

According to a fact sheet provided by the church, “Mr. Hutchings died in June of 1913, and his company subsequently closed up in 1917 which makes this one of the last Hutchings organs. There are very few Hutchings organs in the western part of the United States. Because of Hutchings quality, uniqueness and scarcity, the pipe organs they built are regarded as having significant historical value.”

Bowers said he is aware of at least one other Hutchings organ still in regular use in our area, at a Masonic Lodge in Helena, Montana. This “sister” organ was commissioned for the Consistory Temple from the Hutchings Company on Dec. 21, 1914.

Sadly, many churches have removed pipe organs from their churches over the years and replaced them with electric versions or no organ at all. The Organ Historical Society has estimated that only 50 pipe organs remain in use in Wyoming.

“Saint Peters Episcopal Church and the First Presbyterian Church are the two remaining pipe organs in Sheridan,” said Bowers, who has played on all of them. “They are thought to be the oldest pipe organs still in existence and playing in the state of Wyoming. That is based on research by the Organ Historical Society. There have been other organs in this town that they just decided to scrap or sell off. Luckily these three churches have kept theirs.”

The sound an organ produces is different than that of a piano. On a piano, the pianist can control the volume of the music by pressing harder or lighter on the keys to produce loud or soft notes. There are two ways to control the sound on an organ. Stops, which are components the organist uses to admit pressurized air into the pipes, can be pulled out to admit more air through more pipes and therefore more sound to come forth. The second way is through an expression pedal which is operated by the organist’s foot. It opens and closes “shades” of the organ to increase or dampen the sound.

“The expression ‘pulling out all the stops,’ that came from a pipe organ, because if you pull out all the stops on an organ you have all the pipes playing,” Bowers noted. “You wouldn’t normally do that, but that is where the expression came from.”

Bowers said it is not unusual for a pipe organ to last 100 years or more, if they are properly maintained, noting there are some in use in other areas of the world that were built in the 1500s or 1600s. He said the three churches in Sheridan share the cost of professional maintenance that is done twice a year by a company from Denver (with Bowers’ assistance). The same company has been servicing at least First Congregational Church’s organ since the 1930s.

“First of all, you have to tune it,” he said, about the maintenance requirements. “As the temperature goes up and down, so does the tuning of the pipes. It is really important when you tune, that you tune for the average temperature of the sanctuary on a Sunday morning. That’s the goal. If the sanctuary gets hotter, the sound gets sharper. As it gets colder the sound gets flatter. That’s because of the expansion of metal. You have pipes from about the size of a pencil to 16-feet long, and so as the temperature rises or lowers and they go sharp or flat and a small pipe is going to be much more sensitive to that. Then there are always little things on these instruments that are 100 years old — there might be a switch that isn’t right or an air valve is stuck or something like that.”

In addition to fewer organs, there are fewer organists these days. Many organists start out on piano, which Bowers did, but scaling up to an organ can take time and effort, as well as a helpful instructor.

“I’ve just always had an interest in it and one of my piano teachers was an organist so I learned a lot from her and I read a lot,” Bowers said. “The thing for me is, I am not afraid to experiment with something. I just try random things sometimes and see how it sounds. It is something I enjoy doing.”

Cloud Peak announces sale of share of Decker Mine

SHERIDAN — Cloud Peak Energy announced Thursday that on Aug. 29 the company agreed to sell its 50 percent interest in the Decker Mine in Montana to Ambre Energy.

The sale agreement includes all the related assets and that Ambre will assume all reclamation and other liabilities, giving Ambre 100 percent ownership of the mine. Upon completing the deal, Ambre Energy would fully replace Cloud Peak’s approximately $66.7 million in outstanding reclamation and lease bonds for the mine.

The closing of the transaction is currently anticipated to occur during 2014.

Upon completion of the transaction, Ambre Energy will also grant Cloud Peak Energy an option for up to 7 million metric tonnes per year of its throughput capacity at the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export facility.

The proposed new coal export facility at Millennium Bulk Terminals, which is owned 62 percent by Ambre Energy and 38 percent by Arch Coal, is currently in the permitting stage. It is being developed in two stages. The first stage is planned to have capacity of 25 million metric tonnes per year with the second stage taking annual capacity to 44 million tonnes. Cloud Peak Energy’s options cover up to 3 million tonnes per year of Ambre’s share of the first stage and 4 million tonnes per year of its share of the second stage. Cloud Peak Energy’s throughput capacity will have an initial term of 10 years, with four renewal options for five-year terms.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Ambre Energy, which positions both our companies to meet anticipated future growth in Asian thermal coal demand,” said Colin Marshall, Cloud Peak Energy’s president and chief executive officer. “We look forward to completing the transaction in the near future and, longer term, to shipping our low sulfur Spring Creek coal to Asian markets through the Millennium Bulk Terminals facility. We wish Ambre Energy every success with the development of the terminal and with their strategy to develop the Decker mine.”

Crews working today to help Sheridan woman down from Bighorns

BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — The Sheridan couple that had been missing in the Bighorn Mountains has been found, according to officials from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.

Blake Fuhriman, 23, and his girlfriend, Alissa DeVille, 22, left last Thursday to hike and camp in the mountains. They planned to camp at Bighorn Reservoir about 25 miles southwest of Sheridan.

After that, they planned to climb nearby 13,005-foot Black Tooth Mountain on Friday before heading back out on Saturday, Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek said.

Black Tooth Mountain is the second-highest peak in the Bighorns and located a couple miles north of 13,166-foot Cloud Peak.

“It’s a very remote, rugged area of Johnson County,” Kozisek said. “It’s all mountainous, rocky terrain.”

Kozisek said Wednesday that crews began the search in the early morning hours Monday after it was reported that the pair didn’t return to Sheridan on time. More than 50 people assisted with the search effort, including search and rescue teams from Sheridan, Big Horn, Washakie and Johnson counties. The Air National Guard and Civil Air Patrol also assisted in the search efforts.

Kozisek said late Wednesday afternoon that both individuals were found earlier that day alive. Fuhriman was transported to the Johnson County hospital, but is in good shape, Kozisek said. DeVille has a leg injury and is still on the mountain, but Kozisek said she is with six search and rescue officials and crews are working to get her off the mountain as soon as possible Thursday.

Kozisek said crews would need to conduct a high-angle rescue to get her off the mountain.

The Johnson County sheriff said the couple had found themselves in a bind after summiting Black Tooth Mountain; they couldn’t make their way back down. When Fuhriman saw the helicopter and plane flying overhead he knew crews were out searching for the couple and made his way to a lower elevation to connect with search and rescue crews.

Crews extinguish house fire on Welton Lane

SHERIDAN – At just after 3 a.m. Monday fire crews responded to a structure fire at 16 Welton Lane.

When crews from the Goose Valley Fire Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue arrived on scene they found the house completely involved in fire. Firefighters had the blaze extinguished within 30 minutes.

Crews remained on scene for several hours to check for and extinguish hot spots.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the fire was investigated and found to be a pan left on the stove with the burner on.

The structure was ruled a complete loss.

Rocky Mountain Ambulance and Sheridan County sheriff’s deputies were also on scene.

Cowboys Hold Off Montana After Two First-Half Turnovers

LARAMIE — A nearly sold out season opener for the University of Wyoming football team ended with only a handful of diehard fans left in the stands when the final whistle was blown. Two lightning delays and on-again-off-again rain sent most fans to the exits at halftime. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to watch the Cowboy’s good half of football.

In their first matchup since 1997, it took everything the Cowboys had to hold off the Montana Grizzlies on Saturday in Laramie. After a made field goal put the Cowboys up 3-0 early, two costly turnovers put them down 6-3 at the half. Wyoming marched into Montana territory early in the second quarter but a sack/fumble led to a Montana touchdown on the ensuing possession.

Wide receiver Ryan Burke tossed a 26-yard touchdown to Josh Janssen on a flea-flicker to give the Grizzlies the lead. A blocked punt later in the quarter put the Cowboys in prime scoring position once again, putting them on the Montana nine yard line. Quarterback Colby Kirkegaard, who struggled hitting his targets all game, committed his second turnover of the half, an interception in the back of the end zone.

As Wyoming struggled to find the end zone in the first half, first-year head coach Craig Bohl faced even more adversity when rain began to pour onto the field and delay the start of the second half.

“There was a lot of adversity to deal with,” Bohl said. “I personally have never been through that many rain delays, which apparently is common practice around here.”

The 25-minute weather delay at halftime may have been exactly what Wyoming needed, though. After the game’s first flag — a Montana defensive pass interference call — was thrown with 6:40 to go in the third quarter, the Wyoming offense finally got in an offensive rhythm. When a flag that was thrown on a horse collar penalty landed in Wyoming fullback Drew Van Maanen’s jersey on the same possession, it must have been an omen. Shaun Wick took the ensuing handoff five yards for a score and the score and a four-point lead.

The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the Grizzlies’ next possession, and a 58-yard D.J. May touchdown run put the Cowboys ahead 17-6 at the end of the quarter. The Grizzlies added six more on a 16-yard pass in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late for the visiting squad. The Cowboys ran out the clock, and the scoreboard read 17-12 in favor of the home team as the final seconds ticked away.

It was the ground game that separated the Cowboys from their opponent. Wick led the way for the Cowboys with 134 yards and a touchdown on the ground. May chipped in 96 yards and a score of his own, as well.

Linebacker Mark Nzeocha was the standout performer for a stout Wyoming defense that held the Grizzlies to only 42 yards rushing. Nzeocha racked in 12 tackles, including eight solo tackles and one for a loss. He also tacked on a sack and three pass breakups. His work earned him Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Wyoming will play the team’s first night game of the season when Air Force comes into War Memorial Stadium Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.

Broncs whomp Laramie in season opener

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan Broncs ran the football all over the field on Friday night. Literally.

The Broncs 49-6 blowout of the Laramie Plainsmen was capped off by a 65-yard Coy Steel punt return for a touchdown. After a few botched punts by Laramie throughout the game, another line drive punt barely got off the ground before Steel scooped it like he was fielding a bad hop at shortstop.

While the touchdown went into the box score as a 65-yard return, it was probably closer to 130, as Steel started on the Laramie sideline and worked his way across the field, juking tacklers along the way, eventually strolling across the goal line unhindered.

That score was just the icing on the cake for a game that the Broncs dominated from the opening kickoff. Riley Sessions took a direct snap for a 17-yard touchdown on the Broncs’ opening drive of the game. Joe Shassetz and Colbey Bruney added two more times to give the Broncs a nice 23-0 cushion at the half.

It was Shassetz again who started things off for Sheridan in the second half. After giving up a big passing play that put the Plainsmen in the redzone, the Broncs forced a turnover on downs, only to go three-and-out themselves.

On the next defensive possession, Shassetz made a great read on a quick out-route that he snagged out of the air and took it 63 yards to the house.

It was Sheridan all the way.

The Broncs ran the ball 26 times for 199 yards and added another 129 in the air. While head coach Don Julian was clearly happy with his team’s effort, one stat stood out to him more than rushing or passing yards: penalties.

Julian’s Broncs drew 11 flags for 98 yards, something he says definitely needs to be fixed moving forward.

“We absolutely have to clean that up,” Julian said of the penalties. “Our margin of error is very tight on many Friday nights.”

The margin of error wasn’t tight at all in the season opener, though. The Broncs only punted three times while forcing six and blocking another. They ran nine less plays than their opponent but totaled 137 more yards.

The Plainsmen were simply outplayed, but Julian isn’t going to settle with the win. He knows there’s still a lot to learn moving forward.

“There was a lot of positives,” he said. “At the end of the night, though, the greatest thing is, we’ve got some tremendous improvement that’s going to happen, too.”

The Broncs will have their first road test of the season next Friday when they travel to Kelly Walsh, a team that is coming off an opening night 54-0 blowout loss at the hands of Gillette.

Crews battle blaze at ACE Radiator

SHERIDAN — Crews from Sheridan Fire-Rescue and the Goose Valley Fire Department responded to a fire that started at ACE Radiator late Thursday afternoon.

SFR Chief Terry Lenhart said one building occupant suffered from minor smoke inhalation, but did not require medical treatment. No other injuries were reported.

Lenhart said the fire, which filled the skies over the building with thick black smoke, appeared to start in a corner of the building that had some equipment stored in it. The fire burned up from the equipment and penetrated the roof around some of the vents. Crews remained on scene for several hours to check for hot spots and to conduct the origin and cause investigation. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Lenhart said the building sustained significant damage, primarily to the west portion of the building, but will not be a complete loss.

Officials from Rocky Mountain Ambulance were also on scene and Sheridan police officers and sheriff’s deputies assisted with traffic control, closing a portion of Fifth and Custer streets adjacent to the fire while the crews worked.

Barn full of history

Horse trainer Gus Whitelaw of St. Louis, Missouri, talks about the facility Wednesday during a public event at The Brinton Barn on the Quarter Circle A Ranch near the Brinton Museum. The historic barn was built by Bradford Brinton in 1928. After Brinton’s death, the Wallop family leased the barn to dress their horses for playing polo at the polo club adjacent to the barn. The barn is currently being leased to the Flying H Ranch.

Days of the milkman aren’t bygone

SHERIDAN — In much of the nation, it’s been a couple generations since those “remember when” days of the milkman bringing fresh milk to the door in glass jars, but a milkman in northeast Wyoming has resurrected those bygone days for more than 125 families in the area.

Frank Wallis drives a large pickup truck instead of a delivery van and wears a Carhart coat and ball cap rather than a white uniform, but he’s still “the milkman” to Wyoming residents who are grateful for the chance to drink milk straight from a cow they can see and touch. That is, if they drive to the tiny town of Recluse in northern Campbell County where Wallis operates EZ Rocking Ranch, a source for locally raised grass fed beef, pastured chickens and eggs, free range turkeys, pastured pork and, of course, fresh milk.

Every Tuesday, Wallis delivers fresh, raw milk in glass half-gallon jars to Gillette, and every Friday he makes the loop from Buffalo to Story, Big Horn, Clearmont, Sheridan and the smaller towns in between.

On a recent Friday in Sheridan, Wallis pulled his pickup truck into the driveway of the house where deliveries are made and began unloading cooler after blue cooler filled with jars of milk. More than a dozen regular customers showed up, paid Wallis for their milk and chit-chatted about a variety of topics of common interest: homemade cheese, how the cows were doing, an upcoming conference about living on the land.

Each customer owns a share of a cow in Wallis’ herd of 17 dairy cows, which is the only way they can legally consume the raw, unpasteurized milk according to a Wyoming Department of Agriculture regulation. The rule was revised in fall of 2012 to allow multiple people to own shares of a dairy animal and consume and offer for consumption to friends and family milk from their animal.

The regulation formerly forbade sale or delivery of unpasteurized milk or milk products to anyone. It was originally revised to say that a sole owner could drink the milk and offer it for consumption to friends and family but was further revised following a large outcry from residents involved in cow sharing to allow multiple owners of one dairy animal.

“Because they own those cows, they can then drink what those cows produce, which is these cooler loads of fresh, luscious, creamy, raw milk,” Wallis said.

 

The milkman

Wallis grew up on the ranch near Recluse with his sister, former state Rep. Sue Wallis, who died unexpectedly in January of this year but was an advocate in the Legislature for locally grown food. He began his cow share program to produce raw milk shortly after the failure of the Wyoming Food Freedom Act in 2011.

The failure of the act, which would have legislatively legalized cow sharing, made Wallis so mad that he began talking to customers who bought eggs and grass-fed beef from him and found out that some of his customers were driving from Gillette to Colorado to purchase raw milk.

“They’re more likely to die in a car accident going to get their milk than they are from their milk,” Wallis said. “There have been zero deaths due to raw milk for a long time.”

Three families asked Wallis to keep and milk cows for them since they lived in town and had no way to keep their own cow. Wallis wasn’t thrilled with the idea right away because he had a full-time job. However, the families kept discussing the idea and eventually purchased two dairy cows — named How and Now from the movie, “My Fair Lady” with Audrey Hepburn.

Word spread about the cow share program, How and Now had daughters Daisy and Kate, and Wallis’s dairy herd grew.

Peaches, Cream, Pudding, Sugar, Will and Kate all joined the herd. Will and Kate are two English cows named after the royal Will and Kate who got married around the time they joined the herd. Will is now the herd bull, and Kate is a milk cow.

The herd is now 17 cows, although only 11 are currently producing milk. Wallis milks each cow about nine months of the year then gives them a three-month vacation — something he, himself, has not taken for about five years unless you count a day away from milking to pick up a pig in Montana, he said with a laugh.

Wallis spends four to five hours per day from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. milking each cow individually with a vacuum pump that imitates a calf sucking on the mother’s udder. The milk goes straight from the udder to an enclosed can, which is transported to what used to be the kitchen in the bunkhouse but has now become the dairy room.

Wallis, who often has interns working with him who want to learn how he produces fresh food, pours the milk from the cans through a filter and into sanitized half-gallon jars. The jars are immediately placed in an ice bath to quickly chill the milk then refrigerated until the once-a-week delivery.

When not milking cows, Wallis raises calves that will grow up to replace the current dairy cows and cares for pigs, chickens and beef cows and harvests eggs, working sun up to sun down to provide residents of northeast Wyoming with fresh, local food.

“I’ve retired; I’m now at leisure except for the milking cows and growing pigs, and chickens and beef cattle. Actually I think I work harder now than when I had a job,” Wallis said, laughing.

But he doesn’t mind the hard work.

“It’s great pleasure to see some of these kids, some of them are suffering from things like autism and things like that where the enzymes and the good proteins and the good nourishment in this milk is actually helping some of these kids,” Wallis added. “I’ve had people who are recovering from cancer start to drink this milk, and they’re actually gaining a little weight. Those kind of things feel really good. I don’t know if you can put exclamation points on a print piece or not, but it feels really good. It’s not about the money; it’s about providing good, wholesome food.”

Wallis’s cows are on pasture year-round, eating grass in the summer and hay in the winter, although he has started sprouting barley seed, which provides 6-7 inches of green grass per day for each cow year-round.

 

Milk mustaches in Sheridan

Residents in Sheridan purchase raw milk — at about double the cost of a gallon of milk from the store, which they say it’s worth — for a variety of reasons.

Kayla Halloran and her boyfriend Ben Ross have owned a cow share for more than a year. The share costs $35 per month and includes one gallon of milk. Halloran purchases an additional gallon and a half each week. She and Ross drink half a gallon weekly and put the rest toward their latest whole food pursuit: cheese.

They started with soft cheese spreads a year ago and have since purchased a wine fridge to age hard cheese ranging from cheddar to gouda to cheeses with additions like jalapeno and garlic.

“We get more back in nutrition and taste, and we just love experimenting with different kinds of cheeses,” Halloran said. “It’s right up there with our philosophy of do it yourself, grow your own food and just take care of the environment.”

Sarah Mercer heard about the cow share program through a friend and immediately invested. Her parents were raised on dairy farms in Wisconsin and she knew she wanted fresh milk that had not been pasteurized or treated with other chemicals. Also, her daughter has eczema that has improved since drinking raw milk, she said.

Although pricier than milk from a store, Mercer said it’s worth it.

“It seems like a lot, but pay now, or pay later, that’s my philosophy,” Mercer said. “If you don’t put good things into you now, you’re just going to pay for it in your illness later.”

Susan Callison cites research from Weston A. Price, a dentist in the 1920s and 1930s who studied tooth decay and degeneration in his patients before traveling the world to study native people around the world who ate foods they produced themselves rather than the canned and processed foods becoming popular in America at the time.

Price would live with tribes for years, gaining their confidence and studying their physique and bone structure and diet. From Seminole Indian tribes in Florida, to eskimos, aborigines, remote Swiss villages and African and Peruvian tribes, he found commonalities in diet.

“Even though in a lot of cases they had never had a toothbrush in their mouth, he saw people 50 years old that never had a rotten tooth, ever. In other words, it’s not about brushing your teeth; it’s really about the nutrition you build your body with more than anything,” Callison said.

Callison said all the tribes Price studied had fats in their diet that were rich in vitamins A and D, which American diets were sorely lacking, as well as foods with live and active enzymes such as fermented fish, wheat drinks and milk and butter. Each tribe also had “sacred foods” that were rich in fat and vitamins that were fed to children and couples expecting to conceive to make them healthy and strong, Callison said.

Callison became a local chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in 2003 and started looking for a raw milk source to help her daughter who had digestion problems. She said the raw milk has helped her daughter immensely.

“It’s a huge story that’s really intertwined when you get into it,” Callison said.

Whether it’s to make cheese, to avoid plastic-encased milk or to consume healthy enzymes, several area residents are glad to have their milkman delivering glass jars of fresh milk from a cow named Daisy, Kate, How or Now.

 

• Visit wyominggrassfed.com for more information on cow shares, raw milk, and other locally produced foods.
Dog and Cat Shelter receives $10K in renovations

SHERIDAN — Dozens of volunteers buzzed around the Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter over the weekend, making repairs and completing approximately $10,000 in renovations.

Pedigree and GreaterGood teamed up to fund renovations of 12 shelters across the U.S.

Angel May, senior manager of corporate citizenship at Mars Petcare, said the company’s relationship with the Sheridan shelter goes way back. For at least six years, the company has provided 100 percent of the shelter’s dog and cat food needs.

Throughout the two-day project, volunteers gave the kennels a fresh coat of paint, scraped old glue off doors and walls and completed several other projects.

As part of the event, the shelter’s new puppy nursery was unveiled and dedicated to former shelter director Cel Hope.

Shelter staff and volunteers began raising money for the puppy nursery more than a year ago.

At the time, Hope said, puppies could encounter a highly contagious virus that can live in soil, cracks in the concrete and under flaked paint for years in the main part of the shelter. Called parvo virus in puppies — and panleukopenia in kittens — the virus is fatal for young animals who haven’t had time to develop immunity.

The puppy nursery will help separate the young animals from potential exposure to the virus.

A stone engraved with Hope’s name adorns the wall outside the puppy nursery.

Ogg buys first lottery ticket; first drawing Wednesday

SHERIDAN — Sheridan resident Mary Ogg had a pretty good day yesterday. By noon, she had the keys to her brand new Jeep, and the very first lottery ticket ever to be sold in Wyoming in her hands.

Ogg won a promotional giveaway on Aug. 16 out of more than 20,000 entries to be the first to purchase a lottery ticket, win a brand new Jeep Wrangler and receive free Mega Millions tickets for a year.

She also got to choose from which retailer she wanted to purchase the ticket. She picked the Holiday gas station at the intersection of Coffeen Avenue and Brundage Lane.

General Manager of the store Jon Gray said he was honored by Ogg’s choice and that Ogg and her husband are the greatest couple that could have won the competition.

“When you take care of every single person that comes in your doors, it’s nice to see it come back,” Gray said.

Ogg added in an interview with the media that her and her husband buy 99 percent of their gas there, so it seemed like the logical choice.

As for her brand new Jeep, Ogg had previously joked with The Sheridan Press that the lottery commissioner was already putting miles on it driving across the state. She leaned over and read the odometer out loud. 2,462 miles. She said that she didn’t know what the line was between what is considered a new car versus used, but that it still smelled brand new. After her purchase of the lottery ticket, Ogg said she just wanted to make sure she wasn’t late.

“I was a little bit nervous probably mainly because I wanted to make sure I stayed on schedule,” Ogg said. “But, you know, now I know how to do it.”

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, said the Legislature had proposed lottery bills in the past, only to die by one vote. He hopes that with the beginning  of a statewide lottery, money will stop leaking out of the state as people go elsewhere to play.

“We have hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, going out of state every year,” Burns said. “People in the Sheridan area go up to Hardin or the Kirby bar and buy lottery tickets, I do that myself,” Burns said. “But down in Cheyenne, they go down to a spot on the Colorado border, that’s the highest sales outlet point for Colorado lottery tickets.”

CEO Jon Clontz has had a list of to-dos since being hired on a little less than a year ago, and it doesn’t stop with the launch.

“I have also been overseeing the launch of new games; the board has given me the approval to research new games, so we are going to start that process in hopes of putting new games into the market in the spring,” Clontz said.

Clontz and lottery board members developed focus groups across the state and have found that the biggest thing Wyoming residents want to see is in-state games, meaning they won’t be competing against other states like in Powerball.

As far as luck goes, Ogg doesn’t think she had any more than anybody else who entered the contest.

“I still don’t think of myself as a lucky person,” she said. “I guess I was the right person, in the right place, at the right time.”

Drawings for the Powerball are Wednesdays and Saturdays. Drawings for Mega Millions are on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Local polo ranch hopes to change the game with breeding program

SHERIDAN — When it comes to how babies are made — you know, the birds and the bees — the process seems pretty straight forward. As a new technique for breeding polo ponies gets introduced in Sheridan County, though, that process can get a little complicated.

Sebastian Mariani, the breeding manager and trainer for Jan Pamela Polo Ranch, said that people have been breeding polo ponies in Sheridan for some time, but he and his crew are bringing new techniques to the process.

Breeders such as Perk and Orin Connell and the Flying H Polo Ranch, use the old-fashioned method: Put the stallion and the mare in the pasture, and let nature take its course. Mariani said that he tried pasture breeding at Jan Pamela last year, but it produced zero foals.

“We are doing embryo transfers here and artifical insemination here, and we are the first ones in Sheridan to bring these techniques here,” Mariani said. “Some people do embryo transfers in the vet clinic, but we will do it here at the ranch.”

Mariani added that when breeders use the clinic for embryo transfers, it puts more stress on the mare receiving the fertilized embryo, as they are transferred from field to field in between the steps.

Here’s how it works.

First, an embryo is taken from a young mare, usually one who is still playing polo. This happens by injecting the mare with a flushing median that expands the uterus of the donor mare until an embryo is collected. This part of the process is called an embryo flush. Veterinarian Candice Carden with the Powder River Veterinarian Hospital said that 40-65 percent of mares flushed produce an embryo.

The embryo will later be used in a surrogate mare. Breeders use surrogates because after a polo pony is retired and ready for breeding, it may only produce up to six foals for the rest of its life. With this technique, the donor mares produce more embryos, resulting in four to five foals every year.

But retrieving the embryo is the easy part.

The timing of a retrieved embryo has to be impeccable because the recipient mare needs to ovulate two days behind the donor mare, or the recipient mare’s body will reject the embryo.

The veterinarians can use a hormone called lutalyse that will put the mares back into heat within three days, making the process a little easier. Unlike thoroughbred breeding, polo ponies can be bred at any time because there is no registry period.

Mares do stop going into heat once the season starts to change.

“We have to put the mares under lights in the winter so that they think the day is longer,” Carden said.

Once veterinarians Jay and Brandi Hudson, the embryo experts with Lazy H Large Animal Services out of Gillette, retrieve an embryo — which Mariani said looks like the Death Star from Star Wars — they need healthy sperm with which to inseminate it.

Mariani said the best polo pony breeding lines are from Argentina, and they developed a specific breed for polo ponies there named “Polo Argentino.” The young breed crosses a thoroughbred with a Criollo blood line. The Jan Pamela Ranch owner bought two stallions from that line.

“We have the genetics that are proven to work,” Mariani said. “A good polo pony needs speed and handiness if you want a top polo pony.”

Mariani will bring one of the stallions into the stables, tease him with a mare in heat and collect the sperm into an A.V., or artificial vagina.

Once the sperm is collected, it is viewed under a microscope for consistency and concentration. One of these collections can breed up to 10 mares.

After the mare gives birth, usually around 11 months later, Mariani said they will keep the ponies and train them on the ranch before they are sold for anywhere between $20,000-$100,000.

Mariani thinks his crew’s unique breeding techniques, and the fact that they are managing everything about it themselves at the ranch, will change the way polo is played in the Sheridan area by bringing more horses and better horses into the area.

Completing the cornerstone at Henry A. Coffeen school

Nikki Trahan, principal of Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School, watches Clint Moseley and John Heath level up the cornerstone Thursday afternoon at the new school on South Sheridan Avenue. The Sheridan Masons and Sheridan County School District 2 assembled a time capsule to be placed behind the school’s cornerstone.

A-C students head back to class

Arvada-Clearmont High School senior Linzee Adamson opens her locker after the bell on the first day of school in Sheridan County School District 3.

House District 29 decided by just 22 votes

SHERIDAN — Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, went to bed last night thinking he’d lost the race for House District 29 in the primary election by eight votes.

With 29 out of 29 precincts reporting, his challenger, Ptolemy Data Systems CEO Ryan Mulholland, was ahead by eight votes. However, the addition of absentee ballots to the tally later in the night bumped Patton into the lead by 22 votes, 600-578, in what had been a tight race throughout the evening.

Patton was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for a National Conference of State Legislators meeting. He had planned on not attending the meeting in order to remain in town for the election, but he and his wife decided it was best that Patton uphold his commitment to attend, especially since he is co-chair of the NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee and was slated to help guide meetings.

Patton said when he thought he’d lost the race, he called his wife and they discussed what the future would look like without him serving in the Legislature as he has done for three terms prior, in addition to service in the 1960s and 1970s.

Patton then went to bed.

When he woke this morning he saw that he’d missed several calls from family members with the message that he had actually slid into the lead.

It was welcome news, though received with cautious reserve.

“It was only by 22 votes. I can’t jump up and down and celebrate and say, well, ‘Land sweep,’” Patton said.

“In most elections, it’s presumptuous to say you have a mandate. If my morality holds up, I must remind myself that I am a servant and not a master, and I will be as careful as I’ve tried to be in past consideration of my actions and my votes,” Patton added.

Patton said he realizes there could be a re-count since the vote was so close, so he is trying not to put the cart before the horse, so to speak. However, he said making it through the primary election does give him a stonger sense of permanence.

“My interim work now becomes more significant to me,” Patton said. “If I have the opportunity to get the committee assignments I want, I will have the opportunity to implement and modify the interim work we’re now doing.”

