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County must pay woman beaten, injured in jail

SHERIDAN — A U.S. District Court on Monday ruled in favor of a woman who in 2010 was beaten and injured while incarcerated at the Sheridan County Detention Center and awarded her $20,000 in damages, plus costs and attorney fees.

Catherine Phillips accepted the offer from the defendants, the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Dave Hofmeier, after U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson ruled the Sheridan County jail’s official policies caused an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Phillips suffered a broken nose, concussion, multiple scrapes and bruises and a traumatic brain injury after being arrested and booked into SCDC on June 20, 2010, for misdemeanor criminal trespassing.

According to factual background found within court documents, a video captured several minutes of events that occurred after Phillips arrived at the jail. After being patted down, Phillips was given official jail clothing and ordered into a stall to change into that attire.

Phillips, who was cooperative but appeared impaired and struggled to stand, instead sat on the floor in the fetal position. After a few seconds of waiting, former SCDC Deputy Kevey Boyd — a female — told Phillips that if she did not change, Boyd would change her, a move that followed jail policies that call for deputies to undress and dress uncooperative inmates if necessary.

“If the inmate is uncooperative and there is not an officer of the same sex working, the inmate will be searched and celled in an isolation unit,” the policy reads.

Less than a minute after asking Phillips to change, Boyd crashed through the door to the changing stall, placed Phillips’ arms behind her back and smashed her face on the floor.

Deputy Tait Rasmussen then assisted Boyd to hold Phillips down while she screamed in pain. The videotape skips ahead 40 seconds at that point, an event that goes unexplained in court documents. When the tape returns, Phillips is on the ground and unresponsive.

Phillips was handcuffed, picked up when she couldn’t stand and carried out of view of the camera. She was placed into a booking cell and stripped of her clothing by three deputies, including two men. The document states deputies had no reasonable suspicion Phillips possessed weapons or contraband.

“Strip searches shall not be used to harass or humiliate an inmate and the Detention Officer conducting the search shall not make comments,” another jail policy states. “…If the inmate is intoxicated, uncooperative and there is not a same-sex Detention Officer on duty, search the inmate, remove shoes and lock in an S tank until a same-sex officer is on duty to change out the inmate.”

Approximately an hour later, Phillips was found with her head in the toilet making gurgling sounds, prompting SCDC staff to place her on suicide watch. She was given a gown but not clothed in it.

The next morning, Phillips awoke naked, injured, disoriented and wondering what happened to her. Despite being knocked unconscious, she was never offered medical attention. Her injuries were assessed at Sheridan Memorial Hospital after she was discharged from the jail.

Phillips and her attorneys originally filed a complaint against deputies Rasmussen and Boyd. That civil case was settled out of court for an undisclosed, confidential amount. Settlements from counties are considered public documents, according to Cheyenne attorney Bruce Moats. The documents were unavailable at press time.

Rasmussen and Boyd no longer work for the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office, according to Lt. Emily Heizer. Heizer heads the jail and has worked there more than 15 years.

The attorneys then reworked a new case against the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office and Hofmeier because Phillips and her legal team felt the policies were unconstitutional on three claims.

The plaintiff alleged excessive force, an unreasonable search claim involving a strip-search and deliberate indifference to medical needs.

Johnson ruled the plaintiff did not prove official sheriff’s office policies led to use of excessive force or ignoring medical needs. However, the judge found “genuine disputes of material fact” as to whether Phillips was strip-searched and whether an official policy caused this violation.

Phillips’ attorney, John Robinson of Jamieson Robinson, LLC of Jackson, said his client was pleased with the outcome of the case.

“We were overall satisfied with the case,” he said. “We feel like we were pursuing a remedy for Ms. Phillips because we felt like what had happened to her was wrong. Overall we’ve been satisfied with the result and happy to have represented her.

“Generally, she is happy with the overall result of the case including the original settlement and this part as well,” he added. “I think she feels vindicated.”

Hofmeier stated he could not comment due to legal restrictions. His attorney, Richard Rideout of Cheyenne, did not return calls by press time.

Sheridan unveils new recycling digs

SHERIDAN — With curbside recycling about a month away, Sheridan recycling center staff welcomed community members Monday afternoon to check out the upgraded facility as the city makes its final push to beginning the program on Aug. 3.

The last two weeks of July, residents in single-family homes and duplexes will start receiving blue, 96-gallon recycling bins, Public Works Director Nic Bateson said.

The containers will also come with information including a pickup schedule and what can and cannot be recycled. The city will collect co-mingled recyclables every two weeks the same day trash is picked up. Recycling participation is not mandatory, but a $3 fee will be assessed to all city trash collection customers.

While a presentation and tour highlighted the city’s roughly $1.1 million in new equipment — including a baler, 6,500 recycling bins, sorting station and more — Mayor John Heath focused on the history and overall impact curbside recycling could have on the city.

He recognized former Mayor Dave Kinskey for looking ahead and taking steps to enhance recycling, adding drop sites and incorporating business recycling, among other initiatives.

Two years ago, Heath continued, Sheridan asked its residents what might increase recycling participation.

“There was a convincing, overwhelming conclusion,” he said. “Make it convenient. Make it available to all of us. So that’s what we’re going to do.”

The more residents recycle, the less trash makes its way into the landfill. Expanding the landfill represents a costly step the city hopes to put off as long as possible.

“This, folks, will save our landfill for our future generations,” the mayor concluded. “That’s why we’re doing it. We just don’t talk about it; we get it done.”

Part of getting it done included hiring three additional full-time staff at the recycling center, Solid Waste Superintendent Charles Martineau said. Along with the four individuals already on payroll, the seven-person crew will be tasked with handling an expected 10 tons of recycling a day initially.

Martineau said staff is trained and ready to go. The next month the team will focus on preparing for Curbcycle, working out any issues before the program rolls out.

Curbside recycling will certainly be a first for Sheridan residents, but the push to increase recycling in city limits has occurred over the last eight years.

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 recycling 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.

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.

Veteran had 43 homes during his service to country

SHERIDAN — “It was an adventure,” Gerald Erpelding said of the two years he spent traveling the country as a private in the U.S. military.

Now 87, the World War II and Korean War veteran looked back on 1946, the 18th year of his life, when he left his work as an airplane mechanic in Riverside, California, to enlist in the war. Prepared to serve with no questions asked, Erpelding set off for the Sheppard, Texas, Air Force base for basic training.

Erpelding said he didn’t feel scared leaving home, as the major hostilities had dissolved in 1945. However, basic training was waiting with its own challenges.

“The hardest part was we had to do everything the infantry did,” Erpelding said, remembering crawling on the ground as if machine guns were shooting over his head.

Though Erpelding was never sent abroad, he recalled his travels around the country, from Southern California to Wichita Falls, Texas, and Lake Charles in Louisiana, with one word: Hot. Thinking back to beating the heat, Erpelding remembered some of the downtime and mischief he enjoyed with his fellow servicemen.

“We got one of those rafts, went out to the ocean and got sunburnt,” Erpelding said, much to the enjoyment of his wife, Joyce. “I could’ve gotten court-martialed for being sunburnt from that, so I just took a cold shower.”

As open-minded as Erpelding regarded those first two years, he was pleased to return home. His wife recalled the night she met her now husband.

“We were sitting in a café, I was in nurses training with his sister, and when midnight came, all of a sudden, off came the hat and tie, and he said, ‘I’m out! Yay!’” Joyce Erpelding said, reminiscing about the very song that played on the jukebox: “Put Another Nickel In,” by Teresa Brewer.

The adventure, however, was not over for Gerald Erpelding. The Cold War came to a boiling point, and he was called upon once more to serve, but this time, his wife would accompany him on his journey to install and maintain the “Minutemen” missiles.

“It was an important aspect as far as keeping our country safe,” Erpelding’s wife said of the job that would move her and her husband to 43 different homes. “If we hadn’t had that, we wouldn’t be here talking to each other.”

With their six children in tow, the Erpeldings searched the papers for housing at each new location.  On one occasion, Joyce Erpelding and their children had been staying in a hotel when Gerald Erpelding searched out the perfect, four-plex house that would fit the whole family.

“‘Hurry up, get the kids up and get them dressed’ he said,” Joyce Erpelding recalled. “It was both stressful and exciting.”

Though the conditions were arduous, Erpelding expressed no regrets on doing what he had to do for his country.

“You were so busy, you couldn’t think about it (being away from home) at that time,” Gerald Erpelding explained.

Erpelding retired in 1993 and settled with his wife in Sheridan five years later. They now enjoy watching war movies, reading and partaking in lunch and daily festivities at the Senior Center.

Sheridan Press intern Kaylin McKinley wrote this article.

The evolution of the American front porch

SHERIDAN — Front porches are as American as apple pie, and the history of the American front porch is in some ways the history of the American people as well. From evolving status symbols and evolving functions to declining (and possibly resurging) use, the evolution of the porch is a uniquely American phenomenon.

The modern porch came to be approximately 125 years ago, when “porch” just meant a covered entry over a door.

The portico, the precursor of all porches, originated in ancient Greece as a formal framing device that defined an entryway and created an appearance of authority. The design element was brought to America by the British and were often used as status symbols. But porticos were also functional. In the hot summers of the South, full-height entry porticoes were built to take advantage of breezes and provide shade.

Later renditions called verandahs were built as full-length or wrap-around galleries, usually extensions of the main roof and fully integrated into the house. This shaded the house’s interior and allowed for windows to be left open in the rain.

What started as a symbol of status and evolved to a functional design ended up being a catalyst to the ideal American town as gathering on front porches created a feeling of community and family.

“In the evenings, as the outdoor air provided a cool alternative to the stuffy indoor temperatures, the entire family would move to the front porch,” Reynolds Price wrote in “Out on the Porch.” “The children might play in the front yard or the friendly confines of the neighborhood, while the parents rocked in their chairs, dismissing the arduous labors and tasks of the day into relaxation and comfort. Stories might be told, advice garnered, or songs sung. Whatever the traditions and manners of the family might be could be offered in this setting. What the family room or t.v. room of post World War II America would become, existed first as the front porch.”

Though porches remained popular nationwide for nearly 100 years, modern innovations created declines in use.

The growing number of cars in America and their increased use changed the streets.

Renee Kahn, author of the book “Preserving Porches,” wrote, “The front porch was no longer an idyllic setting where one could relax and commune with nature,” for the “exhaust fumes and the noise of a steady stream of cars and trucks had rendered it inhospitable and unhealthy.”

The development of air conditioning further aided the decline of the front porch, decreasing the functionality of the porch as an escape from the stuffy indoors.

If automobiles and air conditioning were the initial ailments of porch sitting, the popularity of in-home televisions was likely its final demise.

Sheridan-based architect Sandy Baird said his clients are not requesting front porches, and haven’t for a while.

“As a design element, I don’t hear a demand for front porches regardless of where they are being built,” Baird said. “No one sits out on them anymore. If they are going to sit outside and enjoy the yard, they want to sit in the back where it’s private. They are so rarely involved as part of a new residence.”

But there are still many who long for days when people actually used their porch swings and spoke with fellow community members as they walked by.

Local architect Dan Stalker, who has been involved in the production of homes in the Powder Horn development since its inception, includes front porches on all of his home designs. He said it is an important part of his design identity.

“I like the idea of the way front porches relate to the activity on the streets, and hopefully that is a trend that will stay around in a small town like Sheridan,” he said. “In many communities, like ones I have worked on in California, there is no relationship between the home and the activity of the street other than the garage door. From my perspective it’s a very important component to have. It is how to make things better and more livable for the community.”

Cowgirls compete at fairgrounds

Tiare Ilgen competes in breakaway roping during the Sheridan Cowgirls Rodeo Thursday evening at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds.

Carrying a torch for Special Olympics

SHERIDAN — The flame for the Special Olympics made its way through Sheridan Wednesday en route to the Special Olympic World Games.

The torch for the Special Olympic World Games, held this year in Los Angeles, will pass through every state on its way to the games set for July 10.

More than 20,000 people will carry the torch nationwide to its final destination.

Sheridan residents were fortunate enough to be able to carry the Olympic Torch, thanks to a group of local volunteers. More than one dozen people combined efforts to carry the torch to downtown Sheridan.

“This is kind of a one-time deal that it came through Sheridan,” said one of the torch carriers, Deputy Boot Hill of the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office.

Hill was one of several law enforcement personnel who carried the torch.

Representatives from the Sheridan Police Department, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Wyoming Highway Patrol were also involved.

Special Olympics International organized the run through Sheridan with the Wyoming Special Olympics office. Local efforts were established soon afterward. The torch also went through Gillette and Cheyenne.

Local Special Olympic athlete A.J. Steven started the torch run from Rehabilitation Enterprises of North Eastern Wyoming on Sheridan Avenue. Alongside him was Jeannie Ellinger, who also made the mile-and-a-half trek with her long-time friend.

“It was fun; I really liked it,” Steven said.

Ellinger, who has been an athlete in the games for 32 years, competes in the mile run but has participated in myriad events in her years of competition. Steven competes in the 400-meter run and plays basketball.

For the past five years, Steven and Ellinger played on the same basketball team during the summer games and are the current state champions.

“We are proud of the games that we play,” Ellinger said. “(Stevens) and I are a good team.”

Steven and Ellinger will compete again in their respective events at the fall tournament in Casper this October.

For Hill, this wasn’t his first time carrying the torch for the Olympic games. He had previously been a part of the Unified Run when the games were held in Athens in 2011. There, Hill ran in Greece with law enforcement from around the world, passing through many towns on its way to the games.

However, being able to carry the torch through his hometown of Sheridan Wednesday was a great experience for him.

“The odds of it coming back through Sheridan ever again are fairly slim,” Hill said. “So it was great to be included in this.”

Area south of Sheridan sees most new homes built since 2010

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County has had 372 new homes built since 2010.

Those numbers come from the county Assessor’s Office, which keeps track of all home building and permitting data in the county, and from the city of Sheridan’s Building Department.

“There’s really no bad areas in Sheridan,” County Assessor Paul Fall said. “As long as you don’t mind driving.”

The county has seen 224 new homes built outside city limits since 2010.

Forty-three homes were built south of Sheridan, on the way to Big Horn and in the Beaver Creek area. That was the largest growth in the county during that time and happened in the Roberts, McNally, Cross Creek Estates, Indian Paintbrush, Wild Turkey and Goose Meadows subdivisions.

“Anything toward Big Horn is more desirable, it always has been,” Fall said.

The second largest growth in the county was seen outside of Sheridan city limits on Highway 14 heading toward Clearmont, where 37 new residences have been built.

Fall said many of those buildings were built closer to Sheridan than to Clearmont, some in the Hutton subdivision, as commuters prefer homes closer to town.

Ranchester saw growth in the Stonebrook Meadows subdivision and in the general Ranchester area, where 29 new homes have been built.

In Big Horn, 25 new homes have been built. Most of those properties have popped up in Big Horn Ranch, Big Horn Valley Estates, Sandstone and Arab Acres.

Housing popped up in Dayton as well, where 24 homes have been built. Those homes were built in Woodrock Estates, Gold Reef and the greater Dayton area.

The Powder Horn area had 31 new homes built and 12 homes were built in the Story area.

Fall explained that neighborhood groups, breaking up and cutting through subdivisions, separate his data at times, which is why more specific data on subdivision growth is available.

“We divvy up the county into different neighborhood groups, (some subdivisions) might be in a neighborhood with houses that aren’t necessarily in a subdivision,” Fall said. “It could be on an acre and a half of township range.”

As a year-by-year breakdown, 77 homes were built in 2010, 63 in 2011, 76 new homes went up in 2012, 68 buildings were built in 2013, 63 in 2014 and 10 houses have been built so far this year.

Fall explained housing growth has come in spurts outside of city limits.

“The county has always been hit and miss,” Fall said. “(From) 2004 to 2008, when the housing market was going crazy, it was going crazy everywhere.”

He said the market slowed down after that and didn’t pick back up until 2011.

The city of Sheridan saw only 148 new houses built since 2010, based on building permit data from the Building Department.

That’s 76 fewer residences than were built outside the city during the same time period. However, 30 of the buildings inside Sheridan city limits were multifamily homes.

A space for artists to share: New gallery in downtown Dayton opens for business

DAYTON — The Gallery on Main, located near the Dayton post office in the middle of downtown, is a uniquely Dayton art gallery made up of uniquely Dayton merchandise.

The gallery features the beauty of Dayton from the eyes of those who live there. Everything, from the impressionistic paintings of the majestic Bighorn Mountains to the photographs of wildlife taken along U.S. Highway 14 and the assortment of Native American jewelry, was created by the artistic hands of those who reside in Dayton and the Tongue River Valley.

“This building was so dead, and I thought what a better way to liven it up than with an art gallery,” said Gina Donnor, Gallery on Main owner and longtime Dayton resident.

The Gallery on Main is a co-op of sorts. It is an art gallery run by the artists themselves. Donnor said she will start to focus more on the new gallery, but she is still requiring help from around the town. Local artists will volunteer their time to show their art and the work of their colleagues.

“My commission depends on how much they want to work,” Donnor said. “If they don’t want to volunteer, that’s fine, but then my commission is higher. It really works in our favor because nobody sells art better than the artist.”

The storefront, built in 1949, was the former location of the Corner Grocery. Since the grocery store moved, the building has sat vacant. Donner, who also owns Gina’s Beauty Bar hair salon directly across the street from the Gallery on Main, said it was simply time to make good use out of the building.

“I just kind of got tired of looking at it,” Donnor said. “I was just looking for an investment, so I decided to invest it in our artists.”

Donnor closed on the building on May 30. Along with another rental home and her beauty shop, she now owns three buildings in the small but bustling downtown Dayton.

“It’s just been such a heartwarming project because I’ve been here before work, after work and on weekends, and every time I am in here working, someone shows up to help,” Donnor said. “(It) doesn’t matter if it is one of the artists or one of my friends, someone was always here helping me.”

Even though the building is in her name, Donnor wants to make the Gallery on Main Dayton’s store. Donnor’s mind has been racing lately thinking of all the different ways in which the gallery can be utilized. Paint shows, quilting parties and even small community gatherings all have the potential to be held at the Gallery on Main.

Donnor has partnered with the Cody-based Buffalo Jump Winery to sell their wine at the gallery as well. A satellite liquor licenses for the new storefront will be reviewed by the Dayton Town Council.

The gallery is set to open sometime in July and will operate Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Antelope Butte nonprofit signs purchase agreement

SHERIDAN — Officials from the Antelope Butte Foundation signed a purchase and sale agreement with the U.S. Forest Service on Friday, paving the way to purchase the existing ski area infrastructure and improvements.

ABF Board President Mark Weitz signed the PSA on June 19, after nearly four years of collaboration between the USFS,  ABF Board of Directors and ABF’s counsel, the law firm of Hogan Lovells US LLP.

ABF purchased the improvements on the property — the lifts, lodge and outbuildings — for $275,000, the value determined by an independent appraisal in November 2014.

ABF’s first payment of 20 percent of the purchase price will be due within 45 days. Two more payments of 40 percent each will be due in March and November of 2016.

In coming months, the ABF will accelerate fundraising efforts through crowd funding and approaching larger donors.

“This is really the end of the discovery phase now we are getting into the fundraising phase,” ABF Executive Director Jamie Schectman said. “We were really reluctant to go to donors before we got this done. This is really a crucial milestone for us.”

ABF currently has a $4.33 million fundraising goal to open the ski area. Funds will go toward building a new ski lodge, rehabilitating the lifts and transforming Antelope Butte Ski Area into a year-round recreational facility.

Part of the fundraising efforts will include the Antelope Butte Summer Festival which is set for July 17. All proceeds from the event will go toward the reopening of the Antelope Butte Ski Area. The capital campaign is expected to be completed by January 2016.

Schectman says a December 2016 opening for skiing is very likely.

Antelope Butte Ski Area was in operation for many years until 2004 when it abruptly closed due to dissolution of the family business. ABF’s efforts to reopen the ski hill began in 2011.

A record-setting weekend: Oregon native breaks Trail Run 100-mile record

DAYTON — As Co-Race Director Michelle Maneval sat at the finish line of the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Run Saturday in Dayton, she had her toes in the grass and a smile on her face. It was another successful year of the race — the 23rd in its history — and now it was all about enjoying the moment.

It was a beautiful afternoon in Dayton Saturday. As a majority of the runners in the Bighorn Trail Run gave their final push to cross the finish line, Scott Bicentennial Park filled with the sounds of sons and daughters playing while competitors recounted their journeys on the challenging Bighorn Mountain course.

“You can hear the kids screaming and having a blast,” Maneval said. “There’s people in the river. It’s just one of the most fun finish-celebrations that I’ve ever been to, and we’re proud that it’s ours.”

But hours before the sun was beating down and Maneval was walking barefoot through the park, she was franticly guiding Andrew Miller to the finish.

It was 5:29 in the morning, and Maneval was getting ready to setup the end of the trail as Miller came flying into Scott Park. The 19-year-old was the first finisher of the day, and he was seven minutes earlier than anyone had ever finished before.

It was a new course record.

“He came in right around daylight,” Maneval said with a laugh. “I didn’t have the flags out because it was still dark, and I couldn’t find them. I was literally riding the Gator that we use for trash beside him into the finish so that he didn’t go the wrong way.”

While Maneval added that she was pretty amazed to see such a young runner break the record, she admitted that she was probably more excited than Miller was.

That’s why Miller was gone, heading back to his hometown of Corvallis, Oregon, faster than he came into the park. He was a quiet, soft-spoken young man, a kid compared to his 100-mile competitors, who came, saw and conquered one of the most popular ultramarathons in the country.

Then, sandwiching the rest of the runners crossing the finish line — 18-milers, 32-milers, 52-milers and 100-milers — was Stuart Cohen, some 15 hours after Miller came in that morning.

Cohen was the final 100-miler to cross the finish line Saturday, 33 hours after he began.

And as excited — and shocked — as Maneval was for Miller’s record-setting finish earlier, it’s the later finishers that stretch her smile from ear to ear.

“I get emotional a lot on this day,” she said. “The later in the day, the more emotional I get. The ones that come in later are the most amazing of all. They’re literally dragging their leg behind them or standing completely crooked as they come across the finish line. Those are the ones that you can’t help but stand and cry with their families when they finish.”

Between Miller and Cohen were hundreds of others. They came in all shapes and sizes, ages and demographics. Adam Harris, a 100-miler, met his pal Jake Daly in the park, and the two crossed the finish line together. Jeff Carroll plopped down in the Tongue River and gleefully accepted some kisses from his two daughters.

Some struggled to walk, others guzzled down chocolate milk. But they finished, and that was one thing they all had in common.

“It’s a big deal, and it’s amazing to see,” Maneval said as she waited for her 9-year-old son to come across the finish line. “To be able to help someone have one of the most elated feelings of their life and finish a distance of this sort, it’s just cool to see it.”



18 Mile

Male: Matt Rock (Billings, Montana) 1:59:28.78

Female: Cassandra Scallon (Boulder, Colorado) 2:17:07.55

Local: Rob Michaud (Sheridan) 2:32:43.26


32 Mile

Male: Hull McKinnon (Denver, Colorado) 3:32:16.68

Female: Katie Steinberg (Jackson, Wyoming) 4:48:54.72

Local: Leah Biord (Sheridan) 5:42:11.19


52 Mile

Male: David Ayala (Bozeman, Montana) 8:11:36.29

Female: Darcy Piceu (Boulder, Colorado) 8:49:19.96

Local: Jake Vernon (Dayton) 14:22:55.37


100 Mile

Male: Andrew Miller (Corvallis, Oregon) 18:29:37.23

Female: Silke Koester (Boulder, Colorado) 24:13:29.24

Local: Anthony Garber (Sheridan) 27:11:37.80

GETTING READY FOR ANOTHER ROUND: Behind-the-scenes work helps make Big Horn Country USA possible

SHERIDAN — One week before Keith Urban’s bus rolled into Sheridan, it was quiet.

It was the calm before the storm.

But more than 7,000 people — roughly the equivalent of 41 percent of Sheridan’s population — would soon fill the Trails End Concert Park for each night of the Big Horn Country USA music festival.

The headliners — Keith Urban, The Band Perry and Toby Keith — bring the fans to Sheridan, but the country superstars aren’t what make the concert happen. It’s an effort of 150 part-time employees and personnel spending hours before, during and after the concerts working behind the scenes.

With tents and equipment for the concert arriving in Sheridan Sunday night and Monday morning, crews had just three days to prepare for the show.

“It’s a major undertaking,” Trails End Concert Park Manager Rob Green said of the three-day music festival.

Monday construction

Just days before the concert, the Trails End Concert Park resembled a construction site.

A number of portable fences had been set up around the perimeter. The workers walked past each other at a brisk pace, keeping their eyes lowered to the ground and their minds on their tasks. There’s too much to do for small talk.

Near the stage, a half-dozen workers vigorously took washcloths to dirty plastic banners and signs.

“We’ll probably have to clean them again here soon,” one of the workers, Todd Farrar said, looking up at the dark clouds above him.

The workers had already moved some 500 plastic seats, scrubbed off the dirt and stacked them to the side. Eventually, they will have to set up more than 1,500 plastic chairs for VIP and corporate sponsors.

But Farrar is optimistic.

“Honestly this isn’t nothing,” he said. “Compared to what we do later in the week.”

Within 24 hours, the construction site had transformed into a concert venue.

A white plastic fence surrounded the front of the stage, chairs were still stacked on top of each other waiting to be individually numbered and placed in the VIP section.

On the stage, more than a dozen light crew members hunched over seemingly endless cords. Other workers completed the construction of the stage.

Crews set up the lights for both stages on Monday. Video and audio was put together Tuesday.

Wednesday morning

Underneath a large white tent, Cindy Hunder wraps rubber bands around the frames of a pair of D&G sunglasses and straps them on their respective boxes, before gently placing the boxes on the tables that fill the tent.

Hunder traveled from Powell to sell her sunglasses at the concert.

“Lots of people come to the concerts without sunglasses,” she said. “It’s decent money and a fun time, plus I get to be in the sun and listen to music.”

Hunder made the commute from Buffalo to Sheridan every day of the festival. She couldn’t find a hotel room in town; every hotel is booked for the three-day music festival.

A snafu kept her waiting outside the concert park for two hours before she could set up her stand, but her patience was rewarded with a prime location right near the entrance. She’ll be there for the entire festival, working from when the gates open until dusk, which is all right with her.

“I just love being around the people and talking to all of the other venders,” she said.

Within minutes of her setting up, swarms of concertgoers ran through the gate. Big Horn Country USA 2015 had officially started.

Friday — the first morning clean-up

On Friday morning, just more than four hours after Keith Urban’s last tune filled Sheridan’s night sky, the cool air of dawn at the Trails End Concert Park was slowly warming as the summer sun peeked over the hills to the east.

Mark Mahaffy, the overnight security guard, patrolled the perimeter to keep people from trespassing in the early hours.

“It’s kind of crazy how in a split-second everything just kind of disappears,” Mahaffy said.

The bands, the crowds, the vendors — everyone and everything that made the Big Horn Country USA festival the largest outdoor party in town vanished. Except for the trash.

The concert park is a graveyard of empty plastic Bud Light cups. A person can’t take two steps without hearing the crunch of an empty aluminum can underneath their shoes.

The venue had to be clean by noon, the time when spectators would once again rush through the ticket line and sprint with lawn chairs in hand to grab the best views in the open seating area for Friday’s shows. Farrar and his wife, Kiki, had it spotless before most people woke up.

“This is actually a good day,” Todd Farrar said, making a quick visual scan around the park. He furrowed his brow, shook his head and went back to his work. “It looks bad, but it’s not too bad. Last year it was a lot worse.”

The Farrars cleaned the entire park each morning before the concerts. Sometimes they get help from one or two other workers. Sometimes it’s just them.

“It’s not difficult work by any means. It’s just long and enduring,” Todd Farrar said.

They have it down to a system. They use rakes to put all of the trash into multiple piles, which are then collected and thrown into the dumpster. Cleaning the trash of 7,000 people every night typically takes them a little under four hours.

“The first time I walked out here to do this … you could hardly see any grass, it was so daunting,” Kiki Farrar said. “But now it’s just like raking up the leaves.”

With Toby Keith set to take the stage tonight at 10 p.m., it means the Farrars have one more early morning clean-up ahead of them.

Third Thurs. kicks off summer

Four-year-old Gabbie Bujan plays with one of the hula hoops that her family is selling during the Third Thursday street festival on Main Street in Sheridan.

County outlines severance packages for workforce reduction

SHERIDAN — The Sheridan County commissioners held an emergency meeting Thursday to establish severance packages for county employees who either voluntarily leave their jobs or are fired.

“If somebody is terminated either voluntarily or involuntarily these are the severance packages they will be eligible for,” Commissioner Tom Ringley said.

Employees who have worked less than one year will receive one month’s salary and one month of COBRA coverage on health insurance.

Employees who have worked between one and five years will receive two month’s salary and two months of COBRA coverage on health insurance.

Employees who have worked more than five years will receive three month’s salary and three months of COBRA coverage on health insurance.

Under the current policy, employees receive 30-days notice before they are terminated.

In order to receive one of these packages, employees must waive that 30-day notice.

“This is just information for people that are in that position, no staff cuts have been made yet,” Ringley said. “We’re still in the process.”

The severance packages were laid out in a resolution that needs to be accepted during a regularly scheduled meeting within the next 30 days.

As part of the resolution, the budgets of each department will be frozen once the budget is passed on July 20.

Sheridan County offices and departments will have their budgets reduced by the salary and benefit amounts of each person who accepts a severance package.

The commissioners state in the resolution that the need for a decreased workforce size is a result of decreased assessed valuations at both the state and county levels, which led to a decrease in revenue in Sheridan County.

For additional details, see Friday’s edition of The Sheridan Press and see updates as they are available at

Volunteers help with projects at the YMCA

SHERIDAN — Bringing together people from across the country, AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps is dedicating six weeks to a service project in Sheridan. Volunteering with the Sheridan County YMCA, the NCCC is helping with youth camps through early July.

Based in Sacramento, California, the team making up the NCCC’s Gold Six, arrived in Sheridan on June 4. All members range in age from 18 to 24 years old and are assigned volunteer projects by AmeriCorps that take them throughout the country. Over their 10-month service they complete about four different projects.

To prepare for their work, team members complete training for specific positions they’ll hold on the team as well go through team building exercises and physical training. Often working with nonprofits, all projects fall into at least one of the following categories: disaster response, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and energy conservation and urban and rural development.

With Gold Six members coming from Texas, Michigan, Colorado and Maryland, the NCCC has given them an opportunity to see communities different from their own, volunteer Alyse Grant said.

Splitting the main group of 10 into smaller units, the volunteers are helping with various activities at the YMCA such as Adventure Club, Science Club and small maintenance projects. This morning a group headed up to the Tongue River Community Center to help with floor renovations. Other’s will be singing, dancing and supervising youth during morning camps. For the duration of their visit, the team will work Monday through Friday.

Recently, the volunteers have worked in Oregon and California before venturing to Wyoming. While the NCCC’s work is beneficial for the communities they visit, it also provides a great experience for volunteers by exposing them to different communities, providing networking connections and introducing them to different fields of work, Grant said.

Megan Coyle of Denver, Colorado, joined in October of this last year, hoping to find a positive outlet.

“Before this program I wasn’t giving back to my community or doing anything productive with my time,” she said.

With the amount of work involved in joining the NCCC, it’s a full-time project. Coyle has completed one semester of college and plans to attend next year after her time with the Gold Six.

After the completion of the Sheridan service project, the team will head back to Sacramento for their graduation ceremony. Along with a certificate, volunteers are given a $6,000 education award to put toward school or loans. Coyle said she plans to use this grant for her next semester of college.

Anyone interested in joining the NCCC or another facet of AmeriCorps can see their website at or call 202-606-5000.

Man pleads guilty to sexually abusing 6-year-old girl

SHERIDAN — A Sheridan man pleaded guilty Tuesday in 4th Judicial District Court to sexually abusing a 6-year-old girl.

Travis Harp, 25, admitted guilt on one count of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

As part of the plea agreement, the defense and state plan to jointly recommend 14-18 years in prison at Harp’s sentencing on Aug. 7 at 9:45 a.m., Deputy County and Prosecuting Attorney Darci Phillips told Judge John Fenn.

The crime ocurred between approximately Feb. 1 and Feb. 28, 2014.

While Harp was initially charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, additional details later emerged that forced the state to amend the original charge, Phillips explained.

Law enforcement discovered the crimes in February 2014 when the young girl told her school counselor about the events.

After relating the events, Fenn asked Harp if he disagreed with anything Phillips had relayed. Harp did not dispute the facts.

Fenn ordered a pre-sentence investigation be completed before sentencing.

Local woman starts business for young at heart

SHERIDAN — It’s a business that brings you back to your childhood. It allows to you reflect on your younger days when you spent hours flipping through the pages of coloring books, carefully staying between the lines and filling in colors to make your favorite cartoon characters or scenic pictures. When finished, you would rip out the page to give to your parents, who would then display it proudly on the refrigerator door.

While those days may be long past, even a small part of nostalgia of childhood can be realized through Raegan Allred’s new business. The mother of two and former business owner has taken her passion of doodling into a new business by creating and selling coloring books for adults.

“It’s a childhood activity, but you think back to childhood and life was much more carefree then,” Allred said. “For me it’s a good way to zone out. … If I screw up coloring it’s no big deal.”

Since she was in grade school, Allred has always had a passion for drawing. Growing up with two brothers who were artists, Allred never thought of herself as much of an artist herself until she got into high school. There, it was explained to her that even her doodles on the edge of an assignment can be turned into art.

So she kept her hobby into adulthood and into parenthood. Allred’s mother gave her the idea of taking the designs she’s created and making them into coloring books for her kids. It didn’t take long for her to start selling her product online via Facebook.

“I originally made these books for kids, but then I found that more adults were buying them for relaxation purposes,” Allred said.

Within months, Allred received more and more offers for her books, a majority of which were coming from the young at heart as opposed to the young of age. Allred began binding the books herself and sales have taken off.

Through word of mouth and social media, the self-published artist has sold more than 300 books — primarily in the Sheridan and Worland areas — a number that continues to grow.

Coloring books for adults have become a national fad, with top-selling artists selling millions of copies of their books at relatively cheap prices. Allred is finding an increasing number of people are beginning to discover the benefits coloring has to put the mind and body at ease.

“There are a lot of people who are recovering from surgery, or who are sick, who are finding that it helps pass the time,” Allred said. “I even had a friend who was on bed rest and used it during her pregnancy.”

Allred’s drawings are composed of a series of abstract shapes resembling flowers. She said she designs her drawings freehand, using a marker on a blank piece of paper, and just lets her imagination and creativity take her in any direction until she is content with her design.

“They are busy pictures, so I think (many people) think that it’s too crazy,” Allred said. “But when you color, you don’t have to be the artist.”

Each book has 16 designs made on special paper that does not bleed through to other pages. Allred has three books and is currently working toward designing a fourth. She believes her unique designs will set her apart from other book designers.

Her hope is to eventually be a published author, but for now she will continue to bind and print the materials herself. Allred will be selling her books at the Third Thursday Street Festivals this summer.

“I’m excited, but I’m nervous to put myself out there with my art,” Allred said. “But I am hopeful it will do well.”

Measures of Devotion: Korean War veteran recalls time on ship

SHERIDAN — Leonard Hurst is known as a great many things: a veteran, a fireman, a singer, a board member at the Sheridan Senior Center. While it may be easy to assume that spending three and a half tours in active duty on a battleship in the Korean War would be the way in which he defines himself, Hurst said the most important titles he has claimed in life were “father” and “husband.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “And now ‘grandpa;’ I really like grandpa. I have seven grandkids and three great-grandbabies.”

To him, the war was one more thing that showed him how wonderful his wife was.

“I was already in the service when we got married, and she understood my sense of duty,” he said as he stared at a wallet-sized black and white picture of his wife, taken when she was 19-years-old and housed permanently in his back pocket. “Those dimples got me, I think.”

Hurst said his favorite memory of the two of them is still their wedding day.

“I was just home on leave and we decided we would go up to Yellowstone Park for it, in May, and we got up there and it snowed and snowed,” he said. “So we stayed in Thermopolis and that was just as good as being in Yellowstone.

“She did me a disservice when she married me though,” he added with a laugh. “Her father, two brothers and my brother-in-law were all Marines and I was a white hat sailor. And I want you to know that family dinners were not a hell of a lot of fun for me.”

After the wedding, his wife moved onto the base while he was on ship, and back to the war he went.

Hurst was a radar man on the U.S.S. George K. Mackenzie, stationed in the 7th fleet — headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan. Among other things, Hurst’s ship was tasked with keeping a train bridge through a harbor just north of the 38th parallel blown out so the North Koreans could not receive supplies from the south.

“We’d be in there for about 90 days and then we’d go back for supplies and that sort of thing,” Hurst said. “You can’t believe it, but when it got dark the bridge was not there and when it got light again it was there. That many people went in there and built that bridge back over night once a day and then we’d take it out again. Every once in a while they would just lob these 6-inch shells at us. We did take heavy artillery fire from the beach.”

The other major job of the Mackenzie and other ships of her size was to act as a shield for the large battleships in her division.

“We were in Task Force 77 which was a task force of heavy battleships and cruisers and carriers,” Hurst said.“And the small ships like ours were in a screen around the battleships to take torpedoes and that sort of thing if an enemy submarine shot at those big ships. From there, we went on missions. With landings and evacuations of troops in various places, they needed help getting in and out, so we would lay cover fire for them from the ship.”

Though their ship was frequently under fire, no lives were lost while Hurst was on board. They did lose some men on a sister ship, though.

“Our sister ship the Hanson had her bough blown off by a mine so she had to back all the way into Yokosuka from Korea, and we lost eight sonar men,” he said, adding that he did once have a close call. “One day I was standing on deck, which I wasn’t supposed to be doing, smoking a cigarette between these two smokestacks when the GQ sounded and fire started. So I went to my general quarters station and when they secured general quarters I went back out there and exactly where I was standing there was a piece of shrapnel about 8 inches long.”

Hurst said living on a ship wasn’t always easy, and it was far from glamorous, but at least it was clean.

“Just throw away all the privacy you have, there was none of that,” he said. “Our bunks were three high and in our O-Division bunk space there were about 24 of us. That was radar and sonar people, the operations division.”

Radar was a relatively new technology at the time of the war. When Hurst first signed up to fight, he was a deckhand. But when they asked if anyone wanted to test for radar, he secured the position.

While Hurst enjoyed his position, there was one thing about being on the water he particularly disliked: the weather.

“The thing I remember about Korea itself is how blasted cold it was,” he said. “I really do believe that is the coldest place on the face of the planet in the wintertime. The mountains come right down to the coast and they would be solid coated with that wet heavy snow and the wind would come across there and then out across the water and when it hit you out on that ship it felt like someone was throwing ice chips at you. Those poor guys that were foot soldiers over there, I felt sorry for them thinking that they were colder than me. But I had to stand a watch outside, as we cruised back and forth, and I was just frozen.”

In the end, it wasn’t the weather or the war that lead to Hurst returning home; it was his wife.

“I enjoyed the war, but the administration at the time in Washington would not let your dependents on base go to the grocery stores and clothing stores on there,” he said. “You could get groceries at a much less expensive cost than going to the civilian stores, but Mr. Eisenhower decided that enlisted people didn’t need that, just officers, so I couldn’t afford to stay in with her living there. But I liked what I was doing and the cause I was serving.”

After returning home to Rawlins, a series of career changes and transfers landed him in Sheridan in the early 1960s. With one baby in tow and a suspected fourth location transfer from his position at Safeway looming, Hurst decided to test for a position with the city fire department and got the job.

During his life in Sheridan, he and his wife would welcome three more babies and build a tri-plex home on Huntington Road to house the family in one unit, his mother in another and rent out the third.

Hurst spent 30 years with the fire department, as a firefighter from 1961-1981 and for the last 10 years as the city’s first fire marshall. Once again, his career choices reaffirmed his life choices as his family stood by his side.

“I could not have done better for a wife,” he said. “The 30 years I was on the fire department, she was home alone with those kids for 24 hours on, 24 hours off. We were married in May of 1952 and my wife died July 17, 2006.”

His mother died just one month prior, June 7, 2006; and with four kids living in four different states Hurst found himself alone in Sheridan. This is what eventually led him to his newest title: board member.

“I’m on the board at the Senior Center and I spend a lot of time there,” he said. “It was kind of my salvation when my wife died and nobody was living here but me. I found that place and it seemed to fit.

“Sheridan is a great place to live,” he added. “I plan to stay here for as long as I can.”

Which artifacts define Wyoming? Public asked to vote for top state historic pieces

CHEYENNE (AP) — Wyoming is a fairly young state by American standards, having joined the union as the 44th state in 1890. But while the state’s history might not be as extensive as Massachusetts or Virginia, what history Wyoming does have is rich and multifaceted.

That’s why, to mark the state’s 125th anniversary of statehood this year, the Wyoming State Historical Society and the University of Wyoming Libraries have joined together to canvass libraries and museums across the Equality State to find the historic artifacts that best represent Wyoming’s heritage.

“We’ve got materials from all four corners of the state — the state museum and the state library, the state law library,” said Tamsen Hert, president of the historical society. “We have an entry from F.E. Warren ICBM and Heritage Museum, we’ve got geological nominations. This is going to be a hard decision.”

And it’s a decision that will fall to the residents of Wyoming.

Hert said the society originally received 41 artifact nominations earlier this year, and a team of judges has since pared that down to a list of 25 nominees.

Now, those 25 artifacts have been put to an online vote, and it’s up to Wyoming to decide which should be considered the state’s top 10 most significant artifacts. From now through September, state residents will have a chance to make their selections, which will be formally recognized later in the year.

“Once we get through September, we’ll shut the poll down and tally the votes to get the top 10,” Hert told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “Then we’ll try to have some sort of publicity about what they are, and those institutions will get some sort of certificate.”

Hert noted the nomination process was only open to museums and libraries, not private collections or businesses. And as a further caveat, each institution could only nominate one item from their collection, though institutions that oversee multiple museums could nominate one artifact from each.

For example, the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne has nominated the original concept drawing for what would become the Wyoming state flag.

“I think what we really wanted to do was capture the one thing every Wyomingite can recognize no matter where they are,” said Jim Allison, collections supervisor at the State Museum. “Aside from the bucking horse, it’s the one thing that’s really uniquely Wyoming.”

Allison said the state flag concept was drawn up in 1916 by a woman named Verna Keays, as part of a contest held by the Daughters of the American Revolution to design a state flag. Keays’ entry placed first in the competition, for which she earned a grand prize of $20 — about $430 in today’s money.

“There was one major change in what this young lady submitted, and that was that the direction the bison faces was reversed, but that was the only real difference (from the adopted state flag),” Allison said. “Grace Raymond Hebard was the state regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution at that time, and she got a technical description of the flag drawn up and presented it to the 14th state Legislature to get it passed.”

Wyoming’s state flag, with the bison facing to the left, was officially adopted on Jan. 31, 1917. But even back then, Allison noted that the flag’s adoption wasn’t free from political influence.

“During the debates they had, the Democrats in the state lobbied to have the bison replaced with a donkey,” Allison said. “The Republicans lobbied for the elephant, and the Bull Moose Party lobbied to have it replaced by the moose.”

The Wyoming State Library, meanwhile, has submitted a period copy of a March 26, 1890, speech made by Joseph M. Carey, who was then Wyoming’s territorial delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives. The speech makes a full-throated argument for Wyoming’s admittance to the union, which would come less than four months after Carey gave it.

“We were looking for something that really honored Wyoming’s statehood, and you’ve got to love how impassioned Carey was when he made this speech,” said Susan Mark, a publication specialist for the state library. “It really gave a flavor for how much people in Wyoming really wanted to achieve full statehood.”

In an excerpt from the speech, Carey acknowledges the many “old and powerful states” whose delegates would ultimately decide Wyoming’s fate. But in that recognition, Carey also argued that “Wyoming, young and enterprising, rich in resources, with western ambition and strength, will hasten to overtake you, and at your side bear a state’s share of the burdens and responsibilities of the Republic.”

“There were so many great quotes,” Mark said of the speech. “Here, Wyoming was really making its case to be a full state in the union.”

Other artifact nominees go ever further back from statehood, such as the book submitted by the Wyoming State Law Library. The book comprises a set of house journals that describe the day-to-day affairs of Wyoming’s territorial government, from the very first legislative assembly of 1869 through the assembly of 1882.

“It’s a slice of political life – what was happening in politics at that time, what the big issues of the day were,” said Eugenia Charles-Newton, the state law librarian. “You’ll find information about the Union Pacific Railroad crossing the territory, granting suffrage to women, when it was approved and at what time, how people voted on that issue. There’s also reference in there about Buffalo Bill Cody as he was guiding hunts in the Wyoming Territory.”


Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle,

Exploring a piece of paradise in the Bighorns

Eight-year-old Thane Orchard walks to the other side of the pond during the Joey’s Foundation four-day summer mentoring camp Thursday morning at Bear Lodge in the Bighorn Mountains. The nonprofit has been using fly fishing, fly rod building and fly tying as a catalyst for mentoring youth in the area for the last eight years.

County to cut jobs, services

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County will begin laying off employees and cutting services in the coming weeks due to a massive budget shortfall, Board of County Commissioners Chairman Tom Ringley told department heads Thursday morning.

Ringley began the solemn meeting by explaining the county’s financial situation. About two weeks ago, the Commission asked department heads to cut as much as possible from their budgets because the county faced a $2.6 million deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.

Following those instructions, the county’s various departments pared less than $335,000.

“That was a substantial effort, but in relation to the problem we’ve got, is a fairly modest return,” Ringley said.

The commissioners decided to add payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT, revenues to the budget, which is money counties and municipal governments sometimes receive for non-taxable federal land in their jurisdictions.

This took the deficit to $1.8 million. The board then added 15 percent of its reserves, approximately $1 million, further decreasing the deficit to $800,000. Ringley warned meeting attendees depleting the reserve account is not sustainable long-term.

“What we have to realize is, we absolutely cannot do that indefinitely,” he said.

“Taking a million dollars out of what we do have in reserves only leaves enough to run the county for about three to four months,” Commissioner Terry Cram added. “In most books, that’s cutting it pretty darn short.”

The PILT money and reserve subsidy simply is not enough to cover the shortfall, and large-scale cuts to personnel and services cannot be avoided.

“We do have to reduce our personnel and benefit costs,” Ringley said. “We don’t have anywhere else to go. God is not going to help us. The Tooth Fairy is not going to help us. There are no silver bullets. The governor is not going to give us a reprieve. We’re on our own, and we’ve got to cope with the problem.”

Check throughout the day for updates.

New facility at The Brinton to open Monday

BIG HORN — The final days of preparation have arrived. It is just a week and a half before the grand opening of the Forrest E. Mars Jr. Building at The Brinton Museum, and final touches are being made to the newly constructed building. Construction crews continue to put the final touches on the parking lot; gift shop employees fill the shelves with merchandise, staff fill the walls with expansive collections of art.

It’s all hands on deck. The staff and curators of the museum have been waiting for this day — Monday — for years. But like any of the pieces hanging on the walls of the museum, the final brush strokes are just as important as the first.

At the center of the controlled chaos, Ken and Barbara Schuster, the chief and associate curators of The Brinton Museum, have been busy preparing for the grand opening set for June 15.

“We are excited, but we are exhausted,” Barabara Schuster said with a tired laugh. “But all of it, it’s just really fantastic.”

The end product of their efforts will result in a state-of-the-art-facility infused with hundreds of years of history.



The building takes you deep into our landscapes.

The long stairway leading up to the facility leads to a pair of doors that will take museum patrons right into the center of the hill.

Earth tones fill the walls. Geological formations depicting rock layers fill the main halls. It has an earthy cool; climate control, along with natural protection from the hillside encompassing the facility, regulates each room. Each display, each showcase, each room inside the museum can be altered for humidity and temperature. That control adds years to the lifespan of the artwork.

As patrons head up three flights of stairs, to three different stories of galleries and exhibits, they will be able to walk outside to a stunning 180-degree view of the neighboring Bighorn Mountains.

When a handful of donors and staff dug their shovels into the ground during the groundbreaking ceremony in July 2013, the land was comprised of nothing but a collection of wild grasses and untouched soil.

“There was just a regular little hill … there was basically nothing here,” Barbara Schuster said.

But, building into a hillside was the most practical use of the land. Ken Schuster wanted the newly constructed building to mesh with the surroundings as much as possible.

While a lawn will fill the areas immediately surrounding the building, natural Wyoming grasses will grow past the lawns blending the museum with the beauty in the shadows of the towering mountains.

“I wanted the building to be as hidden as possible and restore all of the (ranch) to the original landscaping,” Ken Schuster said.

It took several concepts, numerous designs and countless architectural theories, but the Schusters and The Brinton staff got the building they wanted.



Inside one of the exhibit rooms — adjusted to 70 degrees with 55 percent humidity — a black-and-white photograph is displayed between the 19th and 20th century Western and landscape paintings.

It depicts Bradford Brinton’s Quarter Circle A Ranch in 1903 — the ranch house, the bunkhouse and most existing structures that remain on the property — taken from approximately the same spot from where the picture is hanging.

While years have altered the ranch to allow for modern conveniences, most of its history and original charm have remained intact.

It’s likely Brinton himself would have approved of the changes to the ranch and the addition of the museum. The Midwestern business tycoon and art connoisseur was a patron of late 19th and early 20th century paintings and sketches. When he bought the ranch in 1923, he made extensive changes to the ranch and its structures.

Eventually, though, the building in which the museum was located for many years became too small for the endless collections of artifacts. At 24,000 square feet, the new building expands the museum’s capacity tenfold; some exhibits have more square feet than the old museum’s entire building.

Barbara Schuster said if there is one thing any museum can’t have enough of, it is storage space. The Forrest E. Mars Jr. building has plenty of that and more. Expansions to the gift shop, state-of-the-art storage facilities, a new restaurant and, of course, larger rooms for art exhibits will help The Brinton Museum become a destination rather than a stop along the road.

“The sleepy little place wasn’t going to do it any more; we just had to grow to survive,” she said.

The new building will inevitably bring in more tourists and travelers. Schuster said she hopes people who are only going to be in Sheridan for a few days will make The Brinton Museum a must-see.



Becoming a world-class museum isn’t cheap, but the staff at The Brinton Museum is lucky to have the weight of the Sheridan community behind them.

The $15.8 million building was completed entirely with private donation dollars. Forrest E. Mars Jr. donated the initial funds toward the project and was instrumental in getting the project started.

“Without (Mars Jr.), this would have never happened … and that’s why the building is named after him,” Barbara Schuster said. “Ken had the dream for years … but without him, we wouldn’t have been able to do it.”

Mars’ donation was still only a portion of the capital campaign. The museum also raised millions of dollars from local stakeholders and patrons.

“Sheridan has this great history of philanthropy and there are generations of people who now have been giving who have made this such a fantastic place,” Schuster said. “We are really lucky to have this culture of philanthropy.”

Hurdling the competition: Bard claims four state titles

BIG HORN — Hurdling has become second nature for Bailey Bard. She bounds them as gracefully as a hawk swooping into the water to grab a bite to eat. As a sophomore, she was the 300-meter hurdles state champion, and she’s established herself as one of the state’s best.

But on May 16, her most dominant event became her most grueling.

A momentary lapse turned into a potential disaster in the blink of an eye for the Big Horn hurdler. She clipped a hurdle, lost her balance and went crashing to the black track surface. Time froze. That was it. Her chance at the regional title was gone at the bump of a wooden beam, and it happened so unexpectedly.

“You never know how a kid is going to respond when a mistake is made and something bad happens,” Big Horn track coach Kirk McLaughlin said.

Bard responded the only way she knew how.

Before spectators even had a chance to gasp at Bard’s fall, she was back planting her spikes into the polyurethane. She wasn’t able to catch Southeast’s Cayley Gibb, but she caught everyone else. She finished second in the event, less than a half-a-second behind Gibb.

“I saw not just her talent, but great character,” McLaughlin said recalling the event. “She hit a hurdle; she fell down and still got second. I go and talk to her after, and you know what? There wasn’t a lot of tears. There wasn’t a lot of ‘poor me.’ It was, ‘Let’s get ready for the next event.’”

A week later, Bard was eyeing a line of hurdles for the first time since the fall. This time, though, it was for a state title. There was no fall, no miscues at all. She won. She defeated Gibb in the finals, and she did it by one-hundredth of a second.

Bard’s journey to the top of the podium started long before that May stumble. While the multi-sport athlete has always been a runner, her success didn’t start on the track.

In middle school, she spent her springs running up and down the soccer field. But at the start of her freshman year, she saw a shift in interest, as high schoolers often do. She thought she’d try something new, trading in her cleats for a pair of spikes.

“I just didn’t really like (soccer) anymore, so I wanted to try something new,” Bard said. “Mr. McLaughlin was always like, ‘you need to come out for track.’ I just thought, ‘why not?’ I’m not going to lose anything and it’ll make me better for my other sports.”

There was a reason McLaughlin recruited the freshman to his track team, and it’s the same reason he was so impressed by her second-place finish after her fall at regionals.

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“She’s very competitive,” McLaughlin said. “She just has a will to win that really helps her succeed.”

More importantly, though, the coach said it’s Bailey Bard the person that made her destined for success. Her strong character is something he witnessed right away with the young track star.

Bard’s tumble at this year’s regionals was déjà vu for both her and her coach.

Her freshman season, she showed glimpses of her potential, earning sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the 200-meter and 400-meter dash, respectively, at the state meet. She even took home her first — of many — state title in the 4×400-meter relay.

But it was the dreaded 300-meter hurdles that got the best of her. During the prelims at the state meet, she hit a hurdle and fell and was unable to finish the race.

It was a setback, maybe. But it was propellant, absolutely.

Bard turned around and took the 300-meter hurdles title as a sophomore and again this year as a junior, beating her own time each year.

It wasn’t just hurdles, either. She took home a second (200-meter dash) and a third (4×400-meter relay) as a sophomore and was well on her way to becoming one of the best runners in the class.

This year, she catapulted herself into elite status.

At the state meet, the junior spent more time atop the podium than she did actually competing in her four events. She went three-for-four, taking gold in the 100-meter dash, 4×100-meter relay and, of course, those pesky 300-meter hurdles.

She added a silver medal in the 200-meter dash, her only event she is yet to win gold. She lost only to Lyman’s Ann Wingeleth, a University of Utah commit.

There was one other title that Bard crossed off the list this year, as well. The medal wasn’t around her neck, but it was the most important. The Big Horn Lady Rams won the 2015 track and field team championship.

Now, all Bard is focused on is repeating as a state champ. Not individually — she’s already done that. She wants another team title.

“I’m really looking forward, next year, to the possibility of another team championship,” Bard said. “Really, that’s the ultimate goal. The individual stuff just helps build towards that. I want the team success. I’m looking forward to more of the same.”

More of the same has become habitual at this point for Bard.

Her focus may be on a team title and her skills may lead to individual titles, but her will to win may just lead to all of the above — no matter how many hurdles are thrown her way.

Measures of Devotion: Veteran left school to serve in WWII

SHERIDAN — It was April 1, 1945. Robert Cole, along with hundreds of soldiers and marines, loaded on landing crafts at 3 a.m. making their way toward a small island south of Japan. Behind him, the deafening guns of the battleships were firing at the seawall through which Cole and his fellow troops would eventually make their way.
It took four hours to reach the shores when the first wave of Allied forces made their way to the beaches of Okinawa. The three-month battle would eventually claim the lives of more than 14,000 Allied troops and nearly 80,000 Japanese soldiers.
Cole spent the next few weeks fighting his way across the island — laying in foxholes, going on patrols, dodging artillery shells.
On the inaugural day of the battle of Okinawa, as his boots hit the sand of the beach where thousands would die, Cole had just turned 20 years old.
“(Fighting in World War II), it helped you to grow up,” said Cole, the now 90-year-old who lives in Story.
Before he was a veteran of two of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific, and before he gave up the only life he ever knew, Cole was just like any other young man in Wyoming.
He spent most of his time in Gillette, a town that before the coal boom had just slightly more than 2,000 residents. Growing up, he delivered the Billings Gazette newspaper and pumped gas for area residents.
News of Pearl Harbor bombings did not affect 15-year-old Cole at the time. But after listening to the broadcasts of the bombings, there was a small part of him that knew it wouldn’t be long until he made his way into service.
Just months away from graduating, Cole enlisted in the Army in 1943.
“It was just something that a lot of people were doing at that time,” Cole said about why he chose to join the Army instead of completing high school.
Cole took a troop train from Gillette to Fort McClellan, Alabama, where he took his basic training. He was assigned to the infantry, which meant Cole went through some of the toughest 14 weeks of training the Army had to offer.
After boot camp, Cole was stationed in California then transferred to Hawaii. Cole then shipped out to the Japanese-occupied Philippines to fight in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Cole, who was 19 years old at the time, was a part of the second wave of troops to reach the Leyte Island. He and his division landed in the town of Dulag, a town that had been totally bombed out by the time Cole got there.
“(Leyte Island) was pretty strenuous at the time,” Cole said. “There were a lot of Japanese there of course. The Japanese had occupied it for a long time.”
During his six-month campaign, Cole went out on patrols, often in the middle of night, looking to fight off the Japanese. During the day, he and his fellow soldiers would advance deeper into the thick jungle of Leyte Island.
He was constantly dirty — laying in foxholes for hours every day keeping an eye out for the enemy.
“There was a lot of rain and of course we had ponchos, but that didn’t help a lot,” Cole said.

Cole was on Leyte Island until March 1945. From there he headed north to Okinawa.
The island of Okinawa is only six miles wide, but Cole and allied troops fought for every inch.
Cole vividly remembers the constant artillery fire; years of occupation allowed Japanese forces to build up their military defenses in the caves and sheltered areas littering the island. Because of this, air cover and naval protection was near impossible.
As a young man in a foreign land, with bullets and artillery flying around him, a war zone is a frightening place. But even then, Cole said he relied on his training.
“(Fighting in Okinawa) was very similar to Leyte Island,” he said. “But we had good training and we kind of knew what to expect.”
The Battle of Okinawa came to a close in June 1945, and months of being in the jungle left Cole with a tropical ulcer, and he was removed from the field and sent to a hospital in Saipan.
Two atomic bombs later, the Japanese surrendered. This was a relief for Cole, who was likely headed to mainland Japan for the invasion if there was no surrender. Cole eventually made his way out of the hospital and back to Gillette.
In the years after the war, he worked at Amoco Production Company in Casper for 35.5 years, where he worked in gas plants and production.
Cole gave up an education and his youth, went halfway across the world, fought through some of the most brutal environments imaginable — all in the name of service to his country. Today Cole resides in Story and is a frequent patron of the Sheridan Senior Center.

Up into the wild blue yonder: After almost 40 years, Stopka facing new challenges at Sheridan Airport

SHERIDAN — When Great Lakes Airlines formally terminated air service to the Sheridan County Airport back in March, a lot of people thought that meant the airport would wither away and die.

But rumors of the airport’s demise, it turns out, have been greatly exaggerated.

“We haven’t dried up and blown away,” airport manager John Stopka said. “I can’t tell you how many phone calls I’ve had over the last two months. ‘Oh, you guys are still open? Geez, you still have a job? But you don’t have air service…’”

Yes, he still has a job, and Stopka said the facility has plenty going on. Nevertheless, the Sheridan County Airport faces some tenuous times. Without air service and with numerous federal regulations rolling in since 9/11, the airport must deal with a challenging set of circumstances to remain viable long term.

Lucky for Sheridan County, Stopka remains at the helm. With nearly 40 years experience at the airport and a love of taking on these challenges head on, he seems like the perfect person to guide the facility into its next chapter.

Stopka did not start his career with grand plans of running an airport. A Sheridan native, he took an aviation course while still in high school, which interested him in the possibility of one day becoming a pilot.

“I took that and it kind of piqued my interest, not really knowing what I wanted to do,” he said.

He had graduated high school and moved on to Sheridan College when a job came open at the airport. In November 1976, Stopka joined the staff as a “line boy” — a position now referred to as “line personnel,” a more professional-sounding term.

Still, there was nothing particularly glamorous about it. Stopka said he fueled and hangared airplanes, took care of airfield maintenance and did “a little bit of everything.”

A couple years later, the county got out of the fixed-base operating side of airport ownership — fueling, plane maintenance, etc. — and contracted those services out. About the same time, 1978 or ’79, Stopka was promoted to operations supervisor.

“I was just in charge of the airfield maintenance at that point,” he said. “That was my title until 2002 when I became airport manager.”

Stopka said his success, starting from the bottom rung and moving to the top, is not a product of education but rather can be attributed to on-the-job training. There is no substitute for experience and networking, he said, two attributes he’s acquired in spades over 39 years.

Over his lengthy tenure, Stopka has learned to deal with constant change. After all, the airport has changed a lot.

“There have been a lot of changes, both physical to the facility, and the paperwork side of things and dealing with the federal agencies, different government regulation changes,” he said. “It’s 180 degrees different than it was back in 1976.”

Federal regulations are everything to an airport. Sheridan’s air service makes for an interesting case study. When Stopka joined the staff in 1976, Western Airlines sent off one Boeing 737 from the Sheridan County Airport daily, Stopka said.

Back then, flights were like bus routes, jumping from airport to airport and delivering mail and other commodities while sometimes swapping crew and passengers.

“It doesn’t work that way anymore,” Stopka said. “It’s all spokes and hubs now.”

Federal deregulation took effect in 1978. This meant the government did not require airlines to service certain airports; instead airlines were free to offer air service where they thought they could make the most money.

The government then started the EAS, or Essential Air Service program. EAS allowed airlines to file for subsidies if they serviced an airport that did not turn a profit.

“Nobody ever filed for subsidies,” Stopka said. “Everybody was making money flying out of Sheridan.”

At least until 9/11. Great Lakes first filed for a subsidy in 2004. But the finger-pointing and reactionary new regulations made life tough for everyone in the travel industry after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2011, Stopka said.

The first new guidelines to come from the Department of Homeland Security after the terrorist attacks treated all airports the same, whether Chicago O’Hare or Gillette, Wyoming.

Stopka doesn’t mince words when he talks about the way these regulations trickle down the ladder and often hinder operations in Sheridan.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all,” he said. “We had to go through the whole process again (after 9/11) as these people in D.C., sitting in a little cubicle, write these regulations who don’t have a clue of what’s going on in the real world.”

Keeping parking at least 300 feet from terminals is but one example of a rule that makes sense at large airports, but not necessarily small ones. Other new guidelines came out after an airplane crash in 2009 near Buffalo, New York. Regulations passed in 2013 now require pilots to log at least 1,500 hours of flying before entering a commercial cockpit. The old standard was 250 hours.

This rule has helped cause a pilot shortage that dramatically affected all airlines, but particularly smaller, regional airlines. Great Lakes’ response was to consolidate and leave Sheridan, a move that has already tremendously affected Stopka’s operating budget at the airport and the community as a whole.

When Stopka talks about what’s best for the community, he doesn’t say it as a cliché or like his job depends on it. He says it like a guy who genuinely cares.

He was born and raised in Sheridan and, despite having his hand in every aspect of a busy airport the last 39 years, has remained active outside his job. The youngest of his three children just graduated high school, and Stopka is an avid hunter, fisherman, golfer, hiker and backpacker. He led a troop of Boy Scouts for more than 25 years and still participates in that organization.

Locals might also recognize Stopka as a walker. Stopka walks to work. He walks home from work. He walks just about everywhere.

“I set a goal five years ago to walk enough miles to make the equivalent of walking around the equator of the Earth, which is 24,900 miles,” he said. “I’m about 3,500 miles away from that goal.”

While he clearly revels in the variety of activities available in Sheridan County, it’s also why he loves his job.

“It’s been a varied career,” he said. “It’s been a fun career. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be here. I enjoy the challenges that we have.”

Stopka also lauded the people who have worked for him and the consistent support he has received from the Board of County Commissioners his past 13-plus years as manager. Without this, he said he wouldn’t have found the success he has so far.

“The county commission boards have been very, very supportive of this airport,” he emphasized. “They’ve put a lot of money into this airport.”

He plans to stay at the airport another three to five years, or maybe longer. He has plenty to keep him busy; he can rattle off dozens of ongoing airport activities and upcoming projects without thinking too hard.

The Sheridan County Airport has more general aviation aircraft based here than any other airport in Wyoming, he said. Plenty of corporate and private individuals fly out of here. And even logistical aspects, from mowing to keeping animals away from runways, take a lot of effort daily.

Even still, Stopka said one of his main hopes for the airport is to get commercial air service going again and continue offering a high-quality airport here in Sheridan County.

“The airport is vital to the community, and we’ve got a nice facility up here,” he said, adding an economic analysis a couple years ago found the airport generated $48 million annually. “It’s still providing a lot of economic viability to the community even without air service. We’ve just got to get that air service back in here to make us whole again.”

Getting air service will be a tall task. Numerous cities, many larger than Sheridan, have lost commercial airlines in the past five or 10 years.

Still, with an active committee working toward the goal and an experienced airport manager in their corner, it wouldn’t be smart to count Sheridan out.

After nearly three decades, SC educator retires

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College has grown to be a staple in the community. For the past 67 years, the campus has undergone changes from new curriculum to a facilities makeover. This summer it faces another drastic change as a staple of its own community retires.

After 28 years, former business teacher Tracy Dearinger is ready to seek new opportunities, and maybe even enjoy a Monday sleeping in.

Born in Cheyenne, Dearinger fostered a love for Sheridan and teaching. Even though she graduated high school outside of the state she’s proud to call herself a “Wyoming girl.”

Growing up, she worked in her father’s auction business from the time she was 8 years old. Knowing she always wanted to be a teacher, Dearinger combined her business background with her passion to teach.

After completing her bachelor’s at the University of Wyoming, she returned to the university to earn her master’s with the hopes of teaching in Sheridan County.

“It was the only job I applied for and — miracles upon miracles — I got the job,” Dearinger said. “I’m very fortunate… I’ve loved Sheridan and it’s been good to me.”

Co-worker Stoney Gaddy, SC director of distance learning, doesn’t see it as a miracle. Working together for the past seven years, Gaddy described Dearinger as a gifted veteran in the education field.

In the past year and a half, Dearinger has moved out of her teaching position and into a new post as an instructional designer, working with Gaddy on coaching faculty on their courses.