Patton is particularly interested in serving on the education committee and the capital finance committee. If the final outcome is that Patton is elected to serve another two-year term in the House of Representatives, he wants to address the instability of the education system, needed improvements in transportation around the state, especially air service in Sheridan County, and the needs and concerns of Sheridan County’s older residents.

Patton also wants to address what he sees as an inappropriate use of footnotes in budget appropriations, which can eliminate Legislative deliberation.

County Elections Supervisor Brenda Kekich said the elections office is trying to determine if a re-count for the race will be required. She said she hopes to have a definitive answer by Thursday.

Mulholland publicly congratulated Patton on social media Tuesday night and encouraged residents to get behind Patton and support him as he represents the district in Cheyenne.

2014 Primary election results, unofficial with absentee

With 29 of 29 precincts reporting and absentee ballots added in, the unofficial results for the 2014 primary election for Sheridan County are as follows. Final canvassing will be completed Friday.

In House Distict 29, incumbent John Patton (600) will keep his seat, topping challenger Ryan Mulholland (578) by a small margin.

In House District 30, Mark Jennings unseated incumbent Cathy Coleman 961-501.

The three incumbents will hold their sets on the county commission — Terry Cram (3,371), Steve Maier (2,951) and Bob Rolston (3,205). Challenger Dennis Fox got 2,355 votes.

In the race for county treasurer incumbent Peter Carroll (2,867) will keep his seat, defeating challenger Scott Hininger (1,932).

For Sheridan City Council’s two-year seat, Thayer Shafer is leading the pack with 1,083 votes compared to incumbent Robert Webster’s 876 and Mona Hansen’s 854. Shafer and Webster will move on to the general election.

In the race for Dayton mayor, Norm Anderson led the race with 123 votes. Robert Alley had 80 and Dennis Wagner has 72. Anderson and Alley will move on to the general election.

For Dayton Town Council, Craig Reichert racked up 136 votes compared to Clifford Reed’s 106 and Eric Lofgren’s 152. Chris Smith had 37 votes and Jeremy Smith has 97 votes. All but Chris Smith will move on to the general election.

Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, leads challenger Bryan Miller 3,677 to 894, in Sheridan County.

Gov. Matt Mead leads the race for governor at 3,124 votes. Cindy Hill has posted 572, and Taylor Haynes received 1,289 votes.

SC coach Smiley joins Weber State; Hammer takes reins

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College men’s basketball coach and athletic director Steve Smiley has accepted an assistant coaching position with Division I Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah.

Sheridan College assistant coach Matt Hammer will take over as interim head coach and athletic director. Hammer and Smiley played collegiate basketball together at Northern State University in South Dakota, under legendary head coach Don Meyer.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Coach Smiley, his wife Nicole and their children,” said Dr. Paul Young, Sheridan College president. “We have a longstanding history of excellence within our basketball program. Coach Smiley carried on that tradition in an outstanding fashion. Knowing the integrity, ability and acumen of Coach Matt Hammer, the basketball program remains in good hands.”

In his six years at Sheridan College, Smiley paced the Generals to an overall record of 153-44, the best in the Region IX conference during that period. Smiley was named the Region IX North Coach of the Year twice, and 21 Generals have earned scholarships to Division I programs under Smiley’s tutelage.

“Steve is a great coach and a tremendous leader,” Young said. “He cares about the student-athletes on and off the court, helping shape their lives and career paths in a positive way. I know I speak for not only Sheridan College, but the community as well in saying ‘Thank you’ to Coach Smiley for all of his contributions.”

Smiley will join Weber State head coach Randy Rahe’s coaching staff. Rahe led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in March, after claiming the Big Sky Conference championship. Rahe has earned Big Sky Coach of the Year four times in seven years. Weber State is the alma mater of NBA all-star Damian Lillard, the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Smiley and Hammer have maintained a close relationship since their days as college teammates. Hammer recently joined the Generals as an assistant coach, following two years as an assistant coach at Saginaw Valley State in Michigan. Hammer played professionally in Iceland for one season before taking coaching positions at Northern State and Aberdeen Central High School in South Dakota. Hammer was named South Dakota’s Mr. Basketball in 2002, while prepping at Elkton High School.

“Matt is extremely intelligent, humble and hard-working,” Smiley said. “He is an outstanding coach and an excellent recruiter, having built relationships with the incoming class of student-athletes. It’s ideal to have someone of Matt’s caliber already here.”

Hammer holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health and Physical Education and a Master’s in Health, Physical Education and Coaching.

“I’m extremely honored and excited to be given this opportunity here at Sheridan College,” said Hammer. “I’d like to thank the Sheridan College administration for having faith in me to help lead this outstanding program. I’d also like to thank Steve for giving me a chance to become part of the Sheridan College family.”

The Generals return seven players from last season’s squad, which posted a 27-6 record, and seven incoming players will join the team this season.

Building trust

Equine trainer and breeder Sebastian Mariani pats the back of a 2-year-old mare after mounting it Friday morning at the Jan Pamela Ranch near Big Horn. The trainers have been working on the young horse for the past three weeks to get her used to different sounds, equipment and humans. Mariani uses an Argentinian method called “Doma India” for starting horses and building trust.

SCSD1 opts for homegrown school lunches

RANCHESTER — Sheridan County School District 1 administrators have ditched the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s school lunch program in favor of a more homegrown variety — at least at its middle and high schools.

The federal program places strict nutritional restrictions on what the schools can serve under the program, including the number of calories ranges based on age groups.

For example, for kids in grade sixth through eight, the restrictions limit lunch to 600-700 calories each day on average over the course of the week. For high school students, the allowable range is 750-850 calories.

Schools throughout the country were getting around this rule by selling a la carte items to go along with the standard meals made available to students under the federal rules. But this year, the USDA will include those items in the nutritional requirements.

SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said the extension of the rules just won’t work for the local school district.

“The kids simply weren’t getting enough calories to not be hungry by mid-afternoon,” Smith said. “Let alone to immediately after school go to practice.”

Smith noted that SCSD1 children have longer school days since they are on a four-day schedule. Kids are typically in school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The school district has opted to drop the federal program at the junior high and high schools, meaning the loss of about $40,000 in funding each year. But, Smith is confident that an increased participation rate that could result from more food options will offset that funding loss.

“It really made what we can do a lot more flexible,” Smith said. “So we started looking at what we would want to offer and what we can do. We decided we wanted to increase the quality of the food.”

Administrators at the school had been looking at ways to partner with local producers for years, but were unsure of how to make it work in a climate where fruits and vegetables only grow for a few months out of the year.

After attending a conference at which an administrator from Vermont talked about how they made it happen, Smith said SCSD1 officials were re-energized to keep trying. School officials started calling local ranches and exploring options.

Smith and SCSD1 Food Service Director Dennis Decker toured the facilities at Holliday Family Farms and were contacted by Masters Ranch.

Decker said the district spent $9,853 on produce last year. Of that amount, roughly $2,963 was on the products the district will now purchase from Holliday Farms. Decker estimated spending $9,039 on the same amount of produce from Holliday Family Farms, for a cost increase of $6,076.

For the beef, Decker said the district will likely spend $5,158 more by utilizing Masters Ranch.

Decker noted though, that the numbers don’t account for the products the district will be able to sell students at a better, premium entree price.

This fall, SCSD1 will begin purchasing cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, radishes and other items from the farm located just outside of Dayton. In November, the district will purchase six cows from Masters Ranch and will have the beef processed in Miles City to be used at the SCSD1 schools. Smith noted that buying whole cows has presented its own challenges, as the school district must follow strict guidelines on what kind of processing facilities can be used.

“We’re hoping to encourage somebody closer to home to do the processing, but the inspections required, from what I’ve been told, are pretty onerous,” Smith said.

He also noted that Decker has started working with Holliday Family Farms to discuss what else the local producer could grow for the district in the future.

Smith said school district officials are excited to serve some of the dishes they haven’t been able to under the federal guidelines — lasagna, macaroni and cheese, country fried steak and other items.

“These are meals that are still healthy, but they offer the calories that our students need so they aren’t hungry,” Smith said.

Students will now have three entree choices available for lunch — the daily special, premium entrees and pre-packaged salads. In addition a full salad bar will be offered to students.

Smith said those students eligible for free and reduced lunches will still be able to participate in those programs.

While Smith said the cost of locally grown produce may be slightly more expensive, the bottom line for the school will not suffer. He said the district expects a 15 percent increase in sales, but only a 7 percent increase in costs.

After sending out a letter to district parents last week, Smith said the district has received nothing but positive feedback. In fact, Smith said, elementary school parents have asked when the program can be extended to the other schools in the district.

Smith said that the district will certainly work toward that goal, but right now there are too many younger children on free and reduced lunches for the district to cover the cost of those meals without federal funding.

“This is a big leap of faith for us,” Smith said of the district’s decision to ditch the federal program. “But it seems like the right choice for our kids.”

Planning a community’s future

SHERIDAN — With an estimate that places the population of Sheridan over the 20,000 mark by the year 2030, a group of Sheridan residents huddled over maps Wednesday night at the Best Western Sheridan Center and drew squares, circles and dotted lines to indicate how they would like to see the city accommodate that growth.

The exercise was part of a workshop to create a Sheridan Land Use Plan that will guide future development of Sheridan and will particularly be used to create a future land use map that will indicate preferred locations for residential and commercial areas and parks and pathways.

Approximately 20 residents split into three groups and plotted new residential and shopping areas, areas they’d like to see redeveloped and revitalized, areas they’d like to see preserved and roads and pathways to connect it all together. They were asked to do so while keeping in mind goals from Sheridan’s past planning documents and comments from a citizen survey regarding the growth of the city.

These included avoiding sprawl, maintaining the downtown and the small town feel of Sheridan, retaining open space and providing affordable housing, along with requests to provide bigger city amenities like a mall and stores like Target and Applebee’s, indicating the balancing act that growth will be for a city that hovered at the 10,000 mark most of the 20th century before swelling to a size that often attracts larger franchises.

According to a growth scenario based on current housing units and density, it was estimated that 642 acres of land will need to be developed by 2030 for residential use for the increase of 3,500 residents.

Orion Planning Group partner Robert Barber, from Hernando, Mississippi, reminded participants that growth can occur upward and inward, too, by looking at sites for infill development and converting downtown spaces into apartments. OPG was hired by the city to guide the development of the Sheridan Land Use Plan, with OPG Partner and Sheridan resident Joanne Garnett leading the way.

The three groups varied on details, but general concensus was reached that new residential areas could be located on west Fifth Street, north and east of Kmart on North Main Street, heading west on Loucks Street and Big Goose, near Kendrick Golf Course and heading east on U.S. Highway 14 East. One group also suggested redeveloping Downer Addition, North Sheridan Avenue and the area immediately west of the interstate with infill development to prevent too much sprawl.

All three groups also emphasized the need to preserve traditional neighborhoods and the downtown area, bringing in new vitality and energy by developing upper floor apartments along Main Street.

In general the groups hesitated to recommend large shopping areas at the edges of town or at every entryway, fearing that doing so could pull the focus away from Sheridan’s downtown. It was mentioned that new shopping areas could be located near East Ridge Road east of town, on West Fifth Street and in the new North Main area.

Sheridan Planning and Development Director Robert Brigg’s group talked about the need to redevelop commercial areas along Coffeen Avenue towards town, which is already starting with the construction of Petco near Albertson’s, a Tractor Supply Company near the Maverick gas station on Brundage and talk of a co-op to be placed where the vacant LBM restaurant stands.

Barber reminded the groups that the average amount of retail space in America per person is 23 square feet, meaning that an additional 3,500 people would only equate to about 80,000 square feet, or 7 acres, of new commercial land. The average Wal-Mart is about 220,000 square feet in size, meaning that redevelopment of existing commercial areas along Coffeen Avenue and North Main may be ideal rather than putting up new box stores.

“I love doing these events. They’re hands on. It gets the community talking about itself rather than having some expert talk at you. The tables themselves engage in the future of the community,” Barber said.

Barber said challenges for Sheridan as it grows will include facilitating infill development and preventing sprawl so there’s efficiency in its land use patterns and its downtown can be supported, redeveloping areas that need a facelift like North Main and meeting housing needs for an aging population.

Sprawl, in particular, degrades communities, drains vitality, destroys the environment and places economic strain on residents who must drive everywhere, Barber said, recommending that Sheridan seek to create a city with economy of scale that keeps people close to each other and to needed services, as well as social options.

All in all, Barber said Sheridan was on a positive development track and needs to maintain its pride in its downtown and infrastructure, seeking to do infill development and utilize existing spaces for more mixed uses.

• For more information on the Sheridan Land Use Plan, visit sheridanlanduseplan.wordpress.com or find “Sheridan Land Use Plan” on Facebook.

Growth goals from past planning documents

• Maintain a compact development pattern.

• Provide a diverse mix of housing, primarily in urban neighborhoods with adequate services.

• Locate commercial uses in designated commercial areas and centers.

• Retain open space and plan for parks to balance land use.

• Modify downtown development standards for more mixed use (business, residential, etc.).

 

Citizen comments on growth from a recent survey

• “Blindly developing a new Casper or Gillette will destroy what we have and turn the city into the places we all fled from to come here.”

• “It is important that Sheridan not lose its ‘small town’ flavor.”

• “It would be great to have a mall, Target and good modern movie theater. … This city needs to keep up with the times!”

• “Efforts need to be made to clean up and reuse vacant lots before expansion outside the city.”

• “No one should have to get in a car to get a cup of coffee or pastry or buy bread or milk.”

• “As I see it, the major problem facing our city is the lack of affordable housing.”

• “I think Sheridan really needs to work on getting more business here … anything that will stimulate the economy and keep people from going to Billings, Gillette, Casper or Rapid City to shop and eat.”

• “‘Be careful what you wish for’ – unbridled growth has turned once-beautiful small towns in California to horrible urban jungles.”

 

Survey shows consensus on planning goals

Results are in for the first community survey that was conducted as part of the Sheridan Land Use Plan project. The survey was used to identify the important planning issues of concern to community citizens. Out of 209 delivered surveys, 85 surveys (41 percent) were completed.

The survey solicited feedback regarding why respondents lived in Sheridan, how they rated local services, what types of improvements are or are not needed in Sheridan, their opinion about the importance of the city addressing certain land use concerns and input about planning goals.

A summary of the results includes:

• Over 80 percent of respondents agreed that: development should not impair water supplies, improve the quality of new development, ensure new development has adequate infrastructure, respect property rights and promote continued farming and ranching.

• 60 percent stated the lack of affordable housing is very important for the city to address.

• 78 percent believe Sheridan needs more employment opportunities and to reuse vacant buildings and lots.

• 74 percent rated Sheridan’s environmental quality as good

• 78 percent rated potable water supply and quality and passive recreation opportunities (parks, pathways) as good

• 78 percent responded that the area’s scenic beauty and mountain views are very important

• Over 65 percent replied that Sheridan’s air and water quality and it being a friendly community are very important

A ‘Wireless’ experience

Matt Davis speaks into the microphone as a radio announcer during a rehearsal for “Wireless: Live Readers Theater from the Golden Age of Radio” Tuesday at the Carriage House Theater. The act will include several transcripts from classic radio programs. Curtain opens this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Simple greetings

Seven-year-old Izabell Hendricks greets a goat tied to the fence in the goat tail tying event during the Sheridan County Rodeo Saturday at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds arena.

Big Horn Mountain Catering earns People’s Choice

SHERIDAN — Several hundred people attended the annual Taste of Sheridan event held at Thorne-Rider Park on Sunday.

Approximately 10 area restaurants participated in the event meant to showcase local culinary talents and raise money for the North Main Association.

Four judges tried a bit of everything prepared by the local restaurants and tapped Frackelton’s as the winner in the “Best Taste” category. The judges — Trevor Jackson, Todd Swanson, Kelly Miller-Smart and Kristen Czaban — chose newcomer Mountain Rose Bakery as the winner in the dessert category.

The People’s Choice top prize went to Big Horn Mountain Catering, while the second place award in that category went to the Sheridan Senior Center.

Man had nearly 400 narcotics on him when arrested

SHERIDAN — Sheridan police officers who arrested a local man Wednesday for a municipal court warrant found nearly 400 prescription narcotics concealed on his person when conducting a search at the detention center.

Police arrested Kyle Logan Fearnow, 26, at the Apple Tree Inn, which is his current address.

Sheridan Police Department detectives called to assist with the arrest executed a search warrant on Fearnow’s room and found more than 6,000 prescription narcotics in the room, along with a loaded gun.

Fearnow has been charged with multiple charges related to the investigation including felony possession of a controlled substance and taking a controlled substance into a jail. Additional charges are pending.

Attempts to reach Sgt. Travis Koltiska to confirm if the arrest was related to burglaries within the last year at Hospital Pharmacy and Hospital Pharmacy West were not returned by press time.

 

Is it local?

SHERIDAN — There is a “Portlandia” episode that features the two main characters peppering their waitress with questions about whether the chicken served is local, how much room it had to roam and if it had any friends on the farm.

Though a bit tongue-in-cheek — with the waitress presenting documents about “Colin’s” life on a nearby farm — the episode touches on an issue becoming more important for food consumers and producers alike.

The issue of growing, processing and selling local food came before the Sheridan County Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday. The commission voted to recommend to county commissioners approval of an amendment to county zoning regulations that will allow on-farm sales of local produce, products made from that produce like jams and salsa, and accessory items like books that promote healthy, local eating.

Essentially, the amendment will allow area agricultural producers to build a retail structure on their farm, such as a tent or farm stand, in order to sell their locally grown food, much like they would at a farmers market.

It will also allow for small-scale processing, including cleaning, sorting, grading, packaging, milling and storage.

The amendment is geared toward the sale of produce like fruits and vegetables, County Planner Mark Reid said, although it could include meat and livestock products if a farmer applied for and received a conditional use permit to do commercial slaughtering and processing.

The request for a zoning amendment came from local farmers like Brad Holliday of Holliday Family Farms near Dayton and Chris Shaw of Shiloh Valley Family Farm south of Sheridan, who were both present at the meeting to speak in favor of the amendment.

Sheridan resident Kentz Willis, who appreciates the value of locally grown foods, and Shannon Anderson and Gillian Malone, with the Powder River Basin Resource Council, were also present at the meeting to speak in favor of the change.

“I can sell you hay bales all day long from my farm, but I can’t sell you a tomato,” Holliday said.

A few years ago, Holliday began raising and processing chickens on his farm near Dayton. He has a conditional use permit to sell chicken from a retail store on his farm, and he also sells online, at farmers markets and through venues like health food stores, but he can’t sell produce from his retail outlet.

County regulations do not prohibit sales of produce from homes or a “you-pick” format. This amendment will allow retail sales from a retail outlet, potentially generating additional income for local farmers.

“The time is right, the need is here. People want to know where and how their food is grown,” Holliday said.

Planning commissioners generally spoke in favor of the idea but were cautious to tweak the language in order to limit the size and scope of sales, not wanting this amendment to somehow allow a Del Monte-sized operation to move in and set up business.

Changes included: a tweak to the definition of “agriculture” to include “on-farm, or local retail sales” to clearly allow farmers market sales; removal of a line in the amendment limiting the number of employees allowed; and a line stating that at least 75 percent of the sales shall be from products grown on the landowners’ farms. The last change will allow sale of accessory items and items that may include a small amount of ingredients not grown locally such as sugar.

Commissioners also included a caution with their recommendation of approval to county commissioners to decide if retails sales should be allowed in rural residential and urban residential zoning. The amendment includes RR and UR zones, as well as agricultural, but planning commissioners were unsure if it should.

In other business, commissioners:

• recommended for approval a conditional use permit for Neltje to expand her Turned Antiques business on U.S. Highway 14/16 south of Sheridan with the addition of a 25-by-50 foot metal building similar to the other two buildings already in use

• recommend for approval erection of a 191-foot Verizon cellphone tower 1.6 miles north of U.S. Highway 14/16 near Clearmont on Gary and Vicki Jo Koltiska’s ranch. The tower is similar to one located 250 feet north of the proposed site.

• recommended for approval the erection of a temporary 20-foot Verizon cellphone tower on the Sheeley Ranch near Dayton. The tower will be taken down once a permanent tower can be installed in the town of Dayton, a process which is already underway.

Group continues gathering support for aquatics project

SHERIDAN — A group of local residents calling themselves Citizens for Community Recreation continued their outreach efforts Wednesday by meeting with the Sheridan County Commission to discuss a new indoor aquatics facility and potential funding for it.

The group, which includes board members and leadership from the YMCA, Sheridan Recreation District and area foundations, has also gathered approximately 1,500 signatures in support of its efforts.

The group’s goal is to solve what has been a long-standing problem for the Sheridan community — access to efficient, family friendly aquatic facilities.

While the community has several options for those seeking recreation in a pool, most of the facilities in Sheridan County are aging and Kendrick Park pool has neared the end of its life.

As part of the group’s efforts, they’ve taken what would be a potential footprint for a new, indoor facility and placed it on a map over properties that could be used for the project. The desire, and advice from other studies done on aquatic centers, to keep the pool centrally located and not as a stand-alone facility have brought the group time and again to look at the soccer fields located next to the YMCA. The fields are currently owned by Whitney Benefits.

Jay McGinnis, executive director at the YMCA, has said his nonprofit organization could take over operations of the new aquatics facility, thus eliminating the need to build a stand-alone structure. The addition of the new aquatics facility would allow the YMCA to transfer its staff and operations capabilities to the new facility and decommission the YMCA’s current pools, leaving additional space for expanded programming at the community center.

“But we can’t do it by ourselves,” McGinnis told the county commissioners Wednesday, emphasizing the need for a public, private partnership.

The meeting was a part of the commissioners efforts to visit with various groups requesting Optional One-Cent Sales Tax funding.

McGinnis said, though, that the Citizens for Community Recreation weren’t necessarily asking for One-Cent funding. Instead, he said, the group is asking the county to consider where the funding could come from. The citizen committee has also been speaking with private donors and has a verbal commitment from the city of Sheridan to participate in the project. McGinnis said he believes the group of volunteers and the YMCA could raise between $6-7 million for the project in private funding.

The total expected project cost is estimated at $13.8 million, which includes the aquatics facility and the development of additional park space for athletics to potentially replace those that will be built on near the YMCA.

McGinnis said the citizen group behind the efforts would like to have most of the funding committed before moving into design or building phases. He noted that groups tend to lose fundraising momentum if they get too ahead of themselves. He did provide examples of what the facility could include, such as a zero-entry pool, slides and other family friendly amenities.

County commissioners expressed interest in the project and acknowledged the need in the community, but said they are unsure where the millions of dollars needed for the project could come from in the county’s budget. The commissioners said they’d like to have a joint meeting with the Sheridan City Council to discuss the project and said they would consider potential funding options as well.

Turnout high for candidate forums

SHERIDAN — Candidates seeking statewide or legislative seats in the 2014 election hit upon nearly every popular talking point in Wyoming politics during the candidate forum held Tuesday at Sheridan College.

The Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee organized the event, which had a much higher turnout than past years’ forums. The increased participation reflected national polling numbers that register how unhappy citizens have been with the government’s performance. In January, a Gallup poll showed that 65 percent of Americans were dissatisfied with the nation’s system of government and how well it works. That was the highest percentage in the polling since 2001.

Nearly every candidate Tuesday night spoke to those concerns, criticizing government overreach and stressing the need to return the government to the people.

Candidates speaking at the forum included individuals running for the U.S. Senate, Wyoming governor, secretary of state, superintendent of public instruction and local house districts.

Some of the candidates who could not attend had representatives read letters on their behalf.

Below are some of the highlights from each race represented at the forum.

 

U.S. Senate

Sen. Mike Enzi

• Harlan Rasmussen read a letter on Enzi’s behalf.

Bryan Miller

• Miller is a Sheridan High School alumnus who served 23 years in the military. In his introduction and closing remarks he commented that he is “weary of the same old song and dance” in national politics.

Q: Given the current economic situation how would you approach fiscal responsibility?

A: Miller said he wants to rein in the federal regulations burdening states.

He noted that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency have no authority to dictate rules to the states and said the agencies’ roles are redundant because the state has its own agencies to handle those issues. He said he would bring those jobs and that authority back to the state, lowering the amount of money spent on bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.

Q: Describe your perspective on energy independence.

A: Miller described Wyoming as the battery of the U.S. with its large amount of natural resources. He noted though, that much of the land is owned by the federal government, which is keeping those resources from being accessed. He said Wyoming should own all of the land within its borders — whether that means it is owned by private citizens or the state government.

Q: Do you support Internet taxing?

A: Miller said he does not and noted that taxing is “as toxic as Common Core.”

Other comments: Miller also discussed EPA decisions that have impacted the state and the federal government’s constitutional authority to pass drug legislation.

 

U.S. Representative

Rep. Cynthia Lummis

• Letter was read on her behalf by Melinda Abbott.

Jason Senteney

• Letter read on his behalf.

 

Governor

Matt Mead

• Letter read on his behalf by Tyler Julian.

Cindy Hill

• Letter read on her behalf.

Peter Gosar

• Letter read on his behalf.

Taylor Haynes

• Haynes was born on a produce farm in Louisiana, but now owns a ranch, works as a urologist and runs an insurance company. He noted that Wyoming has “made a lot of noise” in regards to federal policies and over his viewpoints, but said Wyoming has to lead the charge against federal overreach.

Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on immigration.

A: Haynes noted that while immigration into the U.S. is a well-defined process, illegal immigration and the efforts of government to circumvent the process for African “refugees” is an insurgence that will threaten the state’s labor force and culture.

Q: Thoughts on Senate File 104, or the Cindy Hill Bill.

A: Haynes said he’s thought it was unconstitutional from the beginning and is 100 percent against it.

Q: Asked to discuss his thoughts on EPA’s rulings in the state.

A: Haynes said he believes they are unconstitutional and the EPA has no authority to make such rulings in any sate.

 

Secretary of State

Pete Illoway

• Letter read on his behalf.

Ed Buchanan

• Buchanan emphasized his five-point plan to improve the state’s business office. His goals include improving customer service and government transparency, being proactive against fraud, conducting an internal audit and serving as an ambassador for the state.

Ed Murray

• Murray noted his four pillars for leading the office — continuing to progress in terms of technology, fighting fraud, increasing voter turnout and growing business.

Clark Stith

• Stith emphasized that he is the “small government” candidate in the race and said he has pledged to reduce the size of the Secretary of State’s Office by 9 percent in the first four years.

Q: Asked to comment on their stance on term limits.

Stith: He argued that the state already has term limits; they are called elections.

Murray: Said he is for term limits and noted he believes the Founding Fathers envisioned a government led by ordinary citizens, not career politicians.

Buchanan: Said he is against term limits and that he believes elections accomplish that goal.

Q: Do you feel funding levels to local government are appropriate?

Murray: Murray said he believes local governments are being strangled by a lack of funding and the state needs to establish a more predictable revenue stream for the communities.

Buchanan: He said local government does need a better way to predict funding from the state, but noted that in the past the state hasn’t always had the money to give. “There’s no amount of money government won’t spend,” he said, adding that funding will likely never be enough, but programs are in place to help struggling communities.

Stith: He advocated for better predictability in funding as well and noted that the way communities must lobby and compete for funding from the state is absurd.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Bill Winney

• A retired commander of a nuclear submarine, Winney said he observed the Wyoming Legislature for 10 years and began focusing on education issues about six years ago.

Jillian Balow

• With experience in education, management and administration, Balow said she believes the education system in the state is broken, largely due to a lack of leadership by current officials.

Sheryl Lain

• A former teacher and self-proclaimed national expert on education, Lain said she’d like to focus on stopping the federalization of education.

Mike Ceballos

• A former telecommunications businessman, Ceballos said he’d like to create stability in an agency that has been more of an anchor than a sail in recent years. He’d also like to re-establish a positive relationship between the superintendent’s office and the Legislature.

Q: Do you support the federal mandate that is Common Core?

Winney: Winney said no and added that the mandate does not allow teachers to be flexible.

Balow: She said she’s concerned about the assessment burden that is attached to the Common Core. While high standards for students are necessary, she said, Common Core is less about standards and is more of a movement that is not right for Wyoming.

Lain: She reiterated her desire to move away from the federalization of education and said she believes that more rules and regulations result in lower student achievement.

Ceballos: While Ceballos noted that the Common Core’s ties to federal funding is problematic, he cautioned constituents about “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” He said he would work to establish standards that with Wyoming and keeps kids from living in their parents’ basements permanently.

Other comments: The candidates each also discussed the role of the Legislature in education, which ranged from strictly funding to advisory. Balow noted that the Legislature has had a lack of confidence in the Department of Education recently and has been forced to overstep its authority.

 

House District 29

Rep. John Patton

• Patton noted that while the district is completely within Sheridan’s city limits he does not limit his representation to those constituents, but rather the state and county as a whole. He also said he is running again to give back to a community that has given him and his family so much over the years.

Ryan Mulholland

• Mulholland noted that he believes crating job opportunities and diversifying the economy are key issues. He’d like to see the state better able to withstand the busts of the energy industry.

Q: Please comment on your second amendment stance.

Mulholland: He noted that he has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and believes gun rights are a constitutional privilege. He also noted that Patton has a C rating from the NRA.

Patton: Patton said he likely owns more guns than Mulholland, but believes in personal responsibility when it comes to gun ownership and laws. He noted that there is nothing in the constitution that says you have a right to be irresponsible.

Q: Should the superintendent of public instruction be an appointed position?

Mulholland: He spoke to Senate File 104 and noted that the legislation took away the voice of the people, who had voted Cindy Hill into office. If you want to change the way government is run, he said, you should put it to a vote of the people.