Before this job shift she taught accounting, computer classes, economics and international business.

“I’ll definitely miss Tracy’s energy in the classroom, in working with faculty and her energy, dedication and passion through her content,” Gaddy said.

Dearinger loved the new position but missed aspects of teaching — specifically her students.

In an almost three-decade career her driving force was ultimately the responsibility she felt for them.

“When you think about it, their lives and their learning are in your hands,” Dearinger said.

Seeing the effect she has had on their lives has been a rewarding aspect of her career, Dearinger said, so when two of her former students decided to take over the free tax program she headed, Dearinger said she was excited. One of the many programs she was a part of, the free tax service helped more than 200 clients per year.

In addition to her work with the tax initiative and her classroom responsibilities, Dearinger was the advisor of Students in Free Enterprise for four years — winning nationals three times — as well as the advisor of the college’s honors society.

Though she can see how teachers get burned out, Dearinger — even with her extra responsibilities — said she feels positively about her career and legacy. While Gaddy jokes that she’ll be moving on to “bigger and better things… or more peaceful things,” Dearinger doesn’t feel ready to slow down too much yet.

“I still want to do things. I still want to work part time, maybe during the tax season,” she said. “I just don’t know. I got some opportunities that I’m looking into so my work is not finished, but it’s time to do something different.”

“I’ve never had a more rewarding and stressful job,” she added.

By Cassidy Belus

Severe storm causes flash flooding Wednesday

SHERIDAN — A severe thunderstorm Wednesday evening dumped more than an inch of rain on much of Sheridan, flooding streets and damaging homes and properties.

City crews and Sheridan Police Department officers worked overtime Wednesday barricading flooded streets, redirecting traffic, clearing debris from storm drains and replacing manhole covers. At press time, only Seventh and Gould streets remained closed, according to City Engineer Lane Thompson.

Wednesday’s storm added a high volume of precipitation to an area already saturated from recent rainfall. Sheridan measuring stations reported anywhere from 0.82 to 2.1 inches of rain that fell between 8-9 p.m. Wednesday, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Joe Lester. The highest totals fell in north Sheridan, and some areas reported small hail.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation closed Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Gillette Wednesday night due to flooding and debris in the Dead Horse area just past the Powder River rest stop. WYDOT also asked for no unnecessary travel on I-90 between Buffalo and the Piney Creek Exit and in all of Johnson County.

Public Involvement Specialist Ronda Holwell reported the closed portion of I-90 reopened at 7:57 a.m. Thursday and the travel restrictions were lifted. A construction project just began in Dead Horse area that should alleviate flooding concerns in the future, Holwell added.

Aside from road closures, the storm caused local creeks to overflow their banks. Goose Creek in Sheridan crested at 8.3 feet at 3 a.m. Thursday, surpassing the minor flood stage of 7.5 feet. As is typical in flash floods, the water receded quickly, falling below the flood stage by 4 a.m.

The Little Goose Creek near Big Horn also rose above the minor flood stage of 4 feet. It reached 4.24 feet at 5:45 a.m. Thursday.

Sheridan County might not be out of the water, literally speaking, just yet. More rain is forecast for Thursday and Friday, Lester said, and creek water levels will likely spike before the weekend is over.

“Late this afternoon and evening, there is another risk of thunderstorms,” Lester said Thursday morning. “With that, it’ll be hit or miss rainfall. I don’t think it’ll be quite as heavy as yesterday evening.

“There will be a chance for some heavier storms Friday afternoon and Friday evening,” he added.

Forecasters predict only a 30 percent chance of precipitation Thursday afternoon, but the odds increase to 50 percent on Friday. Because of the chance of rainfall, a NWS flood warning remains in effect until 9 p.m. Saturday for Goose Creek. The warning states the Goose Creek water stage is forecast to exceed 9.1 feet.

The good news, Lester added, is forecasters foresee a few days of dry weather beginning this weekend and into next week.

That’s little consolation for those whose homes and businesses suffered water damage, however. Some residents reported flooded basements and leaky roofs. Sheridan Speedway representatives stated that, due to 3 feet of water flooding the track, all planned events this year have been canceled.

Sheridan crews continued to work Thursday to clean up streets and city properties, Public Works Director Nic Bateson said. If residents see problem areas, they are encouraged to contact the city’s service center at 672-4112.

Roads flood as storm moves through Sheridan

SHERIDAN — Several areas in Sheridan County are experiencing flooding after a heavy thunderstorm moved through the area Wednesday evening.

Road crews and law enforcement barricaded parts of 11th Street west of Main Street. Fifth Street near the railroad crossing was also heavily flooded and the smell of sewage was evident.

A flood watch is currently in effect. According to the National Weather Service, a period of moderate to heavy rainfall will impact the Bighorn Mountains and the eastern foothills. Half an inch to an inch of rain is expected.

The NOAA weather station at the Sheridan County Airport shows just over .80 inches of rain since about 8 p.m.

The flood watch is currently in effect until 6 p.m. Friday.

Staying cool at Kendrick pool

Eleven-year-old Mathew Ketner blasts out of the waterslide on Tuesday at Kendrick Pool. The pools opened this week and are open from 1-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 1-7 p.m. on the weekends. The pool will be open until the last day on Aug. 29.

Local ranchers relieved as rainfall totals add up

SHERIDAN — With the lush green hills and the misty rains, travelers rolling into the Sheridan valley lately have been treated to beautiful aesthetics. Conversely, flooding of area streams and rivers have been burdensome for homeowners and businesses who sit along the waterways.

But between the flash-flood warnings and the vicious thunderstorms, local ranchers gave a collective sigh of relief after significant rainfall during the final weeks of May put many in Sheridan’s agriculture industry back on track.

“It was really positive,” Wayne Fahsholtz at Padlock Ranch said about the recent precipitation. “Because February, March and April were fairly dry and we had lost a lot of snowpack … at that point, (ranchers) were pretty nervous about the moisture conditions.”

The National Weather Service Forecast office in Billings recorded 5.42 inches of rain in the month of May. This is more than double the monthly normal which sits at 2.35 inches.

Many areas in Wyoming were either close to or at drought conditions headed into the month of May. In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Riverton reported that water supplies for area streams were below 85 percent of normal. Since then, monthly streamflow rankings have returned back to normal levels.

Last month was the seventh wettest May on record for Sheridan and the area saw the most rain since 2011, which had 5.91 inches of precipitation. More than 1.7 inches of precipitation occurred on May 24, which pushed many rivers in the Sheridan area past flood stage.

May typically accounts for a large portion of Sheridan’s annual rainfall of 14.16 inches. Because of this, Brian Tesar, a meteorologist with the NWS forecast office in Billings, said it’s not unusual for precipitation levels to vary so widely in May.

“We have a pretty wide range over that average,” Tesar said. “It’s not that unusual to get that far over the normal.”

While Tesar said it may be still too early to tell whether or not this summer will have more precipitation than the average, Fahsholtz claims recent rain will not impact operations too much for many ranchers. Some operations, like branding, were delayed slightly for many ranchers due to the weather patterns, but for the most part the hardships have been minimal.

Tesar said Sheridan should start to see more common weather in the coming days, which include severe and fast-moving thunderstorms likely to bring hail and a standard amount of precipitation.

Too much moisture throughout the summer, Fahsholtz said, could impact the quality of standing hay.

“In the years where it has been wetter that has been a big deal,” he said.

But at this point Fahsholtz said he is thrilled the May rains have put area ranchers back in position to have a good year.

“The timing has been pretty great and we are in a much better shape than we were in a month ago,” he said.

From a ranch to the Pacific and back


BIG HORN — Johnnie Gentry owns a few different hats.

He has a “World War II veterans” cap, clean, black and adorned with pins. He has a new cowboy hat, clean and undeniably Western. Neither of these is his favorite, however. That distinction goes to an old, dirty cowboy hat.

“I’ve got an old hat in there,” he said, suddenly excited to show it off. “I wouldn’t trade that hat for a new one.”

Figuratively speaking, the 92-year-old Gentry has also worn plenty of hats: rancher, father, grandfather, husband and friend. The 92-year-old Big Horn resident also happens to be a World War II veteran, a sailor who served his country in the Pacific.

While he certainly has a story to tell, Gentry, in typical cowboy fashion, desires neither fanfare nor accolades. He will tell you he served his country because it was the right thing to do — no more and no less.

Gentry was born on Feb. 27, 1923, in Shoemaker, New Mexico, where his family ranched and farmed. The military came calling in the 1940s, as a nationwide draft selected young men to ship off to war. Gentry received a deferral because he worked on a ranch, but, in 1942, he quit his ranching job and formally joined the U.S. Navy.

He reported to Klamath Falls, Oregon, where he trained for nearly a year as a mechanic, servicing planes. His training then took him to El Centro, California, a place that proved memorable for a few reasons.

“It’s the hottest place I’ve ever been,” he said. “We went there and did night flying. We couldn’t even touch one of those planes in the daytime. It got so hot you couldn’t even touch an airplane.”

He also discovered Tecate beer, which helped create an eventful night and rough morning.

“We were out one night, and we went into El Centro,” he said. “Have you ever had Tecate beer? Well, we got to drinking too much of that Tecate beer at the club and spent the night in the jail.

“We had to be at the base the next morning for muster,” he said with a laugh. “We got there pretty early — with a hangover.”

Although he doesn’t drink beer anymore, for years Gentry said he had a friend bring him up a case of Tecate, a reminder of his time in El Centro and the cactus beer he found while stationed there.

Eventually all that training meant entering World War II. Gentry boarded a ship in San Franciso, California, in 1944 and spent the next 29 days en route to Guam.

Going from a ranch in New Mexico to life at sea certainly provided a stark contrast, but Gentry said the adjustment wasn’t that tough for him. Despite spending long stretches on the Pacific Ocean in tight quarters, he never succumbed to seasickness and said there was more than enough work to keep every sailor busy.

The U.S. Marines took Guam in 1944, and Gentry said his main job was to help keep watch on the island, where an estimated 7,500 Japanese held out long after Americans took Guam.

Every so often, Gentry said Japanese would come out of the jungles and surrender to the Americans. All these years later, he is still struck by the contrast in Japanese and Americans’ treatment of prisoners.

“They treated those Japanese prisoners good,” he said. “They fed them good; they had things to play with. We just treated them good. Our prisoners, they didn’t treat them too good.”

After Guam, the sailors continued on their island-hopping march, arriving at Peleliu in December 1944. While the long trip to Guam didn’t prove too difficult, the three-day trip to Peleliu was a much different story.

“When the ship took us from Guam to Peleliu, those waves came and just looked like they were over the top of you,” he said, motioning with his hands.

The sailors faced really rough conditions and the beaches and water surrounding Peleliu contained too much wreckage to dock, so the men took landing barges to the island.

Gentry and the other sailors arrived at Peleliu on Christmas day. After three days on K rations, he said they hoped for a good Christmas meal.

“Well, they fed us sauerkraut and weenies,” he said with another of his good-natured laughs, adding he actually likes sauerkraut — just not the canned variety served on Peleliu.

Gentry sailed home on a battleship and eventually discharged in February of 1946, earning $100.98 in discharge pay. He served a total of two years, two months.

He returned to his roots, heading home to Shoemaker to ranch with his father. But, in 1947 Gentry came with a company of men to ranch at Twin Creek Ranch off Pass Creek Road. Sometime around 1950, Gentry moved to the Wolf Mountains to ranch in rugged country located past Lodge Grass, Montana.

“We spent some rough winters up there,” he said.

He recalled a time when a blizzard rolled in while he was in Lodge Grass. The 12-mile trip home was an eventful one. He said he “gunned” his pickup as fast as he could, but he knew he would eventually get stuck. About six miles from home, sure enough, the truck lodged in a snowdrift and Gentry reached for his snowshoes, which he always kept handy.

“I walked all the way uphill,” he said. “That same night I heard where somebody else got stuck the same way, but he never made it. They found him dead two days later, froze.”

Gentry spent many years in those mountains. He met his wife, Nancy Ruth Yonkee, at a dance near Lodge Grass. They eloped and had two children. Now, Gentry has four grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

He moved to Big Horn in 1990, where he lives near his family with the Bighorns visible from his back porch.

Gentry isn’t one to talk about himself, particularly about his time in the service. He is a cowboy who speaks matter-of-factly and without any air of self-importance. He said he didn’t mind being drafted and didn’t keep in touch with any of the men he served with. He returned home and lived his life.

Was he ever homesick?

“No, not really. I knew I had to be out there,” he said.

How does he think back on his time in the service?

“It’s just something I had to do. I didn’t mind it,” he said.

While he might not want to talk about his exploits, sitting in the sun with his second-favorite World War II hat, it’s clear by the look in his eyes he feels some well-deserved pride in serving his country. He can still recite his dog tag numbers and plays cards with a friend who also served in World War II.

A couple years ago he participated in an Honor Flight, traveling to Washington, D.C., with other Wyoming World War II veterans and exploring the nation’s capital.

“I had fun on that trip,” he said.

It was his first visit to Washington, D.C., He has a photo on his wall of the veterans lined up in front of the Marine Corps War Memorial, a massive statue depicting Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima located at the entrance of the Arlington National Cemetery.

Scanning the hundreds of faces, you notice Gentry at the bottom-right of the photo. He’s the one in the cowboy hat.

Municipal golf courses struggle to break even

SHERIDAN — The Kendrick Municipal Golf Course features lush greens, rolling hills, several water features and, on clear days, prominent, unimpeded views of the Bighorns.

And while it might not be as ballyhooed as several other courses in the region, Kendrick is beloved by locals and tourists alike who hit the links in droves, particularly on pleasant Saturdays and Sundays.

Yet, despite the bustling driving range and people spread out over 18 holes, the city-owned golf course runs at a deficit each year often in excess of $100,000, a shortfall that must be made up through a subsidy from other accounts.

Sound bad? Sheridan is far from unusual.

Casper, for example, hired a consultant back in 2012 to help it decide a course of action on its municipal course, which at that point had averaged $250,000 in annual losses over a five-year period, according to a Casper Star-Tribune report.

Campbell County’s Bell Nob Golf Course in Gillette generally operates $200,000 to $250,000 in the red, according to Dave McCormick, executive director for the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department.

Dozens of other towns and counties face the same financial issues. Every year, and especially now, during budget season, municipalities throughout Wyoming strive to find creative ways to fund recreation.

Sheridan representatives are not keeping busy commiserating with other towns, though. In fact, Mayor John Heath said the city is working to improve the course and wants Kendrick to reach self-sustainability — or break even — within the next five years, a massive challenge given the external factors at play.

An expensive gift

The Kendrick family dedicated the Kendrick Municipal Golf Course to the city in the 1930s, according to City Public Works Director Nic Bateson. The gift came with a stipulation: The land should remain a golf course for public use or else it would be conveyed back to the family, Heath said.

The city has owned the course ever since. When Bateson started working with the city six years ago, he said the deficit averaged $160,000 per year, an amount the city subsidized using a combination of money from the general fund, Optional One-Cent Sales Tax revenues and supplemental funds from the state.

Since that time, city staff, the mayor and City Council have worked diligently to reduce the subsidy.

In fiscal year 2013, golf course expenditures came to $478,000. Of this total, the course generated $356,000 in revenues, bringing the city’s overall subsidy to $122,000 ($115,000 from general fund, $7,000 from Optional One-Cent Sales Tax money).

The golf course budget totaled $543,000 in fiscal year 2014. The city subsidy was $196,000 ($66,000 general fund, $80,000 Optional One-Cent Sales Tax and $50,000 supplemental funding), meaning golf revenues were $347,000.

Supplemental funds come from the state but cannot be used on personnel. This money must be used on capital expenses, Bateson said.

The 2015 fiscal year is not over yet, but the city budgeted for $574,000. Sheridan projected $210,000 in subsidies ($80,000 general fund, $30,000 Optional One-Cent Sales Tax and $100,000 supplemental funds), a higher-than-average number Bateson attributed to equipment purchases.

Revenues, so far in 2015, are down. Total revenues, including the aforementioned $210,000 in city subsidies, are at $492,000 as of May 29. The city is counting on a big June to help narrow the gap before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

This means the last three years, the average annual subsidy came to $176,000.

But the city thinks that’s about to change.

Bateson explained the city received a $985,000 loan in 2006 for irrigation at Kendrick, scheduled to be paid out over a fee schedule until 2022. However, Sheridan was able to pay off the loan in full this year with $709,000. Taking this annual loan payment out of the equation should lower the city’s annual payment.

The city projects $583,000 in expenditures in fiscal year 2016 with $100,000 in subsidies ($50,000 general fund and $50,000 supplemental).

Other courses face same deficits

Sheridan’s projected $100,000 shortfall in fiscal year 2016 would make them the envy of more than one Wyoming governing body, including Campbell County.

“It’s usually around $250,000 that we subsidize,” McCormick said. “Just thinking back over previous years, $200,000 to $250,000.”

McCormick oversees the Blue Nob Golf Course and all of the parks and recreation under the umbrella of Campbell County. Over the past fiscal year, he said the golf course made $670,700 in revenues and spent $910,000.

“It’s a challenge,” he said of the course’s finances. “The cost of operations continues to grow every year, not only staff-wise but also materials and things you purchase to replace or repair.”

Fertilizer, water and other prices, he said, “have gone through the roof.” Deficits are something McCormick has had to get used to, as the Campbell County Parks and Recreation Department generally requires $2.9 million in subsidies each year. As he pointed out, parks need a lot of upkeep and manpower, but they don’t tend to make much money.

In Rawlins, the Rochelle Ranch Golf Course also requires plenty of extra help.

Catti Hays, the Rawlins recreation superintendent, said annual expenses came to $197,000 for clubhouse expenses like electricity, employees’ salaries and benefits, merchandise, sales tax, etc. This does not, however, include any maintenance fees: mowing, manpower, fertilizer, etc. — all big expenses.

Year-to-date revenues came to $119,000, but because the fiscal year begins in July, it doesn’t provide an apples-to-apples comparison next to the $197,000 because the revenues don’t include last year’s early season golf.

Regardless, the golf course is not close to self-sustainability.

“If you find a municipality that makes money on their golf course, I’d like to talk to them,” Hays said with a laugh.

Casper is close.

Alan Kieper, the special facilities manager of the Casper Municipal Golf Course, said the course’s income is projected to total $976,912, and its expenses came to $966,589. While it’s tenuous due to the poor weather recently, Casper is actually on pace to make $10,000 in fiscal year 2015.

Like other courses, this figure can vary heavily year to year due to a number of factors, mainly the cost to water the course.

“A lot of it depends on how much we have to pay for water when we run out of raw water,” he said. “Our 10-year average is around $60,000. We’ve had to pay in the past as much as $120,000 in dry seasons.”

It wasn’t that long ago when Casper was hemorrhaging money. Casper Municipal Golf Course Superintendent Joe Fernau pointed out that after Three Crowns Golf Course opened to the public, the municipal course really suffered.

“We didn’t have to take a subsidy up until probably the first couple years after Three Crowns was built and open here,” he said.

While Casper’s municipal course has rebounded, the city is certainly unique. Natrona County mineral development has caused a boom, growing Casper’s population enough to support several golf courses, a luxury Sheridan and surrounding areas simply do not share.

Depends on the weather

Of course, Sheridan’s — and all — projections depend on golf courses hitting projected revenues in any given year through season passes, greens fees, etc.

Ask any golf course superintendent or city treasurer around the state, and they will tell you they think their golf course projections are fair, with one massive ‘if.’

“It’s so dependent on weather,” Bateson said. “When can you start the golf season? When does it end?”

The Wyoming rain the last couple weeks has hurt every golf course’s pocketbooks. Hot, dry weather? That will add additional watering expenses. A golf course is like a ski resort; it needs the perfect set of conditions to flourish.

“Some years we subsidize more than others,” Heath said. “It just depends on Mother Nature and rain and snow and all those other things involved in golf.”

When the weather is nice, cities have found it behooves them to get creative with their marketing and promotions since simply raising rates is not necessarily a formula to grow revenues.

Heath outlined general goals for Sheridan: Keeping a fluid pace of play; maintaining nice, smooth greens; and ensuring course conditions are fun and not too arduous. Bateson brought up other initiatives, like offering specials during non-peak hours to try to get residents to use the course during traditionally slow times.

McCormick is thinking even more outside of the box.

Blue Nob offers 27 holes for golf, nine of which are a shorter, executive-style course. Those nine holes now have “foot golf,” a game that combines golf and soccer. It’s what it sounds like. Players actually bring their own soccer ball to the course and kick it toward a separate hole set up near the golf green.

McCormick said it cost the course $3,000 to set up foot golf, and those players can pay a nominal fee and go out and play in groups right alongside or amongst the golfers with no disruption to the normal pace of play.

Kieper said the Casper course offers numerous deals and promotions throughout the season to try to keep the golf course viable. The municipal course is especially focusing its efforts in social media, he said.

Quality of life

Hays said the golf course in Rawlins has been the source of a lot of controversy. There and elsewhere in the country, counties and cities have caught flack for funding something that, some taxpayers claim, everyone pays for but only a few use.

For Hays, McCormick and everyone else who helps manage municipal golf courses, the recreational opportunities are worth the work and headache.

“We’ve kept our costs down for the customer and added that luxury for the community,” Hays said. “It’s a draw to our community. It’s a quality of life cost when people look to settle here. It’s a tourist draw.”

“In this part of the country, the way our Board (of County Commissioners) looks at it is more a quality of life issue for the people who live in Campbell County,” McCormick said.

Bateson and Heath echoed these sentiments. Bateson said Sheridan tries to work with the community to find out what they want at the public golf course and strives to keep rates reasonable and the course attractive.

“It’s a great community asset,” Bateson said. “It’s an attraction. It’s definitely a destination. We also use it to promote a lot of youth golf as well.”

The youth part is important. Offering children and teens something to do and keep them out of trouble is a point of emphasis for many golf managers.

For Heath and other city representatives, the benefits to keeping Kendrick Municipal Golf Course open and operating are worth the costs.

“We feel — I feel and the Council feels — that a community golf course is something that is an asset to our community,” he said. “Some of these assets do take a little extra subsidy.”

Do you think you know our downtown?

SHERIDAN — Picture this: you’re walking down Main Street in Historic Downtown Sheridan and you bump into a friend…literally. You and your friend were both looking down at your phones and didn’t see each other coming. Has that ever happened to you?

As handheld devices are the norm, and so is staring at them relentlessly, what details of life might we be missing around us?

The Sheridan Press took photos of details and features on the facades of 13 historic buildings in the downtown area and showed them to a variety of residents in man-on-the-street interviews, asking local pedestrians if they could identify the building.

The results were clear.

Save for Ryan Koltiska, director of marketing and communications at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce and self-proclaimed student of architecture, and Jason Goehring, a martial arts instructor who said he walks everywhere, the young residents were able to identify far fewer features than others. Though some young people had lived in Sheridan all their lives, and some of their elders were more recent transplants, the latter group clearly spent more time looking around.

Teens Dawson Olson and Elijah Rueda said they ride their bikes on Main Street often, during which time they are usually using their phones to stream music and looking down. After Olson could identify only the WYO Theater, and Rueda didn’t recognize any of the pictures, they said they may look up more often now.

Koltiska was one of the only people able to identify the location of a stone lion’s head, which hangs at the roofline of First Interstate Bank along the north edge.

He recalls the first time he noticed these unique features, last year when the bank took down its electronic sign and he was looking around for it.

“When I looked up, I realized I never knew there were gargoyles up there,” Koltiska said. “So if you would have asked me that last year I probably wouldn’t have known that.”

No one was able to identify the Old Sheridan Press Building.

Located at 234-250 North Main St. the Old Sheridan Press Building was erected in 1910 and housed the daily newspaper from 1942-1975.

Featuring a “K” in the stone on the façade, many people interviewed confused it with the Keenan building, but this one was actually a Kendrick building.

John B. Kendrick, a former governor and U.S. Senator, commissioned many buildings — including the Best Out West Mall (1914) and the JCPenney building (1907) — all of which are easily identified by the engraved “K” at the top of the façade.

What brings you down to Historic Downtown Sheridan? When you spend time walking Main Street is it for pleasure or necessity: shopping, dining, exercise, people watching?

Regardless of the purpose of your stroll, the history of the area, the unique architecture of the buildings and the small details that may be passing you by are begging you to look up.

Study: Youth marijuana use outpacing cigarettes

SHERIDAN — Junior high and high school students in Wyoming are using cigarettes and alcohol less than in recent years, according to new survey reports. However, in some cases, including in Sheridan County, marijuana use is now more frequently reported than cigarette use.

The Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center, a University of Wyoming department, administered a statewide student survey for the Wyoming Department of Health, seeking self-reported details on substance use from sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students.

Nearly 90 percent of all school districts in the state across 20 counties participated in the survey. Each of the Sheridan County school districts surveyed their students; however, SCSD2 did not administer the survey at the middle schools.

The survey asked students a number of questions, including whether or not the student had used any of 13 substances within the past 30 days or within their lifetime. The anonymous self-reporting survey is intended to gather an accurate portrayal of drug-use trends and is used by community agencies to set priorities for their efforts and sometimes to seek additional funding.

The survey found that while alcohol remains the most commonly reported substance used in all grade levels across the state, the total percentage of students using alcohol has declined. And while marijuana use is trending flat — despite the recent legalization in surrounding states — the decline in tobacco use means marijuana is now more frequently used.

Sheridan High School School Resource Officer Randel Pitchford said that while no students were cited for marijuana use on campus this year, he has seen an increase in issues off of school grounds.

“There were two incidents at the high school where there was an overwhelming smell of marijuana coming from the bathroom, but we never did discover who did it,” he said. “I had some parents bring information to me regarding some of their kids they saw via text or Snapchat talking about some kids in the school going down to Colorado and bringing some back, so I know it’s going on and I know some of our students are involved in it, but so far they have kept it out of the school and kept it under wraps.”

He added that it can be difficult to catch students on campus at times, as there are laws regulating processes and they typically just wait for someone to come forward with a suspicion or accusation.

“The school can search anyone at any time, but I can’t,” Pitchford said. “I’m bound by the Fourth Amendment so I have to have probable cause. So, if there is a suspicion they can call the student down to the office and search their person and their possessions, then if they find something they can call me.

“And they can’t drug test but if they appear under the influence; they’ll call me and I’ll use my field training to do some field sobriety tests and see if they are intoxicated,” Pitchford added. “I pretty much know who is using the marijuana and who is getting it, but I need more concrete evidence to do something about it. Some factual and trustworthy information has come from parents but unfortunately the parent who provided me the information backed out. We’ll see what happens next year and hopefully we can curb these kids before we have to take legal action.”

Pitchford said most parents are hesitant to involve the authorities when their child is involved, but sometimes that can be the best thing for them.

“Yeah the kid may end up on probation but that may be exactly what they need to get back on the straight and narrow. And if we can fix it before they are 18, it won’t be on their personal record,” he said. “If it continues past when they are 18, it stays on their record and affects the rest of their lives. And we’re not all about enforcement; we really do sit down and try to find the best solution for each kid.”

Oftentimes, he said, the best solution is in fact drug court, which will provide monthly drug testing and counseling to help kids sober up and get back on track.

A task force comprised of the county attorney’s office, truancy workers, juvenile probation, drug court officials and the SROs meets once a week to discuss each of the juvenile cases and try to develop an individual plan for each one.

Though the marijuana infractions are occurring off-campus, Pitchford has issued citations at school for alcohol and tobacco use this year, at both of the high schools and junior highs.

“Alcohol has been a constant and I suspect this summer we’ll have a rash of MIPs,” Pitchford said. “We had two instances here on campus where students either have alcohol on their possession or were intoxicated. One had it mixed in with his soft drink in his backpack.”

In addition to these substances, prescription medication use is on the rise, and students in Sheridan County self-reported the highest rate of use of over-the-counter medications of any county in the state. Pitchford said there have been several incidents of prescription medication offenses at the junior high this school year.

“Tobacco and alcohol they get a minor in possession citation — it’s only illegal because of their age — but misusing prescriptions is a straight misdemeanor,” Pitchford said. “We’ve also seen a rise in Vap Pens. That is a tobacco product so it is the same as tobacco and we saw quite a few of those at both schools this year.”

Pitchford said kids need to know that these actions affect our society and our community, not just themselves.

“The people that are doing the drugs are the same people that are breaking into your cars and stealing your property, so if you know it is going on let’s take care of it and say something because it affects all of us,” he said, adding that parents need to educate themselves on the symptoms and be willing to come forward as well. “Routinely check your kids’ cellphones. The parent that came to me with the information I got this year, it was the first time she had ever looked at her kids cellphone. He had been involved in it for months and she had no idea.

“When a student who is typically an A or B student starts being a C or D student and missing class, that is a pretty big indicator that they are up to no good at some point,” he added. “You have the right to search your children’s rooms, cars and backpacks. Just get involved.”


Percentage of 12th grade students in Sheridan County who reported abuse of each substance at some point in their lifetime:

  • Alcohol – 66
  • Marijuana – 44
  • Cigarettes – 42
  • Chewing tobacco – 30
  • Misuse of prescription medications – 18
  • Misuse of over-the-counter medication – 17 (highest use per county percentage in the state)
  • Ecstasy/MDMA – 11 (third highest use per county percentage in the state)
  • LSD – 10
  • Cocaine – 9 (second highest use per county percentage in the state)
  • Inhalants – 6
  • Heroin – 6 (second highest use per county percentage in the state)
  • Methamphetamines – 4 (third highest use per county percentage in the state)
  • Steroids – 2

Other concern areas in which Sheridan County ranked high in the state:

  • Displayed intent to use drugs as an adult — 40 percent of 10th-graders (highest)
  • Stated their friends use drugs – 40 percent of 10th- graders (highest)
  • Perceived rewards for antisocial behavior – 45 percent of 10th-graders (highest)
  • Picked on by a fellow student several times or very often during the past 12 months – 28 percent of 12th-graders (highest) and 27 percent of 10th-graders (third highest)
  • Bullied by a fellow student several times or very often during the past 12 months – 23 percent of 12th-graders (highest)
  • Verbally attacked, bullied or harassed someone in the past 12 months – 28 percent of 12th-graders (third highest) and 34 percent of 10th-graders (highest)
  • Displayed favorable attitudes toward antisocial behavior – 45 percent of 12th-graders (second highest)
  • Displayed favorable attitudes toward drug use – 39 percent of 10th-graders (third highest)


Percentage of 10th-grade students in Sheridan County who reported problem behaviors in the past 12 months:

  • Did something illegal – 44
  • Came to school when drunk or high – 17
  • Sold illegal drugs – 14 (highest per county percentage in the state)
  • Attacked someone with the idea of causing serious harm – 9
Local students seek college degrees with options

SHERIDAN — It may come as no surprise that enterprise in Wyoming differs from the national norms, with industries such as energy and agriculture dominating the workforce. But when the youth of Wyoming and Sheridan County grow up and move on to their collegiate studies, are they preparing themselves to remain in Wyoming and in these industries, or are they choosing another focus that may lead them away from home?

Enrollment in post-secondary institutes continues to rise, with approximately 21 million students heading to class this year. At these schools, hundreds of majors are available.

According to College Factual, the 10 most popular college majors in the nation are ones that are broad in scope — offering a choice of options after graduation — and remain relatively unchanged year after year. From business administration and management to English, history, accounting and psychology, the old norms hold strong in national student selection.

And the University of Wyoming is no exception. The most popular majors at UW include nursing, education, general psychology, business administration and management and criminal justice — all which are also top 10 majors nationwide.

Here at Sheridan College, students can earn degrees and certificates in 24 different fields. The most popular programs are starting students on a similar path as UW with the bulk of students in studies for degrees in health professions, liberal arts and sciences and the humanities.

SC students do break from the norm in some areas, however, as engineering technologies and engineering-related fields hold a higher percentage of student interest than the national average.

Most of the local high schools do not survey outgoing seniors as to what major they intend to pursue. Sheridan High School Dean of Students and Post-High School Planner Ed Fessler said even if the students already knew what they planned to study, it would likely change.

During their senior year, SHS students are surveyed as to their anticipated future goals in broad terms, asking if they intend to attend a two- or four-year post-secondary institution, enter the workforce or the military, or one of many other options.

The same students are again contacted during the October following their graduation and asked what they ended up doing.

Demonstrating Fessler’s statement, 159 of the 2014 graduating seniors planned to enroll in college, with only seven students planning to enter the workforce. In October, 134 had enrolled in school and 35 had entered the workforce.

The trends at SC and UW are typically representative of these students as 66 of the 78 students from that class who enrolled in a two-year college attended SC and 32 of the 56 students at universities went on to UW.

Fort Mackenzie High School guidance counselor Sally Stults had an idea of what her recent students planned to pursue, with diesel mechanics and automotive mechanics topping the list. While this and cosmetology, another favorite of the FMHS students, are not on the top of many national lists, the remaining interests of education, nursing and culinary arts are.

But these traditional majors may see some competition in the future. As times continue to change, and advances in technology shape the future of industry, new majors are continually being created.

Mashable — a news source that focuses on information and resources for “the Connected Generation” by reporting on digital innovation — reports that as of 2013, Newberry College in South Carolina offers a social media major and minor while schools such as Baylor and Maine College of Art offer degrees in new media — which they define as the consumption of media via digital devices.

Beyond media, technology continues to create innovations in science and medicine.

Nanotechnology — the scientific study of extremely small things, including the manipulation of atoms and molecules — first became a major when the University of Toronto added it in 2001. Now, a number of schools, from Louisiana Tech University to the University of Wisconsin, are offering a bachelor’s degree in the study.

One emerging trend has already found roots in Sheridan County. Robotics engineering has grown in popularity since it was first offered in 2007 at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and perhaps with the help of programs like Lego Robotics at Big Horn Elementary School this trend will make its way to Wyoming.


10 most popular majors in the U.S.

  1. History
  2. English language and literature
  3. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies and humanities
  4. Accounting
  5. Criminal justice and corrections
  6. Teacher education and professional development
  7. General biology
  8. Nursing
  9. General psychology
  10. Business administration and management
Flood of emotions at TRHS graduation

DAYTON — Many emotions surfaced at Sunday’s graduation ceremony at Tongue River High School. There were tears at the closing of a chapter of life and hope for everything to come in the future.

As the graduates lined up and “Pomp and Circumstance” began to play, moms and dads across the gymnasium looked at their children in their caps and gowns — many likely still seeing them as toddlers in diapers — and breathed a collective sigh of relief: we did it.

After every scraped knee, every smile at seeing their child’s joy and every worry about where in the world little Shania or Austen was hiding, these parents and guardians had lived to watch their child walk across the stage into adulthood.

There were some who, about 16 years ago, wondered if they would see this moment.

When graduate Courtney Jolovich was about 2 years old, her mom, Alyssa Jolovich, looked out the window and saw her little girl running across the top of a horse trailer.

“Her brothers taught her how to climb up but forgot to tell her how to get down,” Alyssa Jolovich said. “I was on the phone, and I hung up screaming and ran to go get her.”

Jolovich laughed at the memory and talked with pride about how her daughter will be attending Black Hills State University to run track and major in human services. She then began to cry.

“She’s my baby. I’m just proud of her and wish her the best.”

Mommas weren’t the only ones crying, either.

Ronnie Tennill, father of graduate Alex Tennill, had come up from Missouri to be at the graduation. Alex Tennill came to Dayton to do a semester at TRHS with his friend and liked it so much he stayed a little longer.

“I guess it’s the end of an era,” Tennill said through tears. “It’s just one of them things. I’m just glad he’s graduating.”

As for words of advice to his son who will attend Nevada Welding School in Missouri, Tennill had this to say: “Put your nose to the grindstone, buddy.”

Across the aisle, Billy and Jenny Bolt, parents of salutatorian Casey Caywood, marveled at the lack of worry and heartache their son had caused. Caywood was an active community volunteer and FCCLA member who will attend Montana Tech in Butte, Montana, to study petroleum engineering.

“He’s my baby, so that’s the hardest part,” Jenny Bolt said. “But I just hope he finds happiness and doesn’t stress out about the little details and the small stuff in life.”

Billy Bolt wished that Caywood would spread his wings and experience all the world has to offer.

On a similar strain, John Johnston, father to graduate Michael Johnston, marveled at how fine of a young man their son had become and looked forward to seeing him major in English at Sheridan College, pursue a career and start a family.

Just not too fast, mother Nancy Johnston urged.

“Time flies, so cherish every moment,” she said, tears rolling down her cheeks.

For graduate Micaiah Huff, it was the move to Dayton that helped him find his passion.

His parents, Tim and Charmaine Huff, are the directors of Camp Bethel near Burgess Junction in the Bighorn Mountains. At camp and through wildland firefighting classes at TRHS, Micaiah Huff has decided to attend Central Wyoming College for an outdoor leadership program.

While their son’s pursuit of an outdoorsy career is exciting for the Huffs, they were most proud of who he has become.

“He’s a quiet, strong leader, and it’s just been fun to watch him,” Tim Huff said. “He’s not one for peer pressure or to follow the group. He’s his own person, and we’re just proud of him and how he’s decided to follow the Lord and to serve him in all things that he does.”

Since Huff’s advice to his son on his graduation day was to seek God first in everything, his pride in his son who was already seeking to follow that advice was evident.

As the band began to play a few minutes before the 6 p.m. ceremony start time, the Huffs had another realization. After raising four boys over a 23-year time span, they were set to experience a new season in life. They did it, and now they, too, were walking into a bright new future.

  • Total graduates: 34
  • Total scholarship dollars earned: $264,536
  • Valedictorian: Amanda Buller
  • Salutatorian: Casey Caywood
  • Keynote speaker: Teacher and coach Pete Kilbride, who urged the students to communicate clearly, communicate boldly, gather a large “key chain” of skills and knowledge and to follow the plan while being willing to take risks and live on the edge.
  • Class motto: If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. ~Stephen Hunt
While many will don cap and gown, others choose a different path

SHERIDAN — Payton Mills would have finished her junior year at Sheridan High School this year, if she stayed in school. But bullying led to her skipping school, which led to truancy issues with the law, which led to dropping out as soon as she was legally old enough to do so.

“I don’t know why, but I didn’t really fit in, probably because it’s cliquey and I don’t do the clique thing; I just do my own thing and people don’t really like that,” Mills said.

But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up in California, Mills had a lot of friends, felt comfortable in school and earned good grades.

Later, a change in her family situation led her and her mother to move to Colorado.

“In California, I was never bullied because we all grew up together and all the parents knew each other,” Mills said. “In Colorado, I was bullied for the first couple of years but then it sort of calmed down. That’s why I didn’t want to move again when we came here; I was scared to go through that again. And it was bad. So, I probably would have stayed in school in Colorado, but here I just couldn’t do it. I tried.”

The biggest problem at Sheridan High School, Mills said, was the girls. They would call her names and make up rumors about her personality or lifestyle choices. She never really made any friends she would spend time with outside of school and never truly connected to any adults in the school either.

Mills said perhaps if there was an adult on her side she would have made it to the end. Her favorite teacher, Kevin Riser, tried to help and keep her in school, but it was too little too late.

“He told me to sit in his classroom every day and we would figure it out together, but I didn’t want to be that kid who sat in a classroom every day because no one likes them,” Mills said. “If there was someone there to help me get through school without having me stay with them all day it may have helped. But they would have had to have been there from my freshman year on to help me through from the beginning.”

Another factor affecting her grades was the change in curriculum between the different school systems.

“In Colorado, I was ahead in math in eighth grade and then when I moved to Sheridan I was at the level of a seventh-grade math student,” she said. “So their school systems are behind Wyoming and it messed me up a lot trying to catch up.”

In her sophomore year, Mills moved to Fort Mackenzie High School, hoping that would be the solution to her various problems. However, she didn’t find the classes challenging enough.

“I didn’t really learn anything there, and if I’m going to be in school I want to be learning,” Mills said.

So in her junior year, she returned to SHS. With the same problems awaiting her, she didn’t stay for long.

“I went probably a total of 10 days out of the whole semester I was there,” she said.

“My mom was always at work so I would just go sit at home. … My mom was getting a call every day saying Payton’s not here and I got in trouble a lot from my mom and my grandma.”

As state law requires high school attendance until age 16, Mills was put in “Diversion,” a truancy probation program in which a probation officer tracked her attendance. But after getting off probation, her attendance immediately began to suffer again.

“I told my grandma, instead of me getting in trouble we may as well look at other options that will work for me because I was tired of being in trouble as well,” Mills said.

She didn’t want to do online school, because she felt sitting at a computer for two years just to earn credits was a waste of her potential. She knew she was probably ready to take and pass the high school equivalency certificate tests at Sheridan College, but she wanted something more than that.

She opted to enroll in SCOPE.

The SCOPE program is a community partnership between Sheridan College, the Department of Workforce Services and other local community foundations and businesses. It offers a 13-week program designed to provide employment training to its participants while preparing them to take the General Education Development exam to earn a Wyoming High School Equivalency Credential.

“I know a lot of people who dropped out and now they don’t even have a job, they aren’t doing anything except partying,” Mills said. “So I think SCOPE, yeah it’s a three-month long five-day-a-week thing, but it’s so much easier than just not having anything. And I wasn’t thinking about going to college before, but now after going through SCOPE I want to go to college; I want to have a good job; I want to go somewhere.”

Currently, while working two serving jobs at Wyoming Cattle and Creek Company and Powder River Pizza, Mills is working with an enrollment agent at Sheridan College to try to attain scholarships. She is hoping to study criminal justice in the fall, what would have been only her senior year at SHS.

“My grandma is really proud that I graduated,” she said. “They didn’t think I was going to go through with it, but I was there the whole time and now my grandma’s egging on college.”

Based on the options that were available to her through the state and the school, Mills feels she made the best decision for her, though she notes that she doesn’t encourage students to just drop out. Rather, she said, they should consider all their options in a worst case scenario.

“I think if I was required to stay in school until 17 or 18 I either would have been held back a grade to catch up or I would have done online school instead, both of which would not have made me want to keep going to school,” Mills said. “It would have changed my path a lot and I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I’m at now preparing to go to college. I was ready to move on.

“If there was an option to graduate sooner, even if it meant another year and credit recovery, I think I would have stuck it out,” she continued. “I just couldn’t be there for the rest of the two years I had, but if there was an option to get out sooner, I would have done whatever I could to get there.”

With conviction of mind and determination to find a way to complete her goals that worked for her, she’s moving on. This, of course, is not the case for all non-graduates.

From Pearl Harbor to Iraq, soldiers give all

“Through their deeds, the dead of battle have spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could. But we can only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they gave a last full measure of devotion.”

— President Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address




SHERIDAN — Death — the last full measure of devotion — has been paid by more than 1 million American men and women in the U.S. military since 1775.

That is double Wyoming’s entire population.

But for the millions more who have served in the U.S. military and continued to live, there have been other measures of devotion — sacrifice, pride and scars both spoken and unspeakable. For those veterans, what does it mean to be a veteran? What are the measures of their devotion?

Mel Heckman, local World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor — one of only four left in the state — will say it doesn’t “mean” anything to be a veteran; he just was, is and always will be. His stories of service and his life since — indeed the lives of all 50,000 Wyoming veterans and 21 million U.S. veterans — indicate differently.

Perhaps it is time to stop taking war stories at face value and search for the meaning beneath the words. Perhaps we owe our veterans — brave, battered, successful or struggling — at least that much.

The Sheridan Press sat down with two local veterans to consider their measures of devotion.

Heckman was 17 when he joined the Navy and 18 when he watched the USS Arizona sink in Pearl Harbor.

Randy Sundquist served in both Vietnam and Iraq and says he’d go back if he could.


The scars

In the 1930s, Heckman, now 91, delivered a rural route for the Sunday edition of the Express Wagon.

“I kept reading about a guy named Adolf,” Heckman said. “He kept saying, ‘I’ll just take one more country and I’ll be satisfied.’ I thought to myself, ‘This man will never be satisfied until he has all of Europe under his wing.’”

At 16, Heckman decided he would join the Navy. In December 1940, at 17, he was sworn into the Navy, trained as an aviation machinist and assigned to the Pacific Fleet on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor.

At 7:50 a.m. Dec. 7, 1941, Heckman watched America explode into World War II when a Japanese plane bombed Hangar No. 3 near the fire station where he’d been called in to work weekend duty and relieve the regular firemen.

“Everything was on fire,” Heckman said. “Every plane was damaged, every hangar was burning, every ship was sinking or in the process of being sunk.”

Heckman watched the USS Arizona get hit and blow out of the water. He cites the numbers of men lost — 1,177 on the Arizona, 429 on the Oklahoma, a total of more than 3,000 that day — like a telephone number dialed so many times it’s etched into memory.

Did he know any of the men?

“Oh, yes, a lot were my friends.”


At 18 in Lusk, Wyoming, in 1967, the war games of Sundquist’s youth became real. He was drafted by the Army for Vietnam, so he promptly enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“Marines had a reputation of being able to survive some of the toughest circumstances you could ever imagine,” Sundquist said.

He was shipped to San Diego — his first time on a jet — had a layover in Hawaii — a sweet smell he can still recall — and eventually landed in Da Nang, Vietnam, where he served with the 1st Military Police Battalion and worked to protect I-Corps bridges that would allow Viet Cong in to destroy.

“I feel that PTSD is still with me from Viet Nam but not as intense as it was. I can still see certain scenes but don’t dream about them like I use to.”

Sundquist wrote those words in a journal entry about memories that trigger post-traumatic stress disorder. They were followed by dates and descriptions from his service in Iraq with the Wyoming National Guard: sleeping without protection while taking rocket mortar fire, IEDs on a duty to protect convoys between Baghdad to Mosul, meeting some fellow National Guard soldiers from Washington on July 13, 2004, only to find out some were killed the next day when the enemy drove a car bomb into the Al Rashed Hotel.

“That was hard to take, they weren’t even from Wyoming.”



The pride

Inside both men’s houses there are scrapbook walls.

From his recliner in his living room, Heckman can see the 1st Extra edition of the Honolulu Gazette with the screaming headline “Oahu Under Attack,” his certificates naming him a Naval Aviator and Naval Aviation Pilot and his Purple Heart.

On Sundquist’s wall there is a photo of his dad, a Navy Corpsman, a black and white photograph — Marine Corps K Company 2nd Battalion, Oct. 1967 — a young Sundquist sixth in from the right in the back row and a certificate of appreciation from the Navy SEALS for his help as a Platoon Sergeant in providing security for the Iraqi president leading up to elections in June 2004.

While both men carry scars — mental and physical — they carry their pride even higher.

Sundquist was 55 years old when his National Guard squad was activated to go to Iraq to help establish democracy in a country used as a battleground for insurgents from Syria, Iran and Pakistan.

“They didn’t tell me I had to go. They said, ‘We need you to go because of your combat experience,’ and I said, ‘No problem.’”

He was confident in his training and even remarked that in many ways combat life is easier than civilian life because of the training to handle almost any situation encountered. The blindsides come in civilian life.

Heckman echoed those sentiments when he calmly stated that Pearl Harbor caused him no panic.

“I was in the Navy; I was military; I was well-trained,” he said. “Nothing came to me as a surprise. It was military against military. We did our best to defend what he had.”

After the attack at Pearl Harbor, the Navy decided to take every island within 1,000 miles. He went with 30 men to Baomyra 1,000 miles southwest of Pearl Harbor and spent nine months there. While there he was noticed by Admiral Chester Nimitz and eventually allowed to attend Officer Candidate School in Georgia and flight school in Florida.

“Yeah,” he said simply about the honor, a swell of pride playing at the corners of his lips.


The sacrifice

In his training, Heckman was picked to fly the Hellcat, a one-seated fighter plane.

“After I was through school, I wanted to get back to the Pacific, do a little payback time,” Heckman said. “But, the Navy told me I better not go back to the Pacific — too much hate. So they sent me out to the East Coast.”

Heckman agreed he had too much hate — in the Navy you better agree, he joked — but the altering of perception and emotion is perhaps an unexpected sacrifice of war. What can one do when he has seen maps drawn up by Japanese workers employed by the Navy at Pearl Harbor that show the exact location of hospitals, ships and fire stations and were given to the Japanese military?

Sundquist was asked to go back to Iraq two more times after his first tour in 2004-2005. His wife, Florence, said no. He listened to his bride.

After all, she was the one who had to talk herself down from a worried frenzy when she saw bombings and destruction in Iraq on TV and wondered, “Was he?” and “What if?”

She was the one who could hear mortar fire when she spoke with Sundquist on the phone and the one who had to pretend to believe him when he told her it was the screen door slamming shut.


The honor and the hope

A week ago at the Sheridan College graduation, Sundquist — who earned an associate’s in general technology — received a standing ovation when he crossed the stage. Florence has a video of it on her phone; it’s a shaky image because she was crying tears of joy for her husband.

Sundquist has never sought that honor — except for veterans who have fallen — but it’s nice when it comes.

“You don’t think about it,” Sundquist said. “I never thought anything about any of the stuff that I ever did. I don’t even take credit for any of it because I think that my life’s always been directed by what God’s wanted me to do. It wasn’t anything that I’ve done.”

Heckman will also say he was just doing his expected act of service — and people believe him because his act of service became a lifestyle. After the war he joined the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, becoming chairman of the Wyoming chapter in 2005.

He volunteers at the VA medical center, he calls the governor every year to ask him to issue a proclamation for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, he helps orchestrate the Memorial Day parade and he tells every veteran he knows that he will always answer his phone, day or night, if they need to talk.

“It never stops. From the first bomb that was dropped at Pearl Harbor until today I’m still busy working, helping the veterans who can’t help themselves,” Heckman said. “I know what a veteran’s made out of, I know what a soldier’s made out of, I know how they’re trained and what they’re willing to do. They’re willing to sacrifice their life so we can gather here in this living room like we are right now in absolute freedom.”

World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Mel Heckman stands outside his home in Sheridan. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Mel Heckman stands outside his home in Sheridan. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

‘Measures of Devotion’ series will honor local veterans

SHERIDAN — The last World War I veteran in America died more than four years ago. More than 600 World War II veterans die per day.

With each death, stories are left untold and unpreserved.

That is one reason The Sheridan Press will embark on a journey to tell the stories of local veterans from this Memorial Day weekend through Veterans Day.

But that is not the only reason.

As Keith Davidson, a member of the Wyoming Veterans Commission, has reminded crowds at Veterans Day ceremonies: “All veterans take the oath of office to defend the country of the United States. They all write a check payable up to life.”

While many have paid up to life — and deserve respect for their payment — millions more have paid somewhere in the spectrum leading “up to.”

Their scars qualify as measures of devotion, to which President Abraham Lincoln alluded in his Gettysburg address. But their stories are not all about their scars. Their measures also include discipline, pride, compassion and strength of body and character — in peacetime and war.

The Sheridan Press series, “Measures of Devotion,” will examine these stories of our local veterans. Look for one story per week, starting with World War II and continuing through Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Iraq and Afghanistan.

The fall edition of Destination Sheridan will also be dedicated to veterans — and their measures of devotion.

Mother, daughter open late night coffee shop

SHERIDAN— Andi’s Coffee House isn’t located on bustling Main Street; it’s located out of an old residential house and there is a good chance you have never heard of the brand of coffee they brew.

Sheridan’s newest coffee shop is anything but conventional — and owners Annie and Dionne Hendrickson wouldn’t have it any other way. On May 8, the mother-daughter duo opened an evening coffee shop on Broadway Street, with operating hours from 2 p.m. to midnight.

“We are just excited to bring this new coffee experience to Sheridan,” Dionne Hendrickson said.

Like the name of the shop itself (which is comprised of the first two letters of both of the owners’ names) starting the coffee shop was a shared vision for the Hendricksons. After spending time in the Pacific Northwest, Dionne Hendrickson started to grow accustomed to the evening coffee shops that populate the region. But when she returned to Sheridan, she was immediately missing that late-at-night location to enjoy a cup of coffee and read a book. Likewise, Annie Hendrickson was determined to use her baking talents and turn it into a career.

“I feel as a student or a younger person (in Sheridan), I feel sort of overlooked,” Dionne Hendrickson said. “There are more of them than people think … sometimes people just need a place late at night to go where they don’t have to drink (alcohol).”

When the decision was made in March 2014 to start the business, finding the perfect location became a focus. The Hendricksons came across an old residential house, zoned for commercial, located just off of Fifth Street.

When they first chose the location, the building was in dire need of some elbow grease. The century-old house had been vacant for many years and had not been tended to since the 1970s.

But it was its unique location and availability that made it an attractive place to set up the new enterprise.

“We just liked the building, we just walked around and visioned where things could go,” Dionne Hendrickson said.

With large dining room tables, small padded chairs and an open front porch, the coffee shop now resembles more of a quiet living space than your typical bustling shop.

“There is nothing corporate about it,” Annie Hendrickson said. “ … We like that it is in the old railroad district and having the trains go by.”

As a coffee connoisseur, Dionne Hendrickson hopes to bring some of the latest and newest coffee trends into Sheridan.

Andi’s Coffee House will feature specialized coffee in rich and flavorful drinks — ordering from smaller distributors whose beans arrive from all corners of the globe. Every few months, coffee from a different region will be featured at their shop in Sheridan.

“The people we buy from have a relationship with the coffee farmer from where the coffee is coming from … they have buyers that go out and try the coffee before they buy it and sell it to us,” Annie Hendrickson said.

Even the baked goods and treats will be specialized. Annie Hendrickson will make all the baked goods from scratch inside their coffee shop, and items will be made fresh daily.

Annie has been an amateur baker for most of her life but said she is excited about the prospects of selling her goods professionally.

“It’s been a real learning experience with learning how much to make at one time,” Annie Hendrickson said. “It’s been a real education and I feel like it will be for a while.”

Nick Siddle reflects on 22-year career at SHS

SHERIDAN — Sheridan High School has a history of holding onto its agriculture teachers for long periods of time. Since the 1940s, they have only had three lead teachers with one at the reigns from the 1940s through 1967 and the second from then until 22 years ago when Nick Siddle came along. As Siddle enters retirement, though, he said he feels he’s had a good career.

Siddle is a Wyoming man, born and raised, who never lived outside the state.

Originally from Cody he is a graduate of Northwest College in Powell and the University of Wyoming.

As a young student, Siddle’s family raised hay and he worked on a ranch just outside of Cody.

He was active in the Future Farmers of America organization and even went on to be the state vice president after high school. It was his commitment to the FFA that drove him to be an agriculture teacher.

“FFA was something that motivated me all throughout high school and that was how I chose my career,” Siddle said. “I really enjoyed the whole field of agriculture as well, but I thought that FFA was a good motivator for kids and because it made such a difference in my life, I thought I could help kids in that way.”

The FFA differs from extra-curricular activities as it is the only high school club that has a United States charter governing it, functioning as an inter-curricular club — meaning it is intertwined with agriculture courses and students must be enrolled in the courses in order to participate in the club.

Ward Cotton has been Siddle’s teaching and advising partner at SHS for the past 10 years — his fifth and final partner throughout his career — and he said though the program is not based on teachers, it’s based on what it does for kids, it helps when you have really good teachers. Siddle, he said, has made a true difference in the program.

“He is kind of a force,” Cotton said. “He is almost bigger than life, literally, but mostly he just has a lot of charisma and a lot of energy. He might be getting a little tired, he pushes really hard. Even now he’s pushing.

“A lot of people the last four days of their job they might back off but he hasn’t,” he continued. “He’s done a fantastic job and I’m sure he’ll be an active supporter for a long time.”

Siddle said he will continue to help with the FFA as much as they want him to, but he also has plans that do not involve school, for once.

“I guess I’ve gotten up and gone to school every day since I was 6 years old and I figured maybe it was time to not get up and go to school anymore,” Siddle said. “I’ll hopefully be involved in some hunting and fishing and other recreational things I haven’t had much time to do for the last 22 years.”

Siddle also plans to spend time with a new grandson in Sheridan and another who is on the way in California.

As the vice president of the Sheridan WYO Rodeo board, he will also stay busy with that.

“Our rodeo board is 12 volunteer members and from now until rodeo I would imagine that every one of our members will have 30-plus hours a week in, and then during rodeo it’s basically a 24-hour-a-day job,” Siddle said. “I met the requirements from the state for retirement this year and the district was going to restructure the incentive a little bit and I decided that this was a pretty good year to move on.”

The success of his FFA students in his final year of teaching also made it a good year to end on.

“The best moments have been when I’ve had really successful students who have won state and national championships over the years, seeing them go from where they started and being that competitive in the end,” Siddle said. “We had a great year this year — we had a state championship speaker and a state championship livestock team, we won the overall FFA leadership sweepstakes at state — so we had a really satisfying year and a really good way to go out.”

As Siddle moves on to the next phase of his life — retirement — the question is will young Clay Christianson stick around for a couple decades after he joins the program for the 2015-16 school year?

Christianson completed his student teaching under Cotton and Siddle before going on to teach in Wright, and the current ag team is confident he will continue leading a strong team of students.

Christianson and Cotton will share the duties of overseeing the FFA.

Siddle said he feels he is leaving his career in a solid place, and he has no regrets as he moves on.

“I have been a solid part of many kids’ lives and I feel really good about that,” he said. “It’s been a great career and I look forward to more things to come in the Sheridan area. I’m not going anywhere.”

End of a rivalry? Second Gillette high school given nod

SHERIDAN — For years, Sheridan High School and Campbell County High School have duked it out on the hardwood, the turf, the track, in the pool and everywhere in between. They’re sworn enemies with a common goal: defeating the other on the way to a state championship.

But with the recent 5-2 vote by Campbell County school trustees in favor of adding a second high school in Gillette, there has been a discussion on how it will affect high school athletics in the state of Wyoming.

What does a second Gillette high school mean for the Sheridan Broncs?

The immediate concern is the Casper effect. As it currently sits in Casper, there is no boundary dividing the two high schools, Natrona and Kelly Walsh. This means, in simplest terms, students can choose which school to attend. “School of choice” it is often called.

While this may seem like a way to ensure students pick the school with the best fit, it also becomes a slippery slope when it comes to athletics. Many people, Sheridan activities director and head football coach Don Julian included, see it as a potential to stack one school based on athletics.

“When you don’t create boundaries, if you go ‘school of choice,’ you put your kids and your coaches in a little bit of a predicament,” Julian said. “As much as anybody can say, ‘We’re not going to try and recruit,’ that will go on. Maybe not even by the coaches, but the parents will get together. They’ll get a group of fifth-graders or sixth-graders and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to all kind of stick together.’”

When you look at Gillette athletics and see such things as 13 straight state wrestling titles, it’s fair to assume most parents want their kids in that wrestling program. Dividing the district in half means many of those wrestlers will have to join a new wrestling program.

But Julian sees that as one of the biggest perks in adding a second high school. Not that it could make things easier for Sheridan wrestlers, but it creates twice as much opportunity for Gillette students.

“If I was a parent in that community, I’d be very excited about this,” he said. “All of a sudden you’ve doubled the opportunities for all the kids in that community.”

Julian also rejected any concerns about competitiveness.

Right now, Campbell County High School is the largest high school in Wyoming at about 2,400 students in grades 9-12. But CCHS is also the largest high school in the region — Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and Idaho — of cities with just one high school.

How does that compare to SHS? Splitting CCHS down the middle would create two high schools each still larger than Sheridan. Each season, the Broncs are competing with a high school with twice as many students.

Julian translates this to the biggest positive of the situation.

He assumes both schools would take 4A classifications, adding another school to the small 4A East conference. There are 12 teams in class 4A — 10 in football.

Those 12 teams are divided into two conferences, East and West. That puts just six teams in each conference, and four of those six teams qualify for the state tournament. This often brings in question if regional tournaments are even worth it in 4A.

Another 4A school creates the potential to expand the conference, maybe pull in a 14th school and add more competition within the conference.

It also evens out the conference geographically.

Right now, the 4A East is divided into CCHS, SHS, Laramie and the three Cheyenne high schools. That’s four trips to the southern tip of the state for Sheridan and Gillette and only two trips north for the other schools.

Another high school in Gillette would add another reasonably close opponent.

This would allow Sheridan to travel during the week, which they often do with CCHS at the junior high and junior varsity levels. It would also be another matchup where Sheridan didn’t need to stay overnight.

“When you think of our conference right now, us and Gillette are going south all the time,” Julian said. “This gives us at least another school up in this area.”

Another unknown is what the split in Gillette means for the rivalry in Sheridan. Sheridan junior Blake Godwin voiced his opinion via Twitter.

“Hope Gillette doesn’t get a second school. Call me crazy but Sheridan vs. Gillette is a rivalry that shouldn’t be messed with,” Godwin tweeted.

But Julian looks at a new school as just another rival for the Broncs.

“It’s a great rivalry, and it is a great day when we do get those victories over them,” he said. “Will it deter from that rivalry? Maybe so. But now we’ll have two weeks that are that exciting.”

While there are many unknowns still at this point, Julian is confident that the positives outweigh the negatives, and getting more kids involved is the ultimate goal of the project.

Campbell County schools Superintendent Boyd Brown said a lot of the decisions have come and will come from the community. His recommendation for the second high school was largely based on numerous polls and questionnaires filled out by students, parents and staff. While just over 50 percent of students were opposed to the second school, between 70 and 80 percent of staff and parents supported it.

Now, Brown said, similar strategies are in place as they continue to plan for the future.

The proposed plan has Gillette opening a second high school in 2017.

How it will affect athletics in the state of Wyoming, well, only time will tell.

SC honors history as veterans school at graduation Saturday

SHERIDAN — Sheridan College returned to its roots during the 66th annual commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon as the faculty, graduates and guests in attendance celebrated not only graduates but also veterans for their accomplishments.

Approximately 540 degrees and certificates were earned by Sheridan College students during the 2014-15 school year and many of them, along with those earning High School Equivalency Certificates and bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates, gathered in the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome to be recognized for the accomplishments.

Along with the recognition of academic prowess, the history of serving veterans resonated throughout the ceremony.

Sheridan College was opened in 1948 in large part to support veterans returning home from World War II. Shortly after the war ended, a GI Bill of Rights was passed to aid the many soldiers coming back who needed an education.

The Sheridan community rose to meet the need of veterans then and has been rising to meet the needs of student veterans since.

Many current and former members of the armed forces were recognized for their service, including keynote speaker Diane Carlson Evans, a former captain in the Army Nurse Corps, who served in the Vietnam War.

Evans is the founder, president and CEO of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Evans served in the Vietnam War at the age of 21 as a member of the Army Nurse Corps from 1968-69, but returned home to a hostile country that didn’t recognize her service, or the service of the many women around her.

After the dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial left her with a feeling of unfinished business, Evans made it her mission to have a statue dedicated in D.C. on the grounds near the wall portraying the women of the war. She also set out to identify the women who served and make their stories known to a country that had yet to acknowledge their contributions. After 10 years of arduous labor, she was successful.

“You cannot give up,” Evans told the graduates Saturday afternoon. “Take charge and take risks. Bring your integrity and your work ethic to all that you do. Don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t be a bystander and don’t be afraid of being criticized.

“An anonymous sage said, if you don’t want to be criticized, don’t say anything, don’t do anything and don’t be anything,” she continued. “Don’t be afraid of failing; it’s the way to learn to do things right.”

After 32 years of dedicated service to the Memorial Foundation, Evans will be retiring this Memorial Day.

She stressed to graduates the importance of service and noted that there are thousands of ways to serve our country out of uniform.

“I believe service plays a key role in human happiness and is critical for the achievement of a healthy society,” Evans said. “We live temporarily in what we take from this earth, but we live forever in what we give back.”

As graduates crossed the stage, their names and degrees or certificates were announced, but for veteran students, their prior service was also referenced. For these graduates, it was not just family and friends clapping in the audience but rather thunderous collective cheering and for some even standing ovations.

Two others were celebrated individually in the ceremony as Ken Thorpe was recognized as the Sheridan College Foundation Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient and Tiana Hanson received the President’s Award.

The President’s Award is given each year to a graduating sophomore receiving an associate’s degree with at least a 3.25 grade point average who is also an active member of the college and the community.

“This year’s recipient is the embodiment of what is best at Sheridan College,” said Dr. Paul Young, president of the Northern Wyoming Community College District. “She has shown the ability to work hard, model integrity and lead by example. She is a great example of someone who makes others’ lives better by her attitude and work ethic.”

Hanson is an elementary education major with a perfect GPA of 4.0. Young said she shows the same commitment to her Sheridan College basketball teammates and fellow classmates, is a volunteer with her church, a referee and coach of young athletes at the YMCA and much more.

“This year’s graduating class signifies both our students’ commitment to advancing their education as well as our commitment as a college to prepare them for the increasing demands of skilled, educated employees needed in the workforce,” Young said.

Daughters of the Revolution: Local DAR member finds herself through genealogy

SHERIDAN — Lois Huson Hall grew up in Clearmont, just down the road from an old brick house built by her grandfather. But Hall’s father passed away when she was just 6 months old — her grandmother passed six weeks before she was born — and being raised by a step-father she never really knew much about her heritage.

“Tex Ellis lived there and as far as I knew that was his house,” Hall said. “I think, for me, what was so good about learning my genealogy is everybody wants that hole within themselves to be filled with natural parents, no matter how good or bad the stepparent is. So I always had a little empty spot somewhere and this process has been kind of healing for me.”

Hall is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a service organization for women who can prove direct lineage from a Revolutionary War patriot. She is the descendent of Jacob Pettengill, a private from Connecticut who was at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

However, his tale is just the beginning on her family’s history. It was Pettengill’s son, Asaph Pattengill, (the spelling of the last name made slight changes throughout history according to birth, death and marriage certificates) who would connect Sheridan County to the war.

Asaph Pattengill and his wife, Sarah Arnold, had a daughter named Clarissa Pattengill (Hall’s grandmother). Clarissa Pattengill and her husband Edward “Doc” Huson moved west on the Oregon Trail in the 1880s, making the 1,500-mile trip from their then home in Wisconsin on horse and buggy.

“My grandfather always had a general store, a pharmacy and he did some medicine,” Hall said. “While they were living in Wisconsin during the Civil War, the rebels came and stole everything from their general store. So they moved to Iowa, where the first child was born.”

By the time Hall’s grandmother was 20, she had five children and two of them had died. In all, Hall’s grandmother had 16 children, Hall’s father being the youngest of the bunch.

“While they lived in Iowa, in 1881, my grandfather became very ill with typhoid fever so that is when they decided they were going to move to a drier climate,” Hall said.