Patton: Appointment versus elected isn’t the problem, Patton said. He noted that education starts in the homes and communities of the state, not the superintendent’s office.

Other comments: The candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility.

 

House District 30

Rep. Kathy Coleman

• Coleman noted in her introduction that she has always taken on leadership positions in politics, and, she must be good at them because she keeps getting asked to step to the plate. She also noted that while she has been relatively quiet in Cheyenne, she has been learning the processes and finding solutions to her constituents’ problems.

Mark Jennings

• He emphasized that he is an average citizen who has spoken with others who are concerned about overspending, tax increases and the apparent disregard for states’ rights.

Q: Discuss your Second Amendment stance.

Jennings: He said gun rights are a “fundamental thing.” He also noted that they are not just about hunting and personal protection, he said the rights were established to keep the government a little bit leary of tyranny.

Coleman: Coleman noted that you can’t take every gun rights bill at face value. She spoke with constituents on a variety of bills and when the intent of the law is lost in the process, she would opt to vote against it.

Other comments: The two candidates also discussed fiscal responsibility and the need for economic diversification.

Researchers discover bluebirds philandering in Bighorns

Big Horn — Sex. Deception. Infidelities. Fathers raising youngsters that they think are their own, but actually are the offspring of another.

While this might sound like the typical plot of almost any soap opera, it is actually a glimpse of the findings that bird biologists Scott and Bonnie Johnson have discovered in their years of research in the Bighorn Mountains.

Scott Johnson, a biology professor at Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, has been coming to the Big Horn area for bird research since 1985.

“I had just finished my master’s degree and came to Wyoming for romantic reasons,” Johnson said. “That didn’t work out but I started doing research on my own. I taught at Holy Name School and I had a very understanding head nun who let me have my first period to use as my planning period. I used it to do the morning bird research. I would come in and teach in my rubber boots and jeans and change clothes between second and third period. It usually took me until lunch to get fully dressed.”

Johnson was joined a few years ago by his wife, Bonnie, and together, based at the Gallatin Ranch, they have studied the biology and behavior of house wrens and bluebirds.

During their years in the area, the pair has conducted research in the Big Horn and Burgess Junction areas. Initial research projects focused on house wrens and more specifically, what the role is of the male bird’s song.

“A couple things we discovered is they use song to attract mates to their territories,” Scott Johnson said. “We did an experiment where we had a speaker playing a recording of a male song next to a nest box where there were no males. Females came and started building a nest even though they couldn’t see a male. Of course we had control boxes where there was no song and no females came.”

“I think some of the more interesting stuff we discovered was extramarital mating behavior or affairs of the avian kind in the house wrens,” he continued.

Early on, the pair noticed that males would sneak into the territories of their neighbors. They primarily did so when the females on those territories were fertile and laying eggs. Most of the time, the intruding males were chased out by the resident male, but if not, they were seen performing their mating display.

“So it suggested these males were making territorial intrusions to try and increase their mating success and spread their genes,” Johnson said.

Later in the 1990s, the Johnsons said the development of genetic testing techniques allowed them to verify what they were seeing in the field.

“We were able to use genetic analyses to confirm that some of the young were fathered by males not on the territory,” Johnson said. “In fact, about 40 percent of the nests had at least one offspring not fathered by the resident male. Some had no offspring of their own in the nest.”

Johnson added that when they began to study mountain bluebirds, they discovered they were even more philandering than wrens and genetic testing revealed that two-thirds of chicks in nests were not the offspring of the male associated with the nest.

One example of the deception that male house wrens can practice is their tendency to attempt having a clutch of chicks with more than one female. During their observations, the Johnsons noticed that once their first female mate was on the nest and incubating eggs, some male wrens would go to a high perch and sing a song signaling to other females that they were unattached and in search of a mate. The Johnsons found that depending on the season, anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of males would have two female mates at a time.

“Not unlike another species we know,” Bonnie Johnson said.

However, the Johnsons still are unsure why this behavior is a benefit to the birds, as once the first nest’s eggs hatch, the male abandons the second female. They do not help raise the second feathered family and consequently, the chicks have low survival rates.

“It is a very bad deal for these mistresses,” Scott Johnson said. “They (chicks) do very poorly. The second female has to do it all on their own.”

The Johnsons’ findings have been published in more than 50 scientific papers and added significantly to scientific knowledge about birds and bird behavior.

“They are relatively easy to study,” Scott Johnson said about why they have chosen house wrens and bluebirds to study, out of the dozens of species that inhabit our area. “The house wrens are fun because they are constantly busy. I admire them because they don’t waste any time. You rarely see them sitting and doing nothing. And the bluebirds are just stunning to look at. I never get tired of watching them. The other thing that is intriguing about them is how they manage to nest in a challenging environment, that high altitude. Up at Burgess Junction they are nesting at about 8,300 feet.”

“They face all kinds of conditions within a breeding season,” Bonnie Johnson added.

In addition to a healthy habitat and an abundance of bird life to study, the Johnson’s said the Sheridan area has been an ideal place to conduct research due to the support they have received from individuals and groups. They said the Gallatin and Garber ranches, as well as staff and management of The Brinton Museum and Bear Lodge have allowed them to have great success in their work.

However, even under the great research conditions offered in our area, unexpected and unwelcome things can happen.

“A disheartening surprise this year was an as yet unidentified disease affecting bluebird chicks on the mountain,” Johnson said.

He noted that they are discovering nests with approximately half the chicks dying or missing (when a chick dies, the female bluebird will push the body out of the nest where it is usually quickly taken by a predator).

Despite otherwise good conditions this year for raising chicks, the chicks are succumbing to a disease that causes black, dead tissue around their mouths, misshapen beaks and emaciation. Photos and samples have been sent to two wildlife veterinary research centers in search of an answer.

“We may end up studying the effects of that disease next year because this is really rare,” Johnson said. “We just don’t see wide spread disease in songbird populations. It is sort of a very recent discovery and we’ll keep working on it.”

Squeal-filled night at the fair

Members of the Legerski’s Sausage pig wrestling team grab ahold of their pig and move toward the barrel Sunday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. The team finished second in the men’s division, behind the Pot Bellies. Pictured, from left, for the Legerski’s Sausage team are Logan Garstad, Hayden Legerski, Nate Kane and Nate Berg (front).

Foundation formed to manage Coffeen history

SHERIDAN — When you hear the names Whitney, Kendrick or Eaton, you likely make immediate connections to a person, a place, a legacy, an historical reference or a combination of all those things.

When you hear Coffeen do you think of a street, or the family behind the name?

A recently formed foundation called CHIEF is hoping to use a large personal collection of historical items to re-educate the community on the vast historical impact the Coffeen family, especially Henry A. Coffeen, had on Sheridan County.

The Coffeen Historical Information Education Foundation was started by Patricia Coffeen shortly after her husband, a fourth generation descendent of Henry A. Coffeen, passed away.

“Before he passed we started getting an interest with what we were going to do with this stuff and he said, ‘It’s history, it’s time to dig this stuff out,’” Patricia Coffeen said on their family collection. “But it wasn’t until after he passed that I sought legal counsel because it was all on my shoulders but I’m no historian.”

The significance of the collection has begun to be uncovered as now Wyoming Room librarian at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library Judy and members of community historical societies take an interest in the items.

“Big Horn City Historical Society took an interest because his (Henry A. Coffeen) beginnings were in Big Horn. We had pictures that we didn’t even know the value of back then but the ladies did and that’s what spurred our interest to reveal it,” Patricia Coffeen said. “Judy would come right to our home and would scan and scan and scan.”

With the scanning and preservation help of Slack, little by little the collection began to be archived including photographs, sheet music, copies of speeches and much more.

“She had literally thousands of dollars worth of history in her house and didn’t know it,” said local historian and teacher Tyson Emborg on the collection. “If you get on eBay or go downtown to one of our stores, one Teepee magazine is worth a couple hundred dollars and she just had them sitting at her house.”

“CHIEF actually got its beginnings when I started realizing how much history was there,” Coffeen said. “My husband kind of knew it but he was very quiet and humble and didn’t want to throw the name around, but he knew that the history needed to be preserved. So then we took off with it.”

For 18 months straight, Slack visited the Coffeen household every Tuesday to scan more items into the digital archives and as more pieces of history were dug out, more connections to other local figures and important advancements for Sheridan County were revealed.

“His son, Herbert Coffeen, was a nationally famous photographer and a lot of the collection are his photos. Those are extremely valuable,” Emborg said. “So there’s more than just Henry within the collection. It’s quite significant.”

“But it all starts with Henry and goes from there,” Coffeen piped in.

 

Who was Henry A. Coffeen?

According to Emborg, Henry A. Coffeen started in Ohio before moving to Illinois where he ran for an Illinois house seat, but was defeated by Joseph Cannon.

He worked as a college professor and traveled giving lecture series on history, including a lecture in Buffalo that would eventually land him in Big Horn.

“For that time, at the turn of the century, for a community like Sheridan, where you don’t have a college and you didn’t have the Internet, it was quite an event to bring in a speaker to talk about ancient world history, stuff you had never heard about,” Emborg said.

While in town, a cousin living in Buffalo showed Coffeen around and he must have liked the area because in 1884 he decided to move to Big Horn and open a grocery store.

Coffeen’s daughter started dating Edward Gillette, who had recently surveyed the area now known as Gillette  — and named after him — and he told Henry Coffeen that the railroad was going to be coming through Sheridan.

As a result, Coffeen moved his store to Sheridan, nail by nail and plank by plank, and reopened in the site that is now the WYO Theater.

During his time in Sheridan, Coffeen’s contributions are almost too numerous to attempt to track, from a national level down to putting Sheridan and the education of the community children in the forefront.

Truly a founding father of the town, he signed the petition to get Sheridan County done, he was on the constitutional convention for the state of Wyoming, he was one of the first mayors of Sheridan, he ran as the second member to the House of Representatives for the state in 1892.

His other contributions include helping the school district, bringing the first library to town by writing a letter to Andrew Carnegie seeking funds, working at a state level on behalf of women’s suffrage, developing the taxation of minerals that keeps Wyoming in the black when other states are in the red, starting the first Sheridan College in the second floor of his store and donating various pieces of land for projects throughout the community.  He was also instrumental in bring Fort Phil Kearny to Sheridan and much more.

“If it’s anything from 1884 to 1912 that benefitted the community,” Emborg said, “Henry is going to have been in on it.”

At one point, in 1896, Coffeen was even considered for a slate by William Jennings Bryant to run for vice president of the United States, prompting the famous politician to visit Sheridan.

“He’s like a lot of the people in the community we experience who did a lot of phenomenal civically minded work throughout the community that has great benefit over time, but over time you forget that the area children go to school rather than work in the mines, or women have the right to vote and that you have drinking fountains in the school, and who gave us all of that,” Emborg said.

“Kendrick was a Democrat and Coffeen was a Democrat so a lot of what he started was shadowed and advanced by Kendrick when he took over, so you’re looking at Kendrick rather than looking at Coffeen but really Coffeen started it,” he added.

 

Moving forward with history

Trish Coffeen said the focus of CHIEF is to use the history materials for educational purposes.

“We were going to turn it all over to the community but we didn’t want trinkets and money making stuff made, we wanted to continue to honor the name,” she said. “The whole collection has now been scanned and the future of the foundation is ensuring proper use of materials.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the family or seeing the original documents is welcome to do so via the documents available at either the Wyoming Room or the Sheridan County Museum.

Emborg continues to dig through the history to make community connections, work on his ongoing historical research surrounding the cemetery and bring information back to his classrooms.

Books on Henry A. Coffeen have been written largely based on the documents in the collection, offering an in depth look at his political and overall influences.

Finally, the new elementary school formally known as simply Coffeen Elementary will soon be dedicated and opened to the community under its new name, Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School.

A special cornerstone in the school will feature an image of Coffeen from the family collection and displays created by the foundation will be permanent fixtures in the halls.

“Not only was Henry a founding father of Sheridan but maybe more importantly, especially for our venue, was his involvement in education and how critically important he valued education,” Sheridan County School District 2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults said about the name change. “So I think it’s extremely fitting ad very fortunate that we have the opportunity to honor him and his work, and keep that memory alive.”

Ready for the spotlight

Twelve-year-old Sydney Butler, left, and Connor McKey, 13, watch over their pigs as Genie Mayfield, center, sprays water on the animals during the intermediate showmanship class of the swine show Thursday evening at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. The youth were judged on their ability to present their pigs to the judge during the show.

Adriaens’ transition to chief of staff raises questions regarding police pension

SHERIDAN — Mayor John Heath said Wednesday that interim Chief of Staff Rich Adriaens is spending a majority of his time working at the police department to help with the transition there while also attending meetings with city department heads about an hour each morning as he moves into his new role.

Adriaens was appointed interim chief of staff by Heath July 14. Heath said he needed help juggling all the appointments and day-to-day operations of his new position as mayor and noted in a memo sent to city employees that former Mayors Jim Wilson and Della Herbst also had chiefs of staff.

Heath said Adriaens is currently splitting his time about 90/10 between police and city work and that as the months progress that ratio will change to 80/20, 70/30, 60/40, and so forth until a smooth transition can be completed at both the city and the police department.

The question of how Adriaens is spending his time has been raised because it could affect which pension plan — law enforcement or regular city employee — he is able to use.

According to Wyoming Retirement System regulations, contributions to retirement plans are based on duties, not job title or even which budget an employee is paid from.

Even though he was named chief of staff for the city, Adriaens has been allowed to continue contributions to his law enforcement pension. This caused concern among some Sheridan residents because contributions to law enforcement pensions are higher than regular pension contributions, potentially costing the city, and thus taxpayers, more money.

At his old police chief salary of $107,654.04, the city contributed $9,258.24 per year (8.6 percent of his salary) into the retirement fund for Adriaens. At his increased salary of $137,427.10, the city would contribute $11,818.08 per year into his law enforcement pension but only $10,471.94 (7.62 percent of his salary) if he was enrolled in the regular employee pension plan.

There is a provision in state statute that allows a temporary, six-month employee to not be enrolled in the regular retirement plan, but after that time if a position becomes permanent, retirement contributions must be made. Under that provision, and if he spends a majority of his time doing police duties, Adriaens is allowed to continue contributions to his law enforcement pension.

However, once his duties become primarily city-related, Adriaens must use the regular employee pension plan, which Heath assured would happen.

The Wyoming Retirement System typically requires the city to pay retirement contributions retroactively to the date of hire for a temporary position that is made permanent. This could cause problems since it would mean Adriaens would receive double pension payments, which is not allowed.

When alerted to that possibility, Heath said he would have City Clerk Scott Badley and Human Resources Director Heather Doke look into the matter with the Wyoming Retirement System and make sure everything was being done correctly.

Adriaens will be able to keep his law enforcement pension even if he switches to a regular pension plan, but he will only be allowed to contribute to the regular pension.

Heath said it is his plan to hire Adriaens permanently as chief of staff in six to eight months. He said he may wait until the new City Council is in place in January following upcoming elections to give them the courtesy of being in on that decision.

At this point, Heath said he does not wish to move to a city administrator form of government.

“I am still the CEO of the city, if you will, and he (Adriaens) does basically more of the day-to-day things that will free me up to go out into the public, ask the public what do they want to see, what can we do to better your life experience here in Sheridan,” Heath said.

Heath said the input he gathers from the public will be taken by Adriaens to the executive staff and implemented throughout city departments.

“That chief of staff is really a critical part of a new administration, like myself. I don’t have the expertise that Sen. Kinskey had, but my management background gives me an insight on how to put good people in the best positions,” Heath added.

As part of the change in leadership, police Capt. Scott Chandler was appointed interim police chief, a position he has held before in 2009 before Adriaens was hired as police chief. He also acted as interim chief before former Police Chief Mike Card was hired in 2005.

With the appointment, Chandler received a raise of $8,650 from $83,867.77 to $92,517.90. Adriaens’ raise was $30,000 from $107,654.04 to $137,427.10.

Heath added in an interview with The Sheridan Press that Adriaens’ salary is much less than it would be if the city had hired a chief of staff or city administrator, which Heath is allowed to do by statute, at a price tag of $170,000 or more from outside the city. He said that could be considered a cost savings for the city.

Cornerstone, time capsule prepared for new school

SHERIDAN — Kicking back with the Thursday edition of the paper in hand, the front page story “The Corner Stone Laid” tells of a “clear, bright and balmy day” in which a time capsule is sealed behind “a beautiful piece of Wyoming marble taken from the Stocks quarry near Big Horn.”

The ceremony, in honor of Sheridan’s new school, was executed by the Sheridan Lodge No. 8 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Wyoming.

Although this particular article comes from a copy of The Sheridan Post printed May 28, 1891, this story is set to repeat itself soon as the AF&AM of Wyoming will oversee the dedication of the cornerstone for the new Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School on Aug. 9.

Cornerstone ceremonies have been performed by the Masons across the nation for generations, with George Washington — Grand Master of his masonic lodge — even performing a similar ceremony for the dedication of the nation’s U.S. Capitol building.

The dedication of Sheridan’s first brick school building in 1891 was not only of particular importance at its time, featuring an elaborate ceremony complete with a parade and midnight ball, but is also significant today due to its key players and pieces.

Henry A. Coffeen was a member of Lodge 8 and served as Deputy Grand Master during the dedication of the school.

Along with lists of significant names and other documents, he and the other Masons sealed two pieces of wood in a time capsule that survived a journey only to one day be discovered on a back shelf of Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library.

Now, the new Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School will feature its own cornerstone-concealed capsule housing copies of all of those old documents and pieces of the wood, along with new additions.

The wood includes one piece of the war ship USS Constitution, which was sunk during the Revolutionary War, and a piece of the apple tree at Appomattox Court House, the site where General Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant met to negotiate the terms of surrender during the Civil War.

Along with pieces of each of those, a piece of wood from Fort Phil Kearny has been added to the new capsule, so a piece of local history can be present.

On Aug. 9 history will repeat itself as the ceremony commences at 3 p.m. in the auditorium of the new school on South Sheridan Avenue.

Sandy Baird is secretary of Lodge No. 8 and was instrumental in the creation of the upcoming ceremony and he took time recently to explain some of the items going in the capsule and some of the words engraved on the cornerstone.

Baird said traditionally a cornerstone features very basic information on the Masons and there is a second stone dedicated to the owner of the building, but that will not be the case for the Coffeen stone.

SCSD2 Board of Trustees member Scott Hininger and Jimmy Jon Dunlap on behalf of the Masons worked together and agreed to one shared stone which features an image of Henry A. Coffeen as well as some language special to the Masons.

“Anno Lucis” is engraved in the stone and means “Year of Light” which Baird says he believes refers to the beginning of time.

Though the AF&AM date back several centuries, much of their history and tradition is unknown as they have only been open about their fraternity since the 18th century and recorded documents from their earlier days are scarce.

The oldest known reference to the Masons is in a poem written in the 1390s, but Baird said while the research he has done is somewhat unclear, it appears the Masonic calendar set to the year of light dates back to the 14th century.

Behind the stone, one large copper box will be hermetically sealed with two smaller copper boxes inside.

One box will be filled by the school district with the help of Judy Slack from the Wyoming Room at the library, and the Masons will fill the other.

Baird said the box will be sealed after the ceremony so notes from the event may be added to the capsule.

The original capsule contained a copy of the front page newspaper story covering the event and the new capsule will contain a copy of The Sheridan Press, along with copies of The Press publications “Destination Sheridan” and other publications such as books on Henry Coffeen and on Sheridan County history to give the capsule a sense of time and place.

All of the contents will be discussed by Coffeen Elementary Principal Nikki Trahan during the formal ceremony also set to feature Master of Ceremonies Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan; a historical briefing by Tyson Emborg; and the dedication of the stone by Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Wyoming William D. Townsend, III.

The ceremony is open to all members of the community and the organizers look forward to sharing not only the tradition of the fanfare but also the history behind it, the capsule, the school and the man for which it was named.

SCSD2 Director of Elementary Education Scott Stults said the event is significant because, “It’s been said history can disappear very quickly if we don’t choose to continue to help educate our youth.”

Crews continue monitoring two fires on Bighorns

BIGHORN MOUNTAINS — Crews continued to build line around at least one fire in the Bighorn Mountains Monday.

Bighorn National Forest Officials said the lightning-caused Roane Creek Fire, approximately 30 acres in size and located 2.5 miles south of Highway 14A in the Pete’s Hole area, was 60 percent contained on Monday. Officials expected full containment of the fire today.

An area closure remains in effect around the fire area. The closures include Forest Service Roads 121, 122, 131, 122 and Trails 104 and 151.

A total of 98 personnel were assigned to the fire, including three helicopters, one water tender, two Hotshot crews, firefighters and support personnel.

On the north end of the Bighorns, crews continued to monitor the Pack Fire and conduct mop-up operations Monday. The fire is located approximately 10 miles north of Burgess Junction in steep terrain. The five-acre fire was expected to be fully contained Wednesday.

Officials said they expect fire activity to increase this week. Firefighters patrolling the forest have also found abandoned campfires.

“An unattended campfire can smolder for days or weeks until a hot windy day turns it into a wildfire,” Fire Management Officer Kevin Hillard said. “Human-caused fires are 100 percent preventable. We need the public’s help to curb this growing problem.”

Dayton Days cheer

Carolyn Workman “Tweety” waves at the crowds gathered during the 38th annual Dayton Days parade Saturday on Main Street in Dayton.

Local polo enthusiast gives lessons, rents horses

SHERIDAN — Polo is fun and affordable. That’s the message Ethan Galis is trying to convey through his lessons at the Big Horn Polo Academy.

Galis began playing polo in college at the University of Texas at Austin, and he calls himself an addict. Just when he thought he was burnt out of the sport, he was sucked right back in by an internship opportunity with the U.S. Polo Association.

Galis received an email from the USPA looking for someone to help develop other college students and recent graduates in the sport of polo, and that email came just in the nick of time.

“Truth be told, I was about ready to call it quits with polo,” he said. “I didn’t have the horses or anything to keep me in the sport, but then I got the email from the USPA about an internship.”

That same internship program brought Galis to Sheridan this summer.

It is Galis’ goal, in teaching the sport of polo, to get others to simply enjoy the sport as much as he does. Well, almost as much as he does; the guy’s hooked. He lives for the sport.

He says Sheridan’s polo community is a great place for him because the laid back mentality the riders have is similar to his.

That’s not to say he doesn’t get competitive, though.

Galis began competing in various equestrian disciplines when he was 9, was team captain and president of the UT Austin polo club and has attended clinics and worked under different mentors. He definitely has experience on a horse.

When talking to him, you can hear his competitive side creep out, but the seemingly never-fading smile on his face suggests how much fun the sport can be.

Galis wants to relay that passion of polo to as many new players as possible, which means making it affordable.

“There are those clubs out there that make it a little bit easier financially, and Big Horn is definitely one of those clubs,” he said. “They’re more focused on getting people out and making it extremely reasonable.”

He wants to show people that it’s not impossible to play polo and have fun without emptying their bank accounts.

“There’s another side of polo that people don’t get to see,” Galis said about the common misconception that polo is a rich man’s game. “What we called it in Texas was Redneck Polo. You rent a horse and maybe at the end of the day you’re only paying 80 bucks for a good clean chukker.”

Although polo is seasonal in Wyoming, he gives credit to the Sheridan community for making it successful.

“The beautiful thing about this place is that all these people are just looking to have fun playing polo,” he said of Sheridan.

Sheridan has two polo clubs, the Big Horn Polo Club, a public club, and the Flying H Polo Club, which is private.

Although the Flying H features a higher and faster level of play, Galis was impressed at how they don’t encroach on the Big Horn club, and vice versa.

“The two clubs work together really well, and you don’t really see that in a lot of places,” he said.

Galis, who works mostly with the Big Horn Polo Club, is using his summer in Sheridan to prepare himself for one day reaching his ultimate goal of starting his own club in Texas.

Not only is he using his time here to perfect his teaching skills, but he’s also keeping an eye on how things at the Big Horn Polo Club are run.

“Houston has a very competitive environment,” he said, speaking of the Houston Polo Club, the biggest in the country. “But I’d like to get something a little more affordable in Texas. I’d like to set up something similar to this (Big Horn Polo Club) in Austin that’s affordable and more club based and more relaxed.”

For now, though, Galis has his mind focused on Sheridan and keeping young players engaged in the sport. He’s been pleased with the turnout through the first half of the summer but is always hoping for more riders.

Galis hosts polo lessons three times a week — Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays — and encourages anyone that is interested to give it a shot, even if you don’t have a horse of your own (he has them for rent.)

Those interested can contact Ethan Galis at (817) 991-1366.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local group seeks funding, ideas for aquatics facility

SHERIDAN — A group of residents calling themselves the Citizens for Community Recreation announced this week plans to change the landscape of Sheridan’s recreational pools.

The group hopes to build an indoor aquatics facility that would host family swim programs similar to what is currently provided by the YMCA and the Sheridan Recreation District. It would also be available for open swims like what are offered at Kendrick Pool in the summer.

Sheridan Recreation District Executive Director Richard Wright said he got involved with the group because the district has a vested interest in aquatics programs in the community. In addition, he said, none of the groups in Sheridan pursuing a solution to the aging pool system have the resources to go it alone.

“We’re searching for ways and ideas from the community — the best way to tackle this challenge that we all kind of inherited,” Wright said Thursday. “We’re all struggling with aquatics — the school district, the rec district and the Y. It is very important to the community.”

 

But what’s wrong with the pools Sheridan already has?

Pools have been a point of discussion in the community for some time.

In 2012, a steering committee formed to determine the plausibility of rebuilding the outdoor pool at Kendrick Park.

The pool was originally built in 1937 and is owned by the city.

The facility operates at a loss nearly every year, though it has been largely subsidized with profits from the Kendrick Park ice cream stand.

Much of that deficit can be blamed on ongoing maintenance issues related to the facility’s age. TSP Architects completed an assessment of the pool earlier this month. The report outlines costs required to keep the pool operational for another five to 10 years.

“This report does not attempt to address deficiencies and remedial solutions to return the facility to ‘as new’ condition,” the assessment’s introduction reads. “To do so would require replacement of most or all of the existing components.”

The list of fixes suggested by TSP to extend the life of the public pool total more than $725,000.

The YMCA pools, while newer, also have infrastructure challenges. YMCA Executive Director Jay McGinnis said the original pools were built in 1964 and they function for health and fitness classes alongside swim lessons. But, the design limits additional opportunities.

For example, he said, there is no zero-entry pool, which makes it difficult for children under the age of 6 to touch the bottom of the pool. This can make swim instruction difficult.

In addition, the stairs into and out of the pool area from the locker rooms are narrow and difficult for those with disabilities to navigate. The deck area around the pools is not best suited for family open swims.

While open swims tend to be the highest attended activity at most pools, it is the smallest activity at the YMCA because of the facility’s limitations.

The infrastructure problems facing both Kendrick Park and the YMCA pools mean solutions are needed to provide future aquatics opportunities to the Sheridan community.

 

Does Sheridan need a pool?

In 2013, the Sheridan Recreation District conducted a survey regarding the possibility and community need for a new pool.

The survey had about 630 responses. Of those, 95 percent thought Sheridan should have an outdoor pool and about 90 percent thought it should stay where it is in Kendrick Park.

Community members’ use of the pool also remains strong. The recreation district recorded attendance of more than 18,750 throughout the 2012 season and Wright said numbers are typically around or above 20,000 visitors each summer.

An assessment recently conducted by MIG consultants out of Portland also indicates a need for aquatics facilities in the area. The report indicates that swimming is popular in Sheridan and there is some unmet need for recreational swimming.

 

What happens next?

As a way to solve Sheridan’s pool problems, the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to build a new indoor facility with a combination of public and private dollars.

The group has discussed where the new facility could be located and what it could include, but hope to hear additional input from the community.

Studies have also shown that community pools located on the outskirts of town typically don’t do as well as those located centrally, so the Citizens for Community Recreation hope to keep the facility close to its current location.

McGinnis said he believes a new indoor facility would cost approximately $10-12 million, depending on the features included. Members of the organized committee have said they believe they can raise about half of that, maybe more, in private donations.

The other half, though, would likely come in the form of support from the city of Sheridan and Sheridan County.

McGinnis added that there is a petition circulating that allows community members to voice their support for the use of tax dollars for the project.

In addition, on Aug. 2, Kendrick Park pool will be open free to the public from 1-7 p.m.

Members of the Citizens for Community Recreation will be on site to answer questions in regards to their plans and to gather input from the community.

K-Life helps local youth reach new heights

Eight-year-old Landis Zebroski finds a foothold during the K-Life rock climbing trip to Piney Creek Canyon in Story. The trip was offered for free by K-Life for the youth — many of which had never climbed before.

Voters consider Gosar at forum

SHERIDAN — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Pete Gosar said Tuesday during a stop in Sheridan to rally supporters that he thinks having a Democratic governor working with a Republican Legislature produces a stronger, more well-balanced state.

“As a Democrat, and as a minority, I think you understand how to compromise in how you deal and work with folks. I think that’s an art that is a bit lost on a super majority,” Gosar told The Press following the meeting.

“Whenever there was a Democratic governor and a Republican Legislature, I think it worked better than a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature, and I think it’s the balance, and the ability to compromise, and the ability to have all points at the table. You get more perspective, you get better decisions, is what I believe, and I think that’s been missing the last four years,” Gosar added.

Gosar is running against Republican candidates Matt Mead, Cindy Hill and Taylor Haynes for the seat.

Approximately 20 people attended the gathering Tuesday and asked Gosar to elaborate on a variety of topics including Common Core education standards, Medicaid expansion, hunting and fishing access, energy development and the minimum wage.