“So the Huson family — with seven living children at that point — and Clarissa’s parents, started west with three covered wagons, oxen, cows, horses, pigs, chicken and furniture. On the side of the wagon, they had big barrels filled with sugar, water, rice and flour. They started out on the Oregon Trail and made it to Wyoming, coming through Cheyenne, Crazy Woman, Trabing and Buffalo.”

The family lived in the town of Trabing in a dugout, accompanied by more than 1,000 Indians and a rotating clan of outlaws seeking solitude.

From there the family moved to Buffalo, where Pattengill used his brickyard skills to contribute to the boom of population the area was experiencing.

“My grandfather’s bricks were smaller than anybody else’s so that’s how they knew which ones were his, and several houses built with his bricks are still standing,” Hall said. “The Holland House was the first two-story house built in Buffalo, and the Indians called it the Big Teepee.

“While they were there, my grandfather was the first justice of peace and my grandmother was one of 10 that started the first congregational church,” she added. “The bell that was put in at that time to serve the volunteer fire department is still being used at the congregational church in Buffalo.”

In his life, Hall’s grandfather was a store owner, pharmacist, postmaster, country doctor and even a preacher. In 1890, he and the family moved to what is now called Clearmont, but at the time was yet to be developed and soon to be referred to as the town of Huson.

“When my grandfather built this little town of Huson, it grew very rapidly and had 18 businesses including a Chinese laundry, a saloon with pool table and a hotel where rates were $1.50 a day with a 21-day meal ticket for $5 and a single meal ticket for $0.85,” Hall said. “My grandfather built a little brick house and that is where the wagons would stop on their way through Wyoming and my grandmother would feed them. They even started a newspaper, the Northern Wyoming Stinger.”

The editor of the Stinger was John Taylor, who after the town of Huson folded, moved to Sheridan where he worked as one of the first editors of the Sheridan Enterprise Newspaper and became five-time mayor of Sheridan.

While it lasted, the town was just two miles away from where Clearmont stands today, but little of it remains beyond the little brick house the Edward “Doc” Huson built.

“There was a school about a mile away that was built for all the kids that were there, but it isn’t there anymore,” Hall said. “They used the stone to repair a building in Clearmont a while back.”

It was in the little brick house in Huson that Hall’s birth father, Samuel Huson, was born. It was the house that Lois Hall thought of as just old Mr. Ellis’ house. But with a little research and knowledge of her lineage, now she can see reflections of her father, grandpa “Doc” and even the Revolutionary War patriot who started it all, reminding her that she came from somewhere and her family made a difference along the way.

Ranchester infrastructure: Ready for growth

RANCHESTER — Just one trip through Ranchester on U.S. Highway 14 and you’re bound to notice the construction: A mercantile across the street from the Information Center, a new school on the west end of town and more than one subdivision.

Most of these sites right now are just fencing or disturbed earth, some still years from completion. Even still, add it all together and you don’t have to be an economist to realize the town looks poised for growth.

An increased population means a greater demand on infrastructure, but Ranchester representatives say the town is equipped to handle such growth with a few tweaks along the way.

When Mayor Peter Clark moved to Ranchester in 1994, he said roughly 700 individuals called the town home. The 2000 U.S. Census, which registered 701 residents, backs up his recollection.

By 2010, the Census counted 855 people, a 22-percent increase. And, a 2013 estimate puts the town at 920 residents, an additional 7.6-percent gain.

“In the last 10 or so years it’s been steady,” Clark said.

New single-family homes promise to add to that figure. How much, however, comes down to anybody’s best estimate.

Town Engineer Chris Johnson projects 30 percent growth in the next five to 10 years. He bases his “wild guess” on private developer plans. Of course, as he quickly points out, this estimate could change at any moment. After all, the ‘80s were the last projected “boom,” and then Ranchester didn’t have a subdivision request for 20 years.

Much of the town’s current growth appears more stable than the typical Wyoming boom-bust cycle. The school is already approved and ready to go, and two subdivisions — including roads and utilities for homes — are moving forward.

If Ranchester does grow 30 percent in the next five to 10 years, Johnson says the town’s water supply is in good shape. Back in the mid-2000s, the town funded a 500,000-gallon water tank to add to its existing 500,000-gallon tank, good for 1 million gallons of water storage.

To put that in perspective, Johnson said the town uses about 100,000 gallons per day in the winter. And, on the “hottest, driest summer day,” use can exceed 300,000 gallons.

These figures could improve moving forward since Johnson said many of the water mains have been replaced the last few years.

“We’ve gotten rid of some of the old boy network infrastructure out there that was leaking and unmetered,” Clark added.

The water treatment plant, too, is sufficient for large-scale growth. And the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, when compiling a report to determine whether the new school was feasible, found the town’s fire flows more than adequate.

The DEQ also found, however, the town’s wastewater treatment facilities were “starting to push capacity.”

“So the town decided to pursue adding a new pond,” Johnson said. “I have since been working on the design for roughly doubling the size of our town’s sewage capabilities.”

The drawings are still at the preliminary level, and Johnson is working closely with the DEQ. Clark said the town has money saved through the consensus fund, general fund and Capital Facilities taxes.

In the meantime, the town has upgraded lines to improve flows into the sewer lagoons.

Clark said streets and garbage, like the town’s water, could handle any upcoming growth. Nearly the entire town is paved, except for a section in Mobile Circle.

On the highway, the Wyoming Department of Transportation is adding a turning lane and changing speed limits, which will eventually read 30 mph to the edge of town to accommodate the new school.

The town hauls its garbage to the Sheridan landfill.

Ranchester spends more than $3,000 a month on tipping fees, but Clark said the town maintains reasonable rates: about $28 per month for residential properties (one receptacle, collection once a week).

“We do some recycling out here,” he added. “We have our own recycling trailers we can take in for free. We also haul green waste.”

Overall, Clark and Johnson both emphasized the town has been proactive in updating its infrastructure over the past couple decades.

“I think we’re in pretty good shape [for growth],” Clark said, adding the town needs to continue to keep on top of any needs that pop up.

The only area identified as a problem, he restated, is the sewer lagoon, but planning ahead and establishing funding means the town can compensate for that moving forward.

In other words, if the town does grow to 1,000, 1,500 or more residents over the next decade, Ranchester representatives feel confident the town’s infrastructure could support the increased tax base.

Supreme Court: SCSD2 must turn over meeting minutes

SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Supreme Court has ruled that Sheridan County School District 2 must turn over minutes from executive sessions related to discussions concerning a proposed $45 million recreational facility.

The decision came on the heels of a more than one-year legal battle between the school district and The Sheridan Press that began in February 2014.

“The Supreme Court, as it has done many times before, has stood up for the right of the public to know what those who represent us are doing,” said attorney Bruce Moats, who represented The Sheridan Press in the case. “It is a victory, not for The Sheridan Press so much, but for the constituents of the school district.”

At the Whitney Benefits educational summit held in January 2014, an attendee mentioned the recreational facility. When The Press followed up and attempted to learn more about the project, Press reporters confirmed that the project had never been discussed in public meetings of the school board. Yet, the district had obtained architectural estimates, explored potential real estate purchases and even discussed bond initiatives for the project.

District officials and attorneys said that the school district had not tried to keep the project out of the public eye. In fact, SCSD2 attorney Kendall Hoopes 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.”

Later, SCSD2 attorney Kendal Hoopes claimed executive sessions were held to discuss real estate issues, provide legal advice given under attorney-client privilege, personnel and matters pertaining to potential litigation.

“The school district failed throughout this proceeding to identify why its discussions regarding the proposed recreational facility should have been in executive session,” Moats said. “In fact, the district never even acknowledged (in legal proceedings) it had closed discussions about the facility. The court’s decision makes it clear that they did.

“The court properly put the burden on the district to prove the executive sessions on the facility fit within the exemptions to public meetings,” Moats continued. “Importantly, school board members are not barred from answering questions about their closed discussions regarding their project, other than any legal advice that they received. This includes questions as to why the project was never discussed in open session.”

The Press asserted that the board couldn’t discuss anything under the claimed exemptions for executive sessions without discussing the project itself, which should have been done publicly.

In its decision, the Wyoming Supreme Court noted that the board went into executive session 19 times between Oct. 8, 2012, and Feb. 10, 2014. During those meetings, the board discussed matters including school construction projects, personnel, potential sites for various school buildings, administrative evaluations and contracts and the results of an audit.

Of those 19 executive sessions, the court noted that minutes of seven of those reflect discussions of matters relating to real estate at the high school.

The opinion notes:

The minutes of six of those seven sessions state that the district attorney provided legal counsel on matters involving the high school, including legal advice “concerning architectural contracts for the high school,” “real estate matter at SHS [Sheridan High School],” “bonding to upgrade SHS facilities,” “upgrading of SHS site,” “potential upgrades at SHS,” “acquisition of new sites at SHS,” and “contract with Sheridan Recreation.” The minutes of two executive sessions, Dec. 3, 2012, and March 16, 2013, state that the “Board examined potential new sites near” or “at” Sheridan High School and “(publicity regarding consideration may cause a likely hood [sic] of an increase in price).

The decision dismisses the district’s argument that the minutes fall under the exemption allowed concerning potential or existing litigation. It also notes that the minutes of the executive sessions “reveal nothing substantive” about the content of the legal advice and therefore should not be kept confidential.

In terms of the district’s claims that the discussions fell under the real estate exemption, the court ruled that the minutes do not identify any of the actual information the board received concerning real estate or potential sites and also shouldn’t be confidential.

“The minutes are simply insufficiently descriptive to allow this Court to conclude that they were properly withheld from disclosure or that the Board properly convened executive sessions to have the discussion,” the court’s decision states.

The court also overturned 4th Judicial District Court Judge William Edelman’s ruling that the common law deliberative process privilege applied to open meetings statutes.

“To the contrary, the legislature has expressly identified the circumstances in which a governing body of an agency may go into executive session and those circumstances do not include the deliberative process privilege,” the opinion said.

Moats said if Edelman’s ruling had been allowed to stand, it could have potentially allowed governing bodies to hold closed sessions on numerous topics not currently appropriate to be kept from the public.

As part of its decision, the court ordered that the board release to the newspaper the minutes of executive sessions relating to real estate and potential sites near or at the high school.

Summer air service unlikely

SHERIDAN— The possibility of an air service in Sheridan by summer is doubtful, Critical Air Service Team Chairman Bruce Garber told members of the Sheridan Chamber of Commerce at their monthly luncheon today.

After meeting with representatives of SkyWest Airlines in March, Garber said he was informed earlier this week that the company did not have the resources available to get an air service to Sheridan by August 2015.

Garber added that Sheridan is also competing with other towns for SkyWest’s services. CAST members will maintain their efforts to get a service in Sheridan at a later date.

Jet passenger service to Sheridan ceased on March 31 after the previous provider, Great Lakes Airlines, announced it could no longer financially maintain services to Sheridan.


Read the full story in tomorrow’s Sheridan Press.

Can you unplug? Try it with SCLT’s ‘Unplug Week’


SHERIDAN — Soak up the screen time over the next few days, because next week it is time to “Unplug.” The Sheridan Community Land Trust will once again host a full week of free outdoor activities to encourage the community to put down the phones and remotes and head outdoors.

Unplug Week will kick off Monday with an offering that is new this year, an evening at the WYO Theater aimed at educating children in a fun way.

The Banana Slug String Band — musicians, songwriters and educators who blend music, theater, puppetry and audience participation to create a learning environment for kids — will perform a free concert from 6-8 p.m. in the Mars Black Box Theater.

Claire Hobbs, communications and development associate with the SCLT, said the group teaches many different science and environmentally focused lessons ranging from water cycles to recycling in a fun and interactive way.

Just prior, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s traveling “Great Elk Tour” conservation education exhibit will be open from 4-6 p.m. displaying world-class taxidermy as a way for children to better understand the habitat of the animals and how conserving them ensures our hunting heritage.

On May 19, “Mud, Bugs and Fish!” will get children of all ages working hands on with the Wyoming Game and Fish stream trailer, an educational tool that demonstrates how the natural movement of streams and rivers works. Participants will do a water quality experiment with the Sheridan County Conservation District, and get up close and personal with water bugs.

On May 20, “Little Birds, Big Birds” will give children ages 5 and older the chance to try birding. Two hikes will be offered — both starting from the South Park parking lot off of Brundage — at 4 p.m. and again at 5 p.m. for all skill levels.

“Part of our mission as the Sheridan Community Land Trust is to engage the next generation with the outdoors, promote a healthy lifestyle and raise them in the vein of enjoying the outdoors,” Hobbs said. “These events encourage kids to get out and do something new they’ve never done before, and then hopefully their family will encourage them to do that on a more regular basis.”

The two annual marquee events will return this year: the Picnic on the Pathway on May 21 and the Unplug Finale May 22-23 in Kendrick Park.

Picnic on the Pathway is a self-guided event encouraging families to dedicate an evening to walking, biking or running on the pathways. SCLT will provide a safety briefing and maps starting at 4 p.m. at Washington Park and will provide dinner to the participating families between 5-6 p.m.

The Finale event will offer an introduction to camping in a fun and safe environment by allowing families to camp for the night in Kendrick Park. A bluegrass jam session with local musicians as well as bonfires and s’mores will highlight the evening and free breakfast for campers will be offered the next morning.

“Thanks to our sponsors and partners, they’re all free events so they’re accessible to everybody, and we want to keep it that way to encourage as many people to get involved as possible,” Hobbs said. “We think it is important to educate family and kids on why it is important to have awareness of their environment and pride of where they live. Sheridan is such a beautiful place and a lot of kids don’t incorporate it into their daily lives as much as they could.”

UW to provide student-athletes $3,200 for expenses

LARAMIE (AP) — For student-athletes, it’s good news.

For schools having to fund it, it’s a challenge. Yet it’s something most feel they have to do to remain competitive.

Athletics departments at the NCAA Division I level will leap into uncharted territory Aug. 1 by providing the full cost of attendance to existing scholarships for student-athletes.

A full scholarship covers tuition, room and board, books and fees. Monies tacked on to that for cost of attendance are designed to cover other expenses, such as academic-related supplies, transportation, laundry, cellphones and other day-to-day expenses.

Most schools in the Power 5 conferences — Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 12 and Southeastern — have the resources to cover the addition without doing major restructuring of their athletics budgets.

The collection of conferences commonly known as the Group of Five — the Mountain West, American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt — generally have fewer funds available.

Still, many have had to find ways to pay the cost of attendance to maintain a certain level of competitiveness in recruiting.

Like the University of Wyoming.

“If you don’t do it in certain sports, you’re putting a fork in yourself,” athletics director Tom Burman said. “You have no chance of winning a recruiting battle if someone else is offering full cost of attendance.

“We had to do it, and everyone else is figuring it out.”

Schools can’t just pick a dollar figure for cost of attendance.

Phil Wille is UW’s associate athletics director for internal operations. He said schools must go through their respective financial aid offices to help calculate the number and also take into consideration certain federal government guidelines.

Wille also said the cost-of-attendance figure applies to the entire student body. For instance, if students are on presidential scholarships at UW that include cost of attendance, that figure applies to them as well.

Other criteria include the actual cost of a scholarship — full or partial — at each school, along with things such as cost of living in that community.

After all the numbers were crunched, UW came up with $3,240. That means that every student-athlete — male or female — who is on full scholarship will get an extra $3,240 per year for cost of attendance. If a student-athlete is on half scholarship, that number is cut in half.

Matt Whisenant, UW’s deputy athletics director, said it will cost the school between $750,000 and $800,000 annually to fund the cost of attendance stipends.

He also said the money will be distributed in four increments — at the beginning and end of the fall semester and the beginning and end of the spring semester.

“This is a game-changer,” Whisenant told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. “We’re on board full-speed and moving forward with it. We’ve been in discussions about this for over a year.”

UW’s athletics fundraising arm – the Cowboy Joe Club – and the state will fund cost-of-attendance costs for 2015-16.

Legislation recently was passed requiring the state to match dollar for dollar what the Cowboy Joe Club raises.

“That’s an enormous step for us,” Burman said. “The challenge will be if we can figure out a way to work with the leadership to keep that ongoing.

“If we can, we’ll be able to fund this for the foreseeable future and be able to continue to compete. Not just compete, but get better.”

But what if that funding stream dries up?

“We would be in a world of hurt,” Burman said. “We would have to, probably, make some decisions about reducing other areas of our program. I don’t think you can choose not to fund it.”

Other Mountain West schools have similar and different funding plans for cost-of-attendance.

Utah State athletics director Scott Barnes said via email that his department got $1.5 million from the Utah legislature to support cost of attendance and extra meals for student-athletes.

Max Corbet, Boise State’s associate athletics director for communications, said the funding will come from the athletics department, including fundraising, ticket sales, etc.

Of the schools that responded to questions on how they are handling cost of attendance, UW’s $3,240 is among the lowest in the MW.

Corbet said Boise State won’t know its final figure until the middle of summer, but he added it will be around $5,100 per student-athlete.

That figure is by far the most in the MW so far.

And according to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Boise State is one of six Football Bowl Subdivision schools in the country to offer more than $5,000 per student-athlete on full scholarship.

Most MW schools are funding cost of attendance in some form.

Some, like Colorado State, Hawaii and Nevada, said they could not provide dollar amounts. Others who did respond are offering $3,000-$3,800.

But Air Force is not because it is a service academy. Troy Garnhart, sports information director there, said: “All 4,000 cadets (at the academy) are the same, and we are technically a non-scholarship school under the NCAA guidelines.”

But therein lies a major concern for coaches and athletics departments.

Let’s say your school and Boise State are recruiting the same athletes.

They find out they can get $5,100 from Boise State and $3,200 from your school. It’s only logical to assume that if the student-athletes view two schools as even in recruiting, they’ll pick the one that offers the most cost-of-attendance money.

“We’ll use it in our recruiting,” UW track and field/cross-country coach Bryan Berryhill said. “It comes into play a little more when you’re recruiting an athlete who is looking at other schools that might not be able to move forward with cost of attendance.

“Any time you can add more dollars to the scholarship offer, it’s a big factor on where they decide to go.”

UW and most schools are in the process of educating their student-athletes on what will happen with cost of attendance. But right now UW’s athletes don’t know a lot about what’s coming.

“I’m not really sure about all that money stuff, but it sounds good,” redshirt freshman safety Chavez Pownell Jr. said.

Added junior wide receiver Tanner Gentry: “I’ve heard about it. But at the same time I’m not too worried about it. (UW) pays for my school, but it can’t hurt, for sure.”

Senior quarterback Cameron Coffman transferred to UW from Indiana last year. He said, with a smile, that he’s not complaining that he and other student-athletes will get more money. But he also said he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“I feel like we get enough money now if you budget your money right,” he said.

Not all sports at schools provide full scholarships for student-athletes. Most revenue-generating sports – such as football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball – do.

But non-revenue sports, such as track and field and cross-country, do not. They get a certain amount for scholarships and may split it as the coaches see fit. Some may be in full scholarship, some may be half, some may be one-quarter.

“Most of our kids are paying for something to go to school,” Berryhill said. “A thousand dollars here, $500 there – that all goes to help pay for college for these athletes. Maybe they get to work a little bit less during the summer or during the school year.

“(Cost of attendance) gives these kids another resource to get better and spend more time not only training but in the classroom.

“Going to school full time, working and being a full-time athlete can get tough and stressful. Taking that stress away in whatever way we can will only help every athlete.”

Owners using salvaged materials for construction of events center

BIG HORN — It predates Sheridan County, built in a time when the town of Big Horn had more residents than Sheridan, Casper and Billings combined. It’s seen 25 presidents and the invention of the automobile.

The building next to the Big Horn Mercantile in Big Horn has been part of the town for 130 years. But one of the longest standing structures in the county is being demolished this week. The owners of the building and Big Horn residents Tom and Holly Harper, along with their daughter Collette Eliason and her husband Pete Eliason, will soon construct Big Horn’s first and only events center to cater to the next generation of Big Horn residents.

“The Barn in Big Horn,” as it will be called, will be completed in November of this year and will incorporate many of the features of the structure that stood in its place.

Exactly 130 years from this week, Tom Harper’s great-grandfather and several other builders in town got together. With their own saw mill in town, the 80-by-30-foot building was constructed quickly. Skinner and his fellow builders brought lumber down from the Bighorns and constructed the building in less than five days.

Much of the material was still intact this week, including the original wood and nails.

The building served as a storage shed to the mercantile in its early years, holding the excess supplies for the droves of people who flooded into Big Horn. But once the Burlington Northern Railroad put rails through Sheridan, the residents of Big Horn fled six miles north to cash in on the up and coming town.

Still, the Big Horn Mercantile and its adjacent storage building held on for many years. The buildings and property were passed down from generation to generation and eventually landed in the hands of Harper.

Even as a young child, Harper doesn’t remember the building ever being utilized; advancements in refrigeration were perfected to the point where there was no need for a large storage building for goods. The only visitors to the large building were old, broken down appliances that hadn’t made their way to the dump and stray cats looking for a place to sleep.

When Harper’s parents owned the mercantile, the barn was close to falling down. They eventually reconstructed the roof to improve the integrity of the structure.

“It literally would have been one strong wind or one strong snow storm from collapsing on itself,” Harper said.

It eventually got to the point where it was simply taking up space in a small town.

In 2001, Collette Eliason saw potential in the large building sitting next to mercantile. It has a beautiful view of the mountains to the south, with five vacant lots next to it, tucked in a quiet and quant part of downtown Big Horn.

“We just looked at it and thought, ‘that’s a cool building, I wonder what we should do with it?,’” Eliason said. “And so we just started brainstorming and we thought that would be really neat to have it as an events hall for the community to enjoy.”

The existing building could not be used. More than a century of hard winters and brutal winds had taken its toll on the ancient structure. But there was too much history in the building to just tear it down and throw away the pieces.

“It just breaks our heart to (tear down the building),” Holly Harper said. “We asked if we could just build our building inside, but the wood was so rotted that it just wasn’t possible… so we just thought we would tear it down and reuse it.”

The Barn in Big Horn will combine a 19th century structure with 21st century conveniences. The 1,400-square-foot building will include chandeliers, a bar and a commercial kitchen. Elliason hopes the center will be used as a wedding venue and a place to host community events. It will also include a second story with available office space for rent.

The new events center will be built in the same location as the previous structure, and its exterior will remain the same. Salvageable materials from the old building will go right back into the structure of the new building. The old doors and the windows adorn the front.

“It’s going to look the same again,” Holly Harper said. “We promise to put it back.”

Kilbride named Community Hero for work at TRVCC

DAYTON — With quaint storefronts and the majestic Bighorns as a backdrop, Dayton at first feels a lot like other sleepy mountain towns. Early Wednesday afternoon, as rain misted down outside, a man filling his tank at Sinclair was the only soul visible from the town’s main drag.

But Dayton and neighboring Ranchester are far from just stop-offs for tourists on their way to enjoyment of the great outdoors. Both are active, healthy communities, and the Tongue River Valley Community Center is a big reason why. Of the valley’s roughly 1,800 residents, about 900 maintain memberships to TRVCC.

The Dayton facility includes a full gym, weight room with cardio equipment, dining area, kitchen, computer room, workout space, all-purpose area and a new climbing wall. TRVCC is home to fly-tying classes, after-school programs, Senior Center-sponsored lunches, pickle ball tournaments … and that’s just a busy week. Not bad for a town of fewer than 800, huh?

The center’s success might look like a stroke of good luck or even a bored, well-to-do donor, but don’t be fooled — TRVCC is the result of substantial time and hard work, much of it by Dayton resident Erin Kilbride.

The TRVCC executive director has put countless hours into turning a former high school and a derelict lumber yard into gathering places that drastically improve the quality of life in the valley. For her efforts, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities will honor her with a Community Hero Award at the WAM Convention June 12 at Little America in Cheyenne.


A gathering place

Kilbride doesn’t just oversee or delegate tasks within TRVCC, a small operation with only two full-time employees. In fact, as the slight blond gives a tour of the Dayton center, it’s obvious she has her hand in all aspects of TRVCC.

Moving from kitchen to gym to workout area, Kilbride said her day-to-day responsibilities could include administrative work, fundraising, program development and coordination, grant writing and other financial endeavors and even some cleaning.

“Pretty much everything and anything from me to make this place survive and go,” she said. “On any given day, I might have to do any one of those.”

For anybody else, the workload might seem like a stretch. But not Kilbride. She exudes energy, a clear enthusiasm for not just TRVCC and the activities inside, but also the community it supports. For her, it’s passion that started when she was young.

Kilbride grew up in Casper, a place she said afforded her numerous opportunities to be active, from sewing to piano lessons to basketball and soccer.

“I look back and think about what a big player that was in my life, and my parents made sure I had those opportunities,” she said.

But, when she first moved to Ranchester in 2007, she did not see the same chances for her family, at TRVCC or elsewhere. As the new executive director, she almost immediately set out to develop an after-school program, then her No. 1 priority.

“I saw it as a big need,” she said. “Living in this rural area, a lot of parents work in Sheridan, and they can’t be here at 4 o’clock when their kids get out of school. So where can the kids go to have a safe, structured place to be active and be engaged?”

Eight years later, and the answer for Tongue River families is TRVCC. It’s been downhill ever since, snowballing into more activities, more volunteers and more to do for kids, families and the people who call the valley home.

The community has responded. Kilbride has seen a huge shift, not just in public support, but also in more tangible evidence. Membership doubled from 2006 to 2007. Now, numbers have increased to the point where the centers bring in more than $80,000 per year on memberships alone — a huge figure for a nonprofit in a small town.


Building community

Sure enough, even on the same drab Wednesday afternoon when Dayton slightly resembled a ghost town, the bright inside of TRVCC showed obvious signs of life — even before the 4 p.m., after-school rush.

Two elderly gentlemen watched TV together and chatted. A mother and her young daughter worked at a computer desk. Not long after, Russ McCafferty and his two sons, Braden and Ryan, came in to shoot some hoops. The McCaffertys, Russ says, visit TRVCC about four times a week.

“It’s just a fun place to gather with friends and play some basketball,” Braden adds.

With a center in each town (a membership at one means access for both), Ranchester Mayor Peter Clark and Dayton Mayor Norm Anderson have seen Kilbride’s drive and the difference it has made in the community first-hand. The duo nominated her for the Community Hero Award.

“She’s always upbeat and very positive,” Clark said. “She finds ways to use programs and to tie in with the YMCA and Senior Center and all those other services. It really is a good focus for the community, for the valley. It sort of anchors both ends of the valley and glues it together.

“She’s been a guiding light for that whole process,” he added.

Aside from bringing Ranchester and Dayton closer together and providing needed services, Clark also cites making use of buildings that otherwise may have been demolished.

But he submits Kilbride does a whole lot more. She is a Community Hero because, as the WAM application states, winning efforts should be focused on “building strong communities.” Her work at the TRVCC has done just that.

While she said the WAM award is humbling and an honor, she doesn’t do the job for awards. She loves working with the people who frequent TRVCC and strives every day for a healthy, active community with numerous opportunities — the same ones she had when she was a child.

“Selfishly, I want the same for my kids,” she said. “But I also want it for every other kid here in the valley. I want it for every other family in the valley. I want them to have a place where they can come interact with each other, they can come play basketball together, they can come walk on the treadmill together.”


Keep the momentum going

For an outsider, it is difficult to imagine two towns the size of Dayton and Ranchester improving on the facilities offered at TRVCC, but Kilbride said she isn’t done yet. The 18-foot climbing wall is a recent installation, and a fitness on-demand app for community use was installed in the last year.

TRVCC members might not realize the effort that goes into additions to the center — coordinating with the YMCA, writing grants, refurbishing and repairing equipment and more — but the McCaffertys and other TRVCC residents clearly recognize the benefits and how lucky rural areas like Dayton and Ranchester are to have such amazing facilities.

“We feel really fortunate to have it here,” Russ McCafferty said.

And for Kilbride, the work of being a Community Hero is just beginning.

“I’ve put a lot of hard work and time into this,” she said. “I am totally committed to seeing it be a success. Not only this year and next year, but for many years to come.”

Alternative PE classes teach trust, leadership


SHERIDAN — Standing atop a tiny platform perched on a 16-foot wooden beam held erect by children applying equal pressure to ropes tied to all four sides, students in alternative physical education classes at Sheridan Junior High School and Fort Mackenzie High School took the “leap of faith.”

Reaching the top was no easy feat — grasping metal loops wide enough for two fingers, or a few toes as they scale the beam. And plunging off the top was scary — with nothing more than a partner at the end of a belay catching you. But, this exercise is all about trusting your classmates and working together to take calculated risks.

There are a variety of alternative PE classes that utilize the high ropes course in the Early Building at the junior high including LEAP, Adventure Activities and XPLODE.

The Adventure Activities course lays the groundwork, with students learning to trust each other and tackling the lower elements on the course. The Leadership Enrichment and Adventure Program (LEAP) is the advanced course, putting kids on the leap of faith — the hardest element — as early as the fourth week. And eXtreme Physical, Leadership and Outdoor Discovery Education (XPLODE) is an elective for FMHS students.

Junior high school PE teacher Kale Rager said the state of the ropes course facility they have at SJHS is safer for the kids than crossing the street, though it doesn’t look it or always feel it. As the kids learn to calculate risk, tackle these seemingly dangerous tasks, trust each other and push themselves outside their comfort zones, they gain confidence in themselves and discover they can accomplish things they never thought possible, Rager added.

Darin Gilbertson teaches the FMHS class and has been a part of the ropes course since its installation in 2006. This year, as a couple hundred students enrolled in the adventure class, he is also teaching a couple adventure courses at the junior high.

Whether scaling beams, rock or rope climbing, practicing archery, snorkeling, mountain biking or even learning orienteering, he said these students are gaining much more than physical fitness.

“It encompasses so many real world skills like communication and trust and risk taking,” Gilbertson said. “We don’t just go in and climb stuff and have a good time, we take things away. …They’re recognizing the role that they play in helping to create that safe environment, not just physically but mentally and emotionally so a kid will feel comfortable enough to try something even if they might be super afraid.”

Eighth-grade LEAP student Jaydee Twitchell said that is exactly why she signed up for the class.

“I wanted to take a class that I knew would take me out of my comfort zone, that pushed me to try something new,” Twitchell said. “My favorite part of the class is being comfortable with everybody and not being afraid to do something or being afraid of what they might think. You’re always going to feel like you can’t do something, but you know that the person there is going to be there for you and you can trust them.”

In addition to leaving the comfort zone, Gilbertson said the kids are challenged individually and need to develop self-motivation.

“You don’t have to worry about going out and catching a ball or playing a team sport and the benefits that they get out of that are amazing,” he said. “You challenge yourself. And sometimes through the other things we’re doing they kind of forget about the exercise part of it so you kind of sneak that in with all the other excellent aspects.”

Eighth-grader Ammon Duncan started in alternative PE classes in seventh-grade by taking Adventure Activities twice and has now moved on to LEAP, which is in its first year being offered. After learning to trust his classmates and his abilities last year, he was excited to move up and take even more risks this year.

“I learned to take risks instead of just waiting for everyone else to do something,” Duncan said. “The best part is after you come down, and you’ve achieved whatever it is you were trying to do, you feel pretty good about yourself. It’s just the initial step of trying to get onto the elements that’s hard, but once you go up on the elements everyone else wants to validate the trust that you have placed in them so they do everything that they can to help.”

Good Samaritans to be honored Saturday

SHERIDAN — Sometimes it’s the little actions behind the scenes that make the biggest impact on a community. That is what Capt. Don Warriner said “The Salvation Army — Sheridan Press Good Samaritan Awards” being held Saturday night at the Holiday Inn seek to recognize.

Eight individuals or couples from Sheridan County will be honored, including a mechanic who repairs cars for people who don’t have money and another person who shovels snow for neighbors and nonprofits.

“They are kind of the unsung heroes, and those are the ones we want to recognize,” Warriner said.

The winners are selected from nominations submitted by the community, and are not necessarily Salvation Army volunteers. Warriner said they cap the winners at eight and this year there were several worthy nominees who could not be honored as a result.

The event is also a fundraiser for the organization, with pre-sale tickets and donation opportunities on-site. To-date, the organization has given out over $40,000 in financial assistance in 2015 but still has a long wait list of people in need.

A keynote address will come from Seth Franco, the first Caucasian Harlem Globetrotter since 1942. A regular volunteer and participant in Salvation Army events and causes, Franco will speak about “joining the army of hope.”

New this year, an additional event will be offered utilizing Franco’s unique skills and motivational messages for children and students, as he will host a youth event at the Sheridan County YMCA on Friday discussing overcoming adversity and being bullied.

Franco dreamed of being a basketball player his entire life, but after a leg injury crippled him, there were doubts that would ever happen. While injured, he worked on his hand skills and after recovery, those skills were what allowed him to become a Globetrotter.

The event is free and intended for school-aged youth but parents of attendees are asked to remain in the building.


And the 2015 Good Samaritans of Sheridan County are:

Dan Hills

Nominator Nancy McKenzie said Dan Hills exemplifies a life of giving by just doing what needs to be done, often without being asked.

“Dan volunteers so often and at so many places, a ‘list’ is difficult to generate,” McKenzie wrote in her nomination form. “As best I can determine, he has volunteered faithfully at Sheridan Manor for over a dozen years, lifting the spirits of the clients by playing his guitar and singing on most Sunday’s (including Christmas).”

Additionally, Hills’ post-retirement business is painting but he often offers his talents for free to individuals, Habitat for Humanity, his church and others.


KR Schamber

Nominator Falk Alicke said KR Schamber is a selfless person who has spent a lifetime serving others.

A former hairdresser, Schamber visits the homeless shelter every week to cut hair for free. He also cuts Alicke’s hair for free, and in his nomination, Alicke recalls a story that he said exemplifies Schamber’s nature.

“The other day I [snuck] $20 into his scissor bag when he didn’t watch because I knew he wasn’t going to let me pay him,” Alicke wrote. “Months later I found out that KR found the $20 while he was working at the homeless shelter. He asked who put it into his bag, but nobody responded. Then he saw a young man who seemed in need and, the man KR is, he took the $20 to bless this young man with it.”


Gerry Pelesky

Gerry Pelesky has served The Salvation Army for 15 years and the Genesis Foundation, which provides funding to The Salvation Army, for 10 years.

Nominated by Alan Weakly, Pelesky is said to make a difference in the lives of many throughout the community.

“His tireless dedication to the Army helps the Army serve the people in need in the Sheridan area,” Weakly wrote.


Dwight and Betty French

Nominator Nancy McKenzie referred to Dwight and Betty French as the Mr. and Mrs. Claus for all ages and all seasons.

In addition to volunteering as the Clauses during the holidays, they have volunteered for a variety of youth and educational organizations including the Boy Scouts of America, 4-H, Up With People, Wyoming State Fair, Wyoming Education Association, National Education Association, volunteer tutoring and assisting with football camp and wrestling coaching of exchange students.

“Over the years, the Frenches have devoted their ‘spare time’ to many civic and social activities by voluntarily planting trees on the mountains after a forest fire, organizing the Back Country Horsemen’s State Rendezvous” and much more, McKenzie wrote.


Bob May

Bob May, a retired electrician, volunteers his skills and time to work on church builds and other projects needing a hand.

“It is reported that wherever he has lived, he has helped his neighbors in many variety of ways from home repairs to smoothing out dirt roads,” May’s nominator Nancy McKenzie wrote. “He volunteers at such nonprofits as The Salvation Army and at the Sheridan Senior Center when, on snowy days, he can be seen shoveling snow or chipping ice the entire way from his house by the park to the Senior Center’s front door.”

McKenzie added that May’s heroism includes checking on friends, giving others a boost or just lending a helping hand.


Chad Kordus

Kelly Mason, founder of the Sheridan Angels, said Chad Kordus has helped her efforts many times over, and that is why she nominated him for the Good Samaritan Award.

“He is a mechanic and has offered his services to many families in crisis with only the cost of parts, payment plans and sometimes free of charge,” Mason wrote. “He has also helped people move and donated many items. He is a valued gem in this community and deserves recognition.”


Zena Husman

“Zena regularly helps people who struggle with many different aspects of life,” Lt. Kim Warriner of The Salvation Army wrote about Zena Husman.

A high school counselor of many years, Husman recently retired and now spends her time helping others for free.

A regular Salvation Army volunteer, she gives of her time by providing phone reassurance, rides to doctor appointments and rides to church.

Her nominator says she is very generous and will help people unconditionally.


Nancy McKenzie

Nancy McKenzie has been the director of volunteer programs at the Sheridan Senior Center for nine years, but her role there started 15 years ago as a volunteer herself.

Her nominator, Carmen Rideout, executive director of the Senior Center, said if anyone needs help, McKenzie is there.

“Nancy gives so much to others in the Sheridan community through her work at the center and the many other organizations and activities she is involved with,” Rideout wrote. “She is compassionate, giving, sensitive and talented in many ways.”


Planning to attend?

The Good Samaritan Awards

When: Saturday 6 p.m.

Where: Holiday Inn Conference Center

How much? $30, advance tickets required

Seth Franco youth workshop

When: Friday 5:30 p.m.

Where: Sheridan County YMCA

How much? Free and open to school-age children

Koltiska Distillery plans expansion

SHERIDAN— Ask people to describe the taste of Koltiska liqueur and you will likely get myriad responses. Some call it a honey liqueur, others say it resembles more of a cinnamon whiskey.

While the recipe will always remain a family secret, the new home of Koltiska Liqueur will allow for even more debate over the company’s new products.

The owners of Koltiska Distillery have purchased a new facility, allowing the company to manufacture their current liqueurs in Sheridan while giving them the option to expand into other spirits. The 3,000-square-foot facility, located on Crook Street near downtown Sheridan, will nearly double the size of the company’s previous operations.

A portion of the new facility will be dedicated to a tasting area. It will operate more like a wine tour than a local tavern, where the producers of Koltiska can showcase their products to tourists and locals alike.

The new facility should be operational by mid-June and will eventually employ upward of a dozen people.

This is a large step forward for the small Sheridan-based company, which is currently only comprised of three part-time business owners. Since sales of the unique liqueur began in 2005, the company has wrestled with its marketing strategy. The original plan was to be in all 50 states within a decade, but the realities of competing against larger national brands have hindered that.

Jason Koltiska, co-owner and president of manufacturing and distribution, said the company is beginning to distribute nationally, sending bottles of Koltiska Original and KO 90 to liquor stores in the Midwest and Southwest.

But there is only so much room on a bartender’s bar — putting a new bottle on the shelf means taking another one down. There has to be interest to put Koltiska liqueurs in every bar in the U.S. and interest is generated by marketing. Getting the Koltiska name out there has been difficult for the small company since even the smallest national advertising spots cost a small fortune.

“The challenge was just getting people to try it,” Koltiska said. “And when they try it, they like it. But again there just wasn’t dollars to get it out there.”

So, the company’s owners decided to focus their efforts regionally. The strategy has worked; today the Sheridan-based alcohol is sold across Wyoming and in Montana, western Nebraska and other surrounding areas.

Their roots will always be in Sheridan and Wyoming, but Koltiska said his company has not ruled out the option of wider reaching distribution in the future. The new facility allows them to be more flexible with what, where and how they produce the product.

Their sales are doing well. They see revenues increase annually. But the product’s success is not why they have chosen to expand. For Koltiska, it came down to a very simple question: can they do better?

The company’s new operation will ultimately lead to an expansion of their products. Bourbons, vodkas, gins and rums among other alcohols could be the next to be branded with the Koltiska name.

“You have to appeal to more pallets to generate more growth. We said we’ve been doing this for 10 years and it’s time to either go big or go home,” Koltiska said.

But exactly when the other products will be released remains up in the air.

There is no definite plan for when the new brands will be released by the Koltiska Distillery; the recipe has to be just right before something is released to stores. Koltiska said he will start working full time to create a new recipe and run operations. He hopes to work alongside local businesses to get unique local flavors to launch the new line of spirits.

“That’s what is going to be fun is experimenting and just keeping things new while generating some interest in the local economy,” Koltiska said. “… It’s going to be a learning process — the sky is the limit. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Grant will strengthen Farm to School programs

SHERIDAN — There are a lot of misconceptions regarding the National School Lunch Program, one of which is that schools cannot choose to utilize local foods and producers while receiving federal assistance. A new grant received by the Wyoming Department of Education will be used to try to change that mentality by offering training on the many ways to utilize “Farm to School” programming.

The $65,000 Farm to School Support Service Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will support school districts that are just starting to incorporate Farm to School program elements into their operations.

The WDE Child Nutrition Programs will work with schools, producers and other entities to improve access to local foods in eligible schools, and educate schools on other ways they can bring the farm, and general food knowledge, into the classroom.

“Probably the biggest challenge that we run into is that everyone has different interpretations of what Farm to School is, which is also great because it’s not a one-size-fits-all program,” said Brook Brockman, WDE grants and training coordinator. “Farm to School can be as small as supplementing one meal a month from a local producer, or growing foods in the classroom. It can be visiting a farm; it can be anything that encourages the students to understand where their food comes from.”

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said the grant would create a much-needed connection between education and agriculture.

“Too often, kids in America think that food comes from the store,” Balow said. “It’s important for all kids to know where food comes from, and in Wyoming we have a unique opportunity to not only teach, but to let our kids experience farm to table, and what that means.”

Susan Benning, nutrition program accountant at WDE, said the program is not just about what the students are eating, it’s about educating them about food and creating lifelong habits.

“Here in Wyoming, we’ve seen that kids don’t even really know what a carrot looks like,” Benning said. “They are used to seeing the baby carrots in the bag, and recently at a state convention one child picked up a carrot and asked what it was, and why it had a tassel. With the Farm to School (program), meal patterns and food knowledge is a hand-in-hand idea.

“We’re encouraging students to eat more fruits and vegetables, be more aware of how food is raised and grown, where it is grown and the whole farming process,” Benning added. “This all goes hand-in-hand so students make good meal choices throughout their lives.”

Brockman said it is not just the students who need to know more about local food production, as parents and educators often have misconceptions regarding their food.

“One of the things I believe a lot of the parents and school administrators get mixed up in is the belief that the procurement of local foods is very hard in this state,” Brockman said. “There are some barriers and definitely Wyoming’s short growing season and our inclement weather are the biggest challenges, but I think mainly it is the connection between the growers, the nutrition people and the community that is the issue. … Districts say we don’t know who grows what in our area and producers say we don’t know what the schools need, so we are hoping that by putting them together we can help.”

The grant will be used to pay for travel to some regional conferences such as the Wyoming Farmers Marketing Conference where producers and consumers can be brought together. Additional uses will include training school districts on how to apply for their own implementation grants and hosting their own training events and conferences.

Locally, Brad Holliday from Holliday Family Farms near Dayton will be working with the WDE to produce a training event this year, and more details will be made available as the planning progresses.

A school nutrition conference will be coming to Casper in June and the department will be providing scholarships for food producers to attend and learn how menu planning and ordering works at schools, as well as allowing them to meet the school district representatives.

“Originally there was a misunderstanding and districts went out and tried to get all their tomatoes from one provider and couldn’t get the quantity they needed so they didn’t buy any,” Benning said. “You can supplement some of your food supply with the local instead of saying it’s all or none. You can also use multiple producers. You can grow your own in a school garden. Even if there’s just one homegrown leaf of lettuce in the salad it encourages them to eat it because it’s their lettuce.”

Project asks locals to tell their stories

SHERIDAN — Over a cup of coffee, gray head nodding and finger wagging, the stories go something like this: “When I was a young whippersnapper, I … walked to school uphill both ways … knew the meaning of work … spent a dime for a movie … knew how to treat a lady.”

“When I was young, times were simpler.”

While we may joke about these “old-timers,” we resonate with these tales, these moments shared by a story’s owner with any ear willing to listen.

From a research perspective, oral histories are the most primary source available. This source saw, heard, experienced and remembers.

From a human perspective, oral history is a gift — sometimes offered off-the-cuff for conversation’s sake and sometimes in response to a request: Tell us your story.

At The Wyoming Room at Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library, staff and volunteers are taking a proactive approach to asking for the gift of story.

The “Tellus Project,” officially started in February 2013, continues to seek human history from those who lived it and those who continue to live it today.

“Our topics vary, but the main goal is to capture the Sheridan community in the best way possible for the present and the future,” said Judy Slack, director of The Wyoming Room.

The process is simple.

A Wyoming Room representative sits down with a storyteller who volunteered or, in some cases, was “roped in” for the project. The storyteller signs an information release form, the representative turns on a small handheld video camera and the stories begin.


“Who wants to go first?” Wyoming Room representative Barbara Osborne asked two men seated in a library conference room on Tuesday.

They looked at each other and grinned.

Richard Patrick Hlousek — R.P. to friends and self-proclaimed Old Fart — pointed at Parke Davis, the friend he had “roped in” for this storytelling adventure.

Osborne smiled and nodded at Davis as Hlousek hid his sniggering beneath the bill of his King Ropes ball cap.

“Why don’t you introduce yourself?”

Davis took a deep breath.

“We came here in March of 1946 when my father got discharged from the Army after World War II,” he began.

But his father never saw the end of a rifle.

“There was a battalion that needed a bugler … and also, I think the primary purpose for his call was they needed a first trumpet player in the officer’s dance band.”

Music. Davis’s life was steeped in music.

His introduction flowed seamlessly into story as memory spurred memory.

One minute became five, became 17, became 29:38.

His family had the “dubious distinction” of owning the first trailer home in town, with a sanitation department that consisted of a pan beneath the bed.

The 100 block of South Main Street became Davis’s domain — one he patrolled dangerously on a tricycle in search of free ice cream — when his father opened Davis Music Store in the old Western Hotel.

Davis followed in his dad’s footsteps and joined the Musician’s Union at age 14, playing with the City Band in the original bandstand at Kendrick Park, a two-story gazebo with concessions on the ground floor and the band on the elevated second level. He once drove 400 miles when he was in college to join his dad’s dance band and play for a high school prom in Sheridan, promptly turning around after the dance to go back to school.

A few times Davis said he supposed “that was about it.” But Osborne would prod him a little further.

The more he told, the more he had to tell.


A week earlier, crew with the Tellus Project made a house call.

In that house, they found two golden retrievers, Lady Jessica James, deaf at age 15, and TJ’s Prairie Rose, 2 years old and full of spunk, both doted on by their owner Tessa Dalton.

Inside that house they also found a cozy fireplace, couches draped with throws, well-used writing desks — elements of British charm and comfort embodied by a woman whose accented voice floats like a lilting melody.

“I’m not sure I’m important,” Dalton admitted.

However, it was John Green who said, “We all matter — maybe less than a lot but always more than none.”

If nothing else, Dalton will admit she is interesting, pulling out a few bits of memorabilia from her life to illustrate.

There is a black-and-white photograph of former Wyoming Sen. Malcolm Wallop in a cowboy hat looking more like a movie star than a politician. It is inscribed: “Tessa, will all good wishes, a lot of appreciation, many memories. Affectionately, Malcolm.”

Dalton took it when Wallop was campaigning for the Senate. She was good friends with his wife Judy and, albeit briefly, was married to Malcolm’s brother John Wallop in the late 1980s.

There is a book of insect photography, shot by her brother Stephen Dalton, the first photographer to stop the movement of an insect’s wings in flight — with film.

There is the book “Centennial” by famed historical fiction author James Michener that illustrates the fascinating pathways of Dalton’s life.

She left school in England at age 17, attended a secretarial college and worked in London for five years before sailing to America and getting a job at LIFE Magazine. After several more years of wandering — including a trip back to England to marry a man who got cold feet and stopped the marriage before it could even begin — she ended up in Denver.

After that? She met John Kings, “a blind date that lasted four years,” and they worked together on “Centennial” — a time of adventure in the 1970s in which Dalton was the official photographer for Michener and came to know tiny details about him, such as the fact that his favorite pens could be found in Sheridan at First National Bank.

Even after her marriage to John Wallop ended, the British woman decided she’d found her home in Sheridan and has lived here since — with friends who are closer than blood family and two golden retrievers and a garden that is undeniably English.

“I don’t have any children, so maybe a little bit of me is going to live on in posterity or something,” Dalton said.


Hlousek was baptized in the old hospital on Saberton Avenue because he wasn’t expected to live. More than 70 years later, he is still proving the doctors wrong.

Judy Armstrong, the homebound services manager at the library, asked Hlousek to tell his story for the Tellus Project.

“When they called to interview us, I really can’t say on tape what I was thinking,” Hlousek joked. “I thought that was amazing, then I realized we’re getting old; they’re interviewing us about the past. But anyway, I was impressed.”

Much like Davis, Hlousek grew up around his dad’s business — only his domain was the Ice Box Grocery at 520 Coffeen Ave. and, later, the Ice Box Service Station at 518 Coffeen Ave.

As a baby, Hlousek’s bed was the banana boxes used to deliver bananas to the grocery store.

At age 8, he was working at the service station.

At age 17, his father, Emil Hlousek, died and he went to work milking cows. Hlousek eventually got a job on the railroad, working 41 years and eight months in 21 different positions.

Hlousek peppered his tale of growing up a Sheridan boy with funny stories and stories that would not — er, could not — be mentioned on tape.

Nervous at first, unsure if his stories were worth all this effort, Hlousek, like Davis, found that when he told them, they just kept coming.

He talked of going to Holy Name Catholic School with nuns and of joining the “chain gang” for Sheridan High School football games in 1963. He is still on the chain gang, and he is not the oldest member, either. That distinction belongs to Ernie Rotellini who started in 1949.

Early in the interview, Hlousek talked about a man who lived down the street from him when he was a boy, a man from Holland who gave the neighborhood kids rides in his wooden cart, who had a large garden and an outdoor toilet, and who still wore wooden shoes.

“Talk about losing history … To me, when he died, we never thought to ask about his family or anything, and it’s too bad,” Hlousek said.

Eighteen minutes in, Hlousek pointed to his head: “All these things are coming up.”

Foldable wooden delivery boxes held together with wire, his seventh-grade baseball team, a list of what his co-workers grew up to become — stories that carried meaning when told by their owner.

All they needed was an invitation: Tell us. Tell us your story.

Share your story

The Tellus Project is open to anyone of any age who wants to share his or her story. Interviewees receive a free copy of their interview on DVD, and the interviews are also used for research.

The Tellus Project is funded by donations and grants. To support or participate in the program, call The Wyoming Room at 674-8585, ext. 7.

Six-year-old writes, sells books to help cancer center

SHERIDAN — Chances are you have stumbled on a little kid’s lemonade stand or two as you walk or drive along on a warm day in Sheridan. Maybe you have even stopped to support the young businessperson and quench your thirst. On a good day, the kid boss of the drink shop may bring home a few bucks to put in a piggy bank along with some new memories and life lessons.

For one young entrepreneur, a flurry of local support for her unique offering has made a little bit more than that, and all for a good cause.

Eliana Grover is 6 years old, a kindergartner at Henry A. Coffeen Elementary School. She loves to read, write and draw. So when the fifth-graders at her school hosted a competition to see who could raise the most money for the Welch Cancer Center, she knew exactly what to do.

Eliana opened a bookstand on her front lawn, complete with a hand-decorated, upturned storage bin for her workstation and a sign advertising that you can get two books for one penny.

“It’s not really one penny,” Eliana explains. “I just tell them to pay whatever they want, but at least one penny. They usually pay a lot because they really like my books. One person gave me one whole dollar and one person gave me a lot of ones with a 20.”

Eliana writes and illustrates her own books on colored construction paper, bound by blue painters tape, on a variety of topics. One book dissected the parts of a lady bug, with a page dedicated to antennae and another for wings. A second book talked about the different colors of cars, and another was about trees.

Her mom, Melanie Grover, said the idea and work for the stand was all Eliana’s.

“Her dad and I didn’t even really know what she was doing,” Grover said. “We were building a smoker in the back and saw her with the tub. …She does random stands all the time, like lemonade, and one year she was trying to sell her toys; but this one took off for some reason.”

As friends and neighbors drove by, they continued to stop and check out the colorful display, and as fast as she could write more books, people would buy them.

“One time I ran out of books and then I had to make more and then I got my bookstand back up,” Eliana said, adding that it doesn’t take her too long to write a new book. “Sometimes I just write short books, like sometimes I write books with just two pages, but then sometimes I write three or four whole pages.”

Though Eliana said she expected to sell a lot of books, her parents were overwhelmed by the response from the community.

“I was just amazed at the generosity of people and the people that actually stopped to support her and encourage her,” Grover said. “When she started doing it, it was a Thursday night and no one came by and I felt bad so I bought one of her books. Friday she sold quite a few more, and then on Saturday morning she sold a lot.”

She raised $42 for the cancer center that weekend. To thank the community for supporting her, her father put a thank you on the popular Facebook group Sheridan UpCycle.

“My husband put it on UpCycle because he was just amazed by the community and how awesome they are,” Grover said. “People really started showing up after that post, even though we didn’t put our address out there.”

At the time of publication of this article, the posting had received exactly 1,200 “likes,” 82 comments and was shared 16 times.

Several of the newfound online fans of the little girl encouraged her to keep the money she earned, start a savings account for college, or other similar suggestions. But Eliana said it was important that the money go to the cancer center.

“We needed to have a lot of money to take care of the surgery center kids so they could feel better,” she said. “They need the money to get healthy because some of the tools cost $185. That’s why I made a bookstand, and also in case somebody needed a book or somebody liked my books. They need books so they can read, so they’re not bored.”

Grover wants to be an author when she grows up, but she is well on her way now.

“I know how to do everything with a book; I look at books all the time,” Grover said. “First you get started by writing the title on the front and a picture at the bottom and writing who it’s by. And then you go on to write the words and then you write the pictures to be the same as the words. I learned that all from school.”

Freshman Lady Bronc leading team to title

SHERIDAN — “Offense wins games, defense wins championships,” former college football coach Bear Bryant said.

The Sheridan High School girls soccer team got a taste of a state championship last year. They took down top-seeded Kelly Walsh and then rival Gillette to earn a berth in the 4A state title game. Sheridan shut out both opponents.

Despite the tremendous run, they came up short. They couldn’t overcome a dominating Cheyenne East team. They lost 6-1.

The loss meant a couple things for the Sheridan soccer team. Aside from the obvious disappointment in getting that close but falling short, it meant the end of some careers. As it goes in high school athletics, players shuffle in and out the door each season.

Could a fresh batch of players make a difference? Could they get over the hump?

Head coach Mallery Marshall needed a soccer genie, and she needed an aggressive goalkeeper. That was the difference maker.

But she didn’t know where to get one. The Lady Broncs didn’t have any keepers returning from last year, let alone one that fit into the Sheridan system.

“There were many sleepless nights in the offseason thinking who it was going to be for us,” Marshall said. “It was just kind of like this unknown void.”

But Marshall got her wish, and it came during the most grueling week of the season.

It was preseason week one, which Marshall admits is designed to be extremely tough on the girls. Two-a-days, grueling fitness. It’s meant to bring the team together. It’s meant to distinguish the leaders.

That’s when Zoie Jones became the starting goalkeeper for the Lady Broncs. A freshman, the new kid on the block. All it took was one practice. That’s when Marshall knew she’d been granted her wish.

“After the first day, which was really tough, all the girls were leaving, just exhausted,” Marshall said, recollecting one of her favorite moments of the season. “Up comes Zoie and just gives knuckles to every coach and just says, ‘Hey, thanks for that today.’ I’ve never had anyone thank me for really pushing them like that.”

But that’s who Jones is, and it’s translated to the pitch this season.

The Lady Broncs are ranked first in the state. They are 9-1 and winners of five straight, including a 2-1 victory over reigning champs Cheyenne East. They’ve got a solid group of upperclassmen, most of which played integral roles on last season’s runner-up team.

But Jones is the game changer. She is the glue.

Sheridan likes to pressure opposing defenses. That means sending seniors like Sami Burton and Emily Julian far into the opponents’ side of the field. A big reason they can get away with that is the security blanket they have behind them.

“It’s super calming,” Marshall said of having Jones behind the offense. “I know that she is confident because she’s aggressive. For all the times she comes out and is aggressive, she’s going to make the save more often than not.”

As the Sheridan offense pushes ahead, Jones oftentimes finds herself hanging out in the box, away from the action. But she doesn’t let that take her out of the game.

“When I’m just standing here for half the game, I can’t go into the second half thinking it’s going to be easy,” Jones said. “You always have to be prepared. You have to be confident, and I have to get the defense confident, too. We have to take care of each other.”

Both Marshall and Jones admit that the freshman isn’t the ideal size for a goalkeeper. She’s a tad short, which makes her skills that much more important.

And skills she has. In 10 games this season, Jones has 18 saves — Sheridan only records actual goal-preventing saves. She has only given up five goals and pitched six shutouts.

The skills are there, but it’s what she does when shots aren’t being fired her way that makes her a leader for the Lady Broncs.

She’s constantly directing traffic, barking out orders to her defenders, sending forwards and midfielders in different directions. She’s like a point guard or a quarterback. Maybe both mixed into one. Marshall even considers her a player-coach of sorts.

“Being goalie, you have a different perspective than anyone, even the people on the sideline,” Jones said. “I think that you need to use that advantage, so that’s why I am vocal. We can anticipate and be there before the other team.”

Bringing in a freshman goalkeeper with no varsity experience could be a cause for concern for some, but Marshall says it’s been just the opposite with Jones. It gives Marshall four seasons with a player she trusts and understands. The coach is excited to see the young keeper grow and develop into something special.

For Jones, it’s all about not letting up.

“I’m just expecting myself to get better, not each year, but every day,” she said of her high school soccer goals. “I need to continue to be a leader and as I get older, not to let up. Just go hard every single day and every practice and every season.”

Jones is never good enough. That’s what makes her great.

“The first day of practice, I saw all the goalies, and they were all freshman,” Marshall said. “I thought ‘OK…,’ but the rest of the team said ‘Zoie’s going to be great. She’s going to be great, coach.’ And as the weeks went on, she obviously is.”

The Lady Broncs are two-thirds of the way through the season. Their offense has won them a lot of games this year.

But defense will win them a championship.

Mead talks economics at Governor’s Breakfast

SHERIDAN — Gov. Matt Mead said he hopes to tackle employee recruitment and retention in Wyoming with a program called “Wyoming Grown,” which would reach out to former state residents and offer jobs.

The idea was one of several Mead addressed Wednesday morning during a nearly hour-long presentation to attendees at the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce Governor’s Breakfast held at the Historic Sheridan Inn.

Mead focused much of his time on the economy. In a state where 70 to 75 percent of revenue comes from minerals, the governor said diversification is a priority moving forward.

For Mead, this involves adding technology to Wyoming’s other major economic drivers. The state’s Unified Network provides a statewide system of high-speed Internet connection that he said is the first of its kind in the United States. The climate and low taxes of Wyoming also make the state ideal for technological industry, which is evident in places like Cheyenne’s Cirrus Sky Technology Park and NCAR Supercomputing Center.

“This is an area where we truly can diversify,” he said. “My goal is to talk about minerals, tourism, ag and No. 4 would be technology.”

But, economic development is about more than just attracting new business. Even more important, Mead said, is keeping current businesses thriving. One major challenge Wyoming companies often face is finding and keeping good employees.

To help with this, the governor would like to begin a “Wyoming Grown” program to help reach out to former state residents who have since moved away. The idea is to approach Wyoming natives living elsewhere with a job offer. The cost to get the program started would be about $10,000.

Former Wyomingites, Mead said, understand the rural nature and open spaces found in the state and would be more apt to live, work and stay here as opposed to, he used as an example, a Houston native moving to Wamsutter.

“I think the state reaching out to those people is going to be meaningful saying, ‘We want you back. We want you to come back home,’” he said.

Business growth in the state is also hindered by a lack of air service and health care costs, Mead said while taking questions from the audience. Wyoming has the highest health care costs in the nation, and the governor said lowering these medical expenses is an area where the state is “failing” and one that will require continued work and diligence to increase competition and lower costs.

For air service, Mead said the state would likely never have an airport in every city and town offering flights due to Wyoming’s low population. Instead, he suggested perhaps every town in the state could have an airport within 100 or so miles to offer a few commercial flights per day.

“We need to look at regionalization and say, what we want to do in Wyoming is within X amount of miles … we’re going to do our best to have reliable air service,” he said.

The governor also talked about the state’s budget and specifically addressed the nearly $2 billion rainy day fund.

Due to the variability of the mineral industry, the state’s revenues are hugely dependent on the price of oil and natural gas. Mead suggested using the rainy day fund as a “leveling tool” to provide residents the same services during the extraction industry’s down times, rather than sitting on the money and watching it grow.

“The tradition in Wyoming, and the tradition of the Legislature and previous governors and administrations, is we are builders,” he said. “We are not hoarders.”

Another budgetary priority for the governor was music to the ears of members of the Sheridan City Council and Sheridan County Commissioners present Wednesday: local government.

Mead appropriated $25 million for local government in his supplemental budget this year, but the Legislature cut that figure down to $8 million before passing the nearly $200 million budget bill.

Mead told The Press that $8 million was not high enough and said he would support local governments going forward.

“The best decisions made at the county level, the town level, are made by those who live there,” he said. “I don’t know what streets need potholes filled. I don’t know what needs construction work. But I do have faith in our mayors and city councils and county commissioners to make those decisions.”

Sheridan Speedway prepares for May 8 opening

SHERIDAN — The ground was still damp and muddy from the downpour that hit the hills east of Sheridan less than an hour before, but more than a dozen people gathered near the southern bend of Sheridan Speedway’s track.

It wasn’t race day. It was 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon, with one driver taking his time spinning around a rough and muddied track.

But the spectators watched as the driver took one of his first test runs of the season, casually carrying on conversations with friends and strangers alike.

As it passed by, the Midwest modified stock car left behind a pungent smell. When asked what it was, a small smile forms between Craig Draper’s greying goatee.

“That’s Sunoco Racing Fuel — it’s 110 octane plus. That’s what most of them burn,” Draper said.

He holds that grin as he watches the car continue its laps around the track.

Draper would know that smell from anywhere, and if it were not for him, Sheridan may have never been able to experience high-octane racing again.

Sheridan Speedway is Draper’s field of dreams — he built it and people came. The track, which will reopen on May 8 after a 10-year hiatus, began as a business venture for Draper but some say it has morphed into an exemplary community effort.


On your marks

Draper had his hands full when he first bought the track.

Four inches of weeds filled the infield; the remaining buildings were littered with holes and broken grass; wiring on the lights had fallen down; piles of junk including oil drums and dead deer carcasses were left in the pathway of an abandoned speedway.

“It was on the edge of never being recovered. It was that close,” Draper said.

The last races had taken place in 2006 and the raceway has been left vacant since then.

Draper had an opportunity to take over Casper’s race track, but turned it down because he wanted to head north. As a contractor from Casper, he took many trips to the Sheridan area for work and decided there would be no better place to move his family.

“I just figured if I wanted to slow down a little bit with the building, I would like to find something that is money producing that would be a support to the community,” Draper said.

With just his family and a small number of volunteers as support, he entered into a lease-to-purchase agreement with the previous owners in the winter of 2015. The efforts to rebuild the track began immediately.

Interest grew exponentially — starting locally, then regionally, then nationally. Volunteers began pouring in, helping with manpower and capital. Local business sponsors began providing materials to restore the track. National racing publications called requesting interviews and racers inquired about his track’s payout.

Draper’s cellphone has not stopped ringing since January.

“The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Sheridan is that I have never seen a community this minded about doing something,” Draper said. “When I laid out my goal and they heard it, the community said ‘it’s going to happen.’”

Through volunteer funding and manpower, the track has been restored to mint condition in less than five months. Now, the track is smooth and free of weeds, the fencing surrounding the track has been replaced and new buildings have been constructed.

Nearly $70,000 has been put into the track, most of which was done with sponsorship and donations dollars. Around 25 volunteer employees will help operate the track once the season gets into full swing.


Get set

Dirt track racing has become a lost art in the Rocky Mountain West.

Aside from Sheridan, only three other tracks are operational in the state. Nationally, there are only around 800 tracks remaining, a number that has declined by one-third in recent years.

Some tracks have fallen into disrepair and their owners were unwilling or unable to make the necessary fixes. Others just couldn’t turn the profits to support a full season.

That bothers Draper.

There is high-octane fuel running through his veins; as clear back as he can remember, racing has been a part of his life. Growing up, his family was adamantly involved with racing, operating two different tracks. He was racing dirt bikes at 9 years old, and behind the wheel soon there after, competing at Sheridan Speedway.

Draper has passed down the art of racing to his seven kids.

“(My kids) are an extension of me, and they have done so well that I just thought it was a good community fit, we could do good with it, people want it,” Draper said. “I’m not looking to get rich with it for sure, but I just figure I love it. I love people; I love cars. (Racing) has been a draw my whole life.”

There is interest. It’s not uncommon for community members to drive over to the track, look around and ask what they can do to help. Sheridan Speedway has sold most of the season passes and sponsorships have already exceeded initial goals.

Draper estimated there to be about 16 auto racers in the Sheridan area, but races will feature drivers from across the region and nation.

Twenty-two shows, including auto racing, demolition derby and concerts, have been scheduled for this year, but Draper is hoping for more in the future.

“I’ve set a goal that in five years, Sheridan Speedway will be one of the top 25 tracks in the nation,” Draper said. “I knew that if I could just get it open and get the support, we could turn this all around.”



The pieces have finally come together, and in two weeks a one-car test run will be multiplied by 16. The scattered collection of fans will increase by the hundreds. Even the grandstands, which are expected to be up in the next few days, will be ready to hold the droves of fans that will arrive for the opening races.

What started as a dream will become reality. The crowds will roar, only deafened by the sound of booming engines as racers streak by.

“Seeing everyone having fun and seeing people enjoy themselves — something I’ve built, that will be pretty amazing to me,” Draper said.

Working to keep kids healthy

Two-year-old Evangeline Karns eats a strawberry at a food art exercise during the Healthy and Safe Kids event Saturday at the YMCA. The Wellness Council of Sheridan County partnered with the YMCA to provide a fun event to promote healthy habits and activity. Justin Sheely | The Sheridan Press

DEQ continues monitoring efforts on Tongue River

RANCHESTER — E. coli mitigation efforts in the Tongue River led the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality to request the town of Ranchester to chlorinate discharge from its wastewater treatment facility following an April 9 site visit.

Mayor Peter Clark said preliminary estimates suggest the chlorine will cost the town $3,000 annually. Luckily, the mayor added, representatives discovered a chamber for adding and remotely monitoring chlorine, foresight that likely saved the town “a ton of money.”