• Common Core: Gosar supports the Common Core education standards. He thinks they have been misconstrued as having more control than they actually do. He said they are a basic set of standards that still allow Wyoming teachers to decide how best to educate in their classrooms. He also noted it would be costly to the state to eliminate the standards.

In a similar strain, Gosar said the Nest Generation Science Standards should not have been blocked from implementation by the Legislature, especially in the manner it was done, using a footnote in the budget in the last few days of the session. He said he would have used a line item veto to allow the standards to be implemented.

• Medicaid expansion: Gosar supports Medicaid expansion, which he said could help nearly 18,000 Wyoming residents obtain needed health insurance coverage and care. He said he does not understand why Mead has resisted the expansion until recently changing his mind to support it.

“Now it’s full speed ahead, and I’m not sure voters will support that,” Gosar said.

• Hunting and fishing access: Gosar spoke against recent budget cuts for the Game and Fish Department that eliminated youth education programs and limited fish stocking numbers, among other things. Gosar said he would like to improve hunting and fishing access by using “rainy day” funds to revive Game and Fish programs.

“Wyoming is well known for its hunting and fishing, and it’s reckless to not reinvest into that industry. I think it’s been reckless the last few years,” Gosar said.

Gosar said he thinks Wyoming needs to stop stashing money away just to stash it away, noting that he thinks an $8-10 billion rainy day fund is excessive.

He said he would like to see the state operate like a business by investing its resources back into its people and industries that are suffering from budget cuts and restraints even though there is money available.

Gosar said he would take the same approach of using reserve funds to eliminate the waiting list for people with developmental disabilities who are waiting to receive waivers to obtain services.

• Energy development: Gosar pointed out that he is the son of an oil man and that he supports energy development in the state. However, he said, development needs to include innovation by energy companies, college research programs and individuals to make sure Wyoming can adapt to future needs and federal regulations.

• Minimum wage: Gosar supports raising the minimum wage. He thinks doing so will help lift families out of poverty and stimulate the economy as more money is spent in Wyoming communities. He said he understands that raising the minimum wage may result in some job loss, but that the overall number of people helped outweighs that cost.

• Other issues: Gosar said he will work to close the wage gap between men and women in Wyoming, that he supports gay marriage, that he wants to repeal Senate File 104, which stripped the superintendent of public instruction of many of her duties, and that he supports legalizing medical marijuana.

‘As You Like It’

Casey Hoekstra as Oliver struggles with Nate Cheeseman as Orlando in the opening scene of William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” performed by the Montana Shakespeare in the Park 2014 tour Friday evening at Kendrick Park.

Clean Water Sheridan hires legal counsel to stop fluoridation

SHERIDAN — Clean Water Sheridan has hired an attorney and announced it will file for a declaratory judgment and mandatory injunction against the city of Sheridan in order to halt the addition of fluoride to Sheridan’s water supply.

The group, which became an official nonprofit association Wednesday, is contending that a vote in the general election of 1953 that enacted a ballot resolution to end water fluoridation can only be overturned by a new vote of the people.

According to a press release, Clean Water Sheridan further contends that City Council overstepped its bounds in 2010 by passing a resolution that negated the results of the binding vote of 1953.

The 2010 resolution directed the public works department to adjust the level of fluoride in the water supply to optimal levels.

At this point, the Environmental Protection Agency has set the maximum contaminant level for fluoride in a water supply at 4 parts per million. The EPA has also set a secondary standard recommending the maximum level be 2 parts per million. Secondary standards are nonenforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects, such as skin or tooth discoloration, in drinking water.

Sheridan officials will use a supervisory control and data acquisition system to keep fluoride levels in Sheridan’s water at 0.7 ppm.

Public Works Director Nic Bateson said the city hopes to have a fluoridation system installed at both water treatment plants by some time in August. The systems were originally slated to be installed by June, but the complexity of the conventional upgrades and the high summer water demand at the treatment plants pushed the total project timeline back.

Bateson said the revised timeline for fluoridation system installation in August has not changed. He said he is not sure when the system will be started up but that the city will notify the community when the system is installed and when fluoridation begins.

Clean Water Sheridan was established more than a year ago to fight the addition of fluoride to Sheridan’s water, operating a grassroots effort that included public education and gathering signatures on a petition against fluoridation.

The group became an official nonprofit association on Wednesday, just a week after hiring Cheyenne-based attorney Robert Moxley to represent its case. Moxley specializes in civil rights litigation and cases involving government overreach, according to his website.

Marty DaBell, a member of Clean Water Sheridan, said the group received an anonymous donation in June that provided the needed funds to hire legal counsel.

“We knew it would likely come to the point where someone in power would have to make a decision,” DaBell said.

DaBell said the group tried to find a local attorney but was unsuccessful. Moxley was recommended as an option.

Clean Water Sheridan contends that fluoride can cause medical problems for bottle fed infants, diabetics and kidney and thyroid patients, according to its press release. The group also contends fluoride is available to anyone who wishes to use it but costly and difficult to remove for residents who do not wish to consume it.

Those in support of water fluoridation say it strengthens teeth and helps prevent tooth decay, especially in lower-income families who may not be able to afford regular dental visits.

 

Musicians import sound from the Alps

SHERIDAN — The connection is unavoidable: say “alphorn” and people shrug uncertainly, but say “Ricola,” and people smile and nod, their memories tracing backward to watching Saturday morning cartoons and being enraptured by the commercial with the men in funny clothes standing on a mountain, playing a long, funny horn.

Admit it; you’re shouting “Riiiiiii-co-laaaaaaaa” right now — either in your head, or for the more brave, right out loud.

That horn tucked in America’s collective memory is an alphorn.

And in Sheridan, alphorns are no longer relegated to a TV commercial from the past.

A group of four Sheridan musicians has started Big Horn Alphorns, a musical group featuring the exotic instruments that brings a little bit of the Alps into Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains.

“Like anything new, it’s always like you’re hesitant to do it, but it’s fun. The sounds are really great,” Big Horn Alphorn member Edre Maier said. “I like playing out where people can get interested. We sound horrible, but they think we sound great. It’s a sound they haven’t heard, and they’re just enthralled with it, and I think that’s exciting.”

At this point, the group tries to practice every Wednesday, but the location changes. Sometimes it’s at the Kendrick Park bandshell, sometimes it’s in Whitney Commons and sometimes it may be on Grinnell Plaza or at a beer fest.

“It’s sort of a keep your eyes out for the alphorns situation,” Big Horn Alphorn founder Dale Hoffman said.

“And come running with beer,” Maier added at a recent practice, showing the group’s tight-knit, lighthearted feel about playing an admittedly odd instrument together.

Big Horn Alphorns was founded about a year ago by Hoffman, who had seen his first alphorn performance two years ago while in Germany for his son’s wedding. He and several other guests from the states went to Neuschwanstein Castle, and at the base of the mountain in a little village, there was a group of alphorn players.

“I talked to this one, and he let me play his alphorn, and it kind of got me hooked,” Hoffman said. “By a year later, I had my own alphorn.”

Hoffman bought his alphorn from Alphorn Bau Neumann in Germany. When it arrived, he invited fellow community band musicians Maier, Patricia Dray and Doug Moore over to his house to show it off — which, of course, involved letting each horn player play the alphorn and led to a similar “hooked” kind of feeling.

“When Dale calls, we come running,” Maier said at a recent practice.

“Not quite. Walking, maybe,” Hoffman retorted.

“He’s pretty persistent, though,” Maier said. “‘You would like to do this, wouldn’t you?’ ‘No.’ ‘You’d like to do this, wouldn’t you.’ ‘Well, maybe.’ ‘You’d like to do this.’ ‘All right.’”

The group bought three more horns, and well, here they are playing polka and waltzes and generally bringing a little culture and a little fun to Sheridan.

Most alphorn music is written for three or four parts, Hoffman said. He plays the bass notes, using a larger wooden mouthpiece than the others. Moore and Dray, both trumpet players, play the middle notes, and Maier, a French horn player, hits the higher notes.

The horn has no valves and is controlled solely by lip movement.

“It’s the speed of the buzz,” said Moore, the music teacher at Sheridan Junior High School. “Lower the speed, the lower the note, the faster the speed, the higher the note.”

Each member said it was the uniqueness of the instrument and the opportunity that drew them into the group — even with a price tag of approximately $2,500 for the horn. The camaraderie of playing together has kept them going, even when the sounds are a bit off.

Moore said the instrument is limited to about eight notes in a two to three octave range: the fundamental, the octave, the fifth, the third and an out-of-tune seventh.

“I’m the out-of-tune seventh,” Maier piped in.

Out of tune or not, the Big Horn Alphorns are worth a listen.

Now, go ahead, you know you want to yell it one more time…

 

 

Fun facts

• The alphorn is a long, wooden horn made of pine or fir played primarily in places like Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Germany, Hungary and Romania. It has no valves and is played entirely with lip movement. The length of the horn determines what key it plays in. Historically, the horn was carved from a solid piece of wood, but it now is often formed from three pieces of wood and can be taken apart for storage.

• Archaeological evidence shows the oldest surviving alphorns date to 1400 A.D. Other sources say Celtic tribes that first settled the northern Alps some 2,000 years ago first used these instruments.

• In the right weather conditions in the Swiss Alps, an alphorn can be heard 24 miles away.

• The horns played by the Big Horn Alphorns are in the key of F, which means they are 12 feet, 3 inches long.

• It takes five years to dry the block of wood used to carve the bell of the horn.

 

 

Adriaens named city’s chief of staff

SHERIDAN — City Human Resources Director Heather Doke has confirmed that Police Chief Rich Adriaens has been appointed by Mayor John Heath as interim chief of staff for the city.

As such, Adriaens will act as chief operating officer to facilitate day-to-day operations of staff.

According to a memo sent by Heath to city employees earlier this week, Adriaens has filled this role part time for the last couple years. Adriaens was key in implementing a five-year budget plan and the city’s first two-year budget, Heath said in the memo, as well as providing leadership and oversight when ambulance service was contracted out to Rocky Mountain Ambulance a couple years ago.

Heath said one of Adriaen’s key roles will be to implement strategic and budgetary plans for the city. Heath will continue to focus on community outreach and promotion of the city and city events. He will also act as a liaison to local, state agencies and organizations to ensure strong partnerships.

“In Sheridan’s past, several mayors have used a chief of staff to facilitate the day-to-day operations of staff,” Heath said. “Mayor Della Herbst had Ram Holly, and Mayor Jim Wilson used Jackie Flowers in the role. I intend to operate as the CEO of the city and I expect Chief Adriaens to operate as the chief operating officer.”

Another go

Ronda Holwell of Sheridan makes her turn around a barrel in the first go-round of barrel racing during the slack event Tuesday afternoon at Frontier Park Arena in Cheyenne as part of Frontier Days. Holwell recently competed in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo as well.

Longmire Days countdown

SHERIDAN — The third annual Longmire Days will commence Friday in Buffalo and just as the hit TV Show “Longmire” continues to grow in popularity on A&E, this year’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever before.

“Longmire” is a crime drama television series based on the mystery novels written by local author Craig Johnson centered around Walt Longmire, a Wyoming county sheriff.

The show debuted on June 3, 2012, as TV network A&E’s top original series premiere of all time with 4.1 million viewers tuning in for the pilot episode.

Viewership grew and season two started off with 4.3 million viewers.

Now in its third season, this Monday night’s show had the seventh highest viewership of all cable shows, even while competing with the Major League Baseball homerun derby.

The Longmire Days festival brings the show to life and to town as actors and the author of the books come for a weekend of activities around Buffalo.

Locals and visitors are as excited for the events in Buffalo this weekend as the nation is about the show and organizers are anticipating attendance at this weekend’s events to double over last year.

“Last year we saw between 3-5,000 people on just two months notice to plan the event, let alone get the word out on it,” Buffalo Chamber of Commerce Office Assistant Brittiny Morrison said. “This year we’ve been getting the word out since February and March and we’re expecting to see 7-10,000 people come through town.

There are many new features on the agenda for this weekend including a children’s acting workshop produced by Louanne Stephens — who plays Ruby on the show — in Crazy Woman Square on Saturday. Other activities will include screenings of episodes at the Buffalo Theater, a “Dinner on the Mountain” at Meadowlark and a question and answer session at the theater.

The “Dinner on the Mountain” Saturday will feature a pig roast, live music and a cash bar and though there is no guarantee actors will be present Morrison said it is yet another fun thing to do around town with a “Longmire” theme.

The Q&A at the Buffalo Theater will allow attendees to submit a question for the actors and author present who will include Robert Taylor, Cassidy Freeman, Katee Sackhoff, Adam Bartley, Zahn McClarnon, Stephens and Johnson.

Pre-registration is required for this event and admission will cost $10 per person.

Some of last year’s favorite events are back and many have been enhanced or extended.

A second autograph signing has been added. The session in Crazy Woman Square will still be held, but attendees will also have the option of an indoor signing Friday morning at the old Clear Creek Elementary.

Attendees are welcome to bring items from home for autographing and “Longmire” merchandise will also be available for sale at a variety of locations but not at the site of the signing.

The Bucking Buffalo shop will have a temporary storefront downtown selling official “Longmire” merchandise in the vacant space previously occupied by Annie’s Antiques.

The Chamber of Commerce will have a variety of items available for purchase including posters, magazines and sheriff’s badges, though Morrison said those are not conducive to autographs.

The Office will have some of the items you can find elsewhere and will also be selling T-shirts.

The skeet shoot is also returning but at a new location that promises to accommodate more participants.

HF Bar Guest Ranch houses multiple sporting clay courses and will open two for the event.

Pre-registration is required for the skeet shoot and costs $125 per person to cover guns, targets, ammo and a donation to a charity of the cast’s choosing which is Homes for our Troop for Longmire Days 2014.

Participants must use the weapons supplied by the ranch and hearing and eye protection is encouraged.

A food court has been added this year, expanding the dining options of the community, and the annual Craig Johnson book signing at the library will include a new seminar this year entitled “So You Want to Write a Mystery.”

To bring the event to a close, an evening of jazz will be performed in the square by “The Ferg” Sunday from 6-8 p.m.

A full schedule of events can be seen at www.buffalowyo.com or more information contact the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce at 684-5544 or officeassistant@buffalowyo.com.

Arrests over rodeo week up, but nonviolent

SHERIDAN — As the dust settled from the Sheridan WYO Rodeo action last week, spectators poured onto Main Street for the annual street dance held Friday and Saturday nights.

In the middle of it all, the annual butt dart competition was played for prizes.

The object of the game is to put a quarter in between your cheeks, or somewhere in that vicinity, and complete an obstacle course without dropping the quarter.

Kelly Leeper has been a finalist in the butt darts competition every year but this one.

“I thought one of the Koltiskas was playing around with me and let me go through the course after I dropped it. But it turns out I still had it in my butt cheeks,” Leeper said Saturday night after his turn in the competition.

Butt dart antics aside, the week of rodeo festivities ended up being what the Sheridan Police Department has come to expect, Sgt. Travis Koltiska said.

“Overall, it was what we expected out of the weekend. There were really no surprises. There was not an overly large increase or decrease in the numbers of incidents we dealt with,” Koltiska said.

Arrests for the week did increase though, from 27 last year to 46 this year. Koltiska said most of the arrests were alcohol related and non-violent. There were 10 DUIs compared to two last year, he said, and 15 minors in possession of alcohol this year compared to just four in 2013.

Koltiska did note that 33 of the 46 arrests, though, were for individuals not from Sheridan.

In addition, fighting, a usually common occurrence during rodeo week, was down.

“It was a calm crowd overall. Fighting is something we’ve dealt with a lot in the past, but this year there were very few fights. That was something we were happy to see,” Koltiska said.

Throughout the week, cases primarily involved driving under the influence, public intoxication and some instances of minors in possession of alcohol.

However, Koltiska said the police department took a lot of steps to try to minimize the amount of cases of minors in possession of alcohol. Before the rodeo, the Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention and the police department worked together to purchase identification scanners that operate on Apple system smartphones. The scanners can scan barcodes and magnetic strips on IDs to determine if the ID is valid.

“We have some bugs to work out with them, but overall they made ID scanning quick,” Koltiska said.

Last year, the police department utilized ID scanners that were much slower, causing long lines and entry delays into the street dance. The new scanners and an extra entrance on the north end sped up entry times.

The scanners can be programmed to conduct a variety of functions including detecting duplicate entries that may come from minors passing around a valid ID or using both a paper ID and a real ID to try to get more than one person in.

Koltiska said more than 3,000 wrist bands were sold Friday night for the street dance and close to 4,000 for Saturday night.

“Even though the street dance ends at 4:30 Sunday morning, we have ancilliary cleanup to do with people we find overindulged who tried walking home and didn’t make it or who walked in the wrong direction, which happens more than you would think,” Koltiska said.

Koltiska addressed the idea that people feel like they can’t walk or drive after drinking because they’ll be picked up for DUI or public intoxication one way or the other by saying safety is paramount. Anyone walking home to avoid drunken driving, which is good, Koltiska said, still needs to be able to know where he or she is going and be coherent enough to function safely.

“You can walk home if you’re intoxicated, but you can’t walk home if you’re so highly intoxicated that you’re a danger to yourself,” Koltiska said.

For example, on one of the three arrests for public intoxication over the weekend, the person had a blood alcohol level of .31, nearly four times the legal limit. Another was at .18, which is still nearly double the legal limit.

For next year, Koltiska said the police department will try to plan better for directing traffic after the parade, especially in the area of Fifth Street and Main, Val Vista and Broadway streets, which saw some congestion and bottlenecking this year due to pedestrian traffic heading to the powwow at the historic Sheridan Inn.

 

Press reporter Kendra Cousineau contributed to this report.

Another one in the books

Devan Reilly of Sheridan rides Broadmore for a score of 74 in the bareback riding event during the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Saturday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds arena.

Friday night rodeo more than sold-out crowd could ask for

SHERIDAN — If Friday night’s performances at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo were any indication of how the weekend is going to go, the capacity crowd is sure to be in for a wild night of rodeo tonight. Wednesday and Thursday nights go-rounds were nothing to complain about, but Friday’s show was as much as the sold-out crowd could have asked for, and then some.

From the gentlemen who paint the lines for the Indian Relays, to the pickup men, there seemed to be a little extra energy in the air as the night kicked off.

Whether it was the enjoyment of the parade earlier in the morning, or the relief that the work week was over, the people at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds had a little extra giddy-up in their step.

Lynwood His Bad Horse Jr. definitely had some extra pep in his step during the World Champion Indian Relay Races as he put on a clinic, exchanging horses with ease on his way to a run away victory in his heat. But the night was just getting started.

Before the crowd even knew what hit them, Orin Larsen was marching out of the arena after putting on a show in the bareback ride. His score of 86 was the best of the night, and good enough to put him atop the leaderboard after three nights of rodeo.

Chad Rutherford also had an excellent ride and really got the crowd fired up when he dismounted from his 83-point ride and pumped his fists in front of the grandstands.

The rain clouds began to hover overhead but luckily held off during the steer wrestling competition, although it would have been pretty exciting to see the bear-like men duke it out with the 500-pound beasts in the middle of a torrential downpour.

The crowd still found plenty of enjoyment watching the cowboys and the steers go at it, including a takedown from Tait Kvistad that would have made even Macho Man Randy Savage proud. Kvistad’s time of 5.16 seconds was the fast time of the night in steer wrestling.

The crowd was given a brief break to rock out with rodeo clown Crash Cooper, as four “lucky” contestants got to show off their air guitar skills in front of the already raucous crowd.

While the crowd was rocking out in their seats, the calves were doing some rocking of their own as they came out in the steer roping competition with more energy than an angst-filled teenager in the mosh pit at an Iron Maiden concert.

While three of the seven ropers didn’t record a score, only Neal Wood’s time of 13.1 seconds broke the 15-second mark and didn’t even tease Chance Kelton’s 9.8-second top time.

One of the highlights, though, of the evening came during the saddle bronc riding contest. Although Sheridan College rider Taygen Schuelke was a late scratch from the event, the rest of the riders picked up the slack to impress the Sheridan crowd.

Ty Thompson posted an 83 on Wednesday, which held on through Thursday’s go-round and was the high score heading into last night. It didn’t last long, though.

Twin brothers Jake and Jesse Wright went back-to-back on Friday, posting scores of 85 and 83, respectively. Jesse Wright hadn’t even jumped off of his bucking bronco before letting out a massive “woo-hoo,” impressing even himself with his ride. But it was Snyder, Texas’s, Sam Spreadborough who stole the show. His 87-point ride was a thing of beauty. His score was the top score of the night and will be the score to beat heading into the final night of the rodeo.

Although only four of the ten team roping teams posted scores, they were sure to put the pressure on one another, as all four teams finished in under 6 seconds. The team of David Motes and Evan Arnold was the fast time of the night, finishing in 5.4 seconds.

The tie-down ropers got a piece of the top-scoring action, as well. Ryle Smith and Justin Macha both recorded times of 8.8 seconds, putting them in a three-way tie atop the leaderboard with Scott Kormos’s performance on Thursday.

The barrel racers had a tough act to follow as they tried to catch Sammi Bessert’s lightning-fast ride of 17.09 seconds from the night before. The cowgirls struggled a bit compared to their competitors on Thursday. While five riders ran below 17 1/2 seconds on Thursday, only Callie DuPerier came in under that time with a 17.49 on Friday.

But just in case the already high-score filled evening wasn’t enough for the fans, the bull riders put the icing on the Sheridan WYO Rodeo cake in the final event of the night.

All five riders that posted scores scored at least 80 points. Kody Lostroh’s 85-point ride from the opening night had been a tough score to beat until last night. Both Cole Echols and Trey Benton III surpassed that mark, posting an 87 and an 89, respectively.

As the arena emptied and the cowboys removed their chaps, the crowd filed out of the fairgrounds with smiles across their faces. If tonight’s final performances are even close to as good as they were a night ago, then calling it one helluva rodeo would be the understatement of the year.

Strategy focuses on the exchange

SHERIDAN — Much has been said about the tradition and history behind the Indian Relay Races seen at the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo but when you get down to the heart of the event, it is a sport rich with skill, strategy and practice.

There are four players on a relay team: the rider, the holder, the mugger and the stopper.

Though the attention of the audience is often on the rider, the other three players are equally key in achieving a win.

The mugger holds the harness of the horse and points its head in the direction it will need to run once mounted, prior to the rider hopping aboard.

The holder keeps the horse still in position for a smooth exchange by the rider from horse to horse.

The stopper gains control of the horse as it slows for the rider’s dismount, also ensuring a flawless transition.

Each relay team has its own strategy and practice rituals, but there seems to be a general consensus among the athletes that the key to a win is in the exchange.

“It’s about fast horses, of course, but it’s more about the exchange,” said Maverick White Clay from team Bad War Deeds. “A fast exchange will win a race.”

White Clay explained that strategy must be utilized throughout the race from a good start standing next to the nape of a still and focused horse to the smooth release with a correct landing.

It would appear that White Clay’s advice was spot on as his team took first place in their heat of the races Thursday night at the fairgrounds, though watching each of the heats shows there is surely more to the event than that.

The race begins with the shot of a gun as the riders fling their right leg over the horse and the holder releases and the mugger directs.

As the rider approaches the first exchange to switch to the second horse, he slows his horse only slightly as the stopper steps forward to help control the speeding animal.

The holder and mugger have already regrouped on horse two for another smooth start and this is the moment the audience had better be alert, because as the rider removes his right leg for a brief moment on the ground the momentum of the horse being dismounted propels the rider toward the fresh horse and in less than five steps the rider is on the bare back of a new animal.

With a small set of defined skills needed to win, practice is often about two things: the animals’ speed and the riders’ agility.

“We usually are galloping at practice; most training is about getting the wind in the horse,” White Clay said. “Some days we practice the exchange as it would be in the race and we try to race the track they will compete on to familiarize the horse with it.”

Tim Birdinground is the holder for team Curly Relay — named for members of the group being descendants of General George Custer — and he said the key is a good starting position and that practice is all about the transition for his team.

Birdinground added a reminder that practice may prevent injury, but there is no guarantee. During rodeo last year, their stopper was run over.

While trying to slow the horse coming in from his lap, he lost control and was brought to the ground but survived relatively unscathed.

Though the team consists of four men, there is one additional athlete essential to the relay: the horse.

Birdinground said the ideal age of a relay horse is between 6-8, and they start training their horses around age 2 or 3.

However, team Bad War Deeds was busy painting an 11-year-old horse alongside their 6-year-old and said the horse can be a success at any age.

Regardless of the focus of the practice, the expertise of the team during the competition or the horse being ridden, the unique sport of the Indian Relay Races is sure to be a crowd pleaser at the Sheridan WYO Rodeo for years to come.

John Heath chosen as new mayor

SHERIDAN — John Heath, former City Council president, was appointed as the new mayor of Sheridan in a special meeting held at noon today. He will finish out former Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey’s unexpired term through 2016.

Kinskey resigned his position as mayor at the meeting after being appointed Monday to fill the Senate District 22 seat left vacant by the death of Sen. John Schiffer last month. He will represent all of Johnson County and rural areas of eastern and southern Sheridan County.

Kinskey is scheduled to be sworn in as a senator on Tuesday. He will complete Schiffer’s unexpired term through 2016.

The change in leadership caused a further changing of the guard as new council members were nominated to fill the roles of council president and vice president.

The council unanimously chose Councilman Alex Lee as president and Councilman Bob Webster as vice president. Lee formerly served as vice president. In his new role, Lee will be acting mayor when Heath is away.

The meeting had somber moments as Kinskey made his farewells and council members thanked him for his leadership and said their goodbyes. On the other hand, there were moments of celebration — complete with a standing ovation by council and the audience — for Heath’s nomination to the role of mayor.

The council chambers in City Hall were filled with city staff, family members and representatives from the county and surrounding towns including Commissioner Mike Nickel, Dayton Town Councilman Dennis Wagner, Clearmont Mayor Chris Schock and former City Councilman John Bigelow.

“This is a bittersweet moment for two reasons,” Kinskey said in his resignation speech. “First, because this transition is occasioned by the death of our dear friend, state Sen. John Schiffer. John was a good man. He was a great legislator. He was a tireless advocate for Wyoming. He was a family man. As Saint Paul wrote, he fought the good fight; he finished the race; he kept the faith.”

“This moment is one of mixed emotions for a second reason,” Kinskey continued. “Simply put, I love my job. It has been my honor to serve the people of Sheridan. I appreciate the trust they have put in me and the City Council. There is no greater calling than service to others, and there is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

Kinskey continued his speech by saying he was confident he was leaving the city in good hands. He then handed the gavel to Heath to continue the meeting. The council voted to accept Kinskey’s resignation before Lee nominated Heath to serve as mayor. Councilman Jesus Rios seconded, and all approved.

“I am proud to accept this role on behalf of the citizens of Sheridan. I want to thank my fellow council members for their vote of confidence and their service, and I pledge my commitment in time and energy to continue to put Sheridan and the citizens of Sheridan first,” Heath said in his acceptance speech.

Each council member took a moment to say thank you to Kinskey and to welcome Heath as their new mayor, many citing what they had learned from each man.

When comments were opened to the public, Bigelow stepped to the microphone.

“John, big boots; your feet are that large. You can do it,” he said.

Following the meeting, Heath said that he was eager to begin the job and aware that it would be a 70-hour a week position. Although Heath would not have guessed even three weeks ago that he’d be mayor of Sheridan, he said when the possibility arose that Kinskey may be leaving, he did ask his fellow council members to consider him for the appointment.

“As president of City Council, prior to being mayor, I was very much involved in the day-to-day business, and this is exactly what we’re going to do,” Heath said. “We’re going to continue to move forward. There is no change in direction: growing the economy, bringing jobs back into our community, like we say up here, working with existing businesses, making sure that they prosper, making sure this is a beautiful city so people can come, enjoy, live, retire, raise children.”

The process for appointing a new mayor is delineated in Wyoming State Statute, which states that city council will choose a new mayor from one of the city council members. Typically, the appointed mayor serves until the next general election, at which time whoever is elected fills the seat through the unexpired term.

However, a second state statute rules that a vacancy in the second year of the mayor’s term after the first day of the filing period to run for election will result in whoever is appointed to fill the seat finishing out the unexpired term.

City Clerk Scott Badley said there is no timeline set by state rules for when the vacant City Council seat must be filled. He said the council will likely announce the vacancy at its next meeting July 21 and will then decide how to fill it.

The seat could be filled in a similar manner to the vacancy filled by Rios earlier this year where applications are accepted from the public and an interview and selection process conducted, or the council could wait to fill the seat during the upcoming election. Badley said he did not know what process the council would choose.

Let’s get WYO’d

Scotty NeSmith of Morristown, Tennessee, dismounts for a score of 71 in the bareback riding event during the first night of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Wednesday at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds.

The boots are off

SHERIDAN — The boots were flying last night at Kendrick Park as the annual Sheridan WYO Rodeo Boot Kickoff was held, marking the official beginning of rodeo week. The Boot Kickoff began with stick horse barrel racing for kids 8 and under. Four-year-old Adeline Miller, and her stick horse Skipper-Bucker, were getting some practice rounds in before the race.

Alongside Miller, was her friend 5-year-old Drake Martinson, who took second place at last year’s Boot Kickoff and said his strategy was to “run really fast.”

“I don’t have my horse this year, so I am borrowing Skipper-Bucker,” Martinson said.

Practice always pays off as Miller took third in the 4-year-old and younger category.

The winners for the stick horse barrel races were Kolby Smith, for the 4 and younger category, Kyndal McFadden in the 5 and 6-year-old category, and Abagail Olson for the 7 and 8-year-old category.

Then the boots came off.

Sierra Powers won the 9 to 12-year-old category with a kick of 59 feet, 10 inches in the boot kicking contest, and Alec Adell took home first in the 13 to 17-year-old category with a kick of 93 feet.

For 18 and older, the boot kicking was divided into men’s and women’s categories. Katie Lloyd finished first with a 76-foot-9-inch kick, and Phil Sonners won it for the men with a whopping 100 feet, 11 inches covered beneath his flying boot.

Whitney Benefits commits $25.3 million to college

Whitney Benefits trustees and Sheridan College trustees announced today an unprecedented plan, including the largest gift in the history of the college ­ — a $25.3 million commitment to Sheridan College from Whitney Benefits —  to continue to build capacity for additional students, bolstering the Sheridan County economy.

“We have looked at the data for some time now and it is clear that Sheridan College plays a significant role in the stability of our local economy,”  Whitney Benefits Vice President Roy Garber said. “The strategic plan adopted by the college trustees back in 2010 is on-course and we are focused on helping more students succeed.”

The commitment from Whitney Benefits to the College includes the necessary $1.3 million required to complete the $8 million Mars Agriculture Center and Science Center renovation project, $16 million to support the renovation and expansion of the fine and performing arts wing of the original Whitney Building, $2 million to support infrastructure and parking improvements on the main campus and $6 million for approximately half of the Tech Center renovation and expansion project.

“Currently, we serve over 2,000 students per semester,”  SC President Dr. Paul Young said. “This plan and infusion of energy and capital will significantly aid in our efforts to grow the academic areas that align with the local job sectors experiencing growth and positive change.”

The renovation and expansion of the fine and performing arts wing located at the north end of the current Whitney Building, referred to as the Whitney Center for the Arts, will include space to enrich the learning experience for all students.

“This is absolutely necessary and has been for decades,” Northern Wyoming Community College District Trustee Norleen Healy said. “I have been involved with the college for over 30 years and enhancements in these areas have always been on the list. State-of-the-art recital halls, practice areas and performance spaces are paramount for the performing arts in order for us to compete regionally and nationally.”

In addition to improvements to learning spaces for music and other performing arts, the Whitney gift will provide flexible, creative space to support the fine arts programs including wood and metal fabrication labs, foundry space for pouring aluminum, bronze and eventually iron, and multi-use exhibition space, which will catapult Sheridan College’s Fine Arts Program to the forefront of regional programs, Young said.

“These plans and ideas go back decades,” Whitney Benefits Trustee Stephen Holst said. “It is a testament to the stakeholders of this fine institution that we will see them come to fruition.”

The Mars Agriculture Center will be a 13,000 – 15,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, and will be located on the south end of Sheridan College’s main campus, adjacent and connected to the existing Science Center, which will also receive upgrades during the project. The center will focus on providing real-world experiences for students. In addition to high-tech classrooms, a herbarium, a greenhouse, and a soils and agroecology lab, the new center will include a computerized commodities trading floor classroom to support students studying in the ag-business program.

“The real benefit to laying out a plan like this is that the dollars committed can be leveraged time and time again,”  Whitney Benefits Trustee Everett McGlothlin said. “We are hopeful that others will continue to support the students of Sheridan College in order to continue the positive momentum and help change lives.”

The $6 million earmarked for the expansion and renovation of the Technical Education Center is approximately half of the total needed to provide a healthier, safer and more secure facility for students to gain vocational degrees and employable skills. College officials plan to request the additional funds from the State of Wyoming during the 2016 legislative session.

“Our strategic direction focuses on doing our part to help Wyoming and the nation as a whole to prosper. We are so very fortunate to have many, many people here who believe in this goal and are willing to take action on behalf of the future generations who will continue to benefit from their efforts for years to come,”  Young said. “Thank you to Whitney Benefits.”

The next steps for the Mars Agriculture Center and Whitney Center for the Arts projects include selecting architects and construction managers, which college officials hope to have completed by early fall. The design phases will likely last through this fall, with a ground breaking as early in spring 2015 as weather will allow. College officials hope to have the projects completed by late summer, 2016. For updates regarding these projects, please visit www.sheridan.edu/construction.

It’s Kinskey

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Mayor Dave Kinskey will take on a new role in coming weeks as county commissioners from both Sheridan and Johnson counties have appointed him to fill the Senate District 22 seat left vacant by Sen. John Schiffer’s death last month.

Kinskey received 67 percent of the vote.

“The late Sen. Schiffer did a fantastic job and I’m honored to be able to follow in his footsteps to represent all of Johnson County and Sheridan in Senate District 22,” Kinskey said after the vote. “Now we have some real work beginning. My first call will be to Tony Ross, the Senate president to see if he wants me to continue on judiciary and transportation or if he wants to change those assignments so I’ve got to find out about that. Those are good committees, and Sen. Schiffer did good work. I’d like to continue with those assignments. There’s a broad range of issues that need to be addressed. Cheyenne has a tremendous impact on our communities and I think it’s important I hit the ground running.”

Eleven residents applied to fill the seat, with three residing in Sheridan County. The Senate district includes all of Johnson County and primarily the eastern portion of Sheridan County.

After approximately three hours of introductions, question and answer sessions and two votes, a selection committee comprised of Sheridan and Johnson County Republican Party precinct members chose the three candidates who were considered by the commissioners. The precinct men and women met last Tuesday.

The three finalists included Kinskey, who received 27 votes, Buffalo businessman Jim Gampetro, who received 31 votes, and Johnson County Deputy and Prosecuting Attorney Ryan Wright, who received 32 votes.

There were a total of 49 precinct members voting, 26 from Johnson County and 23 from Sheridan County. Each member could vote for up to three candidates, out of six total, in the final vote by the precinct members.

The decision by the county commissioners was a weighted system based on the population of residents from each county in SD22.

The total population of residents represented in Senate District 22 is 18,588, with Johnson County comprising 46 percent and Sheridan County comprising 53 percent. That means the vote of Sheridan County commissioners will be worth 53 percent. However, that is balanced out by Johnson County having 26 precinct members who can vote on the selection committee while Sheridan County has 23 voting precinct members.

With Kinskey’s seat as mayor now vacant, City Clerk Scott Badley referenced Wyoming statutes to indicate how Kinskey’s seat as mayor of Sheridan would be filled should he be selected.

According to state law, if the mayor’s seat is vacated, it will be filled by one of the council members by appointment of the council until the next general election, at which time the seat will be up for election and whoever is elected will fill Kinskey’s term through 2016.

Land trust works to expand network around Red Grade Road

BIG HORN — In coming years, the Bighorn Mountain foothills traversed by Red Grade Road could become an even more accessible and explorable backyard adventure for Sheridan County residents who already hold the area near and dear.

Renowned for its year-round ATV and snowmobile recreation options, the area is set to become a nearby haven for non-motorized recreationists, as well, with the recent announcement by the Sheridan Community Land Trust of its intention to create a trail system on state, Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands between the graveled parking lot at the start of Red Grade Road and the Bear Gulch parking area approximately 2.5 miles further up the mountain as the bird flies.

Walkers and wildflower lovers seeking a little solitude, mountain bikers seeking a downhill rush, moms and dads seeking a chance to impart love of the outdoors to their children and more will all have the chance to get deep into the mountains in a 20-40 minute drive once the trails are complete.

 

A little background

 

The proposed trail system, set to include 15-20 or more miles of “purpose built” trails tailored to specific uses such as quiet mountain saunters, more intense hikes and cross-country and downhill biking, is currently in the design stage. SCLT Executive Director Colin Betzler said it is hoped work on phase one, of four proposed phases, can begin in spring 2015.

“Red Grade is an icon,” Betzler said. “But the community needs to come together to address issues and opportunities in how we care for Red Grade access areas.”

Over the past few years, SCLT staff have seen an “exponential interest” from the community in safe, scenic and easily accessed non-motorized, natural surface trails, according to a press release from SCLT. With that in mind, SCLT’s Recreation Work Group, comprised of community volunteers, set out to identify potential areas for a trail system.

The area around Red Grade Road became the premier spot due to its large tracts of public lands, well-established public access on Red Grade Road and its proximity to more than 60 percent of Sheridan County’s population, not to mention its terrain and scenery. In January of this year, the land trust’s board of directors adopted a strategic plan for the Red Grade Trails project and began working with the state, BLM and Forest Service, as well as property owners within one mile of the proposed trail.

Betzler said input from surrounding residents has been mostly neutral or in support, with a few expressing concern or opposition. Not wanting to stress or disrupt nearby landowners, Betzler said SCLT staff and professional trail designers are taking great pains to keep trails and parking sites tucked out of view with plenty of vegetated buffer zones between the trail and nearby houses and ranch lands. This is better for landowners and trail users, alike, Betzler said.

With its emphasis on conservation and providing recreation opportunities to Sheridan County residents, SCLT is working to ensure that the trail is completed with minimal impact to the land, Betzler said. This means a professional trail designer has been hired and that few, if any, trees will be removed to accommodate the trail. In fact, Betzler said, even concerns from wildflower lovers will be taken into account by lifting “carpets” of wildflowers off the trail route and re-planting them elsewhere in the vicinity when actual trail building begins.

Betzler said the trail system is expected to cost between $500,000 and $1 million and take up to five years to complete. The SCLT will undertake a significant capital campaign to raise funds from grants, local foundations and private donors. Betzler did note that the board is trying to think out of the box and has proposed including extra funding to help pay for overtime costs for law enforcement agencies that patrol the area.

 

Designing recreation

 

With an inclinometer, some flagging tape, a GPS and an eye honed for scoping out trail placement with 25 years of experience in 12 nations, 42 states and three of Wyoming’s state parks, a professional trail designer with the International Mountain Biking Association’s Trail Solutions division has spent the last couple weeks trekking east and west of Red Grade Road in order to meticulously design a “hub and cluster” multi-use non-motorized trail system in the area.

“IMBA is the Cadillac of trail design,” Betzler said. “They will make it so it’s not a hodge podge of trails here and there, but so the whole trail will interface at good points and work as a cohesive whole.”

 

IMBA trail designer Joey Klein has worked on trail design at Curt Gowdy State Park, Guernsey State Park and Glendo State Park in recent years. He said trail design has shifted from a blanket shared use system to one that manages users more wisely and provides trails designed for specific uses in “experience zones.”

“This gives users more choices and protects their experience,” Klein said.

For example, one experience zone may place a trail closer to the road in order to capture uphill and downhill swells for downhill mountain bikers who are more concerned with jumps and thrills than solace and looking at wildflowers.

On the other hand, another experience zone will put solace-seekers into the trees and away from society within minutes of walking away from the trailhead, while another trail may take intermediate to experienced hikers to “the balcony” near the Poverty Flats area for a gun barrel view of the Bighorns, Klein said.

Each hub, or parking area, will feature trails that offer an outward climb and an inbound descent, as well as trails set for specific uses such as biking or family-friendly hikes. Betzler said there are five proposed parking area hubs including the graveled upper lot used for snowmobile access, Red Grade Springs on state land, the Aspens lot on BLM land, a new hub to be built in the Poverty Flats area and the Bear Gulch parking lot. He said each lot will be enhanced and improved in the trail development process.

“This is a great landscape. It hasn’t been ravaged and we’re going in with a great deal of respect,” Klein said.

Already trails and parking areas have been moved from their proposed position to accommodate landowner requests and take into account cultural areas identified by a Forest Service archaeologist, Klein said.

The trails will be built with a combination of small machinery and hand tools by professional trail builders. Once the design is submitted and approved by all relevant agencies, work can begin. Phase one will include trails on state land nearest the graveled upper parking lot, and phases two through four will work west from there.

“This concept does not have anything close to it in our area. It just doesn’t exist. There is a demand for it,” Betzler said. “We just want people to make an emotional connection so they know their mountain and are passionate about it.”

 

• For more information on the Red Grade Trails, visit sheridanclt.org/red-grade-trail-experience-your-backyard/.

Also, drop by Black Tooth Brewing Company from 7 to 10 p.m. Tuesday for “Crafting Ales for Local Trails,” a Boot Kick-Off After Party. During the event, Black Tooth will donate $1 of every pint to SCLT’s recreation projects, including Red Grade Trails. Maps and information will be available.

 

 

Setting the sky ablaze

Dave Avery, left, and Justin Bishop load shells into three-inch mortars during setup for the Fourth of July fireworks show Wednesday afternoon at the Big Horn Equestrian Center. Each mortar shell is fired according to a timed sequence set by the firing control computer. The fireworks display is timed to by choreographed with music that will be broadcasted over the air by local radio during the show. Bruce Burns with his crew of certified pyrotechnics and volunteers have been working all week to get ready for the popular fireworks display at the polo fields. The fireworks show will light up a 10 p.m. Friday night.

Fireworks!

Seven-year-old Austin Geertz, left, and Nathan Geertz, 12, light fireworks outside at the Whiz Bang Fireworks store Tuesday night on the north end of Sheridan.

Koltiska heads to rodeo royalty competition

SHERIDAN — Next weekend as many of the residents of Sheridan County are joined by tourists and athletes to attend the main events of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo, one resident will be heading out of town to attend another rodeo.

Not to be mistaken for an insult against the local showcase, the absence will be not only in honor of the community but also the state.

Sheridan High School incoming senior Gabrielle Koltiska has been named Wyoming High School Rodeo Queen and will attend the National High School Rodeo Association competition in Rock Springs July 10-20 to represent the state of Wyoming and vie against 47 other queens from across the nation for the title of National H.S. Rodeo Queen.

The 17-year-old student has been riding horses since she was 4 years old and has previously held titles of junior princess and princess in the Sheridan WYO Rodeo royalty.

A regular at the high school rodeo, this was the first time the barrel racer and pole bender competed in the royalty competition at the NHSRA.

To win her title, she competed in a horsemanship competition consisting of reigning patterns that tested how well she worked with her horse, a modeling competition, a test on the NHSRA rulebook, an interview with judges covering topics such as current events, PRCA rodeo standings and more, as well as delivering a two-minute prepared speech on a topic of her choice.

Koltiska chose to highlight her home state in her speech titled “Wonderful Wyoming,” focusing on the history of Wyoming, the Western heritage with the sport of rodeo and highlights of the area including Yellowstone National Park.

A barrel racer first, her horse came up lame just before the state competition so Koltiska did not make it to the national competition for sports and is grateful to still represent her community at the national level through her royalty title.

“I really feel honored to be able to represent the state at the sport of rodeo,” she said. “Rodeo is my passion and to represent with an upper title instead of just as a competitor is really an honor.”

She takes the title — and the responsibility that comes with it — seriously, stating that it is the job of the queen to uphold the reputation of the sport while serving as a role model.

“It takes a lot of work just to represent Wyoming around the state, not only to be able to represent the sport of rodeo but also to be out there in the public,” she said. “Little girls love rodeo queens so to be there as a role model is important.”

The daughter of a college rodeoing mom and a dad who did high school rough stock, Koltiska has rodeo in her blood and says her love of the sport has only grown through the years.

Now heading to nationals, her love will be matched with her pride in Wyoming as she makes her grand entry to the week of events on horseback carrying the state flag, and she is hopeful that she is prepared to bring the national title home to Wyoming.

“Our state follows the national competition as close as it can to prepare the newly crowned queen for nationals,” she said. “For the next year, if I don’t win, I will still be going to every high school rodeo in the state and carrying flags at all of them, attending state board meetings, attending a national board meeting and making appearances at other rodeos, representing our community and our state to the best of my ability.”

If she does win, trips to other state rodeo finals will be added to her very busy schedule.

Koltiska is also a member of 4-H and the FFA but maintains her focus on academics through the busy season, keeping her grade-point-average above 3.6.

“In the spring, from April until I get out of school, I am gone every weekend so it gets a little crazy but school is always my number one priority because after work, if there’s no school, I won’t get into the college I want and be able to do things with my life I want to do,” she said. “School always comes first in our family. It’s busy but I always manage to pull everything together.”

One thing Koltiska wants to do with her future is run for queen of the Sheridan rodeo.

But first, she is focused on the NHSRA National title and in order to achieve all of these things she will be seeking sponsors.

“There are a lot of costs involved from gas and food to stalling a horse while there,” she said. “I’m continuing to talk to businesses and locals to see if I can get sponsorships to help me get there and when they sponsor they are on the banner and that will travel with me around the entire state throughout my reign.”

Other than her sponsors, Koltiska added that she could not do this competition, and would not be where she is today, if not for the support of her parents and her grandma and grandpa.

Interstate 90 limits in Sheridan County to remain at 75 mph

SHERIDAN — Motorists driving the wide open roads of Wyoming will soon be able to put the pedal a little closer to the metal on nearly 500 miles of interstate highway.

Beginning Tuesday, Wyoming Department of Transportation crews will begin the process of changing speed limit signs to 80 mph along approved sections of interstate roadway across the state.

The increased speed limit was approved by the state Legislature in its 2014 session.

While WYDOT hopes to complete the sign changes by the Fourth of July weekend, motorists should be aware that during the transition, the 75 mph speed limit will remain in effect until new 80 mph signs are in place.

Three sections of I-25 totaling 268 miles, three sections of I-80 totaling 116 miles and two sections of I-90 totaling 104 miles will be changed for a grand total of 488 miles. More than 125 speed limit signs will be replaced.

WYDOT District 4 Public Relations Specialist Ronda Holwell said I-90 within Sheridan County will not be increased to the 80 mph limit.

“Accidents were the number one reason,” Holwell said.

“The severity of crashes between Sheridan and Buffalo was high,” she added.

The section of I-90 between mile post 12 south of the Montana state line all the way through Sheridan also experienced a higher crash rating, so it was decided to not increase the speed limit on any sections of I-90 in the county since only about 10 miles would meet eligibility requirements.

“We didn’t want to go up and down,” Holwell said.

However, Holwell said WYDOT will continue to study and monitor the interstate in Sheridan County throughout the year. It is possible it would be a candidate for variable speed limit signage since a majority of accidents occur in the winter months.

Interstates near Sheridan that will feature the increased speed limit include I-25 from Buffalo to Casper, 64 miles of I-90 from Buffalo to Gillette and 40 miles of I-90 from Gillette to Sundance. The speed limit will drop to 75 mph from approximately 15 miles west of Sundance to the South Dakota state line due to the higher number of accidents along that stretch of road, Holwell said.

WYDOT conducted a variety of tests to determine which sections of interstate highway could safely be increased to the 80 mph speed limit.

Factors considered were physical roadway characteristics such as curves, grades, width and proximity of interchanges; current traffic patterns including average speeds, traffic volumes and the proportion of commercial trucks and passenger vehicles; and safety statistics including crash rates and severity of crashes.

Highway Patrol Capt. Carl Clements said the overall philosophy on speed limits for the department hasn’t changed. Citations will be issued for drivers traveling more than 5 mph over the posted speed limit. Transition times from one speed limit to another — from 80 mph down to 75 mph near a city on the interstate, for example — will be allowed within reason.

Clements said the Highway Patrol does have a few concerns about how increased speed limits could increase the severity of crashes.

“The studies done show that most cars are already traveling above the 75 mph limit anyway,” Clements said. “While the increase is not dramatic, what happens when you increase speeds and do have an accident, the chances that the dynamics of that crash can cause injury or death rise significantly. We’re not looking at more accidents, but the severity of accidents could become greater.”

Clements said crash statistics will be studied throughout the year to see if there is an increase in the number or severity of crashes, or if crashes are occurring in places not anticipated because of the higher speed limit.

“Our emphasis is on distracted driving,” Clements said. “Along with higher speeds, when drivers are texting, taking calls or checking the internet, as speeds increase, that distraction is a huge contributing factor to crashes.”

 

USDA helps resident buy first home

SHERIDAN — Owning a home carries a lot of responsibility. There is a lawn to be mowed, electrical and plumbing systems to maintain and bills for the utilities and the mortgage to be paid.

Owning a home is also a source of pride and autonomy, as Sheridan resident Tammy Carlson discovered Friday when she closed on her first home and received a plant and a giant cardboard key as a welcome to home ownership from United States Department of Agriculture representatives who helped Carlson reach this day with a USDA Rural Development subsidized loan.

Jessica Taylor, area specialist for the USDA Rural Development Sheridan office, and Shauna Gibbs, rural housing program specialist for the USDA state rural development program in Casper, also used the celebration of the closing on Carlson’s home to commemorate National Homeownership Month for the USDA Rural Development program.

“I think it’s a dream of most Americans to own their own home. In rural communities where credit is limited, it is more difficult to purchase a home, a lot of times, and so this program is specifically designed for rural residents,” Gibbs said. “It helps people fulfill the American Dream of owning a home, so we are very happy that we can contribute to that kind of success.”

Carlson is a single mother who had been living with her mother to help her through some tough times. In December, Carlson and her daughter, Lexis Legerski, decided they had reached a point where they could be on their own again.

“I guess that’s what it means to both of us is to be on our own and put money toward an investment,” Carlson said.

“With this backyard that I have, I’m looking forward to making my own little backyard getaway, and having a garden and fixing it up and making it my own.”

Legerski has already painted her furniture — her bed turquoise and her vanity coral with vintage black and white accents — to put in her bedroom. She said she is looking forward to having her own space in her and her mom’s home.

Taylor said the direct loan program with USDA Rural Development assists very low to low-income families through subsidies that help the homeowner with his or her housing payment. The loan term is typically 33 years with a 3.75 percent interest rate. The loan is subsidized based on income and can be adjusted if income levels change.

“She’s a single mom, and she advised me that she didn’t dream to own a home without this rural development program, so I was happy to assist her with that,” Taylor said.

Gibbs added that the USDA offers several ways to assist participants who run into hard times financially to prevent them from becoming delinquent on their payments.

Taylor said to date this year, the USDA Rural Development program in Wyoming has provided 22 loans for the direct loan program, which helps applicants purchase a home, and a repair and rehabilitation program that provides loans and grants to very low-income applicants to make their home safe, sanitary and decent through updates to windows, doors, insulation, water and sewer lines and alterations for handicap access.

Taylor handles all direct loans for the state and said the state program has already spent 97 percent of its allocation from the federal branch of the USDA. Still, people who are in need are encouraged to contact Taylor and apply for assistance. If funds are not available this year, applicants will be placed on a waiting list.

According to a press release, in 2013 alone, USDA helped more than 170,000 rural residents become homeowners, investing more than $23.4 billion in loans, grants and technical assistance to provide affordable, safe housing for rural families. In both people served and dollars, 2013 was the most successful year in the history of USDA single-family housing programs.

“Since the start of USDA’s single-family housing programs in 1949, USDA employees have helped nearly 3.4 million rural residents buy homes of their own,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “Many of these are lower-income, first-time homebuyers who are earning a leg up into the middle class. Homeownership is a critical step on the ladder of opportunity as it helps build equity and increase assets. Simply put, homeownership means long-term financial stability and security for these rural families.”

 

• For more information on USDA Rural Development home loan assistance, call Jessica Taylor, area specialist for the USDA Rural Development Sheridan office, at 672-5820, ext. 4.

UPDATE: Additional details released in accidental shooting

SHERIDAN — Authorities have said the 11-year-old male victim in Thursday’s accidental shooting was struck in the head by a bullet from a .22-caliber rifle when another child tried to either hand the weapon to the victim or put it back in the ATV in which they were traveling.

Sgt. Mike Gale with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office said the boy stumbled and the weapon discharged, striking the victim in the head, but not penetrating his skull.

At least one parent was at the house, near where the accidental shooting took place, but Gale said the victim’s parents were not aware the boys had the weapon. Gale added that the SCSO investigation is still open and it is unclear to whom the rifle belonged.

The victim was taken to Sheridan Memorial Hospital after the incident and the SMH doctor on-site made the decision to transport the boy to Billings via Life Flight.

Despite initial reports to the contrary, the county’s law enforcement dispatch was notified by Sheridan Memorial Hospital staff of the incident, though it was several hours later.

At that point, the SCSO contacted the Billings clinic where the boy was being treated and worked with the Billings police to conduct the followup.

Though most states require health care providers to report gunshot wounds to local law enforcement there is no such statute in the state of Wyoming. Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle said Friday that the only mandatory reporting requirements in state statute that he was aware of apply to child abuse or the abuse of vulnerable seniors. A bill requiring health care providers to report gunshot wounds was proposed in 2002 in Wyoming.

Montana law requires the treating person to place a report by the fastest means possible within 24 hours of the initial treatment. SMH Chief Medical Officer John Addlesperger stated that there was not a written hospital policy he was aware of regarding reporting gunshot wounds but that it is his personal policy to do so.

Addlesperger was not on duty at the time of the incident.

“If there is no foul play then fine, but give them the chance to investigate,” he said. “There really is no downside to having law enforcement involved and it’s pretty standard to involve them, but again there is no written policy on the books that I am aware of.”

Wyoming law does, however, require that any person in charge of any garage or repair shop report any motor vehicle that shows evidence of having been struck by any bullet within 24 hours after the motor vehicle is received by the garage or repair shop — giving the identifying number, registration number and the name and address of the owner or driver of the vehicle.

The case is still under investigation and the SCSO declined to release the name of the victim or the other minor involved at this time. He reported that the child underwent surgery Thursday night and the surgery went well.

“I did call and speak with the father just now, and he said it was a miracle, but the child will likely be released today,” SCSO Dave Hofmeier said Friday morning.

Early investigation indicates it was likely an accidental wound inflicted by another minor, apparently a male friend of approximately the same age as the victim.

“We’ve talked to the families and all parties and got assistance from the Billings PD and everything we have learned, there is nothing that points us to any other outcome than accidental,” Hofmeier said. “What we will do is continue the investigation and go from there, but I can tell you solidly I’m 99.9 percent this is an accident.”

If proven accidental, there would be no charges involved.

Gale offered one safety tip to those who own or are around firearms.

“Always treat every firearm like it is loaded,” he said. “And don’t load your firearm until you need it.”

Culinary Institute offers diners, staff chance to experiment

SHERIDAN — Did you know there is a restaurant in town where you can bring your own bottles of wine or beer? Or that there is a local eatery where the low-price menu is constantly changing to feature one-of-a-kind selections like cherry saffron infused rice or chocolate beet cake?

If you’ve been searching for a new lunch spot in town, it’s time to try the Wyoming Culinary Institute, which opened its doors for the special summer session June 2 and serve lunch five days a week until Aug. 1.

During the school year, the restaurant is operated by sophomore students enrolled in Sheridan College’s culinary arts and hospitality management programs and only serves lunch and dinner on Thursday and Friday.

When school lets out and many students head home, the program shifts to operate under the care of paid students temporarily employed by the college from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, Monday through Friday.

The operating hours are not the only thing that changes in the summer.

During the school year students working at the restaurant are doing it for the learnings and are not paid or allowed to accept tips from patrons. During the summer the employees are certainly hoping to be tipped.

During the school year the students rotate positions throughout the building, including spending time in the kitchen as well as serving tables. During the summer, the staff are hired to certain positions and stay there.

However, some things remain the same throughout the year including the student-driven menu and creative selections.

Chef Instructor R.J. Rogers said the students have complete creative control over their menu offerings.

“It’s all the work of the students, unless I just really miss cooking and then I may jump on the line,” he said with a chuckle. “But I let the students cook what they want and they are happier with it that way.”

The students meet for menu development meetings and choose recipes from textbooks to create or rework.

Suggested entrees are analyzed for availability of resources and preferences before being placed on the menu and whichever item a student suggests becomes their responsibility to execute.

Every day before a shift, the staff meets to taste an item from the menu or special of the day to learn more about it and ensure it is meeting expectations.

Double major Sheryl Jack, who is studying both culinary arts and hospitality management and is working at the institute this summer, said trying the different foods is her favorite part.

“I just love playing with the food, thinking about what it should taste like, smell like, look like,” Jack said. “It also gives us an opportunity to tweak the dish before serving it, which is a great way to learn.”

The restaurant offers several “of the day” specials in the summer including a burger taco, fish, soup, dessert and more daily offerings.

Jack said she has already seen things like Korean tacos and beet cake, which she said was surprisingly good.

“We’re pretty famous for the desserts but last week we had a chocolate beet cake and it was amazing and it sold like hotcakes,” she said. “That was something I had never seen before and it’s beets so everyone was skeptical but it had this amazing ganache frosting and everyone loved it.”

Every worker at the restaurant is enrolled in Hospitality Practicum 4, a one-credit class at SC.

The culinary program at SC takes a progressive learning approach with four classes a year. Students begin with basic classes including knife skills before moving to sauces and stocks and eventually learning things like grill and broil.

Rogers said some students are studying in order to be bakers or caterers but roughly 75 percent of his students want to be chefs some day, though there will be hard work in their future to reach that goal.

“We don’t crank out chefs, we crank out cooks,” he said. “Someone that will be a valuable asset to the kitchen and will work their way up to a chef, but you don’t just walk out of culinary school as a chef.”

Rogers would know after his long career as a chef. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he spent a year cooking in Germany and has been a chef in a number of states throughout the country.

One of only three certified executive chefs in Wyoming, Rogers stands behind not only his students’ education but also the restaurant they operate.

“It’s a nice place to get good food, scratch made, by hard working students, and it’s affordable,” he said.

The programs at the college offer high caliber training — another instructor in the program, Tim Rockwell, is the second of the three certified executive chefs in the state — and is in such high demand a new application process will soon be installed that may require students to have prior cooking experience.

During the school year, the WCI facility is used by studying freshmen Monday through Wednesday when not open for public service but the college has discussed earmarking some of the funds recently received from the state to be used for an expansion to the WCI building in order to offer more opportunities for freshmen, additional students and possibly even additional serving hours.

Until that happens, or for those simply seeking a good meal, the institute on Sheridan Avenue will continue to offer daily and weekly specials unique from any other restaurant in town.

If you are still doubtful of that, come out next week and try a bite of the alligator dish currently in the works.

“That’s something great about this program, the best part really, is we get to experiment a lot,” Jack said. “There are a lot of flavors you are not going to find anywhere else in Sheridan.”

Friends, family gather to honor senator

KAYCEE — Just days after the death of 68-year-old Wyoming Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, on Thursday, family, friends, neighbors and colleagues gathered in the largest indoor space Kaycee had to offer to honor a man known for his hard work, integrity and ever-ready words of encouragement.

The gymnasium at Kaycee High School was filled to near capacity with people representing the wide swath touched by Schiffer’s influence: ranchers, old school mates, mayors from surrounding towns, representatives from the military and the U.S. Forest Service, supporters of the arts, state officials and fellow legislators, including the entire delegation from Sheridan County, Gov. Matt Mead, former Gov. Mike Sullivan, neighbors and children from Kaycee and more.

For a rancher whose response to his diagnosis May 31 of liver cancer was “it is as it is,” the gathering may have seemed a bit much.

“Many of you know dad didn’t want any services, but on this one, he lost the vote,” his son Ben Schiffer, of Buffalo, said.

Those gathered chuckled and nodded their heads. Schiffer was remembered again and again as a humble man concerned more with the welfare of others than himself.

As his son noted, Schiffer loved the state of Wyoming, and he loved serving the people of Wyoming on community boards, in the state Legislature and day-by-day helping to fix a neighbor’s fence or reading books to children at the school.

“I’ve been thinking the last couple days about celebration, and it’s been a little tough for me to get to the celebratory point, but the more I thought about it, the things I thought were most important were the things that he loved,” Ben Schiffer said in his remarks.

He listed family, friends, his grandsons Eli and Trell Schiffer, horses, rain, a little bourbon now and then, to talk, to hear a good story and dogs. In fact, the senator died Thursday at his home in his wife Nancy’s arms, nestling his beloved cow dog Phoebe against his chest.

“He loved this state, and he loved working hard for it, and he loved making it a better place. Along those lines, traveling as he did for committeework and back and forth to Cheyenne, he loved to look at the grass, see who had the best grass and see whose reservoirs were full and then talk about it. Obviously, he loved to laugh. He loved Colorado College hockey. And dad loved to watch his cows when he turned them out, just watch them,” Ben Schiffer said, choking back tears as he added how much his dad loved living and working in Kaycee.

“Dad loved things when they were hard because it made for a good story, but by the same token, he liked it when it was easy because that also made for a good story,” Ben Schiffer added.

That sentiment was echoed by Schiffer’s daughter Wynne Schiffer, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, who read a passage of scripture and spoke briefly to recount memories of going out to ride horses around the 48 Ranch early in the morning with her dad.

“We used to get up at 4:30 in the morning and ride. Pretty soon, it was just dad and I, and he would always say, ‘It gets colder before it gets warmer.’ That’s where we are now,” Wynne Schiffer said, her voice breaking.

People around the gym nodded their heads and dabbed their eyes, agreeing that yes, those who knew Schiffer were in the cold part of the morning, but the warmth would come.

Even by the end of the service, friends and family lingered in the gymnasium, clustered in groups and sharing stories and laughs about the senator, just as his wife, Nancy, had wished.

“I was trying to figure out what to tell, knowing there was no way I could express the depth and the scope of what he meant to each of us, and I could just hear a John-like voice saying, ‘You know, Mark, you might just want to listen to what Nancy wants.’ And there it was. Nancy told me she wanted John’s eulogy to be people talking to one another and telling stories about John,” Wyoming Treasurer Mark Gordon, a long-time friend and business partner of Schiffer’s, said in his eulogy.

“Each of us has a unique relationship with John, and he was so much to all of us, that Nancy’s wish is right on,” Gordon added. “Tell stories about John, and tell them for a long time. Talk about his code of honor, his humor, his passion and his love for Wyoming, because we will not have another like my friend and partner John Schiffer.”

Kaycee resident Theo Hirshfeld agreed with that sentiment. Hirshfeld met Schiffer in the 1960s while working for Northern Feed and Seed. Schiffer was a customer who became a friend, and the families spent several Thanksgiving dinners together.

“It was great, and I’ll never forget those moments or him. They were terrific. We’d go pheasant hunting and trip over the snow and over the fences, but we had a good time. We never really bagged anything; we just went out visiting,” Hershfeld said, adding that Schiffer was a “mensch,” which is a German word meaning, roughly, “more than a gentleman.”

Ray Cash, a neighboring ranch owner, described Schiffer as an everyman’s man who worked hard for his community.

“He was kind of a bull slinger, just like everybody else is in this town, full of a lot of noise. He had good interaction in this town. He was quite active in it. In fact, he was the one that got this school here,” Cash said. “He was just one of those people, just around, and everybody knew him. He was boisterous, joking, carrying on all the time. He’ll be missed.”

The liturgical celebration of life included responsive readings, hymns and scripture readings but was also peppered with a reading of the poem, “Fixing Fence,” written and read by former Wyoming Poet Laureate David Romtvedt and songs from Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Ed Bruce’s warning of, “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” played during a slide show of images depicting Schiffer roping and riding throughout his years.

Schiffer, who served two tours in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam as a commanding officer of a river patrol boat in the de-militarized zone, received military funeral honors in which an American flag was presented to Nancy in his honor. He was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Naval Bronze Star for his service.

Donations were made to the John Schiffer Foundation, which supports a variety of local charities. Following the service, it was noted that Nancy Schiffer had invited everyone out tothe  ranch to eat and tell more stories. In typical smalltown Wyoming style, the directions to the ranch were something like up the hill, around the pond, past the cluster of mailboxes, to the end of the lane where you’d reach the Schiffers’ white ranch house.

Belly up to the griddle

Lonnie Wright keeps an eye on the pancakes cooking for guests at the Big Horn Fire Department’s annual breakfast. The volunteers welcomed members of the community to the fundraiser, where they raffled off several items and gave tours of the department.

Relay heroes

Fynn, the super dog, watches all of the action Friday night at Kendrick Park during the 2014 Relay for Life event.

High school students experience nursing profession

SHERIDAN — In less than one day, 48 high school students participating in two week-long camps dedicated to exploring the nursing profession had their media-induced stereotypes of nurses shattered.

Goodbye to the most evil nurse of all time: Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

Goodbye to sexy nurses, both competent and evil, like Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan from “M.A.S.H” and Elle Driver in “Kill Bill.”

Goodbye, even, to TV nurses in shows like “ER” and “Grey’s Anatomy” who are portrayed as helpers while physicians do the critical and autonomous jobs usually done by nurses like giving medications and educating patients about treatment options.

“Some students just think nursing’s about bed pans and white hats and not really a good career,” Director and Nurse Educator at the Wyoming Simulation Center Crissy Hunter said.

“I think it’s movies, I really think that. You have movies where they just call nurses, ‘nurse.’ You have the hierarchy that physicians are better, and I think that’s just not true anymore,” Hunter added. “I think that, being a nursing instructor, I see how the nursing students themselves are just afraid to talk with a physician or talk with other people, so I think this camp and getting them involved and exposing them to the different facets of nursing right there dispels the myth.”

 

Act like a nurse, be a nurse

 

This year was the first offering of the Dream Big…Be a Nurse High School Summer Camp. Two sessions June 9-12 and 16-19 allowed 24 participants each to experience a realistic introduction to nursing in order to address future health care needs by attracting high school students into the nursing profession.

The camp was also designed to boost self-confidence and dispel misconceptions and fears about nursing as a college major and a career.

The Wyoming Simulation Center is a 5,000-square-foot mock hospital complete with a six-bed patient ward, nursing station, classroom and two “high-fidelity” rooms that are wired for video and audio to recreate and record high-risk scenarios with manikins that respond appropriately physiologically to any treatment given. It is in its third year of operation as a partnership between Sheridan Memorial Hospital and Sheridan College.

On the first day of camp, students made collages about their perceptions of nurses.

“Whereas their perceptions are warm, and loving, and caring, they still didn’t get to the meat of what nurses do, and I bet if they had the chance to re-do that on Thursday, it would be different,” Hunter said on the second day of the first camp.

Even by the second day of camp, myths had been dispelled as students had already spent several hours in official hospital scrubs training for real-life hospital situations. A tour of Sheridan Memorial Hospital and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center also served to show participants that nurses perform vital tasks using extensive medical knowledge.

“They all have some interest, whether it’s nursing or being a physician, they all have interest in the medical profession. I was kind of nervous to see if it was just going to be no motivation and, ‘I dread being here,’ but they were excited from day one,” Hunter said. “We outfitted them in scrubs, so I feel like dress like a nurse, act like a nurse, be a nurse.”

 

Saving Ruth

 

In one room, six students gave injections — into oranges, which most closely resemble human skin and muscle in toughness. In another room, six more students gathered around Kim Dunlap, an emergency medical technician with Rocky Mountain Ambulance, and practiced splinting broken arms and legs on each other. Later in the camp, they were set to enact a scenario with a real kid who needed help after getting into a bike accident.

Across the room, “Ruth” came into the hospital complaining of not feeling well for two weeks and having trouble breathing.

“What is the first step?” SMH emergency room nurse Josh Barker asked.

Check her lungs, the students responded.

“She’s having trouble breathing, but she’s talking to you, so sit her up and check her vitals,” Barker added.

SMH Nurse Educator Amy Turpin read the vitals: oxygenation at 82 percent and still breathing on her own.

The students decided to use the smaller O2 delivery device.

Suddenly, Ruth’s oxygenation dropped to 70 percent, and she stopped breathing. Barker lowered the bed while students hustled to grab the bigger respirator and try to save Ruth.

Seconds sped by. Hands tried to speed faster.

“She’s dead,” Turpin said.

Faces fell.

Barker let the group try again. They revived Ruth and laughed nervously with each other as she began to breathe again on her own.

“There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with not breathing,” Barker said, reminding them to pretend Ruth and her life were real. “Talk to her, comfort her.”

Meanwhile, in one of the high-fidelity rooms, Sheridan College Nursing Instructor Tobie Alsup stood beside “Noelle” and held up a diagram. She asked each of the six students to check Noelle with their first and middle fingers and report what they found.

Seven centimeters. It was time.

One student watched the monitor for the mom’s vitals and another watched the monitor for the baby. Two students placed Noelle’s legs in the stirrups and offered words of comfort. One student stood by with needed instruments. And one more student donned a yellow hospital gown and green surgical gloves while Noelle, voiced by Sheridan College nursing student Molly Morgan, groaned in the pain of delivery.

Minutes later, Noelle’s baby was placed on her stomach as the students “cut” the umbilical chord and congratulated Noelle on the birth of her little girl. Minutes after that, the placenta came out, garnering questions from the nursing students about its size and how long it takes for the process to finish.

“Basically what we’ve done is we’ve taken what we learn over the course of four semesters and simplified it down in a way that they get it in a week’s period of time,” said Morgan, who volunteered her time at the camp and as a chaperone for out-of-town campers. “Getting them informed on what the medical profession I think is important because it takes a lot of the fear of not knowing away and it allows them to see in a safe environment that it is incredible. You’re dealing with people’s lives, and you’re interacting with them daily, and they’re in a state that they need care, and to provide that is a beautiful thing.”

 

Dream big

 

Hunter dreamed up the idea for the Dream Big…Be a Nurse High School Summer Camp last year as a way to utilize the simulation center in the summer and recruit a diverse array of high school students into the nursing program at Sheridan and Gillette colleges. She applied for and received a State of Wyoming Workforce Development grant that covered the entire cost of the camp, including scrubs with the Wyoming Simulation Center logo and dormitory lodging for out-of-towners, for all 48 participants.

She also received sponsorship from Sheridan College, Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Sheridan County Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Rocky Mountain Ambulance, Sheridan Fire-Rescue and Wyoming Life Flight that ensured the camp would be free for participants.

Hunter recruited current nursing students and additional college faculty to teach and mentor the students.

“You can see the high school students gravitate more to the nursing student than to the older educator,” Hunter said. “It’s a learn one, teach one kind of mentality.”

Hunter said the college plans on keeping in touch with participants to continue encouraging them to pursue nursing and see where they end up in life. After all, this camp could be crucial to addressing the coming nursing shortage facing the nation — and even Sheridan’s local hospitals.

“It was just an idea, and to see it come to fruition like this is just amazing. To see the 24 students just so enthralled and so interested, it’s great. I mean, these are life-changing experiences,” Hunter said. “They predict by 2020 that we’re going to have 300,000 job openings in the nursing profession around the United States because of the gap of the aging nurse population. I think that any initiative to encourage the youth to choose nursing will help bridge the gap in 2020. It’s an amazing profession.”

Jorey Kyllonen, a senior at Sheridan High School, said he’s always been into sports and medicine and is considering physical therapy as a profession. He strives to take any opportunity available to experience as much as he can.

“It’s cool that more guys are starting to get into the medical profession; it shows that guys have an understanding for it, just as well as women do,” Kyllonen said.

Local students and sisters Gabby and Grace Edeen, a senior and sophomore at SHS, both said they already had an interest in medicine but the camp helped them understand the profession even more.

“It’s changed my mind a lot because I wanted to go into dental hygiene, so I’ve considered being a nurse of some sort now,” Gabby Edeen said. “I like the idea of helping someone in a big way.”

And participant Ashley Mooren came from Gillette to attend the camp after hearing about it in her biomedical class. She felt it would be a good chance to put her book knowledge and passion for medicine into more real-life situations in her pursuit of becoming a neo-natal nurse following her recent graduation from high school.

She reiterated the need for nurses: “I feel nurses are very important because they’re the ones keeping us alive in these hard times,” Mooren said. “We’re always going to have illnesses, and until we come up with things to help that, we’re going to need nurses.”

Ruths will always need to be saved, and Noelles will always need to give birth, and who better to be there for the sick than a new wave of intelligent nurses breaking stereotypes ingrained for decades?

Mars gifts $4 million to SC for new agriculture center

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College officials announced Friday a $4 million gift, the largest gift from an individual in the history of Sheridan College, from Jacomien and Forrest E. Mars Jr. of Big Horn for the creation of a new Mars Agriculture Center.

The new center will be a 13,000-15,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility, and will be located on the south end of Sheridan College’s main campus, adjacent and connected to the existing Science Center, which will also receive upgrades during the project.

“We are building a world-class agriculture program here in Sheridan, Wyoming, and, thanks to the generous support from Forrest and Jacomien, it will have a world-class home,” Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said. “This latest gift builds on a history of support from Forrest Mars Jr. for our ag students and programs, including one-half million dollars for the Natural Resources and Ranch Land Management Program and one-half million dollars pledged last year to support the creation of an additional agriculture faculty position.”

The center, Young said, will focus on providing real-world experiences for students. In addition to high-tech classrooms, a herbarium, a greenhouse and a soils and agroecology lab, the new center will include a computerized commodities trading floor classroom to support students studying in the ag-business program.

“The academic study around agriculture is different today than it was 10 or 20 years ago, with a global emphasis on business and science,” said Dr. Ami Erickson, SC Dean of Ag, Science, Math and Culinary.

“We have a record number of applicants and current students in our programs, and if we are going to teach our students the skills necessary to compete and contribute in the global world in which we live, updating our learning space is the next step.”

The total cost for the project is $8 million. The state of Wyoming allocated $2.7 million toward the project during the last legislative session.  Young is confident the remaining $1.3 million will be raised by the end of the summer.

The next steps for the project include selecting an architect and construction manager, which college officials hope to have complete by the end of the summer. The design phase will likely last through February 2015.

“We should be ready to send out bids on the project by February or March of next year, and be ready to begin construction in mid-May,” Young said. “We anticipate opening the doors for students at the new Mars Agriculture Center by the start of fall semester 2016.”

Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, dies at 68

SHERIDAN — Colleagues of Wyoming Sen. John Schiffer, R-Kaycee, have confirmed that the longtime state legislator died this morning at age 68.

Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, said this morning that Schiffer had been feeling ill for a couple of months, but believed it to be pneumonia. On May 31, he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

Berger said Schiffer had received chemotherapy in Casper recently, but his fever ramped up and he died in his wife’s arms this morning while awaiting an ambulance.

“He was such an unassuming man,” Berger said this morning. “He’s been my mentor since I started in the Legislature. He was always the first person I called to say, ‘John, how do I do this?'”

Schiffer had served in the Wyoming Senate since 1993, as the president of the Senate from 2007-2008, Senate Majority Floor Leader in 2005-2006 and Senate Vice President in 2003-2004.

This year, Schiffer served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee, among others.

Schiffer and his wife, Nancy, have two children.

Check back here, and in tomorrow’s edition of The Sheridan Press, for additional details.

County renews contract with private ambulance firm

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County commissioners renewed the contract for services with Rocky Mountain Ambulance, LLC, Tuesday morning. The board also voted unanimously to subsidize the emergency medical service to the tune of $170,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, 2015.

County Administrative Director Renee Obermueller explained the contract review is standard procedure.

“We look at this contract annually,” she said. ‘We’ve had a meeting with Rocky Mountain (Ambulance) to see where they’re at with charity care, write-offs, the new (Affordable Care Act) and how its affecting Medicare payments, and this is one of the other avenues of the county we have to look at.”

Obermueller acknowledged the contract for medical services is unique in that the private company is subsidized by the local municipal and county government.

“It’s a county service, but we’re also subsidizing that service,” she said, adding this year’s subsidy has been negotiated down $5,000 from last year.

Commissioner Steve Maier reflected that the subsidy is essential for public safety.

“Nobody likes to do a subsidy, but the reality is we’ve asked them to provide service countywide, which includes the mountain, it includes Arvada, it includes a wide variety of distances and they can’t turn people down,” Maier said.

“So they, like the hospital, have a significant write-off and we get to review their financials.”

Maier provided more commentary in an effort to thwart any potential sticker shock for board members.

“There was a time not too long ago we had a public ambulance service that was being subsidized in the million-dollar plus. Working with the private sector, we’ve got it down to a total of a couple hundred thousand dollars and I think the service has been good.

“Nobody likes subsidies, but we want to guarantee our citizens service anywhere in Sheridan County, so we have to do this,” Maier said, adding that he appreciates the contributions of the county’s numerous fire departments and municipally owned ambulances that assist in emergency responses within the area as well.

 

Also at Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Sheridan County BOCC:

• awarded a contract to install a fireproof pond liner at the Sheridan County Airport Fuel Farm to ShotCrete Montana, based out of Absarokee, Montana. ShotCrete will install a product called Milliken CC-8 Concrete Cloth in compliance with regulations established by the Department of Environmental Quality. The project will cost $27,296.

• acknowledged the receipt of a conceptual master plan for the Sheridan County Airport. Ryan Hayes, of Mead & Hunt Consulting, presented a plan to reorganize the existing county air terminal and add floor space to departments when and if enplanements increase.

“This is to recognize that when the enplanement situation turns around, when the air service situation turns around at Sheridan County Airport, you will have a plan to move forward that involves a new terminal building,” he said, indicating another main priority of the new facility plan would be to separate commercial and general aviation traffic.

• unanimously approved the continuation of a Memorandum of Understanding between the county and the Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem program.

“The GAL program, in summary, offers legal assistance to children in need,” Obermueller said. “This could be for supervision cases, parental rights, etc. These attorneys are funded by the state and we, as a county, are required to pay 25 percent of their fees.”

• agreed to begin the process of vacating a portion of Upper Big Horn Sheridan Road that is on the property of the county airport. The heavily used portion of the road will remain open.

• renewed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding with the Wyoming Department of Health’s Public Health Division to support a local maternal and child health program.

“We do staff a county nurse to fill this position, but it is 100 percent funded by a grant,” Obermueller said.

• agreed to accept Countywide Consensus Block Grant Funding.

“The legislature again approved in the (2015-2016) biennium, $70 million to be distributed statewide. Sheridan County’s portion of that is 5.62 percent of that, which is $3,936,635,” Obermueller said.

The money will be divided among governmental entities in Sheridan County after individual resolutions are approved.

New mine could create more than 200 jobs

SHERIDAN — Last month, the Kentucky-based Ramaco, LLC, announced plans to open a coal mine between Sheridan and Ranchester. The endeavor represents an economic opportunity for the local economy, but also a pioneer effort to bring Appalachian mining techniques to Wyoming.

Initial mining plans for the proposed Brook Mine, which will be located in an area near the existing Acme exit of Interstate 90, are to use a “highwall” mining technique to excavate coal. Ramaco CEO Randall Atkins said he hopes to create between 200 and 225 high-paying jobs — foremen, engineers, etc. — when the mine opens in a few years.

The proposed mine encompasses approximately 15,000 acres of mostly private land acquired by Ramaco in 2011. The proposed site also includes a swath of land that will remain undisturbed because it contains a historic floodplain. With environmental considerations aside, Atkins said he aims to mine 6-8 million tons of coal per year.

“It turns out there’s a whole lot of coal here,” Atkins said, suggesting the previous land owner may have underestimated the fossil fuel resources on the land. “We’ve got almost 1.1 billion tons of coal.”

The vast majority of the mine land — 90 percent — is privately owned by Ramaco.

Ramaco’s business plan’s profitability hinges on both a relatively low-cost mining technique and the fact that the mine will not be required to pay federal bonuses or royalties.

“This is 20 years’ worth of mining just on the first mining plan we’ve done,” he said. “And, as we start poking holes and find more coal, we may expand to more areas. This could probably go on for several decades.”

The proposed new mine land is bisected by both Interstate 90 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC, rail line.

 

Highwall mining

 

The technique of highwall mining entails digging a shelved trench into terrain and then using a HWM machine to excavate coal. The machine consists of an auger, or drill, that burrows as far as 2,000-feet into the hillside. An accompanying conveyer belt then transports the coal backward through the drilled hole to be transported.

In this case, Atkins said plans are to truck the coal to a rail yard that will be situated near what is now known as the Taylor Quarry.

HWM is considered a variation of surface mining, as people do not physically go underground to recover the coal. The HWM technique is a distinct departure from the conventional approach to western mining, but is used extensively in the eastern United States.

“A lot of the type of mining done out in Wyoming is what I call ‘moon scaping’,” Atkins explained. “Some people call it an ‘open pit’ or ‘truck and shovel,’ where you remove all the topsoil and keep going down.

“That works in places like Gillette that have huge seams. Coal seams here aren’t that thick. They’re more shallow,” he said, adding that HWM is a perfect fit for the coal seams found near Sheridan.

The aftermath of a highwall mining operation is a hillside with multiple holes drilled side-by-side, creating a “honeycomb” appearance.

 

Marketing

 

Atkins said coal from the Northern Powder River Basin represents a unique economic opportunity for Ramaco.

“In terms of thermal coal, we felt this is probably the strongest or one of the strongest regions in the country to mine,” Atkins said, explaining that coal found near Sheridan contains a relatively high British Thermal Unit (BTU) ratio and lower sodium than other coal mined in the region.

Atkins remained optimistic that the “war on coal” raging on a national level will not have a long-term effect on profits from the new local mine.

“I think that as that is implemented, things will change because I think it will be shaped by regulatory change, legal change and things like that,” he said. “Having said that, the utilities we sell to will likely be in the Midwest, and they will not be as badly impacted. Our coal fits very well with what their burning requirements would be.”

New stipulations from the Environmental Protection Agency have dictated emissions from new coal-fired power plants reach unprecedented low levels of carbon emissions. The constricted operability of some existing power plants and tight regulations for new facilities has created a cutthroat domestic market. Atkins said he’s confident Brook Mine coal will fill a niche.

“The reality is there are some coals that can be used in the same utilities from different mines, and there are some utilities that can only burn certain types of coal,” he said, adding that he sees the mine’s future product as unique to that mined at existing nearby mines, including the Decker and Spring Creek mines.

“It’s not as much head-to-head competition as you might suspect because even though you think of coal in generic terms, it really has specialized chemical properties that each coal is a little different and each utilities boiler accepts certain types of coal and not others.”

Atkins said he hopes to market two-thirds of coal mined from the Brook Mine domestically, while the remaining one-third would be marketed overseas using existing North American export terminals.

“We have come up with a route to avoid the mess going on in the Washington and Oregon area,” Atkins said, indicating Ramaco has considered shipping coal to Asia via an export terminal in Canada. Ramaco also owns a terminal south of New Orleans.

 

Getting started

 

Atkins said Ramaco is currently working with multiple local engineering groups, to include drilling companies and environmental consultants, to get the Brook Mine off the ground.

He’s also waiting on a finalized socioeconomic study that would outline the potential economic impact of the mine, which he intends to make public.

“What we hope is we’ll file this summer and that process will take a year or more than a year, and we’ll start mining in 2016,” Atkins said, knocking on the wooden conference table at Sheridan’s Ramaco office on Sugarland Drive.

Atkins said the current mine plan is divided into two phases, each encompassing its own area.

Ramaco’s present goal is to have an initial Phase 1 surface mining permit application submitted by August in hopes of having the permit issued by the end of 2015. The Phase 2 application is expected to be submitted in the fall of 2015 to begin mining in 2017.

“Wyoming has a reputation for trying to get things done and move these projects forward, rather than trying to come up with reasons not to do things,” Atkins said. “We’ve had the same experience and we’re happy up to this point.”

Atkins added that while nothing is ever “in the bag,” Wyoming’s Department of Environmental Quality and other regulatory agencies have been accommodating to Ramaco’s development ambitions.

 

 

Cowgirls kick off rodeo season

Kade Koltiska competes in break away roping during the Sheridan Cowgirls Association Rodeo on Thursday evening at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds. Koltiska will be going to the National Junior High School Rodeo in Des Moines, Iowa, later this month.

Nichols: No stranger to country scene

SHERIDAN — Joe Nichols may not be singing about Sheridan in his song “Wal-Mart Parking Lot” in which he tells of the “Wal-Mart social club” of small towns saying “all summer long the nights are hot, hanging out here in the parking lot” but he could have been.

An Arkansas-born singer, Nichols describes himself as a traditional county music singer with a mix of modern.

“I grew up listening to traditional country music so that’s my brand. Today I think the challenge is to integrate the traditional with what is happening with country radio today, so I’m a little bit different but with more of what has already been,” Nichols said. “Some country purists might not appreciate that but I like to throw it back to the old days and at the same time stay fresh.”

Nichols will share his brand of country with Sheridan on Friday at 8 p.m. as he takes to the stage during Big Horn Country USA, the local three-day music, art and camping festival featuring Lady Antebellum, Big and Rich, Brantley Gilbert and more.

Nichols said he is looking forward to returning to Wyoming and hopes to get out and explore Sheridan if his schedule will allow.

“Wyoming’s a beautiful state, beautiful part of the country,” he said. “I’m a little outdoorsy. I’m not much of a hunter because I wasn’t raised around that, but I do love to fish and target shoot.”

He is also looking forward to seeing the other artists slated to play at the Trail End Concert Park next weekend.

“It’s good to see friends, all those great people I don’t see on a day-to-day basis. I’m sure I’ve played with some or all of them at some point,” he said. “Plus, I just love watching a good show, so hopefully everyone brings it.”

Currently on tour with Lady A, Nichols is thrilled on a regular basis with the talent he is surrounded by.

“Well we got an offer to do the tour with Lady A and considering the lineup, I mean, look who we’re playing with,” he said. “Billy Currington is a great artist. Lady A are great people, great performers, great singers.”

Nichols is no stranger on the country scene. He has been topping charts and packing audiences for more than a decade now since his first no. 1 single “Brokenheartsville” rose to the top of the Billboards in 2003.

Over the 11 years that followed, other chart toppers solidified his place among country music fans including “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Gimmie That Girl,” and his latest No. 1, “Sunny and 75.”

To him, the individual successes are not his greatest achievements but rather his permanency in the field.

“My biggest accomplishment is my longevity,” he said. “A lot of people take-off and become headliners immediately but then they fade over the years. We’ve had some really bright moments without hitting that headliners spot yet, but I’m still here.”

Not one to live life with regrets, Nichols said he would have chosen his relationships in the business world more carefully if he could do it again, but is happy with his place in life.

“I am who I am and I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m livin’ this life because of it,” he said.

The years have afforded Nichols a series of good memories and interesting experiences.

“I have lots of crazy stories from the road but none that you could print,” he chuckled. “Each day feels like a crazy story in its own.”

One story he did recall was being asked to sign a can of turkey spam while in Wisconsin, with little to say about the odd request beyond, “yeah, I just don’t know.”

Ever the performer, Nichols said the best venue he can play is the one filled with the best audience, and some songs get them going a bit more than others.

“’Tequila’ always gets a good response, but for crazy reasons as you can imagine,” he said. “Right now ‘Sunny and 75’ gets the crowd into it, it’s such a feel good and have a good time song.”

He added that if he could design a perfect show, with the best crowd at the best venue, it would offer variety and time.

“A sea of people and a perfect performance, that would be the best show,” he said. “I would pull out obscure songs and the people would listen. I would get to rock out for a long time; if we were given three hours we’d love that. I could do everything from my favorite covers to my current singles if I had the time, it would be a great time.”

In the end, the country superstar’s passion and humbleness are probably best reflected in his song “Singer in a Band:”

“A soldier in a field of mines, with each step he lays it on the line… I’m humbled when you take the time, to hear my life in verse and rhyme. But when it comes to heroes I know, I’m just a singer in a band.”

 

UPDATED: Murder victim identified as James Lee Drake

SHERIDAN — Paul Brookhouse, 57, has been arrested on one charge of second degree murder for killing James Drake on Thursday. A $100,000 cash bond was set in Sheridan County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon.

Sheridan County Sheriff Dave Hofmeier said this morning that deputies and emergency medical services were dispatched to 24 Dee Drive at approximately 6 p.m. Thursday night for the report of a gunshot wound. When deputies arrived on scene they located a deceased male, who was later identified as James Lee Drake, 62.

In an initial hearing in Sheridan County Circuit Court on Friday afternoon, Judge Shelley Cundiff read the affidavit of probable cause to the defendant, who participated in the hearing from the Sheridan County Detention Center. According to the affidavit, when deputies arrived on scene, Brookhouse was standing at the end of the driveway with his arm in a sling and what appeared to be blood on his clothing. He reportedly spun around with his hands in the air, as if to indicated he was unarmed.

Brookhouse also indicated the man who had been shot was in the basement of the home. When deputies asked if the wound was self-inflicted or if somebody else did it, Brookhouse responded that it was somebody else.

When deputies entered the home and found Drake, he was face down on the floor with what appeared to be two gunshot wounds to the side and one to the head. A .22 revolver and a Ruger revolver were at the scene.

Brookhouse allegedly told deputies that he was the one who did it and put his hands behind his back, readying to be handcuffed.

Hofmeier added that the case remains under investigation and staff from the state crime lab were on scene Friday.

Second degree murder — defined as purposely and maliciously, but without premeditation killing someone — is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

Fishing day

Fourteen-year-old Jarrod Roberts, left, and friend Hayden Burgess, 13, cast at Sam Mavrakis Pond off Eighth Street on Wednesday afternoon. The pond is a popular spot for Sheridan residents, young and old, to fish.

Annie Jr.

Micall Hoopes scrubs the floor of the orphanage during a rehearsal for “Annie Jr.” on Tuesday at the WYO Theater. This will be the third Annie Jr. performance in Tandem production’s 20-year history in Sheridan. Curtain is at 7:30 p.m. June 18-21 at the WYO Theater.

Nonprofit providing warmth in cold places

SHERIDAN — Warmth, comfort and relaxation are feelings commonly associated with a blanket but to a child, it can mean much more.

To a little person wrapped in a big quilt there is often a sense of security, like being enveloped in a hug.

Many children develop attachments to their belongings, “security blankets” in particular, but what if circumstances beyond their control remove them from their homes, from their sense of security or from their belongings?

A nonprofit organization in Sheridan is using their hands to warm others’ hearts with one-of-a-kind quilts, many of which are donated to the Child Advocacy Services of the Big Horns.

Love in Stitches was started by Cynthia Whiteman and Penny Covalt in February of last year and was just recently awarded their 501(c)3 status.

Covalt was previously involved with Project Linus, a national organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need, particularly critically ill children.

The only chapter in Wyoming is in Cheyenne and she was interested in bringing the cause to Sheridan, but the group was not looking to add new chapters at the time.

Whiteman was a long-time quilting hobbyist. Her mother made quilts when she was young and she took up the family hobby when she became a mother herself.

Covalt approached Whiteman about the cause and the duo decided to start their own organization.

The ladies have been making quilts and donating them to various charities with the majority of the cost for the quilts coming out of their own pockets.

Now, as a registered charitable organization, they can begin to accept donations and with that hope to expand their services.

In February, the newly official group decided to make a quilt for each of the children graduating from the Head Start preschool in the spring.

The largest single donation the team has made, 36 quilts were made for the 5-year-olds leaving the state-funded school.

“We’re hoping to start doing that annually now that we know we can handle it,” Whiteman said, “but we don’t want to take away from the other places we’re supporting either.”

To date the CASBH has received a majority of their creations and Visitation and Exchange Coordinator Hesid Brandov-Ysrael said much of the time the quilts go to children who have nothing.

“Some kids are allowed to or have time to pack-up their own items before leaving their home, but some kids leave with nothing,” she said. “For a child to have their own quilt is really something special.”

Brandov-Ysrael said many of the quilts end up going to foster children who have been removed from their home.

“A lot of our kids are younger so they cannot really express gratitude,” she said, “but the smiles on their faces when they receive the quilt says it all.”

Though Whiteman said roughly 60 percent of their quilts went to CASBH last year, she was quick to add that sometimes adults need a nice blanket too.

“One of the lenders at First Interstate Bank approached us and said she had a customer whose house flooded and they had to get out quickly and lost everything so we made them some quilts,” she said. “Children are really the basis of our group but we want to help all people in need.”

Love in Stitches has a goal of crafting 100 quilts this year, even though the group only consists of four official members.

Covalt’s mother quilts for the team but lives five hours away and sends the blankets back to Sheridan whenever her daughter comes to visit.

The fourth member, Irene Stevens, knew she wanted to help the cause but didn’t know one important thing: how to sew.

“Irene didn’t even know how to thread the sewing machine but after just a couple days of reviewing patterns and things with me, she started,” Whiteman said. “It’s not something that is really hard to learn, it just takes patience and a creative mind.”

The group meets monthly at Sunrise General Assembly Church to set goals and log completed quilts for donation, but Whiteman added that quilters who wish to help without becoming an official member are welcome to donate their creations to Love in Stitches to be placed in a needing home.

And for those who do not want to put needle to cloth, the team always needs people to help with the other aspects including cutting fabric and ironing — jobs currently being done by the women’s teenage children.

Other than helping hands, Whiteman says the biggest current need of the group is supplies.

“Fabric is not cheap,” she said. “Quilts have to be made with a certain type of fabric so some of what we’ve received couldn’t be used but we don’t like to be wasteful, so we use that and all of our scraps to make pet beds and donate them to the Dog and Cat Shelter.”

Pending the receipt of more supplies and crafty people, Whiteman says the next step for Love in Stitches is to expand blanket coverage to the children’s wing of Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

“Sometimes kids need a warm hug in a cold place, so to have a blanket for the kids in the CASA program, the court system or the hospital… sometimes just having a security blanket that they can take with them wherever they go is the key,” she said. “It feels good to get it done, see it and know it will be somewhere it will be appreciated.”

Monster trucks!

Willie Morris, Luke Morris and Sam Wilcock, from left, react as the monster trucks enter the arena during the Mega Promotions Tour Monster Truck Show on Saturday night at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds

$10K reward offered in attorney’s office fire

SHERIDAN — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — along with the Sheridan Police Department and Sheridan Fire-Rescue — today announced a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for setting fire to the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office.

SFR and SPD responded to the fire, reported at 4:30 a.m. June 4, at 148 S. Brooks St. Investigators have determined the fire was intentionally set.

“ATF is committed to solving this investigation, and we are asking the community to come forward with information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for this senseless crime,” Special Agent in Charge Luke Franey of ATF said in a press release.

The fire is being investigated by the ATF Cheyenne Field Office, Sheridan Police Department and the FBI. Anyone with information about this crime should contact the following agencies:

SPD: 307-672-2431.
ATF Hotline: 1-888-ATF-TIPS (888-283-8477)
ATF Cheyenne Field Office: 307-633-9400.

All information will be treated confidentially, and callers may remain anonymous upon request.

Positive effect of taxi program not seen in countywide DUI arrests

SHERIDAN — Despite robust public education efforts and the implementation of a “Tipsy Taxi” program, there has been no significant reduction in overall driving under the influence arrests in Sheridan County over the last few years.

Under the Tipsy Taxi program — a joint effort between businesses, community prevention specialists and law enforcement — bar patrons are issued a voucher to receive a free or discounted ride home.

The Tipsy Taxi started running in Sheridan in July 2012. In the first few months of operation, the taxi averaged around 100 to 150 rides per month and total DUI arrests originating from the Sheridan Police Department went down 23 percent from the year prior, according to statistics provided by Sheridan Police Chief Richard Adriaens.

However, at the same time they went down for SPD, went up for other arresting agencies, including the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Highway Patrol. In addition, DUI arrests in the city and county are again on the rise.

Numbers received from Sheridan County Attorney Matt Redle indicate that so far this year, there have been 103 DUI arrests conducted by all law enforcement agencies in the county between January and the end of May. This year’s baseline number going into the summer season suggests the county will likely surpass last year’s total number of 258. In 2012, there were 219 DUI arrests, and 182 in 2011.

The SPD reported 197 DUI arrests in 2010, 174 in 2011, 134 in 2012 and 140 in 2013.

Adriaens said the effect of the Tipsy Taxi program was significant for his agency in the beginning, but it is beginning to taper off.

“There’s always a plateau,” he said. “The effect will be less and less if the program doesn’t grow.”

The entirety of the program today is the same as when it started out — one or two vehicles operated by a local taxi company designated specifically to give drinkers a ride home. Adriaens indicated the biggest drawback he’s heard about the program is that sometimes, patrons wait a long time for the taxi to arrive.

“Our biggest complaint about the program is that the wait gets too long, but the other side of that is that inebriated people sometimes aren’t always the most patient,” Adriaens said.

Adriaens also indicated the uptick in DUI arrests are a reflection of more activity that occurs with generalized economic recovery evidenced by increased local sales tax collection. He commended the county’s other law enforcement agencies for their increased efforts and enforcement activity as well.

Within Sheridan County, one of the more significant statistics related to drunken driving is the number of accidents that occurred, as opposed to traffic violations. DUI accident citations jumped up 20 percent between 2011 and 2012, from 20 to 24, respectively. DUI-related traffic citations went up only 5.3 percent during the same period.

Because of Sheridan County’s high DUI accident rate, it qualifies for extra state funding for overtime enforcement.

The same applies because the county has the lowest reported seatbelt use in the state.

Tracking DUI stats is one of a few tangible elements of comprehending the status of the overarching issue of alcohol abuse and accessory incidents in the community.

“Anywhere from 65 to 80 percent of all of our arrests are alcohol related,” Adriaens said. “That’s why we’re all over this.”

Adriaens added that the majority of violent crime in the county is also connected to late night bar activity.

“I always say that if you want to live a long, happy life in Sheridan, buckle up, don’t drink and drive and don’t be out in the bars late,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Dog and Cat Shelter offering rabies vaccinations

SHERIDAN — For many, the saying “man’s best friend” is more than a saying; it is a way of life. Pets from dogs and cats to horses and rabbits can be your closest companions and often someone you would do anything to protect.

But even as medical and technological advancements have given four-legged friends longer and healthier lives, if your pet contracts rabies, there is nothing that can be done.

“If your animal is scratched or bitten by an animal you do not know and can’t contain for testing, you assume it is rabid and need to quarantine your animal and watch for symptoms,” Dog and Cat Shelter Executive Director Debie Crawford said. “The ultimate outcome, if they’re bit by something that’s rabid, they’re going to die.”

Rabies is a virus that infects the central nervous system ultimately causing disease in the brain and then death.

Though there is a treatment for rabies, it is reserved for humans who contract the virus and for animals the only “cure” is prevention.

This is why Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory scientists urge pet owners to have their pets vaccinated against rabies.

WSVL virologist Myrna Miller said in a press release “even if your animal does not usually have contact with wildlife, rabid skunks and foxes have been known to climb into outdoor dog kennels and attack even large dogs and humans.”

Skunks account for the majority of wildlife that tested positive for rabies in Wyoming from November of 2013 through April — 41 of the 43 cases — with the other two being one cat and one fox.

This number indicates rabies is on the rise as a total of only 34 rabid animals were confirmed in Wyoming in 2010.

Though rabies are most often transmitted through a bite, pets can also be infected by drinking from pools of water after an infected animal.

Outdoor cats that roam free are of particular concern, though the 21 pets that were quarantined or euthanized after exposure to rabid animals so far this year have all been dogs.

The most important thing to do is watch for symptoms.

In animals, the most common symptoms are nervousness, agitation, aggression and unusual behavior. Cattle develop a hoarse bellow, drooling, abnormal swallowing and other conditions. Horses show abnormal posture, signs of colic and wobbliness of their hindquarters.

Foothills Veterinary Services veterinarian Shawn Tatman said often these symptoms and the hypo-salivating that accompanies them can lead pet owners to believe the animal has something obstructing its airways, causing them to insert their hand in the pet’s mouth to attempt to clear its throat.

“Anytime you’ve got an animal that is not quite right, don’t put your hand in its mouth,” he said. “This is one of the ways in which humans contract rabies from their pets.”

Early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to other illnesses and include fever, headache and general weakness, which then progress to insomnia, anxiety, confusion, agitation, fear of water, partial paralysis and more.

Though death usually occurs within days of the onset of the symptoms, early detection and treatment can save the human’s life.

Because preventing the spread of rabies is more of a public health concern than just a pet health concern, the state mandates how often rabies vaccinations must be given.

Furthermore, the city of Sheridan mandates dogs living in city limits be licensed and proof of current rabies vaccination must be provided to receive a city license.

This week is the Dog and Cat Shelter’s Rabies Clinic week at Kendrick Park and since 2008 this clinic has administered 3,980 rabies vaccines to dogs, cats and ferrets.

Licensed veterinarians and a team of volunteers have been gathering in the band shell until 1 p.m. daily to offer shots and licenses.

The clinic, which ends tomorrow, offers the rabies vaccines for a discounted price — compared to a visit to a vet’s office — of just $10.

A city license can be purchased for $10 for spayed and neutered dogs and $15 for intact animals after the shot is administered or upon presenting a current rabies certificate, not just a prior rabies tag or city license.

Crawford said the benefits to adhering to the licensure policy are numerous.

“If your dog gets loose and is picked up by animal control and not licensed you will receive a fine of $45. If your dog bites someone, they will know it is vaccinated and not have to go through being quarantined. Also, it is a good tracking mechanism, especially if the dog is not micro-chipped, to make sure they make it back home to you,” she said.

The vaccine administered at the clinic is approved for dogs, cats and ferrets but horses, cattle and other pets need to see a veterinarian for their vaccines.

“The vaccine is great, it’s highly effective,” Tatman said. “No vaccines are 100 percent but I don’t know of a lapse in its effectiveness ever.”

 

Editor’s note: Press reporter Alisa Brantz is a board member of the Sheridan Dog and Cat Shelter.

New location, same mission

SHERIDAN — A crowd of community business leaders and administrators turned out Wednesday afternoon to support the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and celebrate its new location.

The Chamber hosted an open house to show off its new office space in what used to be the home to Sheridan College on Main Street. The offices associated with the college, including the Center for a Vital Community and the Workforce Training and Development for the Northern Wyoming Community College District, have moved back to the main campus.

When the Chamber of Commerce relocated from the Information Center near the intersection of Fifth Street and Interstate 90 to its new location, it left vacant space that was immediately filled by the staff of Sheridan Travel and Tourism. The two agencies had previously been housed in the same building.

Chamber CEO Dixie Johnson said though the two agencies have parted ways, their relationship remains strong.

“We couldn’t be happier to partner with them,” she said, adding that the new location may pose some strategic advantages for the chamber’s mission.

“What we are thrilled about now is that we are going to be more accessible being in the heart of the community,” Johnson said. “We continue to connect people with businesses and businesses with resources.”

ST&T Director Shawn Buckley said that when he assumed his current job a few years ago, he was happy to have the Chamber of Commerce imminently available to help him settle. Now, he’s excited about the new possibilities of the visitor center.

“Now, the focus on the Visitor’s Center is different,” he said, indicating the crowd that comes by is solely focused on getting regional information and tourism.

ST&T has added another full-time employee to its staff as of this week and is in the interim phases of redesigning the museum.

Buckley said he’s had a few meetings with representatives from the State of Wyoming’s Visitor Center Network and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, who own the building, and learned he has a lot of leeway in terms of modifying the exhibit displays for travelers.

“The long and short was we discovered we have quite a bit of control to get creative with displays and visuals as long as no commercial exchange is taking place,” Buckley said.

“Now, we’re picking apart different aspects of how the main office might look and function. We’re also looking at the museum as well and talking with our partners about our displays. We’re getting thoughts on how to modernize the aesthetics there while maintaining our partnerships,” he said.

Johnson added both entities have agreed the new situation will be a great fit for the community.

 

No injuries reported in early morning blaze

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire at the Sheridan County Attorney’s office located at 148 S. Brooks St. around 4:30 a.m. today.

Assisted by Goose Valley Fire Department, the crews were able to contain the fire with no injuries sustained. The office building appears to have been vacant at the time of the fire.

Upon arrival, fire was coming out of a window on the first floor and SFR Capt. Gary Harnish said the fire appeared to be localized to that area.

Rocky Mountain Ambulance and the Sheridan Police Department were also on-site.

With the building cleared and a full search for life complete, the crews began the investigation into the cause of the fire around 5:45 a.m.

As of 9:30 a.m., Harnish reported that all units were clear from the scene except the investigative team which will continue trying to determine the cause of the fire.

 

Crews respond to fire at County Attorney’s office

SHERIDAN — Sheridan Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire at the Sheridan County Attorney’s office located at 148 S. Brooks St. around 4:30 a.m. today.

Assisted by Goose Valley Fire Department, the crews were able to contain the fire with no injuries sustained. The office building appears to have been vacant at the time of the fire.

Upon arrival, fire was coming out of a window on the first floor and SFR Capt. Gary Harnish said the fire appeared to be localized to that area.

With the building cleared and a full search for life complete, the crews have begun the investigation into the cause of the fire.

This story will be updated as more details become available.

Farmers market continues expansion with new events

SHERIDAN — Spring and summer bring back many things long lost in the winter months. Sunshine, green grass, open water and clear pathways draw people outside and encourage many to once again be more mindful of their health.

As plants wake up from their winter slumbers, gardeners from hobbyist to professional levels are getting their hands dirty planting and harvesting a variety of crops; and once again all of these joys of summer will soon come together in the Sheridan Farmers Market.

This season will mark the 14th year of vendors distributing their locally grown foods in a fair-like atmosphere and it is shaping up to be the biggest year yet with a schedule of special events and myriad changes.

The event started on Grinnell Plaza and was moved to Whitney Commons in 2007. In an effort to increase visibility and attendance, the event was again moved last year and is now held on Main Street in Sheridan.

“The move back to Main Street was kind of controversial in the beginning but it is part of our Main Street focus and brought visibility to the vendors so people driving by would see it and pull over,” market organizer Bonnie Gregory said.

“It’s a beautiful park and we do miss the fountains but the ultimate goal is to raise the economics of those local vendors while getting fresh food into the hands of the consumers and last year was the most profitable year for the vendors yet, so it worked.”

Gregory said the event started out slow, having only four vendors in its first year, but thanks to the national refocus on local foods and a lot of passionate marketing from organizers it has more than doubled in size in the last four years alone.

“The local food movement has been prevalent throughout the country for quite a few years and it’s finally catching on in Sheridan,” she said. “We are wanting to become more aware of our food and support our local merchants, but farmers markets are difficult. It takes a lot of passion.”

That passion led the Downtown Sheridan Association to conduct several surveys of vendors and consumers and this year will be implementing changes reflective of their input.

“Restrooms were an issue to people so this year we have the key to the public restroom on Main Street and will have a dedicated Porto-Potty that will be cleaned the day before each event,” she said. “We are working on getting handicap parking in front of City Hall and a number of other convenience enhancements.”

Other changes this year include the longest market season to date with an additional pre-season market currently open, held by the vendors in the Community Room at the DSA for distribution of early spring crops.

“As the spring crops start coming in, they just have more and more,” Gregory said. “They are also taking pre-orders for things not yet ready to harvest, like chickens.”

One thing that has never changed is the booth fee. Vendors are still able to sell their food at a cost of just $10 per event.

“We want it to be affordable for people to have a booth and we feel the economic and health benefits of buying local and eating healthy multiply that income by five so we don’t need to charge a lot up front,” Gregory added.

 

Special events

The Farmers Market will play host to several special events this season, so many in fact that Gregory has resigned her position as project manager at DSA to focus solely on being the organizer of the Farmers Market series.

With the elongated season, the first market will open during rodeo week and though the produce may still be coming in, special offerings are in the works to serve the crowds expected to be downtown.

“We have a lot of other artisans like bakers so I’m hoping that the tourists and increased traffic on Rodeo Week give the vendors a jump start on the market,” Gregory said. “We’re also planning on having a beer garden with music and food vendors.”

Some of the markets also overlap with Third Thursday street festivals, in which case the Farmers Market vendors are bumped down Grinnell and set up in front of The Sheridan Press.

The market organizers are also cooking up their own events including a Fall Festival and a Sheridan Chef Throw-down.

For the chef’s competition, nine local chefs have registered for a cook-off in which they will be given $35 to spend at booths within the market to prepare the best dish possible.

Gregory says the purpose of the event goes beyond entertaining the crowds to hopefully show the chefs that our local producers can supply our restaurants with fresh, local foods.

The Fall Festival will be held during the final Farmers Market of the season on Oct. 4 and will include a community lunch, a beer garden, a pumpkin patch, live music and more.

Throughout the season the Farmers Market will offer a variety of activities including pie and watermelon eating contests.

“It’s a community event with a fair atmosphere, not just a come get your veggies and go home event,” Gregory said. “We want to foster community relations through the market as well.”

Current plans show the future of the Farmers Market will only continue to grow and change.

The DSA is currently working on a Goose Creek Restoration Project set to include a riverwalk which may house a permanent home for the market.

The increased use of social and digital media will make it so producers can sell their crops year-round online.

Gregory hopes this technology will also help promote the local foods movement while recruiting new producers to the area.

“Sheridan used to be the banana belt of sorts with lots of berries and diversified crops and it no longer is, so we’re focused on recruiting new producers,” she said. “I’m excited for the local foods movement to grow in Sheridan. These producers are good hard working people with big hearts and I’ve invested a lot of time in this because of them.”

The market will run from July 10 through Sept. 25. The pre-season market is open now, offered weekly on Thursday evenings.

Producers interested in selling their crops can register online — for the first time ever — by seeing www.sheridanfarmersmarket.org, or call the DSA office at 672-8881 to register.

BHMS students place service over self for the day

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County is well known to have a community-minded spirit as nonprofit organizations, fundraisers and opportunities to support each other abound.

Whether time is spent founding a new NPO, sitting on the Board of Directors of an existing nonprofit or simply volunteering an hour or a dollar, adults in the community often give what they can to support the charitable under layer that uplifts Sheridan.

But as the older generations of our community retire and pass the baton of service down to younger generations, who will be there to pick it up?

On Friday, the teachers and administration of Big Horn Middle School hosted their second school-wide Community Service Day, an effort to provide students with the opportunity to give back to the community, make a meaningful connection with the people they serve and learn the joy of being a public servant.

Over the past couple months, a public call was made for elderly, handicapped or anyone else who wanted to make connections with the youth in their community to submit projects for the students to complete free of charge.

The types of projects the kids completed included painting, hauling wood, cleaning, yard work, trash removal, fence mending, repairing damages from recent storms and gardening.

Eighteen families and individuals came forward seeking help, and on Friday the students of the seventh- and eighth-grade classes of BHMS set out in seven small groups for a day of hard work — and a little fun.

For many years now the middle school has participated in a school-wide service day that historically consisted of trail cleanup, highway cleanup, river projects and other such deeds serving the community as a whole.

In this the second year of serving individuals in their homes, teachers and students alike agreed that they most enjoyed the personal connections made with people in their community whom they might not otherwise have been given the chance to meet.

“The students enjoyed meeting the people they were working with, building some relationships with people who are around us all the time that they might not know otherwise,” Project Organizer and BHMS teacher Tina Melon said. “The patrons enjoyed meeting the students too and seeing that they were good-hearted and fun to be around. A lot of times if you don’t know kids you only notice them when they do something wrong and they seem like punks, but once you get to know them you see a different side.”

Melon said in the first year she organized the community service day to be in people’s homes, she went door-to-door offering her services. This year she took to advertising in The Press and posting fliers at the post office to find patrons in need and found it to be much more effective.

“Sometimes people are tentative or unsure with strangers, and this way they got information ahead of time and felt more comfortable with who we were and what we were doing,” she said.

Barbara DeFries was one of the people who saw the flier at the post office and called for help.

“I recently had issues with my back and a foot, so things got behind on me, and when I saw that flier I thought, well gosh that would be great for these kids to help me,” she said. “I had them prune back lilac bushes, rake up bark chips and moved them to plant seed. They also moved a lot of rocks, and they were a huge help to me.”

DeFries said the students seemed to enjoy their time working at her house, giving each other rides in the wheel barrel and even burying one student in the bark pile.

“They had a blast, and I had fun watching them,” she said. “They worked up a sweat and had fun doing it. They were polite, nice, no one got hurt and they didn’t wreck any tools. It was a really great experience.”

Eighth-grader Kathryn Arneson was one of the students who worked at Barbara DeFries’ home, and she agreed the day was hard but fun.

“I was glad I was able to help the community and people who aren’t necessarily able to do it themselves,” Arneson said. “It’s also fun to spend time with people you aren’t normally able to hang out with, like people in other grades and the town.”

Melon said the school plans to continue the program in years to come and hopes to serve more people next time.

“Depending on the number of projects we have, we’d like to incorporate the sixth-graders but we didn’t have that many this year,” she said. “A lot of people are unsure if the project they have is right for middle schoolers, but most of the time it is, and if it’s not I’ll let them know so it doesn’t hurt to ask.”

Though the community service day is not an optional activity for the students, Melon said that oftentimes it is the motivation to start, but the kids continue on their own.

“Its important for all kids to learn about community service to start off because they probably wouldn’t do it if they had an option, but then after they have done it they are interested,” she said. “They liked feeling like they accomplished something, seeing what they achieved; the feeling at the end of the day was much different than the beginning.”

Arneson will head to high school next year where the service is not mandatory, and she said she will continue to do community service, as much as she can.

Bicycle/vehicle collision on Coffeen Avenue results in fatality

SHERIDAN — At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, a man and woman riding bicycles on Coffeen Avenue about 1/2 mile south of Sheridan College were struck by a vehicle.

Larry Hurst, 65, of Sheridan, died at the scene. At last report, his wife, Sara Hurst, was in critical condition at a hospital in Billings.

The names of the victims were released by Sheridan County Deputy Coroner Kevin Sessions Saturday evening.

Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department and Wyoming Highway Patrol responded to a report of a vehicle/bicycle collision on U.S. Highway 87, South Coffeen Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday approximately 1/2 mile south of Sheridan College, Wyoming Department of Transportation Public Involvement Specialist Ronda Holwell said in a media release.

It was determined that two bicyclists were traveling single file in the southbound emergency lane when a vehicle that was also traveling southbound struck the cyclists.

The male bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene, and the female bicyclist was transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital where she was stabilized and then later life flighted to Billings,” Holwell said.

Authorities continue to investigate, and charges against the driver of the vehicle are pending, Holwell said.

Severe storms forecast, flooding possible

SHERIDAN — With snow melt still running high and forecasts for severe thunderstorms this weekend, county residents need to be prepared for flooding.

The National Weather Service out of Billings, Montana, has issued a flood warning for Sheridan County. Snow melt has already caused high water levels on Big Goose and Little Goose creeks and the Tongue River. Emergency Management for the area has reported some flooding in Sheridan and Ranchester already, and water levels are expected to rise over the weekend with continued snow melt and rain.  Saturday and into next week, severe thunderstorms are predicted, according to the National Weather Service. Conditions are favorable for large hail, damaging wind and heavy rain.

The weather service advises people with outdoor activities planned to have an alternative location in mind.

Sheridan County and the city of Sheridan have both received several calls regarding sand bags and flooding, according to a press release from the Sheridan County Public Works Department.

In response, the entities will provide sand and sand bags for residents to fill as needed.

The fill location will be at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds, south of Rotary Park. Someone will be available to assist with sand bag filling at the fairgrounds from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Sunday.

Anyone with questions can call Sheridan County Emergency Manager Dave Coleman at 752-2174 or 674-5340. The Dispatch Center can also provide assistance at 672-2413.

In Ranchester, sand bags are available at the northeast corner of Ranchester Town Hall, located at 145 Coffeen Street. Wolf Creek Road remains closed due to water coming over the road, Town of Ranchester Head of Maintenance Tim Brewer said.

In Dayton, nearly 1,000 sand bags have already been filled, and more bags and sand are available at the Dayton Maintenance Hall, located at 1 Tongue River Drive near the community center. Dayton Mayor Bob Wood said no homes have been jeopardized by flooding at this point.

Hospital Pharmacy break-in

A Sheridan Police Officer points his flashlight to a damaged area on the ceiling, a possible point of entry, after the owners arrive on the scene of a possible break and entry Friday morning at the Hospital Pharmacy on Main Street. The Sheridan Police department responded to a call at 5:25 a.m. Friday by a passing motorist who noticed the broken window. Police have established that someone did enter and then exit. An investigation is ongoing to determine if any property was stolen. Updated information will be provided in future editions of The Press as it is made available.

Storm produces 75 mph wind gusts, more to come

SHERIDAN — A storm ripped down the east side of the Bighorn Mountains Wednesday evening producing gusts of wind up to 75 mph and causing widespread destruction around town.

On Interstate 90, semi-trailers, trees and an overturned trailer house interrupted traffic flow near Ranchester, the port of entry and Sheridan.

In town, several fires were caused by downed power lines. Sheridan Fire-Rescue and Goose Valley Volunteer Fire Department both received multiple calls. SFR had its entire crew of 14 firefighters working to control fires around town.

Montana-Dakota Utilities reported that thousands of customers throughout the county were without power for several hours.

Meteorologist Joe Lester from the National Weather Service in Billings, Montana, said the storm was not strong in regards to rain or hail, but that the conditions were just right Wednesday to produce unusually strong winds for the area.

“You had a storm that collapsed on the east side of the Bighorn Mountains that produced lots of wind in Sheridan, Big Horn, Ranchester and all those areas at the foothills,” Lester said.

As storms weaken, they produce wind, Lester said. The storm that “fell apart” on the Bighorn Mountains produced wind that was strengthened by the hot, dry conditions Wednesday. With temperatures topping 90 degrees, rapid evaporation caused the wind speed to increase as it ripped toward the valley below.

Peak winds were recorded at 75 mph between 4:35 and 5 p.m.

“Sheridan was the hot spot yesterday,” Lester said, noting that other cities in the surrounding region did not experience such extreme weather.

Lester said all the wind was straight line wind coming off the mountain and that no tornadoes occurred.

In addition to wind, the region is fighting flooding due to snow melt, Lester said. Big Goose and Little Goose creeks are on the rise, and Connor Battlefield Park in Ranchester has already flooded, closing nearby Wolf Creek Road.

There is potential for heavy rains through Monday as a slow-moving storm system moves through the area this weekend. Thunderstorms could be strong to severe, Lester said. Residents should prepare by moving plants indoors and filling sand bags if they live near creeks or other waters that could rise with rain and snow melt accumulations.

Lester also urged residents to be careful near stream banks as water is moving fast and banks are eroding and less stable.

“The snow is still melting out, so flooding will be an issue for the forseeable future, with or without rain,” Lester said. “Weekend storms could produce heavy rain, so that could be a problem in areas seeing high stream levels.”

 

 

 

500 hard miles

Nate Watson walks up a line of students as they cheer him forward Tuesday at Sagebrush Elementary School. Watson has cerebral palsy, which causes the muscles in his legs to tighten and inhibits his ability to walk. Watson began walking in the mileage club when he was a kindergartener in Linda Gifford’s classroom. Watson, now a fifth grader, has been walking the quarter-mile track every day during recess, which brought him to a total of 500 miles on Tuesday. Watson’s mother, Dara Watson, said that a doctor put into perspective how much energy it takes her son to walk. “It is the equivalent to us running,” Watson said. Nate Watson walked 2,000 laps. Students, teachers, family, pastors, city officials and local law enforcement came to witness Nate walk the last quarter-mile and to congratulate him. Teachers have described Nate as a personal hero. “He would never give up,” Gifford said.

Congratulations graduates

Fort Mackenzie graduation an emotional journey for students, parents, teachers

By Alisa Brantz

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — From their first step as a baby to the first time they don their cap and gown, the road to a child’s graduation is a long and often emotional journey for not just students, but also their parents.

As children of all ages navigate through the education system, parents dedicate a tremendous amount of time and energy into their student’s schooling and act, in many ways, as a teacher themselves.

Each spring, these parents stand beside their child’s educators at commencement ceremonies to share a moment of pride in knowing they worked together to help the student reach his or her full potential and leave their many years together with a diploma in hand.

As students from Fort Mackenzie High School walked through the audience toward the stage under a multitude of lights that look like a night sky full of stars in the Early Auditorium, cheers and tears made the emotion of the exercise obvious.

For one person, though, the ceremony was significant for three reasons, making it an overwhelmingly joyous occasion.

Gib Ostheimer was selected by the FMHS Class of 2014 to provide the commencement address.

Full of pride for the successful students, Ostheimer took to the podium to talk to nine young adults about the major life changes that lie ahead of them.

Only two sentences in, it was obvious that this was no ordinary address.

You see, not only was Ostheimer the designated speaker, he was also the graduates’ science teacher and, more importantly, the father of Valedictorian Hannah Ostheimer.

After a long pause and a deep breath, Gib Ostheimer found his voice through pride-filled tears and spoke to the class, thanking them for allowing him to share in so many wonderful memories.

Like a proud parent and teacher would, he regaled the audience with tales of the students’ strengths and recalled some of their finest moments, including setting the standard for ACT scores in their junior year by having the highest class composite average in the state.

Undoubtedly the emotion pouring from his speech was shared by the audience as the hard-fought journey of nine students came to an end Saturday in Sheridan.

The FMHS class of 2014 consisted of Adam Edward Barber, Tyler James Benton, Harley Angel Borzenski, Salutatorian McKyla Dawn Borzenski, Krisha Denise Freesene, Michael Alan O’Kelly, Hannah Elizabeth Ostheimer, Ashley Anne Velos and Breanne Hartford Clarise deCastro Webb.

Together the students earned a total of  $138,500 in scholarships to a variety of colleges.

 

Big Horn High School graduates class full of successful leaders

By Tracee Davis

The Sheridan Press

BIG HORN — Maroon, black and gold balloons bobbed in the air above a floor glittered silver in the Big Horn High School gymnasium Sunday as hundreds of supporters gathered to cheer on the school’s senior class of 36 graduates.

This year’s crop looks good on paper, sporting a 100 percent graduation rate and eight students with a 4.0 GPA. They won a state championship in the Academic Bowl, and the History Bowl, and several students served as state officers for academically oriented groups.

“This is a very high achieving class from a leadership standpoint,” Sheridan County School District 1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “This is a class full of leaders.”

This year’s valedictorian was Benjamin Warder, and the salutatorian was Chara Lee.

Keynote Speaker Mila Stender brought a prop to the front of the podium before her address. It was a full-size hiking pack with a bunch of white helium balloons etched with inspirational words attached to the pack. The cluster of balloons hovering over the pack was meant to serve as a visual demonstration of life skills that can lighten the metaphorical load to be carried in life.

“There will be ups and downs when you’re climbing the mountain of life. There will be spots when you’re going up and you need to change direction, so you go back down to make it to the peak,” she said, emphasizing the importance of patience and perseverance. “It is not a mountain we conquer, but ourselves. Today is summit day,” Stender said.

Sunday’s ceremony was about commemorating not only the high scholastic achievements of the grads, but their lifetime friendships, many of which were formed before kindergarten.

The sentiment of a new era between classmates was amplified among families.

Before diplomas were passed out, Assistant Principal Richard Welch lead the students in a local tradition of using time within the graduation ceremony for students to recognize their parents and families.

“When we started this tradition years ago, there were times when I would sit and think, ‘Boy, this is dragging out this commencement ceremony. Why do we do this?,'” Welch admitted.

“But, now that I’m getting a little older and more sentimental, I would encourage the graduates and parents to hold on a little longer and say something sweet. Life is not as full of tender moments as maybe it ought to be. Life is fragile, and this is one of those moments,” Welch said.

With that, each student was called from the stage individually to present their families with flowers and share a hug and a moment of mutual appreciation.

When the group had reconvened on stage, school administrators called each student’s name again, this time to award diplomas.

The small group cycled quickly across the stage, returning to their seats with a white folder containing the ticket to their futures — be it college, jobs, technical schools or the military.

Having pushed through a tear-inducing march to Pomp and Circumstance, soaked in last words of encouragement and praise from peers and mentors, and overcome wistful memories for the excitement of future endeavors, the Class of 2014 was sent off properly.

The class was presented to the audience with thunderous, standing applause, and caps sailed into the air.

 

Internship program helps SHS graduates face the future

By Alisa Brantz

The Sheridan Press

SHERIDAN — Though graduation can be a joyous end to a chapter in one’s life, it can also be a stressful time of uncertainty in change.

Some students have accepted offers to attend a variety of universities while others hope to study but don’t yet know where.

Some graduates will enter the military and are awaiting their first day at basic training.

Many will enter the workforce and the prospect of job hunting and fear of unemployment can be daunting.

And while several others have yet to determine what it is they would like to do, all of these students are about to embark on journeys into the unknown.

For the 59 graduates from Sheridan High School who took part in the PACE Internship program this year, the world beyond their school walls is not as foreign as it could be. The transition for these students was eased by the ability to leave school and enter the workforce while still receiving class credits and the support of teachers and mentors along the way.

For one PACE participant, Michael Garriffa, the program began as a way to fill two empty periods and ended with a pre-graduation job offer.

While working as a server at Warehouse 201, Garriffa waited on a woman in his usual charismatic way. Impressed by his customer service, she extended a casual offer to call her if he ever decided to join the automotive industry.

Knowing of the internship program and looking to round out his senior schedule, Garriffa approached teacher and program advisor Kathleen Pilch about the possibility of partnering with Fremont Toyota through PACE.

After interning since mid-January, the collaboration earned Garriffa a course credit, a couple bucks and a sense of certainty as he leaves SHS with a career plan.

“It feels really good to have something lined up already and somewhat taking a step forward instead of just staying in place,” he said. “I feel successful already, and I have barely just graduated.”

Garriffa saw success in other forums his final year, including a first place win at the state level SkillsUSA tournament that will now send him to nationals this summer.

He said these successes and the enjoyable final year he had were in no way hindered by being a working student; likewise, his attention to his job was in no way hindered by needing to study.

The partnership allowed for the interns to become comfortable in the adult world before giving up the support present in school life.

“They were really flexible with me. They understood that I was still in high school and had stuff to do,” Garriffa said. “The intern program is something that every student should take if they get a chance because you never know what will come of it, but it couldn’t be worse than what you had before trying it.”

Garriffa added that he still fully intends to further his education and will likely attend Sheridan College to receive a good, affordable education at home while knowing he is able to pay for his school through his new career. With a job in his pocket, Garriffa got a diploma in his hand as he and his 192 fellow graduating seniors gathered at Homer Scott Stadium Saturday.

After addresses made by co-salutatorians Alison Geary and Tyler Julian, Valedictorian Gretchen Dougherty and student-selected speaker and history teacher Tyson Emborg, the high school seniors marched off the field to start the next chapters in their lives, whether known or not.

Preliminary estimates show those grads are heading off with $1.757 million in scholarship money, which is expected to double by the time all awardings are reported.

 

Sarah Rawlings urges fellow graduates to be grateful

By Hannah Wiest

The Sheridan Press

DAYTON — The drive to achieve looks different for different people.

For some it is a desired status. For others it is the words of a loved one in their past. And for Sarah Rawlings, who graduated from Tongue River High School Sunday, it was a certain name on a certain green banner hanging in the gym of her school.

In the midst of a series of championship banners hanging in the Tongue River High School gym, there is a banner that lists the members of the TRHS Lady Eagles team who won the Wyoming State High School Class 2A Girls Basketball Championship in 2010. Sarah Rawlings’ older sister, Aspen Rawlings, is listed second from the top in the right hand column.

Not even two years after that banner was hung, on Sept. 18, 2011, Aspen Rawlings died from injuries sustained in a rock-climbing accident off Red Grade Road. A sophomore studying nursing and business at Sheridan College, Aspen Rawlings was known for her infectious smile and zest for life.

“I would say her death gave me more drive because she won a state championship and had her name on a banner up in the gym, and so I wanted one right next to her. It pushed me harder to try to get one of those banners up there,” Rawlings said. “I have two of them up there now.”

Sarah Rawlings was a point guard, just like Aspen was, on the 2013 and 2014 Lady Eagles championship teams. Her name — and the names of all her beloved teammates — is next to her sister’s, right where she wanted it.  Sunday, Rawlings joined her sister, Aspen, and her brother, Henry, as the last child of Parkman residents David & Estefanita Rawlings to graduate from Tongue River High School. She was one of 22 students dressed in white robes with green sashes who anxiously awaited their moment to walk across the stage, receive their diploma and move their tassel left to right while scanning the crowd for proud moms, dads, siblings and grandparents.

All told, the TRHS Class of 2014 has received $319,000 in scholarship awards, TRHS Guidance Counselor Pete Kilbride said. Eight of the 22 graduates will attend Sheridan College in the fall, with two more attending other junior colleges in the state.

Graduate Matthew Yellowtail will head to Stanford University on a $50,000 scholarship. Valedictorian Lydia Allen was accepted at Emory University, while Salutatorian Cheyloh Bluemel has chosen Black Hills State in Spearfish, South Dakota.

Kilbride described the TRHS Class of 2014 as reflective and mature.

“Really a class with a lot of class is how I would put this group of kids,” Kilbride said. “They, more than other groups, know where they want to go and what they want to do. I think they are pretty focused. Don’t get me wrong; they have fun. They’ll cup up and all that, but they really do have a purpose in mind and a good idea of what they want to do.”

It was these fellow classmates, the townspeople of Dayton and Parkman and the students, teachers and staff of Tongue River High School who helped Rawlings get to this milestone of graduation, she said.

“Having such a small community and such a small school helped because everyone knows everyone personally,” Rawlings said. “They were there to comfort me and do whatever they could to help in the situation. Everyone was there for me.”

Rawlings has signed on to play basketball with the Sheridan College Lady Generals in the fall. She is studying pre-medicine with hopes of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

“My initial thought when Aspen died was shock. I didn’t fully realize everything right away. But then slowly what got me through was that she would have wanted me to continue living my life,” Sarah Rawlings said. “She would have wanted me to continue living life like she did because she was always happy. She would have wanted me to live life and do my best at everything.”

That is the wish of parents, teachers, community members and fellow seniors for every graduate of Tongue River High School.

Keynote speakers Pat Mischke, who taught family and consumer science at TRHS for 39 years, and her husband Warren, who retired from the Game and Fish Department and now substitute teaches in Sheridan County schools, urged the graduates to strive to leave the legacy they want to leave. They then reminded each student of the desired legacy he or she had written down at the beginning of the year and showed each one how it was already being accomplished in their life.

In her valedictorian speech, Allen compared life to a box of chocolates, noting that each stage of life — from toddlerhood, to elementary school, to high school and beyond — includes more and more diverse and “surprising” chocolates. She urged her classmates to savor the good chocolates in life and appreciate the crazy chocolates filled with unexpected creams and jellies.

“Be prepared for the bad ones, and look forward to the good ones,” Allen said.

Whatever life throws at these graduates, whatever it is that drives them to succeed, Rawlings urged them to be grateful for what they have in the here and now.

“I wish Aspen could be here to watch me graduate. I was there for her graduation. It would be nice to finish out the family’s graduations if she was here,” Rawlings said.

“When something like that happens, it opens your eyes on how quickly things can disappear from your life and how you have to be grateful for what you have at the time.”

Rawlings urged her classmates and community members to appreciate everything they have in life — be it that chance to pursue a college degree, those family members who threw a party for them after graduation or getting your name on a championship banner next to your sister’s name to be commemorated for years to come.

135 years of Western hospitality

WOLF — Way back when, a man named Sudsy loaded blocks of ice into his Model A Ford and bounced his way around Eatons’ Ranch west of Sheridan. He delivered those blocks of ice daily to refrigerators sitting on porches of guest cabins at the ranch.

A very handy man, Sudsy also had an ice cube maker and would sell cubes of ice to guests so they could enjoy a cocktail on their porch while breathing the clean mountain air for which they had traveled so far.

Sudsy worked at Eatons’ Ranch his entire adult life.

Guest cabins at the renowned dude ranch still feature fridges on the front porch.

Way back when, a woman named Angela Buell donated all her employee shares in Eatons’ Ranch back to the ranch. She told them to use the money to build a cabin that would welcome any guest who called Eatons’ home for a week, a month, a summer.

“It’s called the Holiday House, and it shows you how much people love this ranch,” current Head of Laundry and Supervisor of Housekeeping Becky Youngfield said on a recent tour of the ranch. “God bless that little woman.”

Buell worked for Eatons’ her entire adult life.

Her cabin houses dude ranchers all summer long.

Way back when, in the early 1900s, the Butcher family began coming to Eatons’ as dudes. Last summer, five generations of Butchers were present when W.W. Keen Butcher’s ashes were scattered at Eatons’ Ranch.

Butcher, former chair of the Committee of Seventy watchdog group, died at 97, and there are photographs of him astride a horse at Eatons’ at age 96.

Legacy, loyalty and longevity characterize the ranch in Wolf, Wyoming — the ranch that is Wolf, Wyoming — which, this year, has been a site for true Western hospitality and adventure for 135 years.

 

••••

“We show them a good time. We’re good dude people. We’re friendly,” Frank Eaton said.

Those looking for secrets on how to maintain a thriving business for 135 years may want more explanation than that, some magic money management tricks or employee training programs, but there aren’t any at Eatons’.

There is hospitality, hard work, and good ol’ fashioned human decency.

“The main thing is our guests. That’s the main thing,” Eaton said.

The clean mountain air, the Wyoming sun, the hearty ranch breakfasts and the prancing of more than 100 horses lined up each morning on the rail by the old white barn also help.

Frank Eaton is part of the fourth generation of Eatons. He is in his 70s now, and technically retired, but he still works around the ranch and picks up mail daily in Ranchester since Wolf is a postal substation. His daughter, Mary Eaton, married to Ty Schmeiser, helps manage the ranch with General Manager Jeff Way.

On many sunny days at the ranch, the sixth generation Eaton can be spotted looking out over the land — from a pack on Mary Eaton’s back. Olivia Eaton Schmeiser is 7 months old, and if she follows the pattern set by her family, she’ll be in the saddle in a year or two and telling stories by the campfire by age 5.

Howard Eaton purchased the ranch in 1904 from Austin Oak Duvall, according to local author and County Commissioner Tom Ringley, who wrote the book, “Wranglin’ Notes” in 2010 about the history of Eatons’ Ranch.

It contained the main house, part of the office building and a smattering of outbuildings. Three Eaton brothers — Howard, Willis and Alden — began to build up their ranch below the Bighorn Mountains, and within no time at all, people began to come.

 

••••

There are more than a few buildings at Eatons’ Ranch now. There is a barn, a shoeing shed, a dining room, Howard Hall where gatherings and receptions are held, staff housing and 52 guest cabins built along the “Gold Coast” road that runs through the ranch.

The Eatons had a ranch in Medora, South Dakota, from 1879 to 1904. In the 1890s, friends and acquaintances from out east began to visit. After a while, those visits became stays. And those stays became “eating the Eatons out of house and home,” Frank Eaton said. And so, people began to pay to come and live and work on the ranch in South Dakota.

Howard Eaton called these people who paid to work on his ranch, “Dudes,” and the term stuck. Eatons’ Ranch is now considered one of the oldest dude ranches in America.

In 1904, when Howard Eaton bought the ranch, he didn’t intend it to be a dude ranch. He had sold the ranch in South Dakota, which was next door to a ranch owned by Teddy Roosevelt, for a sum he could not refuse and just wanted to start another working ranch in Wyoming, Ringley said in a recent presentation at Eatons’ for the 135th anniversary.

But people came, as they always had with the Eaton family.

“People showed up and ate off ironing boards and began building cabins,” Frank Eaton said.

Many of those cabins remain, some named after the original families who built and occupied them through the Great Depression, World War II and into recent history. They reverted back to the ranch only after the original builders died.

The oldest cabin, the Wigwam, was on the ranch when it was purchased, Youngfield said in her tour. It was brought down the creek board by board from where it sat by an old sawmill.

The Rinehart Cabin was occupied for entire summers by mystery novelist Mary Rinehart in the early 1900s.

The Dailey Cabin, a refuge for renowned photographer Arthur “Pete” Dailey and his daughter Mary Dailey for decades, is still visited by Mary Dailey to this day.

Some dude families have been coming to Eatons’ for seven generations. Tommy Butler started as a waiter at Eatons’ in his teens. He and his wife, Anna, were looking at 70 years of life by the time they retired. Corral boss George Gentry spent nearly 50 years under the sun at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. John Flemming was the ranch’s businessman for 39 years.

 

••••

Loyalty, legacy and longevity characterize Eatons’ Ranch. But there are other aspects, too, that have given the ranch the sustaining power to thrive for 135 years through the ups and downs that tourist-driven industries face.

Eatons’ is one of the few dude ranches that allow guests to take off for horse rides on their own instead of the typical nose-to-tail trail ride format found many other places. That freedom feeds the spirit of adventure found at Eatons’, Youngfield said.

But it is also a timeless location where life is a little quieter and a little slower.

On a recent tour sponsored by the Sheridan Community Land Trust to commemorate the 135th anniversary, Youngfield lead participants to Stanley Camp, an area with picnic tables and a fire pit below a rock outcropping. She asked them to sit, close their eyes and be quiet. After several minutes, she asked them a question.

“What did you hear?” Youngfield said, then paused.

“Quiet,” she answered herself. “Life is too fast. Every now and then, you need to take a moment to stop and remember what’s in your heart — and then move on with it.”

 

• Eaton’s Ranch annual horse drive

Every Memorial Day weekend, Eatons’ Ranch drives its horses from their winter pastures east of Sheridan to their summer home at the ranch. It’s a great time to catch the spirit of the West as nearly 200 horses come right through Sheridan.

The horses will leave the Wyarno area at about 7 a.m. Sunday. Wranglers will drive them down East Fifth Street past the visitor’s center and onto West Fifth Street past the Historic Sheridan Inn, the hospital, the fairgrounds and out Soldier Creek Road.

Approximate start time: 9 a.m. Sunday

Approximate finish time: 11 a.m. Sunday

Times are subject to change, so set up early, bring the family and a camera and enjoy the show.

For more information, contact Eaton’s Ranch at 655-9285 or 800-210-1049.

ACHS class of 2014 — small town, big connections

SHERIDAN — Two of the 10 students graduating from Arvada-Clearmont High School on Sunday have grown up in the Sheridan County School District 3 system their entire lives.

Together since kindergarten, they have been joined by others at varying stages throughout the 12 years that followed, including adding a foreign exchange student just earlier this year. Together they form the ACHS class of 2014.

Lena Frappier and Tessa Chinery may not know how it feels to try to fit into a small group of new students — they have been in that group from the beginning — but they know the benefit of helping those students adjust.

“It has been really interesting to watch all the students come and go,” Frappier said. “Since I’ve never really been the new kid, I’ve been the welcoming buddy for a lot of other students. I loved helping my classmates feel like they fit in because they came out of their shell faster and it was a great way to make friends.”

Frappier added that it can be difficult at times, being in a small group.

“It has been a little stressful because I have to deal with some of the same kids all the time and I just can’t avoid them because our school is so small,” she said.

Sara Ellingrod joined the group in fifth grade and after a series of moves and having been the “new kid” several times before that, she didn’t personally find it hard to fit in. Though she loves the small town schools she has attended, she admits it can offer its own unique set of challenges.

“The small school atmosphere is very friendly and welcoming and I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” she said. “It has helped me realize my values and to always treat people with respect. The challenges would have to be that sometimes I just wanted to get away from some of the small town drama; however, that was rather difficult since I knew everyone in the school.”

Kendria Nimick moved to ACHS at the end of her freshman year in 2010 after attending a large high school in Buffalo and she found the transition difficult.

“It was really weird making the transition of going to a school as big as Buffalo to a school as small as Clearmont,” she said. “I was pretty nervous.”

She added that she struggled in the beginning to join the group, but in the end became very close to her friends and made some wonderful memories with them.

Perhaps the most unique perspective is that of Dusita Tipgomut, a foreign exchange student from Thailand.

Tipgomut said she has enjoyed the school and her peers since the very beginning, but her favorite part was the teachers.

“The teachers are my favorite part of high school because I can talk about everything with them,” she said. “They didn’t just teach in classes, they also made me grow up.”

Nearly every student added the one-on-one teacher interactions to their list of best qualities of being in a small school.

Chinery noted that at a small school they may not have the amount of elective courses to choose from others have, but the overall education does not suffer.

“Even though we haven’t had all of the opportunities that they (larger schools) have been presented with, we still get the same education and we get it even better at times because we get more one-on-one time with the teachers,” Chinery said.

Shantel Armijo added that the challenge to succeed in a small school is driven by personal connections.

“Going to a small school is so much harder because you can connect with the teachers and they push you harder because they know personally your strengths,” she said.

All of the unique challenges and situations aside, the students stressed that overall it is not that different from any other school and the overwhelming benefit is the support.

“I wish (people in big schools) understood that going to a small school isn’t scary or awkward,” Ellingrod said. “It is actually where you will meet some of your best friends.”

The 10 graduates receiving diplomas Sunday are Armijo, Chinery, Ellingrod, Frappier, Nimick, Tipgomut, Tanner Clemens, Shayna Kretschman, Shaliena Lee and Kayle Liberty Riley.

Ellingrod will be honored as valedictorian and Kretschman as salutatorian with former music teacher Kathy Clements providing the commencement address.

Early calculations show the class achieved a 95 percent graduate rate and earned $79,800 in scholarships, though additional figures will continue to be calculated over the summer.

Plans for the graduates include enrollment in the University of Wyoming, Sheridan College, Casper College and other schools; travels to Peru, Australia and places across the nation; getting to work; getting to studying; and for one, getting back home to Thailand.

Hang gliders to take flight in Bighorns

SHERIDAN — Each Memorial Day weekend in Sheridan County for the past 35 years, the American Flag has not been the only thing waving with pride. Saturday morning, once again, daring athletes will take flight for the annual Hang Gliders Fly-In.

Hang gliding is a sport critics call deathly dangerous and enthusiasts call natural and beautiful.

Armed with a glider, a helmet and the knowledge bestowed on them from instructors, these athletes can fly with the birds and do things no other winged plane can accomplish.

“It’s one of the only sports you do in a four-dimensional world,” hang gliding instructor and regular fly-in pilot Johann Nield said. “You can go up, sideways, down and around; a glider is the only regular plane with a wing that could do a 360-degree turn within its own wing span.”

And for Nield and other flyers nationwide, the majesty of the sport is only paralleled by the beauty of flying in the Bighorn Mountains.

Memorial Day marks the opening of flying season and each year as many as 25 pilots gather at the Sand Turn pull off area of Highway 14 outside of Dayton to take advantage of rare and ideal weather and wind conditions.

From 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with a key “soaring hour” of 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the history of thermal activity of the mountain has proven ideal.

“We’re privileged to have a wind that blows into the mountain on its own force,” Nield said. “It pulls in from the valley when the thermal activity that has been out on the fields warming up is pushed toward the mountain, so you have an 85 percent chance of being pulled up instead of just landing.”

Rising currents of warm air pull the glider up in a thermal lift, or air deflected upward by the mountain ridge — known as ridge lift — can serve the same function.

“As long as you stay in the parameter of that thermal, you go up,” Nield said. “I’ve been in thermals going up at 50 feet a minute and some going up at 3,000 feet a minute.”

Once the pilot gets above the mountain ridge they hit a sheer, which is wind going in two directions.

If they hit the eastward sheer they can soar over Sheridan and beyond at speeds up to 45 miles per hour.

The pilot steers the glider with a bar and their body weight, connected to a single 360-degree steering wheel beneath them. Swinging their body — which is laying in a sling — from side-to-side will turn the glider and pushing and pulling the bar will tip the nose to either climb or descend.

“It’s a bit of technical flying, dependent on the pilot and his experience, but it’s a lot of fun,” Nield said. “If you approach it correctly and get the right instructions and the right equipment it’s a very safe sport but if you approach it with the daredevil approach you can get in some trouble.”

Nield and his son have been teaching the sport since 1990 and they say the dangerous reputation has stuck around from days when safety regulations were not in place, which is no longer the case.

“In the ‘70s, if you could put together some nylon and aluminum tubing and make something that looked like a hang glider, people would buy it and people were dying,” Nield said. “There were no regulations. Equipment was made in a backyard and people would run down a hill with it and it would fall apart and they would die.”

Before a glider can go to market today, it must be certified.

The testing and certification process is very thorough and expensive, making it so that very few highly qualified creators are distributing the entirety of the gliders for sale.

There are three certifying entities that all follow the same basic guidelines for certification that include rigorous stress testing, driving tests, flight tests and membership dues before a creator can receive a certificate, and this process can cost manufacturers upward of $50,000.

The sport can be expensive for athletes as well, at least in the beginning.

The initial investment to purchase a glider, helmet, harness, lessons and everything else you need to get airborne will cost around $5,500 minimum and can go up from there depending on the glider selected.

However, Nield is quick to note that in terms of ongoing expenses, there is very little cost involved.

“The prices have gone up, but what you’re buying is the technology because these gliders are just so beautiful and safe,” he said. “After that it’s inexpensive in terms of once you’ve bought your equipment you have no costs, as long as you take care of it.”

Unlike other sports, no practice space or participation fees are required.

Many gliders seek out new launch points and when they identify a good location simply ask the land owner if they can take flight from there.

“Here in Wyoming we have a lot of beautiful land and flying sites but not a lot of people,” Nield said, adding that most landowners have no problem with the sport due to its green nature. “I don’t use any gasoline, I don’t make noise and I’m as natural as can be. You don’t need a pilot’s license and it’s self-regulated. Some landowners may look at it and think it’s crazy, but there are a lot of other sports I wouldn’t want to do.”

Whether watching from the ground in town as gliders soar overhead, heading up to Sand Turn to watch the pilots take flight or gathering at the landing pad to watch the imperfect and often comical landings that Nield compared to an albatross coming in hot — the opportunity for spectators to enjoy the sport with two feet on the ground will be plentiful in Sheridan County this weekend.

Local programmers take first in competition

SHERIDAN — A team including two computer programmers from Sheridan took first place at a two-state application design competition sponsored by Google over the weekend.

Local information technology gurus Anne Gunn, of the Sheridan Programmers Guild, and Mark Thoney of WyoLution, LLC, were part of a four-person team of Wyomingites who traveled to Denver to compete in the first ever Gov Dev Challenge.

The programmers’ challenge drew 150 competitors from Wyoming and Colorado who tried to nab a cash prize for designing the most appealing and user-friendly application in just one day. Along with Google, the event was sponsored by the states of Colorado and Wyoming.

After a morning of orientation, competitors were given the option of three basic themes for application creation: two had to do with homeland security automation and management, and the third theme was state government financial transparency.

The winning team, including Gunn and Thoney along with Jared Kale of the Lander branch of WyoLution and Tighe Fagan of Gannet Peak Technical Services in Cheyenne, chose the latter, dubbed the Wyoming Budget Transparency Challenge. They incorporated both Google Maps and Google Analytics into an interactive map that shows where state funding is spent.

“They were looking to make it easy to access and visualize government spending,” WyoLution spokesperson Gina Thoney said. “They took information about money from the state of Wyoming and put it into a database, and then created a map to see where spending is going.”

After the first draft of the map was developed, the team expanded the project to include out of state payments, spending patterns by departments and specific vendor transactions.

The application was designed to be friendly for desktop computers and mobile devices.

The team’s first place award was a testament to the usefulness of the application, its technical merit, originality and incorporation of existing Google tools. For their efforts, they were awarded $5,000.

Thoney said the team was proud to hold their own against a large pool of mostly younger competitors.

“They were feeling proud that an older group could come out on top,” she said. “Younger kids have grown up in the tech world — it is their world. They have lived technology every day.”

Two othe