“Back in ’85 for some reason, we don’t know why, they set up our sewer lagoons for the chlorine discharge,” Clark said.

Old issue

Escherichia coli is bacteria found in the intestines of humans and animals. Most strands are harmless, but its virulent forms can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illnesses and other issues, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The presence of E. coli in the Tongue River is hardly new. The Sheridan County Conservation District discovered the bacteria when it first began testing the river in the late 1990s.

In 2002, DEQ placed a 13.5-mile segment of the river from Ranchester to Monarch on the state’s Impaired Water List to comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, said Jeremy Zumberge, who is part of the DEQ’s monitoring program out of Sheridan.

Because the river is not meeting standards, the DEQ began a process of dealing with Total Maximum Daily Load, DEQ Permitting Supervisor Leah Coleman said. TMDL is the amount of pollutant a stream can accept and still meet designated uses.

Through TMDL, the DEQ’s job is to identify sources that could be contributing to E. coli in the river and mitigate them in some way “so we’re not exasperating the problems on the Tongue River,” Coleman said.

This is a key point because the DEQ is not saying Ranchester caused or even contributes to E. coli levels in the Tongue River. The agency simply works with the town through the permitting process to ensure it is not making the river’s impairment worse. Basically, Coleman said, the chlorinated discharge eliminates them as a potential source.

“We’re looking at a holistic picture of all the potential contributors to the stream,” she said.

The E. coli standard the DEQ uses is 126 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, using an avergae of five individual samples collected within separate 24-hour periods of any consecutive 30-day period, Richard Thorp, program lead in the DEQ Division of Water Quality, said.

This standard is based on a person fully submerging him or herself into waters with consistent elevated E. coli levels.

Testing by the Sheridan County Conservation District found concentrations at three Tongue River sites exceeded the primary recreational use criterion. Thorp stated elevated geometric means ranged from 176 to 299 cfu/100 mL.

The TMDL process will run through June 2016. DEQ must submit a draft proposal by that point, which will be available for public comment.

Safe waters?

Hearing the DEQ describe a section of the Tongue River as “compromised” and “impaired” may be disconcerting to regional water users.

However, District Conservationist Andrew Cassiday, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, doesn’t think those who frequent the river should be concerned.

“My opinion is that there is very little risk to swimming and boating and fishing and all the things people do in Tongue River,” he said. “I believe that the water quality is very high and we are very fortunate to have that.”

Cassiday explained testing on the river is extremely variable. Researchers can collect two samples at the exact same time, but on opposite sides of the river, and get two completely different results. The section of river near Dayton, as an example, is not deemed compromised since the upstream location does not yield the same concentrations of E. coli.

“Even the duplicative samples taken side by side can be very different,” Cassiday added.

On top of that, the DEQ wants to ensure contaminant levels don’t get too high above natural levels. But baseline E. coli is tough to quantify — all bodies of water contain the bacteria — and research only goes back about 20 years.

TMDL process considers all point and non-point sources that could contaminate a river. A point source is a pipe that goes directly into a river. Non-point sources are everything else that could compromise a body of water: manure from nearby pastures, leaky septic tanks, animals and other runoff.

“It’s a non-point source thing, so it comes from everywhere,” Cassiday said. “All warm-blooded animals have E. coli in their gut. So it comes from everywhere in a watershed. Presumably from that, some level of E. coli is to be expected as background.”

How much, and whether it’s possible to cut the numbers down, is another question. While testing and mitigation efforts promise to continue, local agencies, particularly the Sheridan County Conservation District, have focused available funding on implementation of best-management practices.

The practices may not save Ranchester $3,000 in the short term, but water managers feel it will improve the Tongue River’s health in the long-term.

Local man dies in car crash in the Bighorns

DAYTON — A single semi-truck crash on Thursday at mile marker 71 on U.S. Highway 14 west of Dayton has left one person dead.

Wyoming Highway Patrol officials said Tyrone E. Elam, 36, of Sheridan sustained fatal injuries in the crash.

The death was confirmed by the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

The crash occurred at approximately 2:30 p.m. in a location between Steamboat Rock and Sand Turn in the Bighorn Mountains.

According to WHP, Elam was driving a 1985 Kenworth commercial vehicle eastbound on a downgrade section of the highway. Elam was hauling Gypsum when his brakes failed and he collided with the mountain wall, causing the truck to roll. The impact of the cab being crushed when it collided with the wall caused the fatality.

Elam was pronounced dead at the scene.

The driver was not ejected and seatbelt use is unknown.

The crash caused a temporary closure of the highway Thursday afternoon and evening.

According to WYDOT, unsafe speed and loss of brakes are being listed as contributing factors in the crash.

Supreme Court Justices, students hold court

SHERIDAN — Dressed in their Sunday best and seated quietly and attentively, 400 area high school students observed a session of the Wyoming Supreme Court held Wednesday morning at Sheridan High School.

The five justices traveled to Sheridan for a series of events put together by the Sheridan County Bar Association, starting with a public “You Be the Judge” activity Tuesday night at Sheridan College.

“You Be the Judge” started with a conversation with the justices regarding their positions and procedures, after which members of the community were asked to weigh in on cases, using background information and laws provided to them to try to make an informed decision.

On Wednesday, a group of invited attendees including local school and government officials, attorneys, judges and history and government students from each of the five high schools in Sheridan County filled the Sue Henry Auditorium as the justices heard an actual oral argument. The case at hand involved the state of Wyoming seeking to recover fire suppression costs occurred after negligence by Black Hills Power started a wildfire on land partially owned by the state.

On June 29, 2012, a wildland fire was ignited near the town of Newcastle. The fire was allegedly started by a power line owned by Black Hills Power. In total 61,000 acres of private and public lands were lost in this fire.

What is known as the Oil Creek Fire ultimately cost the state $5.2 million dollars to suppress and left a footprint that damaged both private and state lands.

Currently the state of Wyoming is an intervener in a suit brought by private landowners for the recovery of the cost of the fire suppression. Black Hills Power has argued the “free public services doctrine” bars the state from recovering the costs of the fire suppression.

This case is awaiting trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. But, before the federal court can proceed, it is relying on an interpretation of state law by the Wyoming Supreme Court which will come as a result of the oral arguments heard Wednesday. Three certified questions were presented to the high court for consideration including: Can the state recover fire suppression costs from a party who negligently ignites a fire? If the state cannot recover fire suppression costs from a party who negligently ignites a fire, can the state recover fire suppression costs where a portion of the lands protected by the fire suppression effort were state lands? If the state can recover fire suppression costs where a portion of the lands protected by the fire suppression effort were state lands, can the state recover all suppression costs incurred during the course of protecting its lands or only a prorated share of those costs based on its percentage of the total acres destroyed?

Though the court did not, and was not intending to, reach a conclusion to these questions Wednesday morning, the students in attendance were able to hear the arguments from each side’s attorney and a series of questions asked by the justices.

Following the oral arguments, the justices held a more informal discussion with students. Attendees were invited to question the justices on anything they so chose and the topics ranged from explaining eminent domain to defining what characteristics make for a good justice.

Sheridan High School student and child of local attorneys, Taylor Wendtland, asked the justices if they ever find it difficult to remain impartial in such a small state full of a tightly knit community of legal workers. Justice Kate Fox was in a unique position to answer this question.

“Your mother, Taylor, is a really good friend of mine, and last fall she argued a case in front of the Supreme Court and I wrote the opinion reversing her,” Fox said. “It was very difficult, but that’s our job to be objective and apply the law to the facts. It’s true that we know the legal community here — there are sometimes, for example with my former law partners, that I won’t sit on cases they bring to the Supreme Court — but in every respect judges bring to a decision some kind of a bias and we need to set those aside. That’s what we do.”

Each of the justices took turns sharing what take away they hope the students got from attending the event.

Justice William Hill said he wants the students to understand that the courts are open to them, everywhere.

“I want you to remember that if you are interested in what lawyers do and what judges do and how law develops, all you have to do is go to court,” he said. “All of your Wyoming courts are open to the public whether you come sit down and watch us or you go to Judge (John) Fenn, this is true all over Wyoming. You’re not going to get a very good idea of it from watching television, and if you watch Judge Judy or Judge Herold or whoever, you might as well put on the cartoon channel. That is television. That is not what really happens.”

Justice Marilyn Kite stated that many people don’t have a solid understanding of the judicial branch of government, and she hopes the events this week will change that.

“I think it is important to recognize that the judicial branch of government is the weakest of the three branches,” Kite said. “We don’t have an army, we can’t tax, all we do is make decisions and hope people follow them. And the more we can educate the public on the way that decisions are made in the system and how hard we work to get it right and be fair, the more trust in the system you all will have, we hope.”

But the largest reaction from the crowd came when Cully Emborg — Advanced Placement government student, event organizer and We the People coach Tyson Emborg’s son — asked why the justices decided to come to Sheridan. Chief Justice James Burke said it was because SHS is the best school in the state.

“The court has done a little bit of traveling, not a lot; but I will tell you that Sheridan High School in recent years really does hold a special place for the court,” he said. “The We the People team that won the state championship last year and this year, and the emphasis that this high school has shown with regards to civic education and the Constitution certainly played a role in our decision, as well as the willingness of the Sheridan County Bar to put in the work.

“The respect you have shown is something the court notices,” he added. “This has been a very worthwhile experience for this court and we have cherished this opportunity.”

Pruning for good

Chris Hilgert, master gardener and horticulture specialist with the University of Wyoming Extension, points to a branch on a young apple tree during the fruit tree pruning demonstration Tuesday afternoon at the Sheridan Research and Extension Center on Wyarno Road.

Hilgert demonstrated tree pruning techniques and answered questions during a workshop open to the Sheridan community. Hilgert said that pruning can be used to increase fruit productivity, manage diseases and control height and spread of the tree.

The demonstration is one of many workshops open to the public that are offered by the UW Extension throughout the year.

Kinner named new HD29 representative

UPDATE: (12:04 p.m. April 21)

SHERIDAN — After presentations and question-and-answer sessions, Sheridan County commissioners voted 5-0 Monday to appoint Mark Kinner, First Interstate Bank of Sheridan market president, to fill the House District 29 seat left vacant by the passing of Rep. John Patton on April 5.

“I’m very humbled and very honored to be filling John’s shoes and his seat, so to speak,” Kinner said after the meeting. “I certainly appreciate the support of all the precinct people in the district and then all of the county commissioners. I will work really hard to earn and keep that trust that they have given me today.”

Three candidates — Kinner, Ptolemy Data Systems CEO Ryan Mulholland and UPS employee Patrick Geary — spoke to the board and answered questions from the Commission. A fourth applicant, Ky Dixon, was eliminated Saturday morning when HD 29 precinct committeemen and women narrowed the field to three.

Throughout his presentation Monday, Kinner repeatedly referenced his experience with Leadership Wyoming and the numerous volunteer boards on which he’s served, including a six-year stint with the Sheridan College Board of Trustees, nine years on the Sheridan Community Land Trust board and his current post with Forward Sheridan.

Kinner came with knowledge of the Sheridan community that set him apart, according to Commission Chair Tom Ringley.

“I think Mark came to us with a special set of qualifications that I appreciated,” Ringley told the Press. “He’s well known in the community. I think he’ll be great at keeping in contact with the County Commission and local governments. It was a hard choice, I must say. We had three really good people who stepped up to the plate.”

Ringley opened Monday’s meeting by telling attendees the commissioners did not discuss the vacancy or candidates prior to the meeting, calling the appointment to replace long-time legislator Patton an “awesome responsibility we take very seriously.”

A random drawing, in this case pulling names out of a bag, resulted in Kinner presenting first, the same outcome as Saturday.

Aside from experience, Kinner talked about creating a K-16 system of education, one with more of an emphasis on early childhood instruction and four-year college degrees. He also emphasized his ability to work with many different individuals — including his constituents — to come to agreements.

The 62-year-old discussed balance, specifically when it comes to economic development and preserving the beauty of Wyoming’s lands.

“Economic development, yet I’m serving on a land trust board,” he said. “Aren’t those two diverse opinions? Well, I say no. I say it’s balance. It’s all about balance. It’s about having those things where we can have jobs and growth, but also have conservation and pathways and … recreational opportunities. It’s about balance, and ultimately I believe it’s about quality of life.”

Geary presented next. He told commissioners his employer was on board with an appointment, and he could get the leave to commit the time necessary to serve HD 29.

He also talked about his top two issues, the budget and education, looking ahead to next year’s legislative session.

Mulholland closed the proceedings by talking about the importance of local government, citing his experience as a former member of the Sheridan City Council.

He also spent a lot of time speaking about diversifying a Wyoming economy traditionally supported by mineral extraction.

In the end, the Commission selected Kinner. A candidate needed three of five votes to win the seat, but the self-proclaimed consensus-builder earned a unanimous nod.

After the meeting, Kinner said the next legislative session begins in 294 days. Until then, he will lean on the Sheridan County delegation, including Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, and Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, to prepare.

“I want to listen to all the parties involved, both diverse opinions, and then get together with fellow legislators and determine what would be the best for the state of Wyoming,” he said.


ORIGINAL STORY: (3:29 p.m. April 20)

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County commissioners voted 5-0 today to appoint Mark Kinner, First Interstate Bank of Sheridan market president, to fill the vacant House District 29 seat caused by the April 5 death of Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan.

The commissioners had three candidates — Kinner, Ptolemy Data Systems CEO Ryan Mulholland and UPS employee Patrick Geary — from which to choose. Candidate Ky Dixon was eliminated from the running when HD29 precinct committeemen and women selected three candidates to submit to commissioners for their vote.

All four of the original applicants for the open seat expressed in their letters of application how challenging and solemn it was to replace Patton, a long-time public servant and champion of education.

Kinner highlighted his many years of service on a variety of boards in his application for the seat.

A graduate of Leadership Wyoming, Kinner previously served on the Sheridan College Board of Trustees and Sheridan Community Land Trust, among other boards, and currently serves on Forward Sheridan, Sheridan Athletic Association and more.

“I feel my career-long tenure serving on numerous boards and organizations (most with leadership roles) has also provided me with wonderful experience and insights that would be helpful while serving in the Legislature,” he wrote in his letter. “I would like to take this commitment to our community to the next level.”

During an introductory speech and question-and-answer session with the HD29 precinct committeemen and women on Saturday, Kinner told the delegates he planned to retire from First Interstate Bank this year and could devote himself to the position, if appointed.

He said he believed in fiscal conservatism and wanted to continue Patton’s important work on education.

His strategic vision for Wyoming involved protecting the quality of life in the state, and he said he would ultimately make decisions not for himself, but for his neighbors and constituents.

Per state statute, commissioners were tasked with selecting the person to represent HD 29 following a selection of the top three candidates by the HD29 precinct committeemen and women.

Kinner will serve out the rest of Patton’s term through 2016.

Sold out FAB Conference filled with fun

SHERIDAN — Approximately 100 women gathered at Sheridan College Friday for an afternoon of personal and professional development at the third annual FAB Women’s Conference.

The conference, primarily sponsored by The Sheridan Press and Sheridan College, underwent renovations this year, moving from the fall to the spring and revamping the structure of offerings. The facelift was just what the conference needed as the event sold out and was touted by many attendees as the best year yet.

The afternoon began with a keynote address from Montana native Karen McNenny titled “Wonder Woman Wants a Day Off.” McNenny set a tone of laughter and celebration that carried throughout the day by entering the atrium for her address in a towel and robe, stating that she was just so busy she was running late.

Beneath the robe, though, was a Wonder Woman costume which McNenny revealed saying that women today are seeking to be Wonder Women by demanding too much of themselves and each other.

The costume didn’t stay around long, however, as she quickly covered up with flannel pajamas transforming into the character she calls “Under Woman” which she describes as the true woman inside all women who is capable of so much, if we just let her come out.

“We now carry a badge of honor called busy. Has busyness become the way that we now define our personal worth and identity?” McNenny asked the crowd.

“Because if we’re not busy we must be lazy, and heaven forbid we have a lazy moment. Not only does it become our badge of honor and the way we self identify but my fear is that it has become our excuse for not dealing with things we need to tackle.”

McNenny told a story about learning to scuba dive during a trip to Thailand in her 20s during a period she calls her “early life mid-life crisis.” During the dive, she was busy swimming from place to place, trying to see as much as she could before resurfacing.

Upon resurfacing, her instructor told her she needs to slow down, let the sand settle and let the fish swim to her, in order to get the most out of the dive. McNenny said this lesson has stayed with her throughout her life.

“When you get quiet, you will begin to see further, and see what you haven’t seen before, and your tank will last longer,” she said. “I’m really good at stirring it up, and swimming here, and doing it all and sometimes that drama that I have created is to cloud the water. Because sometimes one of the most courageous things we can do in life is to get quiet enough to really see what does need to swim at us.”

Following lunch and McNenny’s address, attendees were offered two sessions per hour to choose from, one focused on personal development and one professional.

For example, during “Mrs. Fix It” the audience learned to change their own bicycle tires and rewire lamps. On the professional side of the offering local notables came together to offer tips on resume building, negotiating, volunteerism, running for office and rethinking the personal mission statement.

Many of the feedback forms submitted stated that McNenny’s breakout session titled “Community is the Cure to Everything” was their favorite of the day.

In it, McNenny stated that now, more than ever, it is essential to create community in our lives. “It is through personal connection that we develop the greatest potential and professional prosperity,” she said.

Following the conclusion of the sessions, a “Nonprofit Speed Dating” was held in which five local organizations were each given two minutes to tell the attendees about themselves and their current needs. After the introductions, attendees were encouraged to visit the tables of each organization and use the energy and inspiration of the conference as a springboard to getting involved in the community.

Kirven named FAB Woman of the Year

SHERIDAN — Approximately 100 community members gathered at Sheridan College Friday night to honor the nominees and winner of the 2015 FAB Woman of the Year award.

After an energizing afternoon at the sold out third annual FAB Women’s Conference, keynote speaker Karen McNenny opened the WOY celebration with an entertaining and motivating presentation on finding the “Person of the Year” inside you every day, even when there is no ceremony celebrating it.

But for seven worthy women, at least for one night, it was all about outside recognition of their outstanding efforts. Each of the nominees had their moment in the spotlight as the person who nominated her took to the stage to regale the audience with each nominee’s outstanding personal story.

Members of the FAB Organizing Committee had a tough decision to make once again as the annual nominees followed tradition by wowing the group. The close decision went to Ada Kirven, executive director of the Sheridan Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Kirven’s influence as she dedicates her time and energy to her community has reached far beyond her health care position, previously serving on the Center for a Vital Community advisory board for 12 years, the Wyoming Community Foundation board for eight years, the Sheridan Rotary Club Outbound Exchange Student program and the Banner Woman’s Club, all while participating in cancer awareness efforts through Relay for Life and The Link Partners in Pink, student leadership development through Rotary International and board leadership through several of her organizations.

But it is in the area of health that Kirven has left her biggest mark.

“I really believe that healthcare and wellness are important to all of us and living in a rural area of Wyoming I have found it is really rewarding to talk to people about all the services that are available in our community and that come from generous gifts of the community,” Kirven said, adding that all of her experiences have allowed her to live out this passion for healthcare. “Sheridan has provided great opportunities for leadership training and without organizations like the CVC, I may not have understood that leadership and how I could play a part in guiding the hospital.”

Kirven was nominated for the 2015 award by colleague and friend Mike McCafferty, Chief Executive Officer of Sheridan Memorial Hospital. She was also nominated in 2014.

In his nominating letter he wrote, “Ada is an authentic leader and a graceful woman who displays great balance in her life. … Ada is the kind of person that puts the needs of others first and is willing to do whatever it takes to love and support her friends.”

McCafferty was overjoyed to learn that Kirven had been selected, stating that in a community of high achievers and a collective pool of highly deserving women, Kirven has no equal.

“The biggest thing I would share is that when you’re with Ada, you’re always the most important person,” McCafferty said. “She reflects back to you the best things about yourself. I don’t know how you get that as a skill as a human being but it’s amazing. All I can say that it is, it’s love. I think she really truly cares about the people that are a part of her life and the people that she works with and the work that she does.”

McCafferty said Kirven is a beacon, and people are attracted to her light, want to be part of it and support what she represents, and through that she is a leader for good.

“No matter who you are, where you are in life or what your circumstances are, she gives you the best of who she is every time,” McCafferty said. “That’s a pretty amazing feat as a human because life isn’t always easy. As humans we always face our own challenges, but Ada finds a way to make opportunity out of challenges and do it in a positive way and she’s a unique lady in that regard.”

Kirven said all her work stems from a passion for people, developing friendships and an interest in learning more about what others are doing.

“Like those who have gone before me, these nominees and recipients are individuals that care about others and try to make a difference in whatever way we can,” Kirven said. “It’s an honor to be recognized and we have an amazing group of women in our community. All the women I know are worthy of being Women of the Year.”

ENVISIONING A NEW NORTH MAIN: Interchange, surrounding land use comes into focus

SHERIDAN — Although completion is still several years away, the North Main Interchange and surrounding development came more into focus Monday when representatives presented Phase 2 of the Wrench Ranch Master Plan at the Sheridan Planning Commission meeting.

Engineering Project Manager Joe Schoen said the Wyoming Department of Transportation plans to award the project this fall, with construction tentatively slated to begin in February or March 2016. If all goes according to plan, the three-year job should be complete by the end of 2018.

While WYDOT will administer the estimated $48 million project, that doesn’t mean the city hasn’t been actively involved. Sheridan committed roughly $10 million to the interchange for utility work and amenity enhancements like pathway connections, streetscaping around Yellowtail Drive, bridge design and other features, according to Schoen and WYDOT Public Involvement Specialist Ronda Holwell.

For the surrounding area, the city started soliciting input years ago from residents and working with the North Main Association on what the groups want to see from an area expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, city Planning and Economic Development Director Robert Briggs said.

The city annexed approximately 583 acres of the Wrench Ranch in 2009. Then the City Council approved plans for Sheridan gateway districts.

At their most basic, these regulations stipulate what private developers can plan and build on corridors that welcome traffic into city limits. The guidelines prohibit certain industrial businesses that could be eyesores. They also dictate a percentage of land be deemed open space along with various other conditions.

Part of those laws require a master plan, which Wrench Ranch submitted along with two plats on Monday. The plan offers a glimpse at what’s coming to north Sheridan in the next couple years.

Wrench Ranch designated three separate land use areas: commercial, mixed use and residential. Commercial land will be located directly off the interchange and the reconstructed Yellowtail Drive.

“You’re going to see likely hospitality businesses that cater to people getting on and off the interstate,” Briggs said. “You’re going to see demand for retail, restaurant, possibly some offices and other types of uses. There are, as you get farther away from the interchange, there may be the potential for some light manufacturing or more warehousing and storage uses.”

In areas farther off the interchange, mixed-use land will provide a sort of buffer zone between the commercial district and residential areas.

“You’re going to see some similar commercial uses — offices, retail, restaurant — but then you’re going to see some higher-density residential, things like apartments, housing with a smaller footprint, less-land-availability attached housing,” Briggs said.

North of the commercial and mixed-use zones, Sheridan County School District 2 purchased a 10-acre, $800,000 tract from the Wrench Ranch for the district’s sixth elementary school. The land near the school will be zoned residential, with mainly single-family homes and perhaps some smaller duplexes or apartment complexes possible.

Aside from the zoning, the master plan also proposes locations and routes for water, sewer and walking paths. It sets standards for building setbacks, architectural guidelines, site planning and more.

The North Main Interchange project is one of the most expensive the state of Wyoming has ever supported, and, based on population projections and the city setup, is likely the last interchange project in Sheridan for a long, long time.

With so much at stake, city staff says it will work to try to ensure it gets the entryway the public envisioned while planning over the last couple years.

Tim Tebow talks faith at K-Life event

SHERIDAN — When Tim Tebow faced criticisms in his life, it didn’t define him because he had already defined himself as a child of God. That was the message he delivered to a crowd of youth Wednesday evening at Sheridan High School.

The former National Football League quarterback has been famously open regarding his religion. He was brought to Sheridan County for this special speaking engagement by K-Life, a community interdenominational Christian ministry of discipleship and fellowship for youth and their families.

Led by master of ceremonies Don Julian, Tebow answered questions regarding role models, peer pressure, sports and even suicide.

Tebow said he was born to be a competitor; the youngest of five siblings he had to be competitive just to get the good food off the dinner table.

From the first time he entered sports, playing tee ball on the White Sox in Jacksonville, Florida, his drive to win was evident.

“I show up to my first game and we’re getting ready to take the field and Coach Langley gathers us together and says, ‘OK guys, now it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, it’s only about having fun,’ and I look at him and go, ‘What the heck is this guy talking about?’ Tebow said. “So I yanked on his shirt and said, ‘No coach, you are wrong. It is only about winning because that’s when you have fun,’ and he looks at me and says, ‘Who is this kid?’”

After that first game, Tebow’s parents, who were missionaries, instilled a household rule that before each game the children had to memorize a scripture on humility.

He added that though he is a better team player and a more humble person than his childhood self, he continues to work on the scripture.

When asked about peer pressure, Tebow responded by asking the crowd, “Do I want to be average or do I want to be special?” He said that giving into peer pressure is making the choice to be average.

“If everyone is going one way, I’m gonna make a choice to follow that? Why? Because if I’m like everyone else, then I’m average,” Tebow said. “For me, when I was young, even if it wasn’t right, I chose to be different because if you’re different you at least have a chance to be special. … It is OK to be different. Yeah, you might be criticized every now and then but you’re also going to be respected.”

He added that average people tend to have the daily mentality of “I can’t wait to get by” but great people wake up with the mentality that “I can’t wait to get better.”

“For you students at school, how many of you wake up and say; ‘I can’t wait to go to school; I can’t wait to learn; I can’t wait to go to practice and get better’?” Tebow asked. “No, you say I can’t wait until Friday, I can’t wait until I get to hang out with my friends. But you can choose to be different. When you choose to love every day, and be excited about it, and sacrifice to be the best that you can be, people are going to look at you and say, ‘Wow, that’s different, that’s exciting and that’s contagious.’”

TRE students break ground on new school

RANCHESTER — Wielding golden shovels bigger than them, select lucky students from the current Tongue River Elementary School broke ground on the construction project Tuesday afternoon to build their new school.

The current students of TRE were bussed to the new site to attend the ceremony, and a few were chosen by lottery drawing to do the first shovel scoop. They then passed the shovels to the school board, administration and other officials for their turn.

The road to the groundbreaking was a long one.

The new school was to begin development in the summer of 2014, and the project was originally scheduled to be completed by this November to relocate students from the current TRE building, which requires roof repairs, is significantly over capacity and develops other deficiencies as it ages. However, when initial bids for the school came in $3 million over budget, a process of replanning, rebidding and repeating began.

Now, with an affordable plan and $13.9 million in state funding in place, the new TRE is on track to be complete by June 2016.

The school will be located next to the current Tongue River Middle School and the Sheridan County School District 1 headquarters in Ranchester and will feature a separated gym and cafeteria, a modern library and a science center.

“Right now the science lab shares a modular outside with art and music, so we have to schedule things so we have science some days and art some days, and some days the science specimens get stinky for the art teacher and she’s not happy about that,” TRE Principal Deb Hofmeier said. “Our new building will have a science lab that is state of the art.”

Some of the features of the lab design include walls that are see-through so students can see the inside of the building and how electricity and plumbing work, water stations and a floor with a drain in it for some of the messier experiments and quick access to the outdoor learning area.

Behind the building, facing the mountains, an outdoor class area will include the school garden and eventually a greenhouse.

“We’re putting in trees all around it that are different species from Wyoming so they’ll actually be able to study the trees and the fruits that come off of them,” Hofmeier said. “The kids love science.”

That statement was confirmed Tuesday afternoon when Hofmeier took to the podium and suddenly the groundbreaking seemed more like a pep rally as the children burst into cheers with everything she said.

She said that the children had requested a swimming pool and hot tub, and they cheered and screamed wildly. She added that though they didn’t get those things, they did get a new library and science lab, and the kids cheered with equal excitement.

“I did not tell them to do that,” Hofmeier joked later that day. “How great is that that they are equally excited for a library as they were for a pool?”

Hoffmeier said the children are packed in right now, and they really just can’t wait for the additional space.

“Our building was built for 205, right now we’re at 260, so we literally fill every corner of that building as we’re trying to move around,” Hofmeier said. “We’ve added new programs and have no space to put them, so we have literally moved into the closets. The janitor said the other day, ‘you’re looking at my office, aren’t you?’ and I said for next year, yeah, so he won’t have an office next year. We’re packed in there.”

SCSD1 superintendent Marty Kobza said the building project will transform education for all kindergarten through fifth-grade students in Tongue River.

“As I look out across this piece of land, right now I see a lot of dirt, but I see amazing opportunities for the future,” Kobza said. “I see an elementary school that is flexible and personal, a facility that has been designed for learning, and that is on the most basic levels safe and secure.”

Bill Panos, director of the state’s School Facilities Department, has worked with the district on the project and attended the ceremony Tuesday.

“We’ve been working for a long time to get ready for today,” Panos said. “These aren’t just places to learn, they’re also places for teachers to practice educating, and it’s really important that we have great places for these educators to do their work, to be able to design programs, so we can continue to deliver the best education to all of you.”

North, south interchanges primed for changes

SHERIDAN — The new North Sheridan Interchange moves closer to heading out to bid each day, and Wrench Ranch representatives approached the Sheridan Planning Commission Monday evening looking to approve its master plan and a preliminary plat request for areas near the site.

Sheridan Planning and Development Director Robert Briggs told commissioners Wrench Ranch representatives needed approval of a master plan and plat for more than 365 acres for two main reasons.

The first is because Sheridan County School District 2 and Wrench Ranch identified a future school site on 10 acres of the property. Subdividing and construction requires approval of the master plan, though, since the location is zoned as a gateway district into Sheridan.

The other reason, Briggs added, deals with the city wanting to place a commercial node on seven acres off a reconstructed Yellowtail Drive upon completion of the interchange, which will be located northeast of the Sheridan VA Medical Center.

Outside of the 17 acres involved in the preliminary plats, development plans for Wrench Ranch remain a work in progress, but ranch representatives ensured the commission any future development would meet city requirements, including 17 percent open space.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plats and master plan.

A proposed building near the South Sheridan Interchange also garnered time from the Planning Commission.

After a wide-ranging discussion, commissioners approved a site and landscaping plan for a convenience store and gas station at 1229 E. Brundage Lane by 5-1 vote.

Good 2 Go approached the Sheridan City Council a couple months ago looking to secure the city’s available retail liquor license. The Idaho-based company did not receive the permit, but it plans to move ahead with construction anyway.

Because the store will sit in an area deemed an entryway, the city mandates certain landscaping requirements, most importantly a 50-foot buffer between properties and an adjacent interstate right-of-way.

The plan submitted on behalf of Good 2 Go does not meet this requirement, but Horrocks Engineers representative Clint Boyle told the Commission the site does not currently possess any concrete or landscaping and said, upon completion, the plan would produce a 9,000-square-foot, “very attractive store” with numerous plants and trees. Rather than a consistent 50-foot buffer, the store’s plan includes an 18-foot buffer that juts out to nearly 70 feet at the north and south ends of the property.

Commissioner Mike Giorgis voted against the measure. Earlier in the meeting, he expressed concerns about the ingress and egress widths and the ability of traffic to move around the building upon construction completion.

However, Boyle presented a simulation that showed traffic, including large semi-trucks, could move freely around parking and gasoline fill-up areas. He also stated the ingress and egress widths would be 40 feet, larger than the 24 feet required by building standards.

The motion finalizes the site and landscaping plan; Good 2 Go will not need to approach the City Council. Briggs told the Commission that city staff would approve the architectural plan once Good 2 Go presents it. That would only come before commissioners if staff had an issue with the plans, which is unexpected, Briggs added.


In other business:

  • The Commission approved a subdivision request for 2.13 acres located southeast of Independent Lane and State Highway 331. Briggs explained the measure would allow property owners to construct two single-family homes.
  • Commissioners unanimously released Star Liquor owner Kon Ho In from a previous landscaping agreement he entered with the city.

Attorney David Smith, with Lonabaugh and Riggs, represented In and made his case to the Commission. He said In made a deal with the city in 2009 to renovate his building and, in turn, complete landscaping required under corridor rules. Since that agreement was made, however, the rules mandating In complete such landscaping have been repealed.

Star Liquor requested release from the old agreement and proposed different landscaping.

“While the project here is going to be a little smaller than the original one, there is still going to be landscaping,” Smith said. “I think it’ll be well-designed and it’ll still look aesthetically pleasing.”

The Commission agreed with Smith’s reasoning. Ultimately, whether In goes through with the landscaping plan proposed Monday is up to him.

Patton remembered as gentleman, servant

SHERIDAN — He was a gentleman.

That was the theme that seemed to resonate throughout the funeral services held Saturday for Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, who died April 5 at the age of 84.

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church overflowed with those who came to pay their respects to the longtime legislator who championed education and government openness. Fellow legislators, government officials, family and friends filled the pews.

Pastor Doug Goodwin highlighted some of Patton’s accomplishments in the eulogy. Patton was a husband, father, grandfather, businessman, community servant, political representative, church leader and friend.

Goodwin spoke of Patton’s unique voice, which grew just a little more raspy as the legislator aged. It was kind, distinguished and resonated with friendship, Goodwin said. Patton made you feel like you had been heard.

“We will miss John’s voice,” Goodwin said.

But above all, Goodwin said, Patton was a gentleman. He was fair; he responded to constituent concerns; he was gracious, conscientious and kind.

Patton also dreamed of a seamless kindergarten through junior college educational system, Goodwin said.

“His dream really is about giving students opportunity in a complicated world,” Goodwin said.

The pastor urged those in attendance to not let Patton’s dream die.

Goodwin also touched on the strength of Patton’s relationships with his wife and family.

Father John Meyer also paid tribute to Patton, likening his attributes to those of President Theodore Roosevelt.

“John’s life was about service,” Meyer said. “Service to his family, to this community of Sheridan and to the people of the great state of Wyoming. Service was the hallmark of his life. He always lived to serve others and he always served gracefully and with dignity.”

Like Roosevelt, Meyer said, Patton was a man of the West. He loved the mountains, prairies, streams and rivers, Meyer said. But most of all, he loved the people.

Like the former president, Patton was a man of the people.

The real heroes of American history according to Roosevelt were the everyday folks who worked to keep the country afloat, gave to their communities and to their neighbors.

By that definition, Meyer said, Patton was an American hero.

“We are better people and better communities for having known him,” Meyer said. “Well done, John. Well done good and faithful servant.

“You’ve run the good race; you fought the good fight; you lived a good life.”

MISERY MANAGEMENT AT 29,000 FEET: Local climber takes on Mount Everest

SHERIDAN — It’s 20 degrees. The wind is blowing, and his oxygen level is about half of what he’s used to. He hasn’t slept much over the past few days, and he won’t for the next few. To make matters worse, he is crammed in a tent, mere inches away from another person — someone he knows nothing about — as he attempts to close his eyes and rest.

Misery management.

That’s what Darren Rogers calls the hardest part of climbing a mountain.

“Obviously there’s challenging conditions with snow, ice, rock fall, all of those types of items,” Rogers said. “But a lot of the major challenges come from difficult tent mates, dining tent experiences, redundant conversation.”

Rogers likes to keep to himself and keep his head clear when he climbs. These aren’t casual Cloud Peak climbs. Not that Cloud Peak is casual; it’s still a 13,000-foot climb. But for someone like Rogers, it’s more of a walk in the park than the stuff he gets into nowadays.

Rogers takes on the big boys. He summited Cho Oyu (26,906 feet) last year, and now, he’s on his way to Nepal to tackle Mount Everest.

Rogers has been a Sheridan resident for close to 11 years. A chemical engineer by trade, he came to Wyoming by way of the oil and gas industry, doing most of his work with coalbed methane.

But before he was working with gas pipelines, he was vastly expanding his passion for adventure.

Rogers grew up in southern Colorado, in the 9,000-person town of Alamosa. Alamosa sits at 7,500 feet and is surrounded by mountains. Rogers was trapped. There was only one way out, at least in his mind.

“Every time we went up camping and there was something in my way, I went up and over it,” he said. “Later, it just progressed to going up on various mountains.”

He was hooked.

His curiosity grew. One mountain. Two mountains. Two or three mountains in one day. He was quickly learning what his body was capable of. Kilimanjaro came and went. Then Cho Oyu. Now, Everest.

But it took some time. He had to adapt. He had to learn.

First, it was all about preparation. Equipment, climate, technique — it was all new to Rogers.

“Not understanding how a mountain can change,” he said, describing the challenges he faced as a young climber. “How insignificant you are when you’re climbing.”

But that was the easy stuff. It was the mental aspect, that misery management, that Rogers struggled with.

As the saying goes, you’re only as fast as the slowest person. That holds especially true on the side of a 26,000-foot mountain. Rogers said climbing is so vested on understanding your own pace, that someone else’s pace can become very troublesome.

“If you move too fast, you overtire,” he said. “If you move too slow, you overtire. You have to move at your own pace.”

So that’s what he has learned to do. He does things for himself. The physical aspect of climbing is so exhausting in and of itself that compounding that with mental frustration makes it exponentially tougher. Rogers described this balancing act in a journal entry he wrote after summiting Cho Oyu.

“It was a day of hell. Both mentally and physically I wasn’t there,” the entry reads. “It took everything in me to put one foot in front of the other. I was weak, questioning why in hell was I here.  The ice walls were the only highlight as I struggled up. To make matters worse we had to melt snow and boil our own water once we reached Camp 2.  Not usually a difficult task but at altitude with poor stoves, no lighters, limited matches and to top it off a high-maintenance tent mate … A lot of work!”

Rogers learned to climb ahead of the group to get away from the chatter. He eats first to avoid the busy dining tent. He keeps to himself. He must keep his head free of clutter.

He made it to the top of Cho Oyu. He summited 26,906 feet — which he pointed out was merely the halfway point. You still have to climb back down. His performance was unexpected. He surprised himself.

When he reached the bottom, having passed the other climbers along the way, he figured why not turn back around and conquer Everest. Now, he didn’t actually turn right around that day, but he worked with International Mountain Guides to tailor a trek specific to his climbing style.

He had the gear. He had the trip planned out. It was just a matter of rebuilding himself for another monstrous summit.

That meant running short distances with limited rest. It meant 60 pushups and 20 pull-ups daily. He often ran with his 60-pound pack, never stopping despite the pain.

Misery management.

He shrugged off the funny looks from his neighbors as he climbed an inclined ladder in his backyard, crampons strapped to the bottom of his boots. He slept in a Hypoxico tent, reducing the oxygen concentration around his bed.

It meant months of preparation. It meant more than 25 years of climbing. But now, he’s ready to take down Goliath. And just for good measure, he’s sandwiching his trek of Everest (29,035 feet) with summits of Lobuche (20,075) and Lhotse (27,940).

You can follow along with Rogers’ journey at, but his SPOT GPS device is only good up to about 21,000 feet. You’ll just have to trust him the rest of the way.

But it was important for Rogers to note, no news is good news.

After all, he catered this expedition to his own pace. It’s best we keep any added misery to ourselves.

College board OKs alternative school land agreement

SHERIDAN — Sheridan County is one step closer, though still many years out, to having a new collaborative alternative high school. During a regular board meeting Thursday night, the board of trustees for the Northern Wyoming Community College District authorized Sheridan College administration to enter into a long-term ground lease agreement with Sheridan County School District 2 for the purpose of building the alternative high school on property owned by the college.

NWCCD is already home to one such arrangement as the Westwood High School, an alternative high school on the campus of Gillette College, is in its first year of operation.

Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young said these types of alternative high schools are a growing trend nationally.

“Sometimes these students who end up in these kind of school situations tend to be some of the brightest and most intelligent students in the system; they just don’t learn well in a traditionally structured learning environment,” Young said. “And the research shows that if you get them into a college environment sooner, they thrive.”

Young is on the steering committee working through preliminary plans, and he said that though discussions are still in the early phases, one way the arrangement might work is the students will spend part of their day in their high school setting and then spend the other part of their day dual enrolled in college classes in the actual college setting.

“The school will probably have a different name; it probably won’t be called an alternative high school. There are just a lot of questions to be answered yet,” Young said. “When you have multiple school districts collaborating on a building, you can understand the political jurisdictional issues. This doesn’t fit in a box and so we’re going to be having those kind of conversations with our legislators and our school boards. But in order for district 2 — which is the district that has the large current alternative school that needs to be replaced and they are the ones proceeding with all of the construction work with the school facilities commission at the state level — in order for them to have these kind of conversations they need to know that you would be willing to enter into a ground lease.”

The site would be located in front of the current Watt Center toward Coffeen Avenue, which Young said gives them a little bit of separation from the main campus but gives them direct access to the new tech center and the new agriculture center.

He estimates that the agreement will be “fairly long-term, 25 to 50 years I imagine.”

Approval to move forward was granted unanimously.

In other business:

  • The 2015-16 school year preliminary budget was accepted as presented.
  • An early retirement request for Rose Hendrickson was granted.
  • Just prior to the meeting, the trustees were given a tour of the current construction progress on the new Whitney Arts Center.
Farrier skills

Farrier student Kolter Hughes of Ten Sleep cleans a hoof on a draft horse at the farrier shop Tuesday morning. The students cleaned and trimmed the work horse’s hooves to prevent cracking and damage. The farrier science program teaches students blacksmithing and horse shoeing skills.

SCSD2 continues to plan for alternative school

SHERIDAN — The Alternative School Planning Study that Sheridan County School District 2 compiled for the Wyoming School Facilities Commission has been completed and approved, recommending that the district explore building a collaborative alternative high school on or near the Sheridan College campus.

Recently the district received funds from the SFC to evaluate and determine the needs of the district’s alternative schools. Previously, Fort Mackenzie High School and the Wright Place Junior High School have not been on any of the state’s priority lists for capacity or needs because they were housed on the junior high campus and included in the junior high numbers. The district has been requesting they be prioritized for the past several years and this year the state recognized it as a viable need and funded the study.

With the study, there are some key elements requiring review including an enrollment projection number, a look at the capacities of other secondary schools in the district and a review of viable solutions.

Using the cohort formula provided by the SFC, SCSD2 facilities director Julie Carroll determined that a grade 6-12 alternative school in SCSD2 would house 156 students; therefore neither the high school nor the junior high have the capacity to house a school within a school.

Viable solutions the district explored for housing the new alternative school included the old Highland Park Elementary School site, the old Woodland Park Elementary School back acreage and a co-located site within Sheridan College.

A collaborative steering committee reviewing the need for alternative schools in each of the Sheridan County school districts and the Johnson County School District has been meeting recently as well. Carroll said they have been examining things like vision, mission, values, goals, instructional models, student support systems and student outcomes trying to determine how to capture more students who don’t do as well in a mainstream education system. However, steering committee meetings have yet to be open to the public and requests for information regarding their discussions and progress have resulted in limited feedback.

“It’s kind of coincidental that the board had put this committee together about a year ago,” Carroll said. “But basically it has flowed handily right in with this (SFC) report, so a lot of the information had already been gathered.”

The SCSD2 board of trustees unanimously approved the SFC report as presented by Carroll and will move forward pursuing a site on or near the Sheridan College campus.

During the regular meeting of the Northern Wyoming Community College District board of trustees Thursday at Sheridan College, a recommendation will be voted upon authorizing the college administration to enter into a long-term ground lease with SCSD2 for the purpose of building an alternative high school on property owned by Sheridan College.

The school will also be included in the district’s five-year facilities plan update.

Other funding requests included in the facilities plan will include funds for the transportation department, funds for Sagebrush Elementary School, component level funding and additional necessary repairs to Sheridan High School.

In other business:

  • a Gollings Endowment Fund will be established after unanimous approval by the board, using $1,237,500 of the $3,237,500 paid to them in the sale of the 10 Gollings paintings previously owned by the district. The board will determine at a later date how the interest on the fund will be distributed, but the principal allocated to the fund shall remain intact and not distributed unless required by law.
  • a ground breaking ceremony will be held at Sheridan High School for the new sports facility project on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Students and several of the major donors will provide an overview of the project, a shovel ceremony and a celebration. All members of the community are invited to attend the event. Organizers of the project are hoping to wrap up the locker sales portion of project fundraising at Thursday’s event. Currently, 257 of the 400 lockers have been sold.
Rep. John Patton dies at 84, leaves legacy of service

UPDATE: (11:59 a.m.)

SHERIDAN — Family members of Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, have confirmed that he died Sunday at Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Patton was 84.

His oldest son Bill Patton said this morning that he died at 3:33 p.m. Sunday at the hospital from pulmonary failure.

Patton had a heart attack in Cheyenne on Feb. 17 while he was there for the most recent legislative session.

His son Jack Patton took him to the hospital where he went into full cardiac arrest. Doctors inserted a stent and his heart was stabilized. However, his lungs became inflamed and he remained hospitalized in Cheyenne until Tuesday when he was stable enough to be moved to Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Jack Patton said.

He was in stable condition until an episode in the middle of the night a few days ago, Patton’s son Bill Patton said. He declined rapidly after that and died on Sunday.

Patton’s wife, Virginia, Bill Patton and daughter-in-law Kathy were by his side.

Patton is survived by his sons Bill, Jack and J.T. and his daughter Jinny (Stratton). His daughter Sue (Fletcher) died in October 2007 of chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Services are pending.


Legislative service

Those close to the longtime legislator say Patton was passionate about education and worked to champion best processes throughout his four terms in the state Legislature.

Patton served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965, as state senator from 1967-1971 and as a representative from 2009 until his death.

In this most recent legislative session, Patton was serving as chairman of the House Education Committee. He sponsored House Bill 23, which was passed by the Legislature in this term and repealed the 2014 budgetary footnote that had halted review of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Patton was in the hospital when his bill was passed, but Rep. Rosie Berger, R-Big Horn, said in mid-March that he was pleased with the passing of the bill when she told him about it and had looked forward to returning to the education committee to begin the review of the standards.

Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, said one of the most tragic parts of Patton’s death was that he had just become chairman of the education committee and was looking forward to his work in the interim.

“John was a very smart guy and there were very few times that you would have a conversation with him and come away not learning something new,” Burns said. “He had a great institutional memory and a genuine love of government and the philosophy of government.”

Burns said that love showed in every conversation held while he was in the hospital. He always asked about the state of legislation.

“By being a legislator and still actively doing this up to age 84, you don’t do that for the money, you do that for the love,” Burns said. “And the fact that John went 30 years between tenures as a legislator shows that he came back to the thing he loved.”

Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, agreed Patton’s return to service was extraordinary but also credited his service in the state Legislature in the 1960s and 1970s.

“He loved representing the people of Sheridan and doing what’s right,” Kinskey said.

Kinskey noted the mineral severance tax, the mineral trust fund, the Hathaway Scholarship, roads, bridges, infrastructure, the Wildlife Trust Fund and the “rainy day” fund that keeps Wyoming afloat in tough times as hallmarks of that era of the state Legislature.

“John was right there at the very beginning of all of that,” Kinskey said. “He must have missed it to come back at a time when most people are enjoying the rocking chair. He came back and went back into the Legislature and was in there working mightily for what he believed in.”


Community service

When Patton was not working on policy, he could be found serving his community and the nation in a variety of ways. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Shriners and the Elks and volunteered with those service organizations.

“No matter what anybody needed, he’d do it,” Jack Patton said about his father. “He was in every organization there is socially. He loved doing that stuff. He never saw a challenge he wouldn’t take.”

Patton was 23 when he moved to Sheridan in the mid-1950s with four kids in tow and “made a go of it,” Jack Patton said.

Patton worked in insurance at Ralston Patton Insurance, later becoming partners with Ralph Levi. He served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965 and earned a term as a state legislator in 1967.

In 1972, after his time in the state Senate, he ran again but lost in the primary, Jack Patton said.

At that time, he went to work for the Citizens Conference on State Legislatures, now the National Conference of State Legislatures, which worked to improve the efficiency and process of state legislatures around the nation.

Making the legislative process transparent, effective and efficient remained a lifelong passion. Patton even worked for a little over a year for President Gerald Ford’s administration from 1975-1977 on matters of efficient political processes.

In 1977, the Pattons moved back to Sheridan where John Patton went into the real estate business with BHJ Realty. He later went into the brokerage business with Dean Witter, eventually merging with Morgan Stanley. He worked in the brokerage business until 2002 before going back into legislative work in 2009.

“He was never afraid of anything. He was willing to try anything and always seemed to be successful,” Jack Patton said.

Sheridan High School history teacher Tyson Emborg worked with Patton often when Patton would come to his classroom to engage students.

“It was fun to know him,” Emborg said. “That was a great joy to me personally to have somebody like that in the community that I could have great intellectual and energetic conversation with one-on-one. He left a huge legacy and I think he would probably be a person to say that it’s the next generation that will have to step up and try to fill those big shoes. Not only in terms of a legislator but also in terms of community mindedness.

“I encourage the community to reflect for a minute what that means about our efforts and our energy and how we want to put others before ourselves,” Emborg added.

Patton and his wife were also avid art collectors and recently donated a large collection of Hans Kleiber artwork to The Brinton Museum.


A good father and husband

Apart from his community and political service, Patton was a good father and husband, his sons said.

In almost every conversation anyone had with Patton, it would include anecdotes about his children.

He also never failed to revere and thank his wife, Virginia, for her support and intelligence and patience, often crediting her for his success.

He would tear up when he talked about his children and the death of his daughter Sue.

He would tell stories of Bill Patton’s service in the U.S. Air Force and his and his wife’s visits to see him in Turkey and Indonesia.

When Bill Patton and his wife, Kathy, returned to Sheridan, he would accompany his dad to almost every Sheridan High School football and basketball game.

“He really enjoyed keeping in touch with not just his age cohort but the entire town,” Bill Patton said.

Jack Patton remembered his dad as an outdoorsman who was passionate about hunting and fishing and golf.

Even in his leisure time, though, Patton served others.

Jack Patton said his dad worked to have the three lakes near his cabin in the Tepee Ranch area of the Bighorns stocked with fish so children would be able to catch fish and build memories there. His cabin in the Bighorns was his haven.

“He was the epitome of a pillar of the community,” Bill Patton said.


County, Republicans tasked with selecting next legislator

From staff reports

SHERIDAN — As the news of state Rep. John Patton’s passing made its way through the area, Sheridan County and Republican Party officials met to discuss the process of selecting a replacement.

According to state statute, the Sheridan County commissioners maintain responsibility for notifying the state of Patton’s passing and ultimately choosing a representative to complete his term, which runs through 2016.

The board will begin by sending a letter to the Republican State Central Committee to notify it of Patton’s death. This kicks off a 15-day period for House District 29 precinct committeemen and committeewomen to get commissioners three names for consideration.

Ryan Mulholland, the Sheridan County Republican Party chairman, said this list would be created from an open call to HD 29 residents. Anyone expressing interest will go through an interview process.

Once the Republican Party sends its three candidates to the commissioners, the board will have only five days to pick the next Sheridan legislator.

As of Monday morning, Mulholland described the situation as “rapidly evolving” in light of the unexpected news.

“John was an important part of Sheridan and the state and did a lot as a servant for this community,” he said. “This is and will continue to be a tough process.”


(9:08 a.m.)

SHERIDAN — Family members of Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan, have confirmed that he died Sunday at Sheridan Memorial Hospital.

Patton was 84.

His oldest son Bill Patton said this morning that he died at 3:33 p.m. Sunday at the hospital from pulmonary failure.

Patton had a heart attack in Cheyenne on Feb. 17 while he was down there for the most recent Legislative session.

His son Jack Patton took him to the hospital where he went into full cardiac arrest. Doctors inserted a stent and his heart was stabilized. However, his lungs became inflamed and he remained hospitalized in Cheyenne until Tuesday when he was stable enough to be moved to Sheridan Memorial Hospital, Jack Patton said.

He was in stable condition until an episode in the middle of the night a few days ago, Bill Patton said. He declined rapidly after that and died on Sunday.

Patton’s wife Virginia, Bill Patton and his wife Kathy were by his side.

Patton is survived by his sons Bill, Jack and J.T. and his daughter Jinny. His daughter Sue died in October 2007 of chronic lymphatic leukemia.

Service arrangements have not yet been made.

“He was the epitome of a pillar of the community,” Bill Patton said. “Wyoming has not had a better friend of education in its recent history.”

Patton was passionate about education and worked to champion best processes throughout his four terms in the state legislature. Patton served in the House of Representatives in 1961 and 1965, as state senator from 1967-1971 and as a representative from 2009 until his death.

When Patton was not working on policy, he could be found serving his community in a variety of ways. He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Shriners and the Elks and volunteered in many ways with those service organizations.

He was a regular visitor to area schools to discuss legislative policies and procedures and hardly ever missed a Sheridan High School basketball or football game, championing the lives of children and students in and out of Congress.

“No matter what anybody needed, he’d do it,” Jack Patton said about his father.

BIG HORN MEETS FINAL FOUR: Wollenman earns academic honors, playing time in NCAA tourney

BIG HORN — When the Michigan State Spartans hop on a bus today, their final destination will be Lucas Oil Stadium. Just a few blocks from their hotel in Indianapolis and just over 250 miles from campus, Tom Izzo and the Spartans have made longer journeys this season.

Sure, it is the Final Four. It was a journey in and of itself for the seven-seeded Spartans to even get there. But on the map, it was the second shortest trip of the four teams left in the tourney.

For one member of the Michigan State basketball team, though, the journey began in the classroom rather than the basketball court, and it began in the 490-person town of Big Horn, Wyoming.

When Colby Wollenman left Big Horn High School, bags packed, ready to tackle college life in East Lansing, Michigan, he had figured his athletic career was over. He was off to Michigan State University with dreams of being a doctor, not a basketball player.

The three-sport athlete wasn’t incapable. He excelled in soccer, football and especially basketball. He had offers from Division II schools for both basketball and football. He could have continued playing, but he opted for something else.

It was his 4.0 GPA and those dreams of becoming a doctor that led him to East Lansing. After securing enough scholarships to pay his way through school, Michigan State was the next stop on the young man’s journey.

He traded in his basketball jersey for a lab coat. He had no intention of continuing his career.

That was until a few buddies talked him into attending an open tryout with the Spartans. He had stayed in shape playing rec ball and went more on a whim than with actual expectations.

Fast forward to today, some four years later. When the Spartans walk off the bus and into Lucas Oil Stadium, Wollenman will be right there, somewhere between Tom Izzo and Travis Trice.

After a couple seasons at the end of the bench, a redshirt year and a few transfers from teammates, Wollenman had done his time.

“Some guys transferred,” Wollenman said. “Some spots opened up, so I took it as a lot of motivation to keep working harder and improve myself. As the season kind of started going on, I started getting chances to play.”

Some of those chances were a few minutes here and there. Five minutes versus Navy. Four minutes against Wisconsin.

But then there were games like the one against Kansas. This was the team that went on to win the Big 12 title, an eventual two seed in the tournament.

Wollenman saw 18 minutes in that game. He went 0-for-1, but he brought down five rebounds. He’s played 16 minutes and corralled five rebounds in two games played in the NCAA tournament.

Then there was Duke — who the Spartans will play again this evening — in the second game of the season. He played just six minutes in that game, but they were some of the most significant minutes of his career.

His statline: 2-of-3 for four points. But this was not only against Duke, it was against Jahlil Okafor, the future top-draft pick of the NBA. An NBA superstar vs. a pre-med student.

“It’s been really exciting,” he said. “It’s been a completely different feel getting in those games and being able to contribute in games than I have in the past. I think it’s made this season a lot more meaningful for me, and it makes the fact that we got to the Final Four this year, the first time since I’ve been here, an incredible feeling.”

Wollenman has earned his spot on the Spartans roster. Whether it was battling juggernauts like Okafor or shoving around Branden Dawson for four years in practice, Wollenman was valuable.

It’s those years the redshirt junior has spent with this year’s senior class, though, that make his value even more special.

Izzo had a remarkable streak of taking every one of his senior classes to a Final Four…until last year. So when the Spartans had to fight their way through the Big Ten and scrap for a seven seed, getting Trice, Dawson and Keenan Wetzel to the Final Four was an uphill climb.

But it was a climb they were willing to take. It was the only thing on their radar.

“Starting in the summer, our goal was to get to the Final Four,” Wollenman said. “Instead of saying ‘Spartans on three,’ it was always ‘Indy on three.’ Those three seniors have given so much to the program, we didn’t want to go out without giving them a chance to go to the Final Four.”

“There was just so much emotion,” he added. “It makes all the hard work you put in, everything you did, so much more worth it.”

Along with bringing his senior teammates to the big stage, Wollenman earned himself some recognition in Indianapolis along the way. He was named and Academic All-Big Ten selection, and was honored Thursday night by NCAA President Mark Emmert with the Elite 89 Award, given to the Final Four player with the highest cumulative GPA. He has a 3.9.

So those dreams of being a doctor are becoming a reality for the Big Horn graduate — he recently scored a 39 on the MCAT — but he just has to take care of one more thing this weekend in Indianapolis before he can put back on that lab coat.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” Wollenman said.

Longtime theater owner earns national award

SHERIDAN — Bill Campbell grew up in front of the silver screen.

He’s a second-generation theater owner, working most of his life in Sheridan’s only movie theater.

There may not be anyone who knows the theater industry better than he does.

Later this month, Campbell will be honored with the highest award in his industry. The National Association of Theatre Owners has bestowed upon him the prestigious Marquee Award for his dedication in helping independently-owned theaters adjust to the changing technologies of the movie industry.

His father Ross owned several Sheridan theaters such as the WYO Theatre, the Orpheus Theatre, the Skyline Drive-In then the Centennial Theatre, which was built in 1976.

During most of his youth, Campbell spent his time working under his father, helping in any way he could. Campbell went to Montana State University and took over the family business after graduation in 1985.

“I always knew I would be in the movie business somehow,” Campbell said. “… It’s a big part of my life. I was born and raised into it; it’s the only business I’ve really ever known.”

As the nostalgia of the drive-in theater declined nationwide, Campbell eventually closed down the Skyline Drive-In in 2004. He used the funds from the land to build another screen and remodel the Centennial Theatre downtown.

Running a theater is unlike any other business. Between the equipment and infrastructure, it’s capital intensive to start. Working with studios to get the latest movies is always a challenge for a small independent theater.

A good portion of Campbell’s job is sifting through film royalties — if a film has fantastic box office sales, it actually costs him more to keep the movie in his theater. Campbell is always at the mercy of studios putting out a quality product. A season with less-than-stellar movies means his business takes a hit along with the studios.

Plus, technology is always changing in the theater business. A portion of why Campbell received his award was that he volunteered his time with other members of NATO to help independent theaters across the nation transition from film projection to digital. Digital film keeps theaters competitive with the largest chains in the nation.

“The film would degrade every time you ran it through a projector. Now with a digital file, it’s as pristine as it was from day one,” he said.

With Campbell’s and NATO’s efforts, 457 theaters featuring just under 3,000 screens nationwide have switched to digital cinema.

“The future still looks good [for theaters],” Campbell said. “There is always some new technology and some different way to watch, but the biggest thing is that people always want to watch movies … with a big screen in a dark room where no one is talking; that’s still the way many people like to watch movies.”

While it’s always nice to be rewarded for his efforts, most of Campbell’s satisfaction from his job comes from his customers.

“It’s a happy business; everyone is always walking out happy,” Campbell said. “It’s almost like running Disney Land — people enjoy the experience.”

Kid doctors search for a diagnosis

SHERIDAN — There are perhaps few things more challenging in the medical profession than patient diagnosis — transforming a list of symptoms and a review of medical history into a potentially life-saving conclusion in a short period of time (no pressure). Attempting this feat is even harder when you are 10 years old, but that is exactly what the students in Sheridan County School District 2 Seminar class were tasked with recently.

Luckily for them, the patients were hypothetical, and exceeding the budget for research and testing cost them evaluation points not cash.

Seminar is a pullout class for high ability students in third, fourth and fifth grades. The students represent the top 5 percent of performers for their grade levels based on scoring 95 percent or above on a cognitive test or receiving a high-ability score on both math and reading on the Measures of Academic Proficiency test.

The term “high ability” is used to describe the students as the more commonly heard “gifted” term refers to the top 3 percent of a population, and educators say they rarely have enough information at this stage in the student’s life to make that distinction.

Enrolled students leave their home classroom once a week for 90 minutes to engage in dialogue with like-ability students and activities based on creative or critical thinking, research, computer skills and the needs of highly capable children.

Third-grade students districtwide are bused to one meeting site while fourth- and fifth-graders group together at one of three locations under program educator Molly Kinsey.

“The intent is to enrich them in directions that they can’t necessarily be enriched in the classroom and to take things one step further,” Kinsey said, adding that no homework is assigned in the class and no grades are given. “They work darn hard while they’re here and I don’t think they need homework. Also, we do a lot of discussion and bouncing things off the group, and that is not very conducive to homework.”

This year, the fourth- and fifth-grade groups have spent time learning about and practicing logic and reasoning skills.

As a way to use their reasoning skills in a real-world application, the students completed a medical simulation where they were placed on teams as interns at “Mount Semnarian Medical Clinic.” They then “interviewed” a patient, researched symptoms, developed three possible diagnoses, ordered tests and ultimately reasoned a final diagnosis and treatment plan.

Following treatment, the students presented their findings through a PowerPoint presentation in a Mortality and Morbidity Conference for their colleagues, parents and teachers.

One team of “doctors” comprised of fourth-grader Aidan Sawyer and fifth-grader Medora Perkins saw a patient with diverticulitis. With their physician’s journals in hand and personal laptops on their desks, the team worked together to justify their finding through citing research and resources.

Perkins said the project was very challenging, but she likes to push herself.

“When we were researching I felt like giving up but you’ve gotta push yourself; then you can tell yourself you can do it, if you’re mentally strong,” Perkins said. “Seminar is a lot more challenging than class. If we don’t know, Miss Kinsey says, ‘Figure it out on your own.’ Our other teachers don’t do that and it’s not very challenging in class most of the time, so this allows us to use our brains.”

Sawyer said this is the only time during school that he is able to work with someone from a different grade. He added that he enjoys the group work in Seminar more than in class because everyone he works with works hard, whereas sometimes working with students who are at different levels than he is causes him to do all the work.

“I’m not going to just give you all the answers,” Sawyer said of working together. “You have to challenge yourself. If you’re just going to stay here and not challenge yourself, the other classmates are just going to keep going up and then you’ll be behind.”

On Tuesday, the students of the Highland Park and Sagebrush Elementary Schools Seminar class took a trip to the Wyoming Simulation Center to complete the two-month long medical learning program. The remaining two groups will have the opportunity within the next couple weeks.

With stethoscopes around their necks and the knowledge of normal ranges, each student set off to discover the heart and respiratory rate of a virtual patient. They listened to mechanical bodies for heart irregularities, found the pulse in a patient’s foot, heard the noises from a stomach, checked lung sounds and even wiped sweat from the brow of a patient on the verge of a seizure.

The teacher said that students found the experience “great, amazing and kinda creepy.”

In the end, some students blew their budget, some students struggled with their diagnosis and some students flew through the project, but every student learned how to use deductive reasoning, how to create flow charts and PowerPoint presentations, new vocabulary words and how to speak intelligibly to a crowd about a long and detailed process they had completed.

Spring has sprung

A student walks past a bed of daffodils in bloom Tuesday afternoon outside the Sheridan College Whitney building.

National Date Safe Project presents ‘Can I Kiss you?’ tonight

SHERIDAN — Whether you are a man or a woman — or a boy or a girl — you should have a say in what happens to you and your body, and dating should be based on respect, not standards. Those are some of the messages that will be delivered tonight at Sheridan College as the national Date Safe Project presents “Can I Kiss You?”

The Date Safe Project, founded by Mike Domitrz, provides positive how-to skills and helpful insights for addressing verbal consent (asking first), respecting boundaries, sexual decision-making, bystander intervention and supporting survivors.

Domitrz said it all started when he received a phone call from his mother while he was away at college in 1989 telling him his sister had been raped.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Domitrz said. “I was filled with anger, but soon after I realized, this anger isn’t doing me any good; and I realized the opportunity to be able to speak out and make a difference. That is where it all began, inspired by my sister’s strength and courage.”

Domitrz was determined to make sure no one had to endure the pain his sister did so he sold his business and went into debt dedicating himself to trying to educate the world about sexual abuse. Now, he travels the world, speaking about consent.

Domitrz speaks to parents, educators, schools and universities, students, military installations, community organizations, state agencies, faith-based institutions and the federal government addressing topics including how to talk to survivors and how to talk to your children about dating and their bodies to keep them from being victims.

He said if someone you love comes forward to you and says, “this has happened to me,” the first thing you need to do is show them they came to the right person by talking to you.

“You want to first realize it took a lot of courage to come to you … so look them straight in the eyes and say, ‘Thank you for sharing. Clearly you are strong, you’re courageous. What can I do to help?’ And then you listen,” Domitrz said. “One of the biggest mistakes parents make is panic and say, ‘Who did this? Oh my god I’m so sorry this happened to you,’ and they see rage, they see panic, and if you’re a survivor that’s gonna scare you; it’s going to make you think you don’t want to talk anymore.”

Another of his goals is to inform and guide parents on how to teach and speak to their kids about ways to be respectful when it comes to relationships. He says the way in which you talk to your kids depends on their age, but it is never too soon to start.

“As early as possible, talk to them about their bodies and how to make decisions,” Domitrz said. “Most parents focus on what not to do but what happens is the kids still want to ask what they can do so they turn to their friends and the Internet for answers where they get horrible information. You want to talk to them about what you do want them to do, like you want them to ask before they kiss someone. By teaching this, they’re always giving them and their partner a choice, regardless of gender.”

He adds that girls should be able to ask for a kiss as well, that teaching girls to wait for the boy to make the move in the sake of tradition teaches a very unhealthy message that they have no say in what happens in their relationships sexually.

“Can I Kiss You?” will be presented tonight at 7 p.m. in the Thorne-Rider Campus Center at Sheridan College. The presentation is free and open to all.

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 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.


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 

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:

• Email:

• 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.


“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 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 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


Communication – not offered at NWCCD

Criminal justice


Political science


Wildlife and fisheries

Biology management



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.”


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: and

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

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

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 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 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


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


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


Sheridan County Conservation District, At-large (elect 1)
Robert Brug – 2,972
* Susan Holmes – 3,818


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.


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 and

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.


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:

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 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 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 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,, 